WHEN we think of the role the Muslim community is required to play on life’s stage, we are bound to feel that constant motivation is needed to enable this community to face up to the challenges and overcome the difficulties of its task. Muslims are trustees of God’s message to mankind. They fulfill their trust by presenting to the world a model society: civilized, caring, compassionate and truthful. Such are the characteristics of any society, which implements the Islamic code of living. They complement that with conveying God’s message and calling on others to accept it as a faith and implement it as a constitution. As we said earlier, Ramadan provides the perfect training for the Muslim community to discharge its duties.
This should not give anyone an impression that Ramadan is a period of hard training, which we have to endure against our wishes. Indeed, the reverse is true. Ramadan is an enjoyable season of worship and blessings. Night worship after fasting a long summer day makes the hardship involved acquire a pleasing sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. It is, in a sense, akin to the feeling of a hardworking student who sits his examination after thorough preparation. He knows his answers to be correct and has no worries about the result.
As the student in our example needs to follow up his excellent showing and remarkable results with continuous reading and research in his field, to add to his knowledge and benefit from his experience, Muslims are required to continue with their pure devotion to God throughout their lives. Indeed they are expected not to lose sight of their status as servants of God, to whom they submit themselves. As servants of God, Muslims offer their worship with purity of intention and clarity of purpose. They seek His pleasure by implementing the code of living He revealed to them through the Prophet. They know also that the benefit accruing from such an implementation is theirs only.
Hence, they approach their task with care and diligence, as also with a content mind and a responsive heart.
True submission to God means a happy acceptance of whatever comes from Him and a determined effort to carry out His commandments and implement His guidance. Worship plays an important role in all this. It strengthens the relationship between man and God and makes it an active relationship, which affects man’s behavior, values and ideas. In Islam, worship does not belong to the cosmetic or idealistic side of life. It is indeed an important part of the essential and practical side. By offering five prayers a day, everyday, Muslims acquire a very real sense of God’s presence with them every second of their lives. Thus, they have no chance to forget or overlook the fact that they have submitted themselves to Him. Hence, all their actions, ideas, and concepts about life, their role in it and their destiny are conditioned by this fact. Their overriding ambition becomes simple: to win God’s pleasure.
So far we have mentioned only one aspect of worship, which is prayer. But worship in Islam pervades life and imparts to it its own coloring. Every action a person does can be an act of worship if intended as a contribution to man’s role as God’s deputy, or if it is undertaken in pursuit of God’s pleasure. In this way Islam looks after the spiritual side of man, not in doses, which may or may not have the needed regularity, but in a steady and conscious line of action which keeps man’s soul active and full of life.
Even the materialistic side of human life benefits as a result. A truly Islamic society is free of much, if not all, of the mental and psychological diseases that plague the heart and soul of materialistic societies. The nearer to Islam a society is, the freer it is of worries, depression, anxiety and suicide. Worship, the Islamic way, is instrumental in achieving this result.
If we go back to our earlier analogy we find that if our student continues to follow up his remarkable success with enlightened reading and research, he is bound to be successful in his working life. Similarly, after achieving the fine standard of purity of soul in our peak season of worship, i.e. Ramadan, we need to follow it up with a more relaxed but steady form of worship, which enhances that purity and preserves it for the rest of the year. This is what we achieve through regular attention to our prayers. It is a great achievement, which stays with us for life.