There is a common belief that Islam gives a higher status to men in comparison to women. This is misconception in the truest sense of the word.

Contrary to the common misconception that Islam holds men superior to women, Islam actually gives equal status to women as that of men. The Quran says:

"You are members, one of another." (3:195)

This means that there is no difference between the two as regards status, rights and blessings both in this world and in the Hereafter.

The following Hadith gives an apt description of the role of women:

Men and women are two equal halves of a single unit. (Al Tirmizi)

We see that both the sacred scriptures of Islam make it clear that neither sex is inferior or superior to the other. However, studies in biology and psychology show that the sexes are different in nature, each being designed for a different purpose. So, the Islamic maxim runs:

Equal in respect, but different in role.

Each being equal has a different sphere of action. That is, in making their contribution to social activity, the men undertake whatever is harder, while the women deal with whatever is lighter.

The Quran says that men are in charge of, that is, they are 'maintainers' of women (4:34). This leads to a common misconception that Islam gives a higher status to men then women. According to this verse of the Quran, it does not mean that men have a distinctive status over women - being maintainers of women has never been intended as a form of discriminatory treatment, it rather concerns the practical management of the home, for which the man is held responsible. However, this does not mean that a woman will never be allowed to shoulder these responsibilities. If she finds that she can bear this burden, no objection will be raised from any quarter. One example of this can be found in the Quran with reference to the people of Sheba. They lived in Yemen. The famous dam of Marib made their country very prosperous and enabled it to attain a high degree of civilization. The Quran tells us that they were ruled by a woman (27:23) without disapproving of her rule. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba was very wise and sagacious, even more so than the men in her court. She did not want to embroil her country in war, while the men advised her to confront her enemies, namely, Solomon's army. Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:

"In Bilqis we have a picture of womanhood, gentle, prudent, and able to tame the wilder passions of her subjects."

It is an accepted principle with the commentators of the Quran that when the Quran reports something without any disapproval, that means that has been approved of by the Quran.

So when we look at this incident in the light of the Quran, we find the status of woman even higher than that of men. A woman is in charge of men and she has shouldered this responsibility with greater efficacy.

Thus the example of the Queen of Sheba having found mention in the Quran shows that rulership is not man's monopoly. A woman can be a 'qawwam' over a man and the Quran has itself testified to it.

In fact, in the early period of Islam, both the sexes were fully active in different fields of life, from housework to agriculture and horticulture; and from worship in the mosque to the battleground. Everywhere women were visible and active. Gradually there came about a division of labour, which is justifiable not only biologically and physiologically, but also in terms of the ensuing social benefits. One such important benefit is that they can see each other's lives objectively, without that personal involvement which tends to cloud their judgment and lead to a damaging emotionalism. They are better able to counsel each other coolly and wisely, to give moral support at critical moments, and to offer the daily encouragement with which every successful union should be marked.

In Islamic history, there are many examples of women giving invaluable help to their husbands in critical situations. One of the most notable was Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet of Islam who successfully brought the Prophet back from a state of fear and trembling to a state of normalcy after his receiving the first divine revelation in the solitude of the Cave of Hira from the Archangel Gabriel. She was able to reassure him that his life was not, as he feared, in danger, as she herself was emotionally detached from the incident. She observed: "God will surely never forsake you. You are kind to your kin; you always help the weak; you take care of whoever crosses your threshold; you solace the weary; you speak the truth." The reassurance that Khadijah gave to the Prophet of Islam on this occasion was one of the most significant contributions to the furtherance of Islam.

Then it occurred to Khadijah that she had best make enquiries of some learned Christians, who, well versed as they were in the scriptures, were bound to have knowledge of revelation and prophethood. She went first to a rahib (hermit) who lived near Mecca. On seeing her, the priest asked, "O noble lady of the Quraysh, what has brought you here?" Khadijah replied, "I have come here to ask you about Gabriel." To this the rahib said, "Glory be to God, he is God's pure angel. He visits prophets: he came to Jesus and Moses." Then Khadijah went to another Christian called Addas. She put the same question to him, and he too told her that Gabriel was an angel of God, the very same who had been with Moses when God drowned the Pharaoh. He had also come to Jesus, and through him God had helped Jesus.

