We speak because we do not know; if we knew we would keep silent. We do not pray because we are good; we become good because we pray.
There is so very much about Islam that I do not understand, yet I feel compelled to speak about some of the things I think I understand. This is the kind of speaking that tests my understanding; if I keep silent my understanding remains unshaped. Today I speak because I do not know.
If, as you listen, you have convergent or divergent thoughts, tell me — you can approach me or get my contact details from the secretary.
What is the message of the Qur’an? I selected three themes and read the Qur’an, a translation, counting how many times each theme occurred; I was happy to find that there are five verses in the Qur’an in which all three themes I chose appear and several in which two of the three are mentioned in the same verse.
The three themes are prayer, charity and good works.
Prayer is endorsed about 43 times. The imperative is to be constant, regular and steadfast in prayer. Salah can be seen as the most noticeable practice which distinguishes believers.
Charity is spending in the way of God or giving Zakah or Sadaqah; it is an injunction imposed on believers about 67 times in the Qur’an. It is always out of what God has given us. God has given us everything — I delude myself when I think I deserve blessings or that I have earned the favours I enjoy.
Number three — good works. To do good and to help others is encouraged about 113 times.
As good as meliorism is and as compelling as humanism might sound they are not enough for salvation. Often the phrase “and believes” is added to the command to do good. Our ultimate reward is not for doing good — Insha’Allah it will be for doing good and believing. Goodness on its own has benefit. “Which of God’s favours will we deny? Is there any Reward for Good – other than Good?” Hal Jazah ul Ihsani illal Ihsaan. Surah Ar-Rahman, (The Beneficient) Chapter 55 verse 60.
Doing good is its own reward. Social science supports the idea that doing good in the world is good for us. Nearly half a century ago Philip Slater wrote “It has taken us a long time to realise that seeking to surpass others might be pathological, and trying to enjoy and cooperate with others healthy, rather than the other way around.” Indeed, it took the West nearly 14 centuries to realise what Islam taught all along.
If we combine the last two themes, because charity is a way of doing good, I conclude that the expectation to do good is the thrust of the Qur’an — if you like its hidden message. Hidden in full view of course. After combining charity and good works the ratio of prayer to good works becomes about one-to-four; for every time I pray I should do four good deeds. Twenty good deeds a day. Imagine.
And just what is a good deed? Here is a non-exhaustive list …
- feeding the hungry
- comforting the sick
- clothing the cold
- standing up for those who are oppressed and standing with them
- teaching budding minds something worthwhile
- washing the dishes for your wife, or mother
- being kind to people who are having a bad day; there always seems to be someone around who is having a bad day
- if you are the person having a bad day don’t take it out on anyone — that will just make your bad day last longer
- if you are having a good day I hope you can at least find enough people to smile to — having a good day is a responsibility; you cannot have a really good day and keep it to yourself.
I expect some of the bright minds in this space will find pleasure in devising other and novel ways of doing good; the algorithm for do something good need not be rigid or limiting. Hashtag Crazy Good Deed.
I regard all the deeds in the list I have given as a form of worship; every good deed is for the sake of Allah. Many of the good deeds in the list, and others I can think of, can be grouped under Claremont Main Road Masjid’s Jihad Against Poverty.
I want to single out one more good deed to add to the list I mentioned — I hold this as a favourite Islamic teaching — clear a path of some obstacle. Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 56.
Make life easy for other people. Make life better for other people.
Trick question: What has God sent down?
One word answers only please — do not submit an essay.
The answer is in the Qur’an. Surah An-Nahl (The Bee), the sixteenth chapter verse 30 reads in translation: When those who fear God are asked, “What has your Lord sent down?” Their reply is, “Goodness!” The reward of those who do good works in this world is good, but the abode of the Hereafter is even better.
We know the Nabi, Salla-Allahu-Alayhi-Wassalam, increased charitable deeds during Ramadan. Is it any wonder? The reading of the Qur’an should lead to living out what a person reads, what they believe.
Before getting to the end of this short talk I want to compare secular justice and Divine Justice.
Intuitively we understand the meaning of secular justice — do the wrong thing and you will be punished; and the punishment will fit the crime. Do the right thing and you will be rewarded; your reward too will be in proportion to what you have done. Both times you get what you deserve.
In Islam too the principle is that one bad deed counts against you once — that is the same as the world view. Consider then my amazement to learn how totally out of sync Divine Justice is with secular justice here, for in Islam the reward for a good deed is ten times more its value — and you will hear later that it is at least ten times more.
In a life where you did about as much good as bad, you would end up with close to zero merit according to the world’s application of justice; while for exactly the same behaviour in Islam you end up with a healthy positive balance.
But wait, there’s more. The method of the world disregards your intention, your thinking, your desire. What goes on inside your head and your heart does not change your near-zero outcome. In Islam however you get merit for just wanting to do a good deed even if you did not get around to doing it; and even more amazing, if you thought of doing something wrong and then did not do it, you will also get credit for that, it will be recorded as one good deed. This justice system may not seem fair to modern legal minds and, in my opinion, is evidence of the Hand of the Divine, the Mind of God.
I would like to share the Hadith that I base this realisation on. From Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 235:
Abu Huraira reported that Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, Salla-Allahu-Alayhi-Wassalam, said:
When it occurs to my servant that he should do a good deed but he actually does not do it, record one good deed to him, but if he puts it into practice, I make an entry of ten good acts in his favour. When it occurs to him to do evil, but he does not commit it, I forgive that. But if he commits it, I record one evil act against his name. The Messenger of Allah, Salla-Allahu-Alayhi-Wassalam, observed — The angels said: That servant of Yours intends to commit evil, though His Lord is more vigilant than he. Upon this He, the Lord, said: Watch him; if he commits evil, write it against his name but if he refrains from doing it, write one good deed for him, for he desisted from doing it for My sake. The Messenger of Allah said: He who amongst you is good of faith, all his good acts are multiplied from ten to seven hundred times and are recorded in his name and all the evils that he commits are recorded as such, that is without increase, till he meets Allah.
So, yes, keep on thinking up those grand helping schemes. Be creative. Allow a storm in your brain. Share your thinking. The people you speak to may just turn around and say “Let’s do it.”
I now read a last verse from the Qur’an in this short talk: “Worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may become righteous.” That is verse 21 of Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow), the second chapter in the Qur’an.
Worship so that you may become righteous — not worship because you are righteous.
We do not pray because we are good. We become good because we pray.
I am going to read a prayer. I hope to read slow enough for you to absorb each of the sixteen lines in the prayer …
Allah, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring Your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Rabb, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that I receive,
it is in self-forgetting that I find,
it is in pardoning that I am, Insha’Allah, pardoned,
it is in dying that I will be raised to eternal life, Insha’Allah. Ameen.
 Albert Camus — unverified
 002.083; 002.277; 013.022; 021.073; 073.020 — some nice near symmetry between the last two
 about 16 times
 the belief that the world can be made better by human effort.
 a system of thought attaching prime importance to human thinking
 Meg Jay in Supernormal, 2017 page 17 of 394
 Philip Elliot Slater (15 May 1927 – 20 June 2013) The Pursuit of Loneliness: American Culture at the Breaking Point Beacon Press / Penguin Books, 1970
 interestingly new or unusual
 a set of rules to be followed in problem-solving operations
 #CrazyGoodDeed; only use it if you can attest to it — no fake good deeds
 It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no god but Allah, and the humblest of which is the, removal of what is injurious from the path: and modesty is the branch of faith.” Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 56
 denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis
 An-Nawawi in 40 Hadiths Hadith 37 also cites Al-Bukhari
 Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi