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Reflections on Ayat al-Birr

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  • Reflections on Ayat al-Birr

    By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

    It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity, to fulfil the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (al-Baqarah 2:177)

    The Ayah 177 of Surah al-Baqarah is called Ayat al-Birr. It emphasizes the true and real piety and righteousness. The real purpose of religion is to foster piety and righteousness. The word “al-Birr” is very important. The whole religion is called 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. “Al-Barr” is one of the names of Allah. It is also the quality of Allah’s angels. The Believers are also called “Abrar” and Allah has promised many rewards for the “Abrar”.. (See al-Baqarah 2:177; 189; Al ‘Imran 3:92; al-Ma’idah 5:2; al-Mujadilah 58:9; al-Mumtahinah 60:8-9; al-Baqarah 2:224; al-Tur 52:28; ‘Abasa 80:8-16; Al ‘Imran 3:193-198; al-Insan 76:5-12; al-Infitar 82:13-16; al-Mutaffifin 83:18-28)

    It is reported that this ayah was revealed to the 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. He said:

    The Fools among the people will say: "What has turned them from the Qibla to which they were used?" Say: To Allah belong East and West: He guides whom He will to a Way that is straight. (al-Baqarah 2:142)

    Then the Ayat al-Birr came. Allah told Muslims not to get entangled in minor issues. They should focus their attention on the main things of their religion. The real religion or al-Birr is not limited to following some forms and rituals. The true religiousness or righteousness consists of some important qualities and actions. The following issues are most important in religion:

    1. Iman: Faith in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture and the Prophets.

    2. Charity: Helping the kin, orphans, poor people, travelers, needy and to free the slaves.

    3. Devotion and worship: Performing regular prayer and giving regular charity

    4. Fulfilling the promise and contracts

    5. Patience and perseverance in the situations of poverty, sickness or times of war and panic.

    Islam wants to build the individuals and the civilization on these principles. These principles must integrate in our personality and we must build our social order on these principles. If we want to be good and righteous people then we must ask ourselves:

    1. How true and sincere is my faith in Allah, His Prophets and His guidance? Do I have a personal faith in Allah or do I believe in Him, in the Qur’an, in Prophet Muhammad because this is the way my family and friends do?

    2. How is my devotion, my daily prayers and other acts of worship? Do I really pray on time, according to the Sunnah and with the sincerity of heart? What effect my prayer has on me? How is my relation with Allah? How much do I love Allah? Do I really feel His presence around me and with me?

    3. How much do I care for the poor and needy and for other charitable causes? Have I done enough according to my capacity? Have I really shown my thanks and gratitude to Allah for His countless blessings and bounties on my family and me?

    4. How true and honest am I in my commitments, my promises, my contracts and my relations with others? Am I truthful and trustworthy person? Should people believe in me and trust me? Do I treat others the way I want to be treated? If I find a person like me somewhere, would I really trust him and like him?

    5. How is my patience? How strong am I to face the challenges of life? Do I give up in difficulties, compromise with falsehood, utter blasphemies? Do I turn to Allah when confronted with challenges, work hard, struggle and do not give up hope?

    As a religious person I should ask myself again and again how am I doing as a Muslim? What transformation has Islam brought into my life? Am I just following the rituals of religion or the religion is affecting my morals and manners? Am I becoming a better person every day?

    May Allah help us to be among the truthful and righteous people. Ameen
    .لا نريد زعيما يخاف البيت الإبيض
    نريد زعيما يخاف الواحد الأحد
    دولة الإسلامية باقية