Then Khadijah hastened to Waraqah ibn Nawfal, a Christian convert who had translated part of the Bible into Arabic. When she had finished telling him of what Muhammad had seen and heard, Waraqah exclaimed, "Holy, holy! By the Master of my soul, if your report be true, O Khadijah, this must be the great spirit who spoke to Moses. This means that Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation." On a subsequent visit, Khadijah brought Muhammad to meet Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Muhammad related the events exactly as they had taken place and, when he had finished, Waraqah said, "By the Master of my soul, I swear that you are the same Prophet whose coming was foretold by Jesus, son of Mary." But then Waraqah sounded a note of warning: "You will be denied and you will be hurt. You will be abused and you will be pursued." He nevertheless immediately pledged himself to the Prophet: "If I should ever live to see that day, I should surely help you."

Thus we can say that Islam does not hold women inferior to men. Islam considers men and women as equal in respect, but different in role.

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Spend a part of your money for your material needs and spend the rest for spiritual uplift. Use it for acquiring knowledge. Money is a great asset. It is not meant just for fulfilling desires; Put it to better use. Spend it for a higher cause. Manage your desires and then you will find you have enough money to achieve higher goals.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

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The Qur'an, the Book of God, enshrines the teachings which were basically the same as were to be found in previous revealed scriptures. But these ancient scriptures are no longer preserved in their original state. Later additions and deletions have rendered them unreliable, whereas the Qur'an, preserved in its original state, is totally reliable.

The Qur'an has 114 chapters. Its contents in a nutshell are: belief in one God, and considering oneself answerable to Him; firm belief that the guidance sent by God through the Prophet Muhammad is the truth and that man's eternal salvation rests thereon.

The position of the Qur'an is not just that it is one of the many revealed scriptures but that it is the only authentic heavenly book, as all other books, due to human additions and deletions, have been rendered historically unreliable. When a believer in the previous revealed scripture turns to the Qur'an, it does not mean that he is rejecting his own belief, but rather amounts to his having re-discovered his own faith in an authentic form.

The Qur'an is a sacred book sent by the Lord of all creation. It is a book for all human beings, because it has been sent by that Divine Being who is the God of all of us.

The Qur'an is no new heavenly scripture. It is only an authentic edition of the previous heavenly scriptures. In this respect, the Qur'an is a book for all human beings, of all nations. It is the expression of God's mercy for one and for all. It is a complete message sent by God for every one of us. The Qur'an is a light of guidance for all the world just as the sun is the source of light and heat for all the world.

Islam means submission. The religion of Islam is so named because it is based on obedience to God. A true believer in Islam is one who subordinates his thinking to God, who follows God's dictates in all aspects of his life.

Islam is the religion of the entire universe. For the entire universe and all its parts are functioning in accordance with the law laid down by God.

Such behaviour is also desired of man. Man should also lead his life as God's obedient servant just as the rest of the universe is fully subservient to God. The only difference is that the universe has submitted to God compulsorily, while man is required to submit to the will of God by his own choice.

When man adopts Islam, first of all it is his thinking, which comes under Islam, then his desires, his feelings, his interests, his relations, his loves and his hatred. All are coloured by his obedience to God's will.

When man, in his daily life comes under God's command, his behaviour with people, his dealings all are molded by the demands of Islam. From inside to outside he becomes a person devoted to God.

Man is God's servant, and indeed, the only proper way for man in this world is to live as the servant of God. Islam, in fact, is another name for this life of servitude to God. Where the Islamic life is devoted to the service of God, the un-Islamic life unashamedly flouts the will of God. Islam teaches man to lead an obedient life and surrender himself completely to the will of God. It is people who do so who will share God's blessings in the next world.

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Contrary to world belief, Islam in reality is a religion of peace. It is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word.

