Islamic Culture and Religious Studies Volume 4

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Islamic Culture and Religious Studies

Author: A Group of Shia Scholars
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Islamic Culture and Religious Studies

Islamic Culture and Religious Studies Volume 4

Author:
Publisher: www.alhassanain.org/english
English

www.alhassanain.org/english

Islamic Culture and Religious Studies Book -4

Author: A Group of Shia Scholars

www.alhassanain.org/english

Notice:

This version is published on behalf of www.alhassanain.org/english

The composing errors are not corrected.

Table of Contents

Lesson 1: The Islamic Vision 8

Seeking Independence 8

What Action to Take? 9

1. Intensity of Thought 9

2. Sound Thinking 9

3. Seeking the Truth 9

Islamic Point of View 9

Hasty Decisions 10

a. Vulnerability Towards Disagreeing Views 10

b. Lack of General Knowledge 10

Some 10

Lesson 2: Ideology and Doctrine 12

Be Aware Of Your Aim 12

Worldview, Ideology And Doctrine 12

Relationship Of Worldview to Ideology 13

Different Worldviews = Different Ideologies 13

Basic Worldview Issues 13

1. Materialistic / World Worldview 13

2. Divine Worldview 14

Considering a Doctrine 14

Lesson 3: Knowing God 15

Capturing Knowledge 15

1. Senses (Direct Capture) 15

2. Experiments (Indirect Capture) 15

3. Intellect 15

4. Emotion 16

Unseen Does not mean Unavailable 16

How to Know God 16

Lesson 4: Using The System As Proof Of God 18

Part I 18

Systems 18

Qualities of the Parts In A System 18

1. Structure 18

2. Co-operation 18

3. Size 18

4. Position 19

Survival of Systems 19

Lesson 5: Using The System As Proof Of God 20

Part II 20

Qualities Of A Maker 20

Inspiration From Nature 21

Borrowing From The Solar System 21

Theology And Its Development Theories 22

The Creator is One 23

Lesson 6: God in The Mirror Of Nature 24

God In Man's Nature 24

I. Reaction in Danger 24

II. Endurance in History 25

The Secret of the Prophets 26

Lesson Seven: Qualities of God 28

Attributes of Allah (S.W.T.) 28

Positive Attributes 28

Negative Attributes 29

Extent of our Knowledge 30

Lesson 8: One Vs Many 32

I. MONOTHEISM 32

A. Monotheism in Essence 32

B. Monotheism In Actions 32

ii. Practical Tawhid 33

II. POLYTHEISM 33

i. Theoretical Shirk 33

A. Shirk in Essence: 33

B. Shirk in Actions: 33

ii. Practical Shirk 34

Lesson 9: The Effect of Faith in Life 35

1: Idleness 35

2: Spiritual tranquility 35

3: Responsibility 36

4: Training the Self 37

5: Social - Political Effects 37

Lesson 10: Character Bulding 39

A Peaceful Life 39

Balance in Desires 39

Developing the Soul 40

Self-Control in Youth 40

Chastity and Simplicity 42

Philosophy of Hijaab 42

1. Prevention of corrupt conduct 42

2. Security for women 42

3. Status of Women 43

4. Productivity 43

5. Value of women 43

Lesson 11: Friendship 44

First Test then Trust 45

I. Seeking a Friend 45

A. Qualities to look for 45

2. Sincerity and Good Principles 46

3. Pleasant Character 46

B. Qualities to Avoid 46

1. Selfishness 47

2. Pride 47

3. Wickedness 47

4. Gossip 47

II. Duties of a Friend 47

1. Respecting each others rights 47

2. Extending a helping hand 48

3. Do not demand 48

4. Being Loyal 48

III. Limits in Friendship 49

1. Excessive Trust 49

2. Fanaticism 49

3. Excessive Attachment 50

Lesson 12: Akhlaq of The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.) 51

Part I 51

A. Individual Morals 51

1. Prayers 51

2. Hard work 52

3. Simplicity 53

4. Cleanliness 53

Lesson 13: Akhalaq of The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.) Part II 55

