What is Islam

Bismillâhir rahmânir rahîm.

Dear Guests, Brothers and Sisters! May the peace, grace and blessings of Almighty Allah be with you in this life and in the hereafter. May endless peace and prayers be with His chosen servant Muhammad Mustafa.

I would like to talk on an important topic: Islam–a perfect belief, its characteristics and orders, and the responsibilities on Muslims.

The most important topic of all is religion because other topics would only matter in this life, in a limited way. For example, some topics would be limited to the nature or health. On the other hand the religion is concerned with life in this world and in the hereafter.

The Earth is a small object in the endless space. There is a colossal difference between the Earth and the entire space. Likewise, the length of this life is so insignificant when compared to the length of the life in the hereafter. For this reason, a matter which is concerned with the life in the hereafter is the most important matter of all.

This is a matter that concerns all mankind and all societies. In every society, a system of belief has been formed as described by the history of religions. There have been religions that can be classified in various ways. There are the heavenly religions as well as invented religions. When the beliefs are studied, one can see that mankind put their beliefs on many different objects that sound quite strange for the man of Twentieth Century. For instance, people in ancient Egypt and India worshipped the cow, which sounds quite droll for us. In ancient Persia, some people worshipped Sun; some people in Japan still worship it, too. Despite their advancement in technology, they still believe that the Japanese Emperor is the son of Sun. It puzzles one whether he should laugh at them or feel sorry for them. It is amazing in the name of knowledge, science, technology and the Twentieth Century.

I had seen it on television that there are people who worship the cobra snake. They have a shrine with statues of cobras at the gate. These people collect cobras from the fields and worship them despite the fact that thousands of people die of cobra bites.

There were people among Hittites and in India who worshipped sexual organs. There are also people who idolize their heroes, worship nature, trees, mountains or stars. In brief, there is a system of belief in every society.

The character and the quality of the belief are very important. The presence of a belief does not suffice; it has to be of a high quality. For instance, the man of the Twentieth Century praises the intelligence and logic. The intelligence is respected by all, yet there are as many intelligence and logic as the number of people which lead each person to different actions some of which are not acceptable at all. That is why our elderly described the good intelligence and logic as “aql-i selim–the sound intelligence” (common sense).

Not all intelligence and logic are acceptable. As Nasruddin Khawaja put it, “I invented eating yogurt with onion, but I did not like it myself, either.” A person could come up with an idea, yet not all ideas would be acceptable or well received.

There is also dhawk (sense of taste, pleasure, appreciation) of each person. We say “The dhawks and colors are not to be discussed,” but there is the dhawk-i selim–good taste. The appreciation of an artist would be definitely much different from the appreciation of an elementary school student or of a novice.

There is his–perception and sense which differs person to person. And of course there is the good common sense.

Likewise, there are beliefs of many kinds, and the quality of the belief is important.
As we study the history of religions and inquire about the beliefs of nations such as the Americans, the British, the Europeans and the Japanese, who are well advanced in the science and technology, we see unfortunately that they are not as much logical in that aspect. Some elements in their belief are not acceptable at all.

When I was in the military service, one of the generals called me to his office. He treated me as an associate professor of theology not as a second lieutenant under his command. Respectfully he asked me: “Professor, I am wondering why the Turks accepted Islam?”

From the tone of his voice, I understood that he was quite upset about Islam. As though he was saying: “I wish we were Christians. We observe in Europe and in the United States that they drink wine, they have hardly any limits on the relationships between men and women. Why did our ancestors accept Islam? Couldn’t they accept another religion?”

I responded: “Our ancestors accepted Islam not because of the geographical or social conditions that brought them face to face with Islam but with their choice after studying all the beliefs that were present at their time.”

They knew about Tibet and Dalai Lama. They were familiar with Brahmanism and Buddhism. They were rulers in China and knew their beliefs well. Their ancestors believed in Shamanism, and they met Christianity in the North of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. We have ancient texts such as Codecus Comanicus to prove such contacts. Some tribes accepted the Christianity; there are reports that the Gagauz are descendants of the Turks who accepted Christianity. The Caspian Turks met with Jews and accepted Judaism. Having seen all of these beliefs, the Turks, as the rulers of the land, accepted Islam. They did so because Islam was in harmony with life. They realized that Islam had the best principles about governing a country and for the interpersonal relationships in the society. They saw that Islam made the family and individual healthy and strong physically and spiritually.

Because he was a military officer, I pointed to a military aspect of Islam: “You cannot find a better religion from the military point of view. In Islam being a soldier is a blessed and holy occupation. Being on the guard duty is a form of worship. Islam instills the ideal of giving up one’s own life for protecting the peace and harmony behind the borders of the country. You cannot find such values in other religions.”

The regiment commander who was present there said: “General, I have been to Rome as a military attaché and I observed them. They have contradictions and refutable elements in their beliefs.” The general must have been quite impressed with my response, for he has been sending me cards on holidays. Well that was the truth about Islam.

Our forefathers did not find themselves in the middle of Islam like a leaf blown by the wind. They were not drifted to Islam by the unfolding social events of their times. They did not say, “Well, this is our kismet; let’s become Muslims.” Instead, they investigated, studied, and compared the religions and decided to practice Islam. As they deepen their search, their ties to Islam got stronger.

They ruled sections of India. They noticed nearly four hundred sects of Muslims there and tried to unite them. They also ruled Iran and tried to resolve the disagreement between the Shia and the Sunni. They upheld the knowledge and practiced what they knew. They loved Islam so much that they served the mankind for the sake of Allah. Despite the oppositions, they held tight to the principles of Islam.