Islam is actually a religion of peace and humanism. The very word 'Islam' (from Arabic Silm connotes peace). Not only Islam, but also all other religions may be defined in this way. According to a Hadith, "God grants to gentleness what He does not grant to harshness." That is to say, peaceful activism is distinctly superior to violent activism. There is nothing mysterious about the point made in this Hadith. It is a simple and a well-known fact of life that in a situation of war and violence, feelings of hatred and enmity flare up between the two sides and, in the process, the existing resources are destroyed. People from both sides get killed and the entire society turns into a jungle of negative feelings. It is quite obvious that in such an atmosphere no constructive and consolidated work can be done. There is nothing to be achieved in war and violence, save death and destruction.

On the contrary, an atmosphere of peace enables normal relations to be established between people. It makes it possible for feelings of love and friendship to prevail. In a favourable atmosphere constructive activities flourish and the existing resources can be used for development or other creative activities. A positive bent of mind will prevail which will help develop academic and intellectual advancement.

The greatest ill effect of war is that it limits human endeavour, whereas the greatest benefit of peace is that to the ultimate extent it opens up opportunities for improvement. War invariably results in further loss, while peace invariably results in further gain. That is why Islam teaches us to avoid war and confrontation at all costs and commands us to establish peace to the greatest possible degree.

There are certain verses in the Quran, which convey injunctions similar to the following: 'Kill them wherever you find them.' (2:191)

Referring to such verses, there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. Such verses relate in a restricted sense, to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam.

The truth of the matter is that the Quran was not revealed in the complete form in which it exists today. It was revealed from time to time, according to the circumstances, over a time span of 23 years. If this is divided into years of war and peace, the period of peace amounts to 20 years, while that of war amounts only to 3 years. The revelations during these 20 peaceful years were the peaceful teachings of Islam as are conveyed in the verses regarding the realization of God, worship, morality, justice, etc.

This division of commands into different categories is a natural one and is found in all religious books. For instance, the Gita, the holy book of the Hindus, pertains to wisdom and moral values. Yet along with this is the exhortation of Krishna to Arjun, encouraging him to fight. (3:30) This does not mean that believers in the Gita should wage wars all the time. Gandhiji, after all, derived his philosophy of non-violence from the same Gita. The exhortation to wage war in the Gita applies only to exceptional cases where circumstances leave no choice. But for general day-to-day existence it gives the same peaceful commands as derived from it by Mahatma Gandhi.

Similarly, Jesus Christ said: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew, Chapter 10)

It would not be right to conclude that the religion preached by Christ was one of war and violence, for such utterances relate purely to particular occasions. So far as general life is concerned, Christ taught peaceful values, such as the building up of a good character, loving each other, helping the poor and needy, etc.

The same is true of the Quran. When the Prophet of Islam emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, the idolatrous tribes were aggressive towards him. But the Prophet always averted their attacks by the exercise of patience and the strategy of avoidance. However on certain occasions no other options existed, save that of retaliation. Therefore, he had do battle on certain occasions. It was these circumstances, which occasioned those revelations relating to war. These commands, being specific to certain circumstances, had no general application. They were not meant to be valid for all time to come. That is why; the permanent status of the Prophet has been termed a 'mercy for all mankind.' (21:107)
Contrary to the misconception that Islam produces an uneducated society, Islam lays utmost importance to education and obtaining of knowledge.

The importance of education in Islam can be seen from the prayer given in the following verse of the Quran:

"My Lord! Increase me in Knowledge." (20:114)

The mission of the Prophet of Islam has been introduced in the Quran at more than one place as an Instructor of the Book and giver of wisdom. Here is a verse from the Quran:

"He it is who has raised among the unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves who recites to them His signs and purifies them, and to instruct them in the Book and wisdom." (62:2)

Similarly, on another occasion the Prophet of Islam presented himself before the people saying, "I have been sent only as a teacher."

Then the first word revealed in the form of the Quran was 'Iqra' (96:1). The fourth verse of the first revelation forming part of the chapter Al-Qalam has this to say:

"God has taught man by the pen." (96:4)

We find more than 1500 derivatives and synonyms of the word Ilm, that is, knowledge. It becomes easy to understand in the light of this how the revelation of the Quran in this almost illiterate nation of Arabia set off such a wave of receiving and imparting education, which can rightly be called a learning explosion.