B. Social Morals 55

1. Politeness and Loyalty 55

2. Humility 55

3. Forgiveness 56

4. Dealing with people 56

5. Avoid arguing 57

6. Rights of Neighbours 57

7. Rights of Animals 57

8. Rights of Human Beings 58

9. Avoid Burdening Others 59

Lesson 14: Akham Why Study Them? 60

Where do we Start? 60

Kinds of Taqleed 61

Common Terminologies in Taqleed 61

I. Fatwa 61

II. Ehtiyate - Mustahab 62

III.Ehtiyate - Waajib 62

Lesson 15: Philosophy of Prayer Part 1 63

1. Qiblah 63

2. Adhaan 64

3. Place and Dress 64

4. Wudhoo 65

Lesson 15: Philosophy of Prayer Part 2 66

1. Niyyah 66

2. Takbiratul - Ehraam 66

The Spirit of Salaat 67

NOTE: 67

Reciting Salaat Correctly 67

Things that Invalidate Salaat 68

Doubts in Salaat 68

Doubts that invalidate a prayer 68

Salaatul Ehtiyat 70

Sajdatus Sahw 70

Carelessness in Prayer 70

Lesson 17: Some Special Salaat 72

1. Salaatul Jama'at 72

2. Salaatul Jumu'ah 72

How to Pray 73

3. Salatul Eidayn 73

How to Pray 73

4. Salaatul Ayaat 73

How to Pray 74

5. Salaatul Qadha 74

Lesson 1: The Islamic Vision

Youth is the most important period in the life of a human being. This is because it marks that stage when an individual passes out of the first stage of life i.e. childhood and begins the journey to the last stage i.e. adulthood.

Childhood is a dependant period. Every child requires guidance from elders and moral support to make and maintain correct decisions. In the early years of life, the hand of another leads a child but as adolescence and youth begin to emerge, the child learns to pull away and walk by himself.

During this period enormous physical, mental and emotional changes occur. It is a metamorphosis of character and intellect and could be likened to an explosion, rejuvenating all parts of an individual. Dormant inclinations awake in the youth and new horizons are sighted.

To the person experiencing this change, it seems as if yesterday he was living in a child's dream and today he sees the world through the window of reality.

It is at this time, that a human being seeks purpose of his existence and forms the principles that will guide him through the rest of his life. Thus, the period of youth is one that must be nurtured and nourished well both by the young individual himself and by the adults surrounding him.

Seeking Independence

One of the most important inclinations during this stage is that of seeking independence. This tendency plays a major role in the life of a human being. It is prompted by the need to break completely away from childhood, which as we mentioned is dominated by dependency.

When a youth realizes that he is growing he feels that he must prove himself to be unique. He can only do this if he breaks free of the bonds of childhood and the reliance he has developed on parents, siblings etc. This searching for independence also signals the beginning of intellectual maturity as the youth begins to think for himself and make his own decisions.

Seeking independence is a positive step and should be encouraged so that the youth can grow into a strong and firm adult. However, the journey towards independence must be accompanied by a sense of awareness - a conscious knowledge of what is ahead and what must be done.

This awareness is essential before anything else because it guards a youth from choosing the wrong path. A young person who is eager to achieve his independence can easily be tempted to adopt a selfish attitude and drown in a sea of mistakes. The child in him still has some hold over his thinking and without making a conscious effort to control his emotions, he cannot expect to succeed against it.

This consciousness also helps to develop and strengthen intellectual powers as it encourages a young person to question his thinking and prevents him from following concepts blindly.

In the period of youth, brain efficiency enters a new stage and special talents are fully explored. It is for this reason that pathologists refer to this stage as the beginning of the brain.The brain begins to ask many new questions and satisfactory answers to these must be provided.

What Action to Take?

When we embark upon any task in our life, the result is positive or negative depending on the conscious choices we make along the way.Basically, this means that the manner in which we think about situations and the decisions we make in regards to them are what form the deciding factors of our success or failure.

We can immediately make out how well developed the consciousness of an individual by looking at the actions that result from them. The behaviour of a human being shows others the extent and maturity of his thinking.

Many scholars regard intellect as the human's basic superiority over animals. That is why man is called a 'Thinking Animal'. This title clearly implies that if man does not put his power of thinking into action, he is no better than an animal that relies on instinct for survival.