Islam provides the necessary essentials for the eternal bliss; that is why it is beneficial to be a practicing Muslim. Islam protects our individual health by ordering bodily cleanliness, such as taking a bath everyday or once a week, clipping the nails, brushing the teeth, and other details. Islam considers the family sacred, elevates the ranks of parents, and states that obeying the parents is very rewarding in the hereafter.

Islam is beneficial for the happiness of the family, the happiness of the individual, and the happiness and the order in the society. We do not uphold Islam with a materialist approach just for these benefits only; we are not the traders of the hereafter. We upheld Islam just because it is an order from Almighty Allah. A materialist approach may state, “the religion is beneficial to the society and it provides physical and spiritual health for the individual, so it must be supported.” We get all of these as the byproducts.

We are religious people because we comprehend the existence and unity of Allah with our judgment and conscience. We upheld His orders because they are from Him. There are countless benefits resulting from obeying these orders. Yet, we would keep His orders even if it would mean material loss for us. Our spirituality is elevated to a level that we obey Allah (fil makrahi wal manshati) in what is pleasing and in what is not so pleasing to our nafs. We give not only our property or belongings but also our lives when necessary. This has been demonstrated throughout the history.

At our time, traveling restrictions have been relaxed, and communication systems have been expanded. We face many different cultures of people in various parts of the world. Everyday we use our judgment and make comparisons. We compare our society and life style with those of Europeans and Americans. We hear the criticism of non-Muslims; we witness the attacks of anti-Islamic forces. All of this strengthens our faith just as the iron hammered on an anvil becoming steel.

As we seek knowledge through reading, we become believers. As we read more, we become more religious. As a western man of thought put it, “the man of the west distances himself from religion because he finds discrepancies and contradictions.” Yet we Muslims become more attached to Islam as we seek more information. We used to see practicing Muslim scientists, professors and other knowledgeable people and get real happy for their being religious. I believe it would make the youth happy to see such personages, too. Alhamdulillah!

Islam, our religion, did not start with our beloved Prophet Muhammad; in fact, it goes back to the first man, Hadrat Adam. It is stated in the Qur’an that the prophets before Prophet Muhammad followed Islam:

(An-nabiyyun-al-ladhîna eslemû) “… the prophets who had entered Islam ….” Prophet Abraham, Prophet Noah, Prophet Moses and all were Muslims, too. That means that the truth has been the same since Hadrat Adam: Believing in Allah alone, submitting to His will alone, and trusting in Him alone.

In fact, “Islam” means submission to the Will of Allah and accepting his orders. It means worshipping Allah alone and not associating anything with Him. This is what the previous prophets did.

Prophet Noah said:

(Rabbi innî da’awtu qawmî laylan wa nahârâ) Oh My Lord, I have invited my people to the right path by day and by night; I have told them not to worship idols. (Falam yazidhum du’âî illâ firârâ) Yet my invitation has only increased them in flight. They stayed away from me. (Wa ennî kullemâ da’awtuhum litaghfiralahum ja’alû esâbi’ahum fî âdhânihim) And whenever I called them to tell the truth, they put their fingers in their ears.”

We also know that Prophet Abraham told his people: “Why do you worship the idols that you make with your own hands? By Allah, I shall assuredly outwit your idols.” In fact he destroyed the idols people worshipped (Qur’an 21:51-57).

Prophet Moses, too, invited people to the truth. He opposed the Pharaoh when he said: “I am the only Lord for you! The land of Egypt and the river of Nile belong to Me. You shall worship Me alone, for I am your Lord.” Prophet Moses invited the Pharaoh to the truth and fought with him. Prophet Moses also chastised some of his people who started worshipping a statue of a calve. After returning from the Mount Sinai, he saw that some people, in continuance of the practices they had in Egypt, made a golden statue of a calve to worship. He grabbed the beard and head of his brother Hadrat Aaron:

(Yabna umma lâ ta’khuz bilihyatî wa lâ bira’sî) “O son of my mother! Take me not by the beard or by the head. I warned them, but they did not listen to me!” In other words, Prophet Moses and his brother Hadrat Aaron invited people to the truth, believing in the existence and the unity of Allah.

It is also stated in the Qur’an that Prophet Jesus will say [on the day of Judgement]: “My Lord! You would know if I had done something other that what You ordered me to. I told them whatever You ordered me. I told them (u’budullàhe rabbî wa rabbekum) ‘Worship Allah who is my Lord and your Lord.’ My Lord, I never said “worship me and my mother.’” (Qur’an 5: 116-117)

That means Islam is the truth originated with the first man. The Qur’an is the essence of all previous revelations to the prophets:

(Fîhâ kutubun qayyimah) “It contains the message of the previous books.”

(Inne hâdhâ lafis suhufil ûlâ; suhufi ibrâhime wa mûsâ) “The truth described here is surely in the ancient scrolls, the scrolls of Prophet Abraham and Prophet Moses.” Some suras have information about this fact.

This indicates that Islam is the religion of mankind; it was like that then and it is like that now. It is the religion to unite the mankind because it acknowledges all of the prophets. Islam certifies the prophethood of them. If Islam did not acknowledge them, everybody would have doubts about them. Prophet Muhammad is the last of the prophets, the seal of the prophets; he had authenticated the previous prophets. Just like a notary public authenticating a document or a statement, he authenticated that Hadrat Jesus was a prophet of Allah and that Hadrat Abraham was a prophet of Allah.

Christians are not aware of this fact. They do not know that Muslims accept the prophets whom are accepted by Christians. This fact is not conveyed to them.

It is clear that Islam unifies the prophets, and the Glorious Qur’an contains the truth of all heavenly religions. Whatever is needed for the mankind, it is included in the Qur’an.

The teachings of Islam reached us without alteration. The life of the Prophet, his words, his actions, his private life, his family life, his social life, his political life, his expeditions, and everything else about him was recorded with painstaking attention of scientific methods. A western scholar acknowledged this fact: “There is no other person whose life has been established in such detail.” The life and the message of Prophet Muhammad is here for us to follow.

The Qur’an has been preserved as it was revealed. There are initial copies of the Qur’an in various museums. For instance there is one copy in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul which bears the signature of Hadrat Ali. Professor Ahmed Bey of the College of Literature of the University of Istanbul, who was internationally renowned for his research, used to say that the copy had the inscription “Aliyyubnu abû tâlib.”

Arabic grammar rules require that the inscription should have been “Aliyyibni abî tâlib” in the muzàfun ileyh form. This looks as though it is against the grammar rules: the majrur inflection is not used. Professor Ahmed Bey says: “This is the proof that the signature is authentic and the copy of the Qur’an is original because the grammar rule at that time was like that. Because the archaic grammar rule is kept, the signature is not a work of forgery.” It is possible to study the paper and the ink and determine the time period the copy belonged to. Nevertheless, the proof of the signature is sufficient.

The Qur’an is in our hands intact; there are books about the life of the Prophet in detail. We acknowledge all of the prophets. We are not like Christians because they deny a prophet of Allah. Alhamdulillah, we accept them all. When we say their names, we add “alayhis-salâm” which means “peace be with him.” We love them so much that we name our children after them. There are many Muslims with names such as Mûsâ (Moses), Îsâ (Jesus), Ya’qub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Eyyub (Job), and Shu’ayb. These are the prophets mentioned in the Bible.

There are also prophecies in the previous scriptures about the occurrence of Prophet Muhammad. Almighty Allah revealed in these scrolls: “There will be a prophet with such and such characteristics.” In various passages, our beloved Prophet, Muhammad Mustafâ, was described. This fact is stated in the Qur’an, in Surah Sâf, Surah Fath and in other surahs. In addition to the Qur’an, there are verses in the Torah and Gospel pointing to the Prophet Muhammad. Some Christian clergy point to these verses. When we were in the College of Literature, Professor Muhammad Hamidullah brought these verses to the class and explained them.

There is also a paper by Zeki Velidi who discusses the scrolls that were found in a cave in Qumrad by the Dead Sea. These scrolls had been hidden in the cave to save them from the Romans. Some of these scrolls have been taken to the United States while others were kept in Jordan and Vatican. Scholars have studied these texts. There were passages in them supporting the statements in the Qur’an.

Some Christian and Jewish scholars accepted Islam because they knew about the occurrence of Prophet Muhammad from the passages in the Torah and Gospel. They were expecting a prophet, and when Prophet Muhammad was commissioned as a prophet, they accepted him. An example from the time of the Prophet is Hadrat Salman the Persian (Salman-i Fârisî). He was born to(in) an Iranian family; he traveled many countries to receive instruction from Christian scholars. Finally he went to the Arabian Peninsula to meet the Prophet. Another example is Abdullah ibn-i Selâm who was a Jewish scholar. He accepted Islam because of the statements in the Torah. These examples are the proofs that there were passages in the old scriptures about Prophet Muhammad.

There is a book titled Islam, My Choice that was published by Begum Aisha Foundation in Pakistan. In that book there are some pictures of some pages from the Hindu scriptures indicating the occurrence of Prophet Muhammad.

There are also passages in ancient Iranian religious text about Prophet Muhammad. The texts of religions that existed before Prophet Muhammad had passages about his occurrence. These facts are pointed in the Qur’an:

(Wa idh qàla ‘isabni maryama yâ banî isrâîla innî rasûlullahi ilaykum musaddiqan limâ bayna yadayya minat-tawrâti wa mubash-shiran birasûlin ya’ti min ba’dismuhû ahmad) “So Jesus son of Mary said, ‘Children of Israel, I am indeed the messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is before me and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” (Qur’an 61:6)

In fact there is a verse in the Gospel [of St. John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever”] that Professor Hamidullah had explained to us. Many priests accepted Islam because they believed that the person mentioned in the Gospel was Prophet Muhammad. In the text, the word Ahmad was translated as Paraclete “The Comforter.” Since there is no original text of Gospel but the translations, we do not have the original word. Nevertheless, many priests interpreted it as Prophet Muhammad and accepted Islam.

A well-known example of such priests is Anselmo Turmedo who is from the Majorca island of Spain. He received instruction from the famous priests of his time in Spain, France and Italy. While he was at the service of a renowned scholar in a monastery in France, he learned that the word Paraclete referred to Prophet Muhammad. He went to Tunisia and accepted Islam. He assumed the name Abdullah at-Tarjumân. He wrote a book on the verses of the Gospel that pointed to the occurrence of Prophet Muhammad. His book has been translated into Turkish.

Another Example of such priests is Ibrahim-i Muteferrika (d. 1754) who brought the printing press to Ottomans. During my academic research, I studied Ibrahim-i Muteferrika and his book Risâle-i Islâmiye. We used to hear that this book was about the creed of Islam. Since I was the chair of the religious literature department, I decided to study this book and publish it.

Ibrahim-i Muteferrika was from Kolojvar, Romania. He was a well-educated priest, fluent in Greek and Latin. He says, “I read the ancient texts and the books banned by the ungenerous teachers of the church.” He calls the teachers “ungenerous” because they hid the truth. He states that he found information in the Christian literature that points to the occurrence of Prophet Muhammad. That is why he accepted Islam.

The book Risâle-i Islâmiye is not a book about the creed of Islam; this fact has been hidden from people by the researchers. We wonder who had the first research on this book. It turns out that it was a Catholic priest who conducted the first scientific research on this book. This explains why the true nature of this book is hidden from people. The book Risâle-i Islâmiye is not a book about Islam, it is about the verses of Bible that led him to accept Islam. The researcher priest wanted this fact to be hidden from people.

Ibrahim-i Mutererrika describes his own life in that book. He gives the verses that led him to Islam. He gives the verses in Latin, too.

Muteferrika was a high rank in the Ottoman palace for the technical personnel who is also skilled in art. It required specialization in various fields. Ibrahim-i Muteferrika used to work in the palace, elevated to the rank of Muteferrika and above. He has done impressive services with indelible effects in life. May he rest in peace and his abode be Paradise. Having studied his book, I came to the conclusion that he was a sincere Muslim in the service of Islam and Muslims.

As I said, Risâle-i Islâmiye is a book pointing to the verses that led a priest become Muslim. I published the book for the benefit of people and for other priests to see.

Another example of such personage is Abdul’ahad Dâwud. Few days ago we had an educational activity and I mentioned about him to the audience. His name was Abdulmesih when he was a Christian. Abdulmesih means “a slave of Messiah (Jesus).” This would be a name used by those who accept Jesus as God. This researcher took up the name Abdul’ahad which means “a servant of The One, Unique (Allah).” You must remember the words of Bilâl-i Habeshî “Ahad… Ahad…” Allah is the One, the Unique; there is none resembling Him.

This researcher has studies on Bible. He had been to England, Rome, Iran and other places. He completed two doctoral degrees. He taught in Universities in Iran. He was fluent in Turkish, Persian, Arabic, English, Italian, Greek, and Syriac language. He was very well informed.
I have asked a friend to study the life of Abdul’ahad Dâwud. What happened to his works? Where is his grave? We would not like to see his works to be locked-up in some cabinets or bookshelves. A scientist who accepted Islam and pointed to the discrepancies in the Christian creed and practices should not be left unknown. There may be some who would like to have his works overlooked. But we must be grateful for him and help everybody get to now him. May Allah bless his soul.

There are well educated personage among you; I am a professor at the university; there are other professor friends in the audience. Having studied with the modern methodology, we uphold Islam with love. Having studied and having answered to some criticism, we believe in Islam wholeheartedly. Every criticism brings us closer to Islam, strengthens our bonds. Islam is such a religion.

I would like to brief on some of the attractive elements of Islam that are superior to other beliefs.
The most important element in Islam is the creed (aqîda). The creed has to be firm and free of flaws. It is the foundation of all, so it must be grasped correctly. When the creed is correct, Almighty Allah may overlook the shortcomings of a person, for He is the Most Forgiving, the most Merciful. Those who lack the correct belief are deprived of His forgiveness:

(Innallàhe lâ yaghfiru an yushraka bihî wa yaghfiru mâ dûna dhâlika liman yashâ’) [Allah does not forgive anyone for associating something with Him, while He does forgive whomever He wishes to for anything besides that…](Qur’an 4:48) Almighty Allah does not forgive those who do not acknowledge His existence and unity. He may forgive the offenses and overlook the shortcomings of His servants who have the correct faith. We have to understand that the creed is the most important element in Islam.

The disbelief (kufr) is an unforgivable offense, so it is the association of partners to Allah (shirk). The kufr is the total lack of belief and denial of Allah. The shirk is the wrong belief, corrupted belief, attributing godly powers to creatures. Neither of these offenses is acceptable.

The man has to acknowledge Allah correctly. That is his primary responsibility in this life. He has to acknowledge his Creator, one Who provides him with daily sustenance, health, intelligence and with endless blessings correctly. Almighty Allah does not forgive faults in that aspect. This is the main teaching of Islam; it has been the main struggle of prophets since the time of Hadrat Adam.
Man has to acknowledge the truth and not worship the idols that he makes with his own hands. He should not worship the sun, the moon or the stars that there are so many of them in the sky. Nor should he worship the animals that we slaughter and barbecue their meat. He has to find the truth and abandon all the nonsense.

There is also the hidden form of shirk such as worshipping Satan or the desires:

(Wa lâ ta’budush-shaytàn) [Hadrat Abraham told his father:] “Do not serve or worship Satan!” (Qur’an 19:44)

(Efera-ayta menittekhadhe ilâhahû hewâhû. . .) “Have you seen someone who has taken his passion as his god?. . .” (Qur’an 45:23)

Sometimes people disobey Allah and abandon their worship. Some obey Satan and follow him. Some follow the desires of the nafs as though they worship their caprices and passions. Islam banns servitude and worshipping to anything other than Allah. The existence and the unity of Allah must be acknowledged as the main principle.

What we have said here complies with the intelligence and logic; it does not contradict the science and knowledge of the present century.

The appearance of the deeds is not much significant, but the essence of them is. The intention and the sincerity are the prerequisites for the deeds. You could observe two persons doing the same deed, yet only the deed of one could be acceptable because the other person may have something else in his mind. The appearance would be the same for both, yet only one could be rewarded while the other deserves punishment.

Islam is a religion that upholds the sincerity. It does not approve the disguise; it recommends inner purity and sincerity. There is a hadith about this:

(Ad-dînu en-nasîhatu) “The religion, Islam, is nasîhatu,” said the Prophet SAS. The word nasihat means “recommendation, advice” in Turkish. That is why the words of the Prophet are interpreted as “Islam is based on recommendation of good things, preaching.” This is not the meaning of the hadith. Here the word nasîhatu means sincerity and purity. So, the meaning is “Islam is based on purity and sincerity.”

The other day I read a book that stated that the human communication is comprised of words (10%), gestures and mimics (30%) and the state of the person (60%). The major part of the communication takes places through the state of the person. The book was about the communication through the state of the person. A person can communicate without saying a word! What is important is the sincerity of the person in his state.

(Ad-dînu nasîhatu) “The religion is sincerity.” The following words shed ligt on the matter: (Qa`lû: Limen yâ rasûlallah?) “The companions asked, ‘towards whom, O Messenger of Allah?’” The prophet continued: (Lillâhi) “Towards Allah.” If the meaning were “recommendation or advice,” who could give an advice to Allah? Could a servant give a recommendation to Allah? Of course not. The Prophet continued: (Wa lirasûlihî) “Towards His Messenger, (wa likitâbihî) towards His Qur’an, (wa li-e-immetil muslimîn) towards the administrators of the Muslims, (wa âmmetihim) and towards all of them.”

How beautiful are these words! The religion, Islam, is based on the sincerity. We have to tell people about this. The religion is not merely sop and dry rituals or appearance! It is the sincerity and purity towards Almighty Allah, His Messenger, His Qur’an, the administrators of the Muslims and towards all of the Muslims. That is how the Prophet summarized Islam.

The orders and the prohibitions of Islam are not based on caprices: “I want it that way, so you should do it! You have no choice but do it!” The orders of Islam are not based on such approaches. There are five main purposes in the orders and prohibitions of Islam:

1. Protecting the belief: staying away from shirk and kufr.
2. Protecting the spirit and spirituality
3. Protecting the intelligence and reasoning: This is the reason the intoxicants are banned in Islam, for they take away the faculty of reasoning.
4. Protecting the property. A person may not inflict damage on the property! There is a strange advertisement in the restaurants these days: “Brake a plate and pay 5 thousand Turkish Liras.” [That has been said to be a practice in Greece.] Breaking a plate to get rid of the stress! This is not allowed in Islam. You cannot inflict damage on property!

Why is it so? It is because the property is respected in Islam, too. One may not say “I can breake my own plate.” The property is respected and must be protected. It is one of the principles of Majallah:

(Lâ darara wa lâ dirâr fil Islam) “The infliction of damage on property is not allowed in Islam.”
“Suppose that I am angry at one of the neighbors. Can I set his harvest on fire?” That would be a major offense.

“What if that person had done the same thing to me before? Could I punish him with by inflicting the same type of damage?” The answer for such a question would be “NO!” (Lâ darara wa lâ dirâr) You cannot inflict damage on the property nor can you respond with a similar damage. You can go to the judge and ask for compensation. You may not damage the property because property is respected in Islam.

I heard a child slammed a burnt light bulb on the wall to get a kick out of the sound, yet his teacher gave him a punishment. Those who were present objected: “The light bulb was already burnt.” The teacher responded: “It is not right to destroy something that is already built. It could have been used for some purpose.”

In fact, I remember that one of my professors took me to a khawaja. It was a small place like a green grocer’s store in Altûnîzade, Istanbul. The khawaja was Hafiz Yusuf. He had thick glasses whose number was not 5 nor 7, but perhaps 10. He was an old person with a small body. My professor hugged him and asked me to kiss the hand of the khawaja. May Allah bless their souls.
I kissed the hand of the khawaja. He was an interesting person. He had his bed in the corner of the room, and a small chest of drawers. He had made a teapot and a kettle out of two light bulbs! He would boil water in the larger one and brew tea in the smaller one. He was quite interesting and a great scholar. There have been books written about him.

Islam protects the belief, the spirit, the intelligence, and property.

5. Islam protects the integrity of the human generations. That is why the adultery is banned and the marriage is required. A responsible person is needed for such protection, so the marriage is a must. That is why the abortion is considered as murder. A child in the womb of the mother is a person; it is counted as a person in the matters of inheritance.

As we see, the orders and prohibitions of Islam are meant for the protection of what is needed for the mankind. It is for the benefit of the mankind. It is stated in the Qur’an:

(Qul innallâha lâ ya’muru bil fah-shâ) “O Prophet! Tell people that Allah does not order them anything evil.” There is goodness in all orders of Allah.

“Why did He order war?” There is time that it is required.

“Then, why is the divorce allowed?” The divorce is allowed because it is like a safety valve in marriage. If the marriage does not work well, in the absence of divorce, people could commit suicide or murder. Sometimes the husband and the wife come to a point that they cannot maintain their togetherness any more. Then the divorce becomes a solution, a blessing from Allah. Just like sometimes death comes as a blessing, the divorce can be a blessing.

Almighty Allah does not order anything bad. There is benefit in everything He orders. That is why Islam is beautiful and beneficial for all.

Islam is not a utopian religion in the sky above the clouds. It is not concerned with matters related to the hereafter only. Islam is not solely the formal prayer or fasting in Ramadhan or the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam is a way of life. Islam is living a life in accordance with a system of belief. Such a system is concerned with every moment of life of each person. Islam is the environment a person lives in. It is not a button to be attached on the collar of a jacket or a shirt to be put on and taken off.

The concept of worship is amazingly inclusive. For instance, getting married is an act of worship. The intimacy between the husband and the wife is also an act of worship. Silence is a form of worship. Having a good intention is considered as a form of worship even if it is not actualized. Islam does not separate this life from the hereafter, the individual from the society, the material life from the spirituality. It keeps everything hand in hand.

A person in Taksim part of Istanbul complained to the police about his neighbour: “These people appear in their windows naked. That affects the peace in our family. I would like to file a complaint.” The Police responded: “I am sorry, I cannot do anything about it. Inside of a house or an apartment is off limits for us.”

Well, Islam has no such limits. It goes inside a house, inside a heart, too. It is concerned with thought in mind and intentions in heart. If it were not concerned with everything, it would not be a complete system, nor could it establish order. This is a superiority about Islam.

Here is another example: A person earns rewards while he works as a merchant:

(Al kâsibu habîbullah) “One who earns a living through trading is a beloved servant of Allah,” said the Prophet. There is another hadith about it:

(At-tâjirus-sadûqul amînu ma’an-nabiyyîna was siddîqîna wash-shuhadâ-i yawmal qiyâmah) “A trustworthy merchant will be among the prophets, the trustworthy, and the martyrs on the Day of Resurrection.” A person may be a merchant, bringing goods, selling them and making money out of it, yet he earns rewards by being trustworthy and for bringing the needed goods for people. Hence, trading is a rewarding business, a form of worship.

The government administration is, too, a form of worship. It is stated that the most virtuous of people in the sight of Allah is a righteous head of state. Being a righteous and just ruler in the government administration is a form of worship.

There are two people whose eyes are saved from the hell fire:

1. One who shed tears for Allah in secluded areas,
2. One who watch the borders to protect Muslims from the assault of enemies.

While we were in the military service, some people avoided the guard duty. We would step forward and ask to substitute for them because we knew that it was rewarding and that it was a form of worship.

When we received the call for the military service, we took off right away without waiting for the lunch. We wanted to be in the service longer and start earning rewards right away.

Why is it so? When it is carried out with good intentions, serving in the military, serving in the government administration, trading, silence, contemplation, and even talking can be a form of worship because Islam equals life, the way one lives this life. It is the totality of how one lives a life.
In Islam, whatever you do is either a rewarding deed or an offense, either you will be rewarded for that or punished. The study of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) is described as “the study of what is beneficial and what is punishable for the individual.” One needs to know Fiqh.

Another characteristic of Islam is that it is not exclusively for a race or for a limited time period. For instance, the Judaism is exclusively limited to one race; Islam is not like that. Islam is for the entire mankind and for all time. Our beloved Prophet was sent for

(Kâffeten linnâsi bashîran wa nazîrâ) the entire mankind as one who brings the good news and as a warner about the truth and the consequences of deviating from the truth. He was sent not only for the mankind but also for the invisible creatures, djinnes. It is reported in the Qur’an that a group of djinns came to the Prophet and declared their shahada.

Our beloved Prophet is not only forTurkey; in fact, he is for England, America and Japan, too. He is for all countries and all nations. It is because they live in the era of Prophet Muhammad. If they believe in him, they will become Muslims. If they do not, they will be disbelievers.

One has to believe Prophet Moses, Prophet Jesus, too; however, it would not be sufficient because our time is the era of Prophet Muhammad and all people are the ummah of Prophet Muhammad. Those who accept him as the Messenger of Allah and follow his path are Ummat-i Ijâbat, the other ones are Ummat-i Da’wat. Islam is for the entire mankind.

Islam has the most beautiful principles that have been sought by all. Here is one example:

The Prophet said: (Innallàhe jamîlun yuhibbul jamâl) “Almighty Allah is beautiful; He loves beauty.” Almighty Allah created the beauty and He loves anything that is beautiful. That is why a Muslim must have a sense of beauty, and he must appreciate beauty. He must have sense of aesthetics and must do anything he does beautifully.

Islam gives man a sense and spirit of beauty and art. That is how Yunus is Yunus. That is how Rumi transcended ages and borders of countries. That is why the year 1991 was declared as the year of Yunus by UNESCO.

Yunus appreciated the beauty. He acknowledged the beauty of the flower. As we carry out some restoration work in Eyup section of Istanbul, we want to reveal the original beauty of the works. For instance, the tekke of Shaikh Murad Effendi had a piece of land approximately 17,000 square meters with a collection of rare flowers. Gazelles would roam in the flowerbeds. Can you imagine how nice it had been? There is also Selami Mustafa Effendi tekke that was famous with its roses. Then, the Prophet says:

(Innallàha yuhibbu idhâ’amila ahadakum-ul ‘amala an yutqinahû) “Verily, Allah loves it when you do anything in the perfect way.” Almighty Allah showers his mercy on such a person. This is a promotion for the Muslim to seek high quality in everything. In Islam there is the sense of beauty and an order to do things excellently. A Muslim artisan must produce the sharpest sword, the most beautiful china, the most elegant mosque that will become a monument to last centuries. The product must not deteriorate or discolor in time; its beauty must be permanent. There is the thought of making anything the most beautiful, with the highest quality in Islam.

There is also the undeniable fact that the physical and spiritual cleanliness is essential in Islam. We know that Europeans avoid taking baths and wipe their body with cotton to preserve the effect of baptism water. We know that the Versay Palace has no rest rooms. On the other hand, Muslims would build a public bath next to a house of worship that they just had built. They built madrasas, kitchens to provide for the poor with food, public baths with hot and cold water that is available free of charge.

Baron de Busbek, a diplomat from Netherlands to Ottomans in the Sixteenth Century, was amazed to see Muslims taking so much bath: “These people are going to catch cold because they keep taking a bath like fish in water.” He thought it was strange for Muslims to take baths often.
We wash our body five times a day. The Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II would take a bath every morning. With the limited means of the past, people would take baths as often as they could. Those who could not take a bath every day would go to public baths at least once a week to get a good scrub. Women would take their bundle of clean clothes and go to the public bath in groups. Man and children would do the same. There had to be at least once a week physical cleaning.
They would not allow the dirt accumulate on the body to become a thick film, like a shield or the skin of the turtle. Islam does not allow that. It orders physical and spiritual cleanliness.
Clipping the nails, trimming the mustache, shaving the armpits, and all other kinds of cleaning, including the cleanliness in where one lives, are ordered by Islam. For instance, if your clothes were not clean, your formal prayer would be invalid. Cleanliness from hadeth (canonical impurity) and cleanliness from najasat (physical impurity) are two of the requirements of the formal prayer. The prayer a Muslim offers five times a day will not be acceptable without cleanliness. The cleanliness is such a strong requirement in Islam, not a mere advice.

In fact none of the orders of Islam is a mere talk. One of the important characteristics of Islam is that each order is attached to a practical solution. For instance there is the order of not forgetting Allah:

(Walâ takûnû kalladhîna nesullàh) “Do not be like those who are unaware of Allah” (Qur’an 59:19). This order is supported by the formal prayer five times a day.

“Excuse me Sir. Wouldn’t it be sufficient if it were only one time a day?”

No, it would not. You would forget Allah. That is why it has to be five times a day. Then there is the dhikr to remember Allah often.

(Innemal-mu’minûna ikhwatun) “All believers are brothers” (Qur’an 49:10). How do we become brothers in practice? Well you meet once a year for the Hajj. The healthy and wealthy Muslims get together for Hajj. It is a natural selection among the Muslims. They have the opportunity to raise issues and talk about them. Also, daily prayers in congregation in the mosque are another way of getting together. Meeting for the Friday prayer, too, is a practical way.

Islam orders to be clean. There is the wudu’; there is the ghusl for that. Islam upholds the cleanliness, and the cleanliness is half the religion.

The Europeans were not as clean in the past. They are clean today because of Islam. The changes in Europe were the results of exposure to Islam. The renaissance started after the Europeans met Muslims. The reforms took place after Islam. Objections and criticism to the church started by those who got to know Islam. The scientific advancements took place after Islam was studied. Dr. Sigrid Hunke describes how Islam affected the western civilization in his book.

Islam pays utmost attention to knowledge, scholarship and scholars. The true caliphs, the successors of the messengers of Allah, are not the rulers of the Muslim countries but the scholars are.

(Al’ulamâ-u warathatul anbiyâ-i wa khulafâ-ir rusûl) “The scholars are the successors of the prophets and inheritors of the messengers.” It is because good things are accomplished with knowledge. When we need to have something done, we go to an expert, to a specialist. That is why the true leaders in the society are the scholars.

Another characteristic of Islam is establishing justice:

(Al ‘adlu asâsul mulk) Here mulk does not mean a house, an apartment, a piece of land or other property [as it would in Turkish], but it means sovereignty and dominion. Islam states: “Justice is the foundation of sovereignty and government administration.”

One has to be just for all. The system has to be fair for all without exception even if it involves a decree against the president of the country. In fact, the first Ottoman judge of Istanbul, Khidhir Chelebi–whose grave is located by the boulevard next to the IMC shopping center–found the Ottoman ruler Fatih Sultan Mehmed guilty in a case involving a Greek architect. The judge issued a verdict that the Greek architect was right and the Ottoman Ruler, The Conqueror, was wrong. The judge issued such a verdict without having any fear of mistreatment afterwards. In Islam, the judge fears Allah only and carries out what Allah orders. Islam requires justice

(… walaw alâ anfusakum awil wâlidayni wal aqrabîn) “… even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your relatives” (Qur’an 4:135). That is why a Muslim can be a witness against himself admitting his offense: “Yes, I did it. It is my fault. I should be penalized for that.” This is Islam.

There was a famous judge, Qadi Shurayh in the history. Two persons appeared in his court. One had a non-Muslim attire while the other one looked like a Muslim. He wished that the Muslim was right and the non-Muslim was wrong. He listened to the presentations of the case and realized that the non-Muslim was right and the Muslim was wrong. He issued the verdict that way. Yet, for the rest of his life he wept and repented for having such a thought in his heart.

This is the understanding of justice in Islam. That is why Islam is an universal belief to be respected and loved by all nations in the world.

Another characteristic of Islam is that love and respect are essential. Muslims love Muslims.

(… ashid-dâ-u ‘alel kuffâri ruhamâ-u baynahum) “… they are hard against the unbelievers [in defense] and merciful one to another.” (Qur’an 48:29) Muslims are merciful, affectionate and patient towards the neighbours and friends, and all.

Today I read some examples of the mercy. In one example, Hadrat Abûbakr-i Siddîq begs: “I was wrong; please forgive me.” He was one of the ashara-i-mubash-shara (ten people who were informed by the prophet that they will be in Paradise in the hereafter). He had such a love and affection. Relationship between a Muslim and another Muslim is based on love and sincerity.
An Arab traveler, Ibn-i Batûta, went to Denizli. He spoke Arabic but did not know Turkish. It was in the Thirteenth Century when the Asia minor was opened to Turkish Muslims and new regional administrations were established. Muslims had very high spirits in the region. He arrived in Denizli with a caravan that carried the goods and gifts that he had purchased throughout his travel. When he entered the town, an armed and strong man grabbed the bridle of the horse and said something to Ibn-i Batûta. As he tried to communicate, another strong and armed man came there and grabbed the other end of the bridle. The two strong and armed men started arguing. Ibn-i Batûta was quite scared: he was afraid that the two men would take his life or his belongings.

After a short while it is understood that the first man tried to tell him: “Sir, you look like you are not from here. Please be my guest.” The second man interfered: “Shame on you! This is our neighbourhood. He is our guest. How dare you try to steal a guest from my neighbourhood!” The first man explained, “Well I saw him first, so he is my guest.” The traveler was taken as a “guest from God,” loved and served.

The love and affection was not limited to people only; it was extended towards the animals, birds, and storks. There were foundations to pay for the damages that occurred inadvertently by the servants in a house. There were also foundations to treat the storks with wounds. It is a love for people, and it extends to the environment and all creatures. That is Islam.

Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1689-1762) was the wife of the British Extraordinary Ambassador to the Turkish court. [In 1716 Wortley Montague was appointed ambassador to Turkey). His family’s long and dangerous journey over the Continent in dead of winter was considered something of an achievement at the time. Lady Mary enjoyed it all, and kept up a constant correspondence with friends in England, writing in a style that eventually established her permanent epistolary reputation. Constantinople was full of wonders that Lady Mary, unlike so many European wives, set out to explore and understand. She mastered the language, investigated mosques, and visited with the women of the harem, whom she came to admire.] She got to know Ottomans. She had written letters that were published later. In one of the letters, she described the family life:

“Dear Sister! Before coming to Istanbul, I had the imagination that the harem of a house during the Ottomans’ time was something like a prison or a dungeon. To my surprise, the harem is a pleasant, colorful and enjoyable place.

“Each house, including the palace, had a section called harem. I had thought that women in harem would be like slaves in a cage, oppressed in a prison. It is not like that at all. In fact, the ladies are well educated and well mannered.”

Lady Montague met Fatma Sultan and was quite impressed by her. She praised her: “My Lady, you are very pretty. You are so pretty that if you were in England, may men would be around you just like moths encircling a lamp.” Fatma Sultan was upheld by the remarks. It would have been quite improper if a Muslim woman had stated the remarks. Calmly she responded: “I would not think they would appreciate the beauty; if they did, they would not let you leave England.” Lady Montague was amazed to receive such a reply from a Muslim woman.

The are other examples that a person may be a poet and contribute to the charitable causes. For instance, I admire Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan. She left so many works for the benefit of mankind.

Islam is a religion of love and respect; it encourages serving people including unbelievers. In fact, serving is not limited to people only. One of the companions of Prophet Muhammad came to him and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I draw water from a well with great difficulty; the rope hurts my hands. As we give water to our camels, some sick, old and abandoned camels come to drink from the water. We let them drink from the water. Do we get any rewards for that?”

The water is a precious commodity in Arabia. It is drawn from a well and poured in a contained for the animals to drink.

The Prophet responded: “Yes, you earn rewards by providing them with water because they are living creatures and they feel thirsty, too.”

Islam pays attention to the society, congregation, togetherness, and love. Almighty Allah gives rewards for them. For instance, a prayer performed in congregation is rewarded twenty-seven times more than when it is performed individually. There is mercy in unity and togetherness. The division incurs wrath of Allah. The division, separating oneself from the rest, indifference, and isolation are prohibited in Islam. Creation of chaos and disturbance is not allowed. On the other hand, love and affection, unity and togetherness, and being a part of the society are essential. It is stated that a believer who is among people, serving them, and bearing the difficulties in serving them is superior to a believer who is after his comfort away from the society. It is also stated that the best person is he who is the most beneficial to the mankind. That is why Islam is a treasury that societies look for and cannot find.

Islam banns creating chaos, mischief, and clashes in the society; it bans anything that disturbs the peace and love, including gossiping and foul language. A Muslim cannot draw a gun towards another Muslim. A Muslim may not injure another Muslim. It is banned.

The Prophet said: “There will be a time full of mischief.” The companions asked: “What shall we do then?” The Prophet responded: “Stay at home and do not take part in it.” The companions asked, “What if it comes to our house?” The Prophet said, “Be like the better son of Prophet Adam.”

Which son of Prophet Adam was better? It is the one whose worship had been accepted and got killed by his brother. The Prophet says, “Do not be like the murderer; do not fight with believers.”

This is the training of Islam; these are the Islamic manners. Unfortunately some people practice differently because they have shortcomings.

Islam upholds brotherhood and friendship, and it is a form of worship. On this Imam Ghazali writes: “The best of the worship which is in a form of tradition or a custom is establishing friendship. He classifies the worship into two categories:
1. Ritual worship such as daily prayers, fasting, performing the pilgrimage, and paying zakah.
2. Customary worship.

The best of the customary worship is love for Allah and friendship for Allah. Visiting somebody just for the sake of Allah has great rewards. If two people visit one another just for Allah, they will incur the love of Allah.

Our administrators should try to establish and revive Islam in our lives instead of trying to have people forget about Islam. That would lead to brotherhood, love and affection.
We have no problem with races or colors of the skin. We do not approve such differentiation often emphasized by the Americans.

Mankind is a single brotherhood; they all are the children of Hadrat Adam. In belief, they all are equals before Almighty Allah. What is best is to compete in the service to mankind. The best of people is the one who is the most useful to mankind.

This is how our religion is.

We live in a time that events unfold pretty fast. Almighty Allah provides us with new means, new opportunities and new responsibilities. New front have been opened for us. For instance, Russia says: “Turkey is one of our greatest friends.” Muslims nations in Russia say, “Turkey is our elder brother.” They all expect support from us. Alhamdulillah, we have established leading governments throughout the history, and established peace, justice and order on land. All is the result of our strong faith.

Suleyman the Magnificent sent a message to the king of France: “I heard that you have imprisoned the king of such place [unfairly]. Release him at once.” It was carried out right away. Another Ottoman ruler sent a message: “I heard that your people practice something called dance where man and women are in close contact in public… Stop that at once!” It was stopped.

The rulers tried to prevent the injustice and take a stance against the oppressors.

Alhamdulillah, we are Muslims, born to Muslim parents. That is a great blessing and we must appreciate this blessing.

The cure for the diseases of the Twentieth Century is in Islam. The principles of Islam will be the strong foundations of the centuries to come.

We have so many ideas, expertise, accumulation of knowledge and much more, which are from Islam, to share with all people in the world. May Almighty Allah bless us with the appreciation of Islam and with the vision of its beauties. May He let us become perfect Muslims. May He give us the opportunities to serve the mankind in the best way. May He make us the most beneficial to mankind. May He receive each and every one of you as a perfect servant, loved and honored by His Beauty in His Paradise.

May Almighty Allah be pleased with you.

As-salamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah!

Prof. Dr. Mahmud Esad COSAN (rha)
February 2, 1992— Bakirköy/ISTANBUL


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