Reformation is not an overnight journey because it is an uphill slog that requires a lot of time and effort, but in order to achieve reformation we first need transformation. To embark on that road we need to have that inner desire and commitment to change our ways because our lives are so engrossed and fixated with the lifestyle of today.
Unfortunately many of us live lifestyles that are totally out of sync with our religious faith and belief. Our lives, among other things have been overtaken by greed, selfish motives and intentions, lack of sincerity and integrity, hypocrisy and selfishness in all our relations towards our fellow humans.
For a start we need to get back to our basic values of sincerity, integrity and truthfulness. Sincerity is a broad and essential element in our relationship between a believer and his Creator and also spreading to his own fellow humans.
When we make an effort to get closer to our Creator we will find much peace and comfort. ‘….I am indeed near. I respond to the call of every suppliant when he calls on Me. So let them also with a will listen to My call, and commit themselves to me; that they may be rightly guided’ (Quran 2: 186)
Without sincerity our worship cannot be wholehearted because it can be tainted with our own selfish motives and intentions, hypocrisy and selfishness. ‘O, you who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true in word and deed’ (Quran 9: 119)
Equally, to be true in word and deed to our Lord, our sincerity and integrity must also be the hallmark in our relations towards our fellow humans because they lead to sincere, honest and genuine relationships. When we live a life of sincerity and honesty it brings our hearts, minds and souls a cleansing because we are at peace with ourselves and with the world.
Many of us are not at peace because of our lifestyles, let me use this example because we can relate to it as one time or the other we have done it. Take the common example of many of us who do things, acquire more possessions and live an extravagant lifestyle just to ‘show off’ and to impress others.
Those who have spare money can afford it, but most of us run to the banks for access to loans to fund this extravagant lifestyle and as a result it becomes difficult to maintain this because we living beyond our means. So we get into a financial morass falling headlong into debt.
Once this happens we are forced to look around to see how we can pay off those burdensome debts. Some fall into arrears and are forced to resort to any means to service those debts, this regrettably may include a loss of our integrity as we out of desperation resort to any means, illegal and foul. It then becomes difficult to live a balanced lifestyle because we do things that can come back to bite us, as it were.
Extravagance is forbidden in Islam, Allah says, ‘Do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant’. (Quran 7: 31). And: ‘…but squander not your wealth in a manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the evil ones; and the evil one is ungrateful…… (Quran 17: 27).
We should aim for a balanced life style so that while being careful of and watching our spending habits we should not on the other hand become miserly and stingy. On the love of wealth the Bible says: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some covet after, they have erred from faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’. (1Timothy 6: 10)
The random example given above, dissected, shows among other things that we get into problems because we cave in to our worldly desires. We get driven by pride, greed, arrogance and live a false life. This leads to a stressful situation because our hearts and minds are in complete disarray and in distress.
This is when we need to pause, rewind and to review our life and make honest and sincere decisions to change our ways. Change is the key, but we must remember that it is not always without pain. This is part of reformation because to bring back peace into our lives we first need to bring back order into our chaotic life – this requires transformation.
Someone wrote these wise words when he said; Our future depends on us, and if we are to make it our success we must remember these ten little two letter words “if it is to be, it is up to me’.
There are many other things in this world that prey on our hearts and minds that create the stresses in and to our lives. We need to manage and navigate through this morass using our inner strength and will. After all to some degree or the other, we all have the striving mechanism within ourselves the power of change.
We have been blessed with the strength of our thoughts, minds and hearts but we under rate them. Many of us sometimes look at the challenges that face us and feel intimidated by them as we find the overwhelming. But with a positive mind set we can turn the challenges into opportunities.
But even with all these things we have to learn the virtue of patience because it is only when problems strike that we begin to see the mettle in some of us. When we face difficulties and challenges we may go into a phase of uncertainty, worry and concern. The only way to deal with this irksome side of our daily lives is to exercise patience and tolerance.
We need to remember that the Quran tells us: ‘As is sure there come guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance will not lose his way or fall into misery’ (Quran 20: 123). Further: ‘And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions’. (Quran 16: 96). And, ‘…for Allah is with those who patiently persevere’ (Quran 2: 153).
Once we have put our trust in our Lord, this brings about peace and harmony, and our spirits are positively bolstered when to turn to our Lord and Saviour in prayer and for guidance. Once we put that faith in the Hands of our Lord, it will set us on the road to reformation.
There is also a verse in the Bible that reads: ‘In your patience possess ye your souls.’ (Luke 21: 19) And: ‘….and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us’. (Heb. 12:1)
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.