The stronger a man's thinking power is, the better he can utilize it in solving complex issues.We can develop our intellect by beginning with the implementation of the following essential factors:

1. Intensity of Thought

Before making any decisions, we must of course think about what we are doing, why we are undertaking it and the possible results of any decision we are tempted to make. The more deeply we ponder on these issues, the more we are likely to understand the issue. This prevents hasty decisions made on superficial grounds.

2. Sound Thinking

Our contemplation must be based on reason and logic. For this purpose we require a balance in our consciousness. The more precise a man's awareness is, the more his thoughts will be capable of understanding.

We can illustrate this by imagining that our decision-making ability is a factory, whose raw material is the conscious. Without raw materials, the factory will not be able to produce anything.

A thing to be careful about is that our thinking should be based on facts, not guesses or assumptions. The latter not only obstructs intellectual power in the situation at hand but also prevents future development of the mind.

3. Seeking the Truth

In any attempt to analyse or contemplate, we must train ourselves to seek out the truth. Nothing should be of more importance that this.

Accepting ideas and opinions without searching for flaws or solid foundations leads to hasty actions. Such decisions may provide immediate satisfaction of our desires but in the long wrong, they will only harm us. If we do not form the habit of seeking out the truth in every circumstance then we will lower our level of thinking and never learn how to differentiate truth from falsehood.

Islamic Point of View

In Islam, the necessity of intellect has been given great emphasis. The Holy Qur'an cautions people against following things blindly. " (O Man) Do not follow that which you have no knowledge of …" Sura Bani Isra'il, Verse 36

In this verse, we can see that Islam encourage man to think and research on information before accepting it as the truth. This emphasis is so immense, that the accepting of the tenets of faith i.e. Tawheed, Nubuwwat, Imamat and Qiyamat, blindly is not allowed. An individual must ponder upon and be convinced of the truth before his belief is accepted. From the viewpoint of Islam, a person who has attained maturity is one who is intellectually advanced.

According to Allah (S.W.T.), if a person guides his thoughts towards seeking out the truth then he will easily be able to identify it from falsehood. This is why there is no force in religion - anyone who truly seeks God will find Him. The Qur'an says:

"There is no compulsion in religion. Guidance is distinguishable from error" Sura Baqara, Verse 256

From this verse, we understand that the cause of man's deviation from the Right Path is his lack of thinking and contemplation and his tendency towards hasty decisions.

Hasty Decisions

If Muslims would be satisfied with judgments based on weak arguments then they would find themselves confusing religious teachings with superstition and innovation - a problem that faces many other faiths. Islam requires that every argument and action be founded on solid reasoning and sound judgment. The Qur'an acknowledges men of knowledge as those who respect the Laws of God.

"Only the realistic and visionary men are obedient to Allah." Sura Fatir, Verse 28

To better understand the-long term effects of making hasty decisions, we can outline two different examples:

a. Vulnerability Towards Disagreeing Views

It is a fact that various cultures exist in the world and that the Muslim Ummah is composed of members who come from these differing social systems.However, Islam demands that every culture should take second place when there is a choice between it and religion.

If an individual does not think deeply about the norms of his society, he may find himself following traditional values that have no place in Islam or worse still, contradict it.

An adult who can analyse the reasons for adopting a practice and compare them to religious laws, is able to choose and decide what to keep and what to discard. Such people allow the various cultures to co-exist and the Islamic culture to take top priority in all cases.

b. Lack of General Knowledge

As a child grows into an adult, many questions arise in his mind. regard daily activities while others about more philosophical issues.

Some

To most young people, life is the most important of all issues. What is our aim in life? What are our goals? How do we lead a happy and successful life?

These and other similar questions keep coming forward and must be answered in order to allow the youth to base his character and principles on.

Although these are the main questions, we must realize that the answers to these questions are based many a time in our more common activities and the manners that govern them. How to eat, what to wear, what kind of company to keep, all these are directly or indirectly connected to the bigger issues mentioned above. The way in which we behave guides the way in which we look at the world and the manner in which we make our decisions.

In order to mature successfully, we have to study the knowledge available to us - both Islamic and Secular. As we study the rules and laws set out by Allah (S.W.T.) and observe the lives of people who have followed or rejected these laws, we learn what we must do in order to succeed.

It is clear to understand that if we try to live our lives based on ignorance and do things hastily, as we feel inclined to, then we will surely end up failing in whatever we attempt.

Lesson 2: Ideology and Doctrine

In the previous lesson, we discussed about the importance of general knowledge. Let us further expound on this subject.

Say for example that you intend to travel to a foreign city that you have never been to for a holiday. You would first begin by choosing the city you wish to see. This decision is based on what you want to achieve. It may be something you saw on television, read in a book or even the recommendation of friends.

Next, to ensure that you are able to make the most of your stay there, you will ensure that your travel arrangements are all well organized. The most sensible thing to do would be to study brochures and find out what means of transport would best suit you in terms of speed and finance, what the weather conditions are going to be like at the time you visit, what sites there are to see, health risks etc.

By the time you actually set out, it will be true to say that the schedule of your holiday is based on the knowledge, which you have equipped yourself with.

Be Aware Of Your Aim

From the example above, we can see that we make choices based on our goals or aspirations. Once this is determined then we work on how to achieve it i.e. the program, based on knowledge that we research and gather. Remember, our brains undertake all these processes voluntarily.

We can therefore divide any final achievement into three basic elements:

1. Awareness of the situation.

2. Determining the aim.

3. Laying out a program based on knowledge gathered.

Even something as simple as choosing how to get to work is based on these stages. We are first aware of the situation i.e. that we need to get to work. Then we determine the aim which is to get there as fast as possible and before the time given by the employer. Finally, we choose a mode of transport (the program) based on information that we gather about travel fare, timetables and time spent on the road.

Worldview, Ideology And Doctrine

The human being also seeks the greater truths in life, following this method. Man wants to know what is in the universe that he lives in (Awareness), he then chooses his goals in life (Aim) and lastly decides the action required to achieve those goals (Program).

The general awareness that we have about the world we live in is called the Global Outlook, Global Perspective or Worldview. It allows us to have a birds- eye view of the world - including animate and inanimate objects - but has nothing to do with any major matters in the philosophy of life e.g., one may learn about rivers or forests, but this has no effect on our outlook towards the world.

However, the general awareness of our surroundings allows us to realize that the world must be under the control of a Supreme Being and this has a strong effect on how we perceive life. As we try to learn more about the world, we begin to determine our aims and seek programs to fulfill them.

It is during this stage that we are able to decide for ourselves what our obligations are. We can distinguish what we must do and not do, in order to reach our final aims. These programs (set of rules) that we discover are called Ideologies. Therefore, an ideology can be described as a group of Must's and Must-not's that guide us towards noble ends.

The concepts of Worldview (Global Outlook) and Ideology together are called a Doctrine (School of Thought). Thus, every doctrine has two basic factors: its world outlook and its aims and programs.

Relationship Of Worldview to Ideology

We have seen that if you intend to spend quality time in a city, you must be prepared with the relevant information regarding that place and your trip to it. When your information is doubtful or incorrect, you will not be able to effectively benefit from it.

Similarly, the more our knowledge about the world we live in, the better our chances of spending a life of quality in it. We can take full advantage of our short lives if we seek and obtain correct information about it.

Different Worldviews = Different Ideologies

Every doctrine has its peculiarities. This means that every school of thought has it own set of Must's and Must-not's and its own unique outlook on the world. With this in mind, it can be said that every individual should strive to attain the correct vision of the world and build his outlook on firm and strong pillars.

Basic Worldview Issues

The issues raised from different world outlooks normally are in regards to the following three factors:

1. The world in which we live in and its mortality i.e. did it come into existence by itself or was it created? The answer to this question deals with knowing God.

2. Is man's life confined to this world or is there a possibility of another life after death? This normally tackles the issues of resurrection and eternal life.

3. Can man administrate his own affairs in life or does he need God's guidance? This can be associated with the issue of Nubuwwat (Prophethood).

Because the most basic views of any doctrine rely on these concepts, Islam emphasizes them as being the Usul - e - Deen (Roots of Religion). Acceptance of Tawheed (Monotheism), Nubuwwat (Prophethood) and Ma'ad (Day of Reckoning) are the pre-requisites of being a Muslim. Neglecting or discrediting any of these excludes a person from Islam.

