The Fifth Pillar of Islam - 2
by Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Raheemullahalayh)
Love is Generated by the Knowledge of the Attributes
If the Qur’aan has dwelt at length on the Attributes, Functions and Bounties of the Lord it is mainly because of the knowledge of the Divine Attributes and devotion. Scholars like Ibn Taymiya have defined the Qur’aanic method of explaining the Essential and Permanent Qualities of the Almighty Creator as ‘conciseness of the negative' and 'diffuseness of the positive'. It is the detailed description of the Benevolent Attributes of God and their signs and portents that feeds the flame of love within the human breast and fills it up with fervour and enthusiasm. If the negative Attributes are the mentors of the mind, the positive Attributes are the mentors of the heart. Without the knowledge of the Beautiful Names of God and His Immaculate Qualities, with which the holy Quran and the Traditions are replete and which have been a constant source of joy and inspiration to His devoted servants, faith would have got reduced to a dogma and lost its capacity to stir the innermost recesses of the heart and move it to its depths with sincerity and humbleness during prayer and repentance. Without it the relationship between God and man would have been a mechanical, qualified and restrained relationship in which there was neither breadth nor flexibility nor vitality nor enthusiasm, and life, a dull, dry and narrow affair, bereft of the sweet madness of love and the delightfully poignant bite of desire.
Were this celestial wealth to be taken away from man what would there be to distinguish between life and death, between humanity and the vegetable kingdom?
Worthless is the Cup that Never Overflows
To quench the thirst of the spirit and to calm down the flame of love it was needed that the heart and the eyes of a Muslim should overflow from time to time, and, thus, provide an outlet for the agonizing feelings of loneliness and separation that are rising within the depths of his being. Of what use is the cup that gets filled to the brink but never overflows?
Imam Ghazali was alive to the fact that love was the genuine need of a sensitive human being which he was always seeking to satisfy. The House of Ka'aba (at Mecca) and all the Landmarks of Allah that are associated with it and the Hajj with the rites and formalities which go to make it contain an ideal provision for the gratification of this basic human urge and necessity.
And remember when We prepared for Ibrahim the place of the holy House, saying: Ascribe thou nothing as partner unto Me, and purify My House for those who make the round thereof and those who stand and those who bow and make prostration. And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine. That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor and the distressed. Then let them make an end of their unkemptness and pay their vows and go around the ancient House.(-xxii 26-29)
Imaam Ghazali writes, "If there is an earnest desire for nearness to God a Muslim will be compelled to strive for it. A lover is passionately attached to everything that bears an association with the beloved. The House of Ka’aba is associated with God and a Muslim should, therefore, instinctively feel drawn to it, to speak nothing of the attraction of the Recompense promised on it."
Writing in the same vein, Hazrat Shah Waliullah remarks, "Sometimes when a man is overcome with the desire for his Lord and love surges powerfully in his breast and he looks around for the satisfaction of his inner urge it appears to him that the Hajj alone is the means to it".
The Salaat a man offers up a several times a day could be regarded as sufficient to fulfil the need of soothing and gratifying his emotions. It could have provided him with an opportunity to give a vent to his feelings and to alleviate the agony of separation by shedding a fate tears during it. But then tears could not quench his thirst. They could only suppress it for the time being for they did not possesses the power to put down the all-consuming fire of love which, sometimes, turned the heart into a blazing furnace.
Golden Cage of Materialism
Likewise, fasting could be helpful in slaking the thirst of the soul and curbing the intensity of animal appetites for hunger and abstinence do possess a purificatory quality. But the hours of fasting are limited and they are also often surrounded by things that do not go well with it. An atmosphere of slothfulness and gormandising gets created around the person who fasts and the society in which he lives has itself become so permissive of sensuality and godlessness that he feels isolated like an island in a sea.
A Muslim, therefore, had to be
furnished with an opportunity to take a bold and adventurous
plunge which could break his chains and release him from the
old and dingy prison-house of everyday existence. It was to be
in the nature of a leap which could, in one stride, carry him
from this rotten, hide bound, calculating and artificial life
to a new, fascinating and boundless world where love reigned
supreme and the heart held sway over everything, where he was
delivered from every kind of servitude and deification, and
the man-made limitations of race, geography and politics died
away and melted into nothingness, and where the creed of pure
and unalloyed Monotheism - of the unity of Godhead,
Providence, humanity, faith and purpose - became the bedrock
of his way of living and he, along with his brethren, sang
enthusiastically the praises of the Lord and raised the
heartwarming cry of;
Even after the prayer-service a Muslim celebrates regularly every day, the fasting he observes yearly in the month of Ramdhaan and the poor-due he pays, provided that he possesses taxable minimum of wealth, at the end of each year there was the need for him of a special period of time, of a season of enchantment and adoration, accentricity and infatuation.