Religious Discussion, Most Virtuous Deed, Rebellion

Issue 491 » August 22, 2008 - Shaban 20, 1429

Living The Quran

Al-Ankabut (The Spider)
Chapter 29: Verse 46 (Partial)

Religious Discussion
"Say to them: "We believe in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to you. One is our God and your God; and we are those who submit ourselves to Him."

In this verse God indicates to the expounders of Truth how they can engage in refined religious discussion with others by offering an example. They are told not to make the erroneous position of the other party the starting point of such a discussion. Rather, the discussion should commence with identifying and highlighting the elements of truth that are common to both parties. In other words, commonalities rather than differences should be taken up first.

It is also pertinent to remember that the People of the Book, unlike the Arabian polytheists, did not deny revelation, messengership and the Hereafter. Rather, they affirmed these truths as did the Muslims. The Muslims were, therefore, directed that if they encountered the People of the Book they should expound their standpoint: that they believed in the same God in Whom they believed, and that they too were committed to obeying Him. They were also to make it clear that they were bound to follow all the directives and commands that came from God, be they those that came to the People of the Book or to the Muslims. They were also required to clarify that they were devout servants of God rather than worshippers of any particular country, nation or race.

"Towards Understanding the Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, Vol. 8, pp. 48

Understanding The Prophet's Life

The Most Virtuous Deed

The importance of the prayer in Islam cannot be understated. It is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the Prophets and for all peoples. Similarly, the prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during his ascension to heaven. Furthermore, when Allah praises the believers, such as in the beginning of surah al-Muminoon, one of the first descriptions He states is their adherence to the prayers.

Once a man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the most virtuous deed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that the most virtuous deed is the prayer. The man asked again and again. The first three times, the Prophet (peace be upon him) again answered, "The prayer," then on the fourth occasion he stated, "Jihad in the way of Allah." [This is from a hadith recorded by Ahmad and ibn Hibban.]

The importance of prayer is demonstrated in many of the Prophetís statement. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

"The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad." [Recorded by al-Tabarani]

The importance of the prayers lies in the fact that no matter what actions one performs in his life, the most important aspect is oneís relationship to Allah, that is, oneís faith (imaan), God-consciousness (taqwa), sincerity (ikhlas) and worship of Allah (`ibaadah). This relationship with Allah is both demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself stated.

"He Came to Teach you Your Religion" - Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo



Rebellion is complex. It lives in reaction to the world. On the surface, rebellion claims to be against monarchy, dominion, or oppression. Too often it turns out to be a vote for monarchy, dominion, or patriarchy. Rebellion is most often not a call for transformation or a new context, but simply a complaint that others control the monarchy and not us. This is why most revolutions fail - because nothing changes, only the name of the monarch.

The community form of rebellion is protest. It is noble in tradition but still often keeps us in perpetual reaction to the stances of others. There is safety in building an identity on what we do not want. The extremists on both sides of any issue are more wedded to their positions than to creating a new possibility. That is why they make unfulfillable demands. The AM radio band is populated with this non-conversation. Any time we act in reaction, even to evil, we are giving power to what we are in reaction to.

I have heard John McKnight say that advisory groups speak quietly to power, protestors scream at power, and neither chooses to reclaim or produce power. The real problem with rebellion is that it is such fun. It avoids taking responsibility, operates on the high ground, is fuelled by righteousness, gives legitimacy to blame, and is a delightful escape from the unbearable burden of being accountable.

"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, p. 134