From the answers of the above three questions, two broad types of world outlooks are derived:

1. Materialistic / World Worldview

This is based on the belief that stability equals wealth and that man is a materialistic being. This view regards life to be a temporary period and death to be final. The materialistic worldview says that man came on earth by chance and that life has no deeper meaning. Such an outlook prevents the development of any long-term or noble aims. It is an existence without hope.

2. Divine Worldview

The other view confirms that the world belongs to a Creator. It also believes in an everlasting life after this short worldly one. It looks upon the time spent in this world as a means of constructing ones destiny in the hereafter. This leads to the belief that there exists a certain code of life to attain the success and people who are sent by the Creator to teach it.

If we ponder on this we can see that the belief or disbelief in God results in the acceptance or rejection, respectively, for the other two factors i.e. Prophethood and Resurrection. This is why the first is more fundamentally important then latter.

Considering a Doctrine

In conclusion we can say that when examining any doctrine (School of Thought), we must first study its world outlook. Its basic principle i.e. concerning its position towards the issue of God is the most important when trying to establish its authenticity.

We will in the course of this text, discuss the issues of knowing God and then the Islamic World Outlook.

Lesson 3: Knowing God

Before we begin to study the ways in which we can know God, it is necessary that we first look at the various methods we, as human beings, use to gather any kind of information or knowledge.

Capturing Knowledge

We know that one of man's specialties is that he is always in search of gaining more information about the world he lives in. He yearns to know about anything that is related to both his internal and external world. Because the knowledge he seeks comes in different forms, he is equipped with different skills to deal with this variety.

There are four main skills a human being uses:

1. Senses (Direct Capture)

The most ancient and transparent way of gaining knowledge is through use of our five basic senses. We see the different colours and shapes that fill our world; we listen to birds singing and babies crying; we learn the variety of flavours available through our sense of taste; we smell the aromas that things give off and finally feel textures through touch. The information we get in these ways is direct because the particular sense sends the message straightaway to the brain.

2. Experiments (Indirect Capture)

Despite the fact that many obvious things are learnt through direct capture, there are many aspects of our universe that cannot be discovered by using any of the five senses. For example, we cannot observe the actual flow of electricity in a live wire with any of our sense our senses. We cannot use our senses to discover things such as atoms, electrons and magnetism.

Our conclusions on these subjects are a result of indirect methods of discovery. Instead of seeing the actual object in question, we base our knowledge on the effect it has on other things, e.g. we know that there is a flow of electricity when we see the resulting light.

Another clear example is in regards to people's thoughts. We cannot discover what goes on in another's mind with any of our senses, but through that persons speech we are able to judge his thoughts and character.

When talking of indirect methods of gaining knowledge, we can refer to it as an 'intellectually-based' approach because it relies on the brain to process the information and apply it to the knowledge being searched for. Many of the achievements in science are achieved through this system.

3. Intellect

The use of intellect to gain knowledge has been separated from the indirect approach because of a fundamental difference that exist between the two. In the indirect method of capturing knowledge, a human being reasons based on the result of his senses, but the use of intellect does not rely on the senses to provide the raw information with which to work.

An example of this is the science of Mathematics. When we study other sciences such as chemistry and physic, we know that we must carry out experiments, capture information with our five senses and then apply this using theories that we have come up with. This is not so in mathematics.

Mathematics depends solely on thought processes of the brain. In this science, you can get a thousand results from a few basic sources, without need for any experiments. Here the foundation stone of the knowledge is based on the brain.

4. Emotion

Our internal understanding is another way in which we gain knowledge. We are capable of feeling sorrow, happiness, fear, courage, love and hatred. These feelings are direct, meaning we can experience them without any interference of outside influences.

If we are happy, we don't achieve this state with the help of any of the five senses, or the brain. The condition is directly felt in our heart. This is a result of an inner instinct that illuminates various ways for man.

Unseen Does not mean Unavailable

From the above methods, it is obvious to see that the existence of something does not depend on our being able to sense it. Many people deny God because that cannot see Him. To them what cannot be seen does not exist. However, if this were truly the case then we would also have to deny much of the useful scientific achievements that have been accomplished so far.

Our reasoning demands proof of existence so likewise we should also have proof of inexistence. When we have a lack of proof, we can say that we do not have knowledge about the subject but this is not the same as saying the subject does not exist.

To judge the presence or absence of anything, we need to first get information about it. If it happens to be unseen, then that will not automatically mean it is absent. If we do not manage to get enough reasons to prove either its presence or absence, then the phrase "I don't know" can be used to show that neither opinion has been sufficiently verified. This will also leave the door open to future discovery and argument in favour of either the present or absent stand.

To explain this concept better, let us take the following example. Suppose you are standing in your home and somebody asks you if your best friend is standing at a certain corner in town, which is out of your sight. What would you say? Would you deny that your friend is there just because you cannot see him?

Or would you say you don't know? The first is obviously an illogical answer. The second would be more sensible and would allow you to confirm later on whether your friend was on that corner or not.

From this we can conclude that not seeing something is not a sign of its absence.

How to Know God

Having looked at the various methods we use to gather and absorb information, we can now see how a human being using these skills to learn about God and His existence. It is clear that God cannot be found using the direct capture system, because He does not have a material or physical form. Since our senses cannot detect Him, we must turn to the other ways. Each of these can help us better understand God and prove He exists.

1. Indirect capture. In the same way we use experiments, sign and effects to prove Laws and theories in this world, we can observe the system around us and from its signs seek the path that will lead us to God.

2. Use of intellect. This is the most complete method for solving the issue of knowing God. By using our intellectual power we can prove the existence of the Creator. The causes of effects (See Book Three) are the main intellectual reasons used to prove the existence of God.

3. By relying on our emotional understanding we can also discover God. This kind of knowledge is called spiritual knowledge and will be dealt with in more detail later.

Lesson 4: Using The System As Proof Of God

Part I

One of the ways of knowing God is through the study of the system that is the universe. This has been called the 'Proving System' because it helps us to prove the necessity of a Maker and Caretaker for such a complex structure. In this lesson let us look briefly at how we can use this proof.

Systems

A group of components that work together to achieve a common goal is referred to as a system. In our ancient universe, there are many groups of things that can be classified as being either arranged systematically or non-systematically.

A single object in itself cannot be called a system. From its very definition we know that for a system to exist, it must involve a number of objects even though these may be varied in the nature of their structure and function.

Another important point is that the objects that are part of a system must all work together to directly or indirectly fulfill a common aim. The most amazing and obvious example of this is the human body. Every organ in the body has a particular function: providing and allowing nourishment, protecting against viruses, dealing with wounds, cleansing blood, etc. But in the end all these activities are meant to do only one thing and that is to preserve life.

Of course, this means that it is necessary that every part of the system perform its duties correctly, or else it may disrupt or destroy the whole. In some cases, a component may be dispensable and if this is the case, it will be removed by the other components. However, in the case of essential components, the system is doomed if one small mishap occurs.

Qualities of the Parts In A System

For any system to survive, its elements or components must fulfill certain conditions. We will use examples from the human body to explain these:

1. Structure

Each element must possess the required structure or capability to carry out its specific function correctly and efficiently. For example, the structure of each bone in the body is such that it corresponds to the bones around it in order to form the skeleton with its joints.

2. Co-operation

Every part of a system must co-operate with the rest of the group. Thus, each component is a supplement to the others and together they form a united functioning whole.

3. Size

The size and measurement of every element must be suited to its function. For example, if our fingers were either bigger or smaller than they are then they would not be able to perform their duties so well.

4. Position

Every part of a system must have a special position within it. Try and imagine what would happen if our eyes were positioned on the top of our heads or if our ears were at the ends of our legs!

Survival of Systems

In order for a system to be maintained over a period of time, it must adequately meet its own needs. Two types of needs exist in such a group.

a. Practical needs: These are those necessities that are required directly by the components to survive. In the case of human beings, it would refer to things such as oxygen, food and water. If we do not eat or drink for a long period of time, then our body recognizes this lack of nourishment through the feelings of hunger/thirst. The body (system) then uses its senses to search for and consume food or water, which it needs to survive.

b. Future needs: These refer to the long-term needs that a system has in order to assure its continuity in the future. This is usually dealt with by the various components in a manner that can be best described as foresight. Amongst humans, an example could be the need that every individual has to procreate and thus perpetuate their species through reproduction.