The revolution brought about by this learning explosion ushered in a new age of highly developed culture and civilization not only in Arabia but also all over the world. This is a fact that has been acknowledged by historians. For instance, Indian historian, T. Rama Rao begins his biography of the Prophet of Islam with these words:

When he appeared, Arabia was a desert-a nothing. Out of nothing of the desert a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhammad. A new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom, which extended from Morocco to India and influenced the thought and life of three continents-Asia, Africa and Europe (Life of Muhammad).

The Quran and Hadith both hold men of knowledge superior to the ignorant. (39:9) The books of hadith have a whole lengthy chapter devoted to the importance of knowledge, and the rewards of teaching and learning.

For instance, there is a tradition that one who treads a path in search of knowledge has his way paved to paradise by God as a reward for this noble deed (Bukhari, Muslim)

In a tradition recorded by Tirmidhi, angels in heaven, fish in the water and ants in their dwellings pray for the well being of a seeker of knowledge.

In another hadith the Prophet of Islam observed, those who learn virtues and teach it to others are the best among humankind (Al-Bayhaqi).

Not more than 150 people all over Arabia knew how to read and write. They made the maximum use of their ability to memorise, preserving their entire literary heritage in their memory. There is no trace of any systematic or organised activity of learning or teaching in the society. But soon after the revelation of the Quran, the trend of receiving education set in, and everyone who accepted Islam learnt the Quran from the Prophet, and after learning it himself taught to other converts. In this way the homes of the early Muslims-Abu Bakr Siddiq, Al-Arqam bin Al-Arqam, Fatimah bint Khattab-turned into centres of learning. Moreover, from the very outset, the Prophet appointed scribes who were assigned to write down the Quranic portions as soon as they were revealed. This motivated others as well to learn writing so that they might make their own copies of the holy textbook. It is to be noted that even under life-threatening circumstances, when the Prophet had had the first and second pledge at Al-Aqabah, three years before the migration, he appointed twelve people who were most learned amongst them as teachers of the Quran. These teachers were so sincere and enthusiastic that within a short period of three years they spread the knowledge of the Quran to almost each and every home of the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj. Hence when the Prophet arrived at Madinah in the 13th year of his Prophethood, he found all the young and old people of these tribes well versed in the teachings of the Quran.

At the Battle of Badr 70 people were taken prisoner. The decision was taken after consultation with the senior companions that on payment of 4000 dirhams each they would be set free. Most of the Meccans being businessmen, knew how to read and write. But the Medinans were mostly farmers, who did not know how to read or write. Owing to the importance of education in Islam it was decided that those prisoners of war who were not able to pay ransom, should be asked to teach 10 Muslim children in order to secure their freedom. This was the first proper school in Islam established by the Prophet himself (Tabaqat, Ibn Sad).

The learning explosion produced by the first divine word Iqra continued non-stop. It initially began at Makkah and gradually spread throughout the world. After the demise of the Prophet, the companions spread out in the neighbouring countries with the same spirit of seeking knowledge and imparting it to others. From Makkah to Madinah to Abyssinia to Iraq, to Egypt, to Baghdad this revolutionary educational movement gradually passed on to Central Asia and the East, then to Spain and the West.

For more than a thousand years these served as international centres of learning, education, medicine and multidimensional development in all spheres of life.

Women were not kept away from these activities. Starting with the Prophet's own household, Muslim families provided equal opportunities to the female members of the family to learn to grow and play a constructive role in the progress and development of society at large. A large number of learned women have found mention in history as authorities on various Islamic sciences such as hadith, Islamic jurisprudence, seerah of the Prophet, commentary on the Quran, etc. The Prophet's own wife, Aishah, imparted the knowledge and wisdom she received from the first educator, for almost half a century. She has narrated more than two thousand traditions of the Prophet, and according to the Muslim jurists, these are the source of two thirds of Islamic laws relating to social, political and cultural issues.

Biographers such as Ibn Khallikan (author of Waqeyatul Ayan), Ibn Sa'd (author of Tabaqat), Khatib Bhaghdadi (author of Taarikh Baghdad) and Al-Miqrizi (author of al-Khutal wal-Athar) have mentioned the names of thousands of women and their outstanding contribution in the field of education and development in the Muslim world. Noteworthy among them, for instance, are the two sisters of Al-Fahri of Morocco, Fatimah and Maryam, the daughters of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, who founded the Qayrawan University and the Andalus University in the historical city of Fas in 245 A.H.

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The essence of faith is ma'arifah, (realization or discovery of God). When a man consciously seeks out and finds God, and thereby has access to divine realities that is what constitutes faith.

This discovery is no simple matter. God is the Creator and Owner of all things. He will award or punish all, according to their deeds; none is free from His grip. The discovery of such a God shakes to the core of the whole life of man. His thinking is revolutionized, for God becomes the centre of all His emotions.

With God as the principal focus of his attention, man becomes God's servant in the fullest sense of the word. He becomes a man whose living and dying is all for God.

Such a faith ultimately results in all of man's behaviour and his dealings taking on the hue of God. When the believer speaks, he is conscious of the fact that God is listening to him. When he walks, he does so with modesty so that his gait may not be displeasing to God. When he deals with people, he is always worried lest he deal unjustly and be punished by God in the next life.

The impact of this degree of faith makes the entire life of man akhirat-oriented. In all matters his eyes are focused on the Hereafter. Instead of immediate gain he makes gain in the next life his goal. Whenever there are two aspects of any matter, one pertaining to this world and the other to the next world, he always prefers the latter.

Faith, another name for the recognition of the Supreme God, becomes for the believer a fountainhead of limitless confidence in his Creator. When this recognition takes root in an individual's heart and soul, his whole personality becomes regenerated. Knowing that in all circumstances he may depend upon God, he becomes a new man.

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Thanksgiving for man is to acknowledge the blessings of God. This acknowledgement first arises in the heart then, taking the form of words, it comes to the lips of the grateful person.

From birth, man has been superbly endowed in body and mind by his Creator. All his requirements have been amply catered for, every object in the heavens and on earth having been pressed into his service. All the things necessary for his leading a good life on earth and the building of a civilization have been provided in abundance.

Man experiences these blessings at every moment. It is, therefore, incumbent on man to thank God for His blessings at all times. His heart should be eternally brimming with gratitude for these divine blessings.

Thanksgiving is the most comprehensive term of worship: gratefulness is the essence of the godly life. The best expression of that gratefulness is the expenditure of time and money in the way of God. It is God, after all who has given man the reason to worship Him and the means to do so.

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Abdullah Bin Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said: The foundation of Islam has been laid on five principles; to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His prophet; to offer prayer (Namaz); to give alms (Zakat); to perform Hajj and to keep fast during Ramzan.

According to this Hadith, these five principles form the pillars of Islam. Like a mansion stands on pillars so does Islamic faith on these tenets. Outwardly these five principles are names given to certain practices, like, to repeat the words accepting the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, to go through the rituals of the prayers (Namaz), to give the prescribed amount of alms (Zakat), to perform the Hajj and to observe the fast of Ramzan. But the manifestation of these rituals is not the sole aim; it is spirit behind them, which is the real aim. Outward manifestation is just one part of the truth, the best way to observe these rituals is in which you get to the reality.

The same principle applies to the other things in this world as well. Take the telephone for instance. As everyone knows the telephone has a definite form. But the form itself is not what is expected of a telephone. Telephone for the sake of telephone is meaningless. Telephone is meant for establishing contact. When you say that you have a telephone it does not imply that you have the shell of a telephone. What it really means is that you have an instrument through which you can establish contact anywhere in the world and talk to distant people.The same thing applies to the five principles of Islam. These principles are principles of Islam only as long as their manifestation and spirit are interwoven. Without the spirit, the form is as good as its not being there at all.

The spirit of Faith. This is the first pillar of Islam. For its manifestation one is required to utter his faith in oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. But its spirit lies in its acceptance. Through this article of faith a man accepts God and all His attributes. He also accepts that God has sent Muhammad to this world as the eternal guide for all the mankind. If this reality reaches one's heart, it becomes a part of his being. His heart opens to the truth and reality. He is transformed into a man who will overcome any obstacle to reach the truth.

The spirit of Salah. Its manifestation is the daily five times prayers but the spirit is humility. A man performing the salah bows before his Creator and thereby creates a sense of humility within himself. A man who is fired by this spirit, will be devoid of pride and ego. He will develop a quality of humility and will be far removed from false sense of pride and importance.

The spirit of Zakat. Its manifestation is giving a fixed amount in alms annually, but the spirit behind is the service of mankind. A man who gives alms will develop a zeal in himself to do good to the others. He would like to live a life which is most useful to the others.

The spirit of Hajj. Its manifestation is the annual ritual. But its spirit is the unity and solidarity. A man who performs the Hajj in its real spirit, will do away with the feelings of opposition. He will live in unity and harmony even in the face of provocation.

The spirit of Fasting. Its manifestation is fasting in the month of Ramzan. But the spirit is to endure. A man who keeps fast will soon learn to tolerate even unpleasant situations. He will ignore what may be objectionable and concentrate on positive aspects of the matter.

Those who adhere to these five pillars of Islam only to the extent of their manifestations, will find that their lives are devoid of the spirit of these pillars.

For example they will repeat the words accepting the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, but beyond these words when they are confronted with truth, they will not accept it, because they have not understood the spirit of what they repeat. They will go through the ritual of prayer (Namaz) but once outside the mosque they will not be able to display the humility in their interaction with others. The reason for this is that they have not imbibed the spirit of Namaz.

Likewise those who take out a fixed amount as alms (Zakat), will not show any compassion while dealing with others. Because the spirit of Zakat is missing. They will go for Hajj, perform the rituals and come back. But they will not be ready to ignore the complaints of the others and forge a unity because the true spirit of Hajj has not touched them. During the month of Ramzan, they will keep the ritual fast. But when they are required to show patience, they will be found lacking. They will be easily provoked. The reason for this is that they have not understood the spirit behind the fasting.

Anyone who has adhered to the five pillars of Islam is a faithful and a Muslim. He has made himself entitled to God's bounty, in this world as well as in the world hereafter. But the five pillars of Islam have to be accepted in their manifestations and spirits. The rewards, which have been promised, are for their complete and not partial adherence.

Q-What is Prayer?

Man has been advised in the Qur'an to be steadfast in his prayer, for prayer fends away indecency and evil. When the Prophet of Islam was asked about this verse he said: If a person's prayer does not fend away indecency and evil then his prayer is not really prayer at all.

What is prayer? It is to remember the fact that man is living before a God who-though man cannot see Him-can see man. Whoever leaves the mosque with this fact firmly embedded in his mind cannot live forgetful of God. In prayer man testifies to the fact that God is the greatest of all beings. If one is truthful in one's testimony, then one will not claim greatness for oneself when one has finished praying. Whatever one recites in prayer is a covenant before God that one will keep his commandments; then how is it possible that one should leave the mosque and treat people with arrogance and contumacy? The actions of prayer are a manifestation of the fact that one's heart is full of fear and love for God. How can one claim to be full of fear and love for God in the mosque, and then live as if one knows neither fear or love for Him when one goes outside?

If one prays in the true spirit of prayer, then one's prayer will surely fend away indecency and evil. But if one's prayer is devoid of spirit, then it will be no more than a perfunctory action, which has no connection with one's real life. It will be prayer in form, but not in reality: for it will not fend away indecency and evil.

It is as if one were to say: a son who stays lying down while he sees his father standing does not respect his father; a brother who sees his sister hungry and does not give her something to eat is not really a brother at all; the friendship of a person who hears of his friend's death and does not stop laughing is not really friendship at all.

Q-What is Zakat?

Zakat, or the alms-tax, is one of the five basic tenets of Islam. Its payment is obligatory, at the rate of 2.5%, on all wealth that is subject to growth: Eight categories of people, eligible to receive Zakat, have been specified in this verse of the Qur'an:

Alms shall be used only for the advancement of God's cause, for the ransom of captives and debtors, and for distribution among the poor, the destitute, wayfarers, those that are employed in collect-ing alms, and those that are converted to the faith. That is a duty enjoined by God. He is Wise and All-knowing. (9:60)

So, as is clear from this verse, one of the ways that Zakat can be spent is "for the cause of God." Though the words of the Qur'an are general, the consensus of Muslim theologians is that they refer to holy war: it is those who are voluntarily engaged in holy war, and have not been appointed any salary by the government, who should receive alms given "for the cause of God." (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 393)

If we accept this interpretation, then it means that the instruction to give Zakat "for the cause of God" may, to all intents and purposes, be misapplied. This form of voluntary participation in wars was only possible in ancient times; under modern conditions there is no question of it. In the present age war has become so complicated and technical that only those who have received regular training are able to take any real part in it: to allow untrained people to enter the field of battle is tantamount to inviting defeat. In other words, only those who are employed by the government can participate in war now a days. According to this interpretation, the above injunction is really no longer applicable.

The words "for the cause of God" are general in their application. They include any task that is performed for God's cause, being especially applicable to that work which the Qur'an calls "calling to the service of God." The true objective of Islam is preaching, not fighting. Calling people to submit themselves to God is the Islamic point of departure; war is only resorted to when the other party starts hostilities, and forces the preachers of Islam to take up arms to defend themselves.

The Egyptian scholar, Rashid Raza, has noted in his commentary of the Qur'an that the words "for the cause of God" are equally applicable to those who strive to spread the word of God.

The best way to give alms "for the cause of God" in the present age, is to contribute to the training of preachers, and to their dispatch by Islamic organizations to non-Muslim lands, and to continue to give financial support to these preachers, just as non-Muslims do for the propagation of their religion. (Tafseer Manar)

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In mutual dealings in social life, it often happens that a person gives his word to another. There is apparently no third person or group between the two, yet there is always a third present and that is God who is the supreme witness. That is why every promise becomes a divine promise.

Man should, therefore, be extremely sensitive about giving his word. His conviction is that every commitment made between two persons is under the watchful eyes of God, and that he will be accountable for its fulfillment in the court of God. This compels him to be highly responsible as regards his promises. Whenever he gives his word to anyone he makes a point of keeping it.

People who invariably fulfill their promises are predictable characters in a society, and give their society that particular quality which exists on a vast scale throughout the universe. Every part of this universe is functioning with the most exact precision. For instance, we can learn in advance about any star's or planet's rotation and where it will be moving after a hundred or even a thousand years. Similarly, we know in advance what the boiling point of water will be. In this way the entire universe evinces a predictable character.

Many other virtues come in the wake of the regular fulfillment of promises. One of these is mutual trust. In a society where mutual trust exists, there is no discord and dissension between the people; there is an atmosphere of confidence and peaceability as there is no fear of promises being broken.

Readiness to fulfill promises is a commendable trait and it is spirituality that makes man the possessor of this highest of human virtues.
Good character is the sum of personal virtues, which guarantees correct and agreeable behaviour in daily social interaction. A person of good character will invariably conform in his behaviour to a strict code of ethics.

What should be the underlying principle of this code of ethics? According to a hadith it is simply this-you should like for others what you like for yourself, that is, you should treat others just as you want to be treated by others.

Everyone likes to be addressed with good manners and pleasing words. So everyone should speak gently to others. Everyone wants his existence to be problem-free, so he should avoid creating problems for others.

Everyone wants others to deal with him in a sympathetic and cooperative manner. So what everyone ought to do while dealing with others is to give them his full sympathy and cooperation.

This standard of ethics is very simple and natural. It is so simple that anyone may easily learn it, be he literate or illiterate, able bodied or disabled, and regardless of his likes and dislikes. This hadith has given such a criterion for human ethics that no one can find difficult to understand. In this way Islam has set forth, in the light of everyone's personal experience, what behaviour may be indulged in and what behaviour has to be refrained from.

According to another hadith, the best of us is one who is best in moral character. Accordingly, becoming a good human being has nothing ambiguous about it. Its simple formula is that of avoidance of double standards. One who lives his life by this formula is indubitably a person of the highest moral character.


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