Quarterly: Issue No 89
Muharram 1440 – September 2018
THE QURANIC CRITERIA ON PIETY
Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) emphasizes the following criteria for being righteous and pious in His Final Revealed Book i.e. Al-Qur’an:
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer (salaah) and gives charity (zakaah); (those who) fulfill their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. (Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 177)
To summarize, Allah says: It is not virtuous that you turn your faces towards the east or the west in prayer, but virtue is that one should sincerely believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets and, out of His love, spend - of one’s choice - wealth for relatives and orphans, for the needy and the wayfarer, for beggars and for the ransom of slaves, and establish the Salaah and pay the Zakaah. And the virtuous are those who keep their promises when they make them and show courage in hardships and adversity and in the struggle between the Truth and Falsehood; such are the truthful people and such are the pious ones.
This Verse 177 of Surah al-Baqarah is known as Ayat al-Birr. It emphasizes the nature of true and real piety and righteousness. The real purpose of Islam as a religion is to foster piety and righteousness. The word “al-Birr” is very important. The whole religion of Islam is based on al-Birr. In its various forms it has occurred in the Qur’an 20 times. It means obedience to Allah, doing good deeds, respect and kindness to parents, care of other relatives and fulfilling the vows, promises and covenants. “Al-Barr” is one of the names of Allah. It is also the quality of Allah’s angels. The Believers are also called “Abraar” and Allah has promised many rewards for the “Abraar”. Some examples of such verses are:
It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc.) that you enter the houses from the back but Al-Birr (is the quality of the one) who fears Allah. So, enter houses through their proper doors, and fear Allah that you may be successful. (Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse 189)
By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc., it means here Allah’s Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah’s Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. (Surah Aal ‘Imraan: Verse 92)
Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment. (Surah Al-Ma’idah: Verse 2)
O you who believe! When you hold secret counsel, do it not for sin and wrong-doing, and disobedience towards the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) but do it for Al-Birr (righteousness) and At-Taqwa (virtues and piety); and fear Allah unto Whom you shall be gathered. (Surah Al-Mujaadilah: Verse 9)
“Verily, We used to invoke Him (Alone and none else) before. Verily, He is Al-Barr (the Most Subtle, Kind, Courteous, and Generous), the Most Merciful.” (Surah At-Toor: Verse 28)
(It is) in Records held (greatly) in honour (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfooz). Exalted (in dignity), purified, In the hands of scribes (angels). Honourable and obedient. (Surah Abasa: Verses 13-18)
Our Lord! Verily, we have heard the call of one (Muhammad SAW) calling to Faith: ‘Believe in your Lord,’ and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds, and make us die in the state of righteousness along with Al-Abraar (those who are obedient to Allah and follow strictly His Orders). (Surah Aal ‘Imraan: Verse 193)
Verily, the Abraar (pious, who fear Allah and avoid evil), shall drink a cup (of wine) mixed with water from a spring in Paradise called Kaafoor. (Surah Al-Insaan: Verse 5)
Verily, the Abrâr (pious and righteous) will be in delight (Paradise); … (Surah Al-Infitaar: Verse 13)
It is reported that this Ayat al-Birr was revealed to our beloved Prophet – Peace be upon him - when some hypocrites and non-believers in Madinah wanted to engage Muslims in the dispute over the issue of the Qiblah. They told Muslims: ‘Why are you facing Makkah now while you were facing Jerusalem before?’ What kind of religion is Islam? Why did you change the direction of your prayers? Does this mean that your prayers were wrong before and all these years you prayed in vain? Allah mentioned their talk in the Qur’an in the following words:
The fools (pagans, hypocrites, and Jews) among thpeople will say: “What has turned them (Muslims) from their Qiblah [prayer direction (towards Jerusalem)] to which they were used to face in prayer.” Say, (O Prophet!) “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a Straight Way.”
It was on this occasion that this Ayat al-Birr was revealed. Allah told Muslims not to get entangled in minor issues. They should focus their attention on the main things of their religion. The true religion of Islam or al-Birr is not limited to following some forms and rituals. The true religiousness or righteousness consists of some important qualities and actions. Therefore, the following issues are most important in Islam as a religion:
1. Imaan: Faith in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book (Scripture) and the Prophets.
2. Charity: Helping the kin, orphans, poor people, travellers, needy and to free the slaves.
3. Devotion and worship: Establishing regular prayer (Salaah) and giving regular charity.
4. Fulfilling promises and contracts.
5. Patience and perseverance in situations of poverty, sickness or times of war and panic.
Islam wants to build individuals and the civilization based on the above principles. These principles must integrate in our personality and we must build our social order based on these principles. If we want to be good and righteous, then we must ask ourselves the following questions:
a. How true and sincere is our faith in Allah, His Prophets and His guidance? Do we have a personal faith in Allah or do we believe in Him, in the Qur’an, in Prophet Muhammad because this is just the way my family and friends do?
b. How is our devotion, our daily prayers and other acts of worship? Do we really pray on time, according to the Sunnah and with the sincerity of heart? What effect our prayers have on us? How is our relation with Allah? How much do we love Allah? Do we really feel His presence around us and within us?
c. How much do we care for the poor and needy and for other charitable causes? Have we done enough according to our capacity and ability? Have we really shown our thanks and gratitude to Allah for His countless blessings and bounties on us and our families?
d. How true and honest are we in our commitments, our promises, our contracts and our relations with others? Are we truthful and trustworthy people? Should people believe in us and trust us? Do we treat others the way we want to be treated? If we find a person like one of us somewhere, would we really trust him and like him?
e. How is our patience? How strong are we to face the challenges of life? Do we give up in difficulties, compromise with falsehood and utter blasphemies? Do we turn to Allah when confronted with challenges, work hard, struggle and do not give up hope?
As part of a righteous and pious community, we should consistently keep a check on ourselves as to how are we doing as Muslims? What transformation has Islam brought into our lives? Are we just following the rituals of religion or is the religion affecting our morals and manners? Are we becoming better Muslims by the passing of each day of our lives?
May Allah grant us all the realization of the greater aims and objectives of Islamic education! Ameen!
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “If any one of you improve (follows strictly) his Islamic religion then his good deeds will be rewarded ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed and a bad deed will be recorded as it is.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 35)
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir