Many people believe that religious studies take place in the class room. Visions of students in a desk or being taught online come to mind. We think of students learning concepts and creeds that are the bench marks of religious principles. Yet if we see the prophets, we see men that were out amongst their people. It was said that Prophet Muhammad was “A walking Quran” and that Prophet Jesus was always with those who were sick and in need of help. Much of what we learn from our religious devotion seems to be brought home, and never sees the community. The problem is that we become heedless to those who are in need and forget how to practice compassion. It’s difficult to think of others with an open heart sometimes after we have given so much of our day to our families, our jobs, our friends, so we never take time to find someone in need.
“You will not attain righteousness till you spend in charity of the things you love.” – Quran 3:92
This verse is telling, because we often think of charity to be old clothes we no longer wear, old machines we don’t use, and often our charity seems to be items that were destined to see a trash heap. However the acts of charity I’ve seen recently have shown me that giving from what you love can bring so much joy. I’ve witnessed a strong woman who had nothing, working for everything she owned, and yet when in need she tried to refuse help. But at the drop of a hat if someone needed food, clothing, or money she would give the very best of what she had. She didn’t think twice about what she was giving, because she gave from the heart.
An old retired man slept on the floor so that his son could sleep in his bed after a long day at work. Though this man didn’t have much, if there was a person in need he and others much like him would reach out in a heartbeat to give their best to their fellow brothers and sisters. These people weren’t regular attendants to a church or masjid, they were people who had a good heart and knew how practice compassion from that giving heart. They were what many of us would call, “poor”. But they had such a rich spirit, richer than finest piece of gold. It made me really reflect when I returned to my apartment.
One man said something so telling, “Many masjids I see are so elaborate, but some people there aren’t there to help. What’s all the beauty there for if there is no beauty in the heart?” I looked at the Prophet’s first masjid and at first glance you would believe it was a hut. There wasn’t so much of the decadence that we see in many of the masjids we see today. The prophet lived such a modest lifestyle, much like the prophets before him. You would assume he was poor if you didn’t know him. However this lifestyle teaches a valuable lesson about the beauty of the spirit. The place to pray is very important, but when you close your eyes the beauty of the building is not seen, it’s the beauty of the heart that glows. The essence of a masjid is more than just a house of worship, it’s a place where the reframing and cathartic mission of Islam is put into practice. It is where the body of Islam takes shape. Service for the needy, community, services to help people realize the mission of Islam. The prophet would pray there and then be out amongst his people. Within the masjid walls you ask God to speak to you, you pray to Him, you attain peace there. When you attain that peace it is then time to put the mission into practice, and this is why the prophet was a walking Quran. Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Do not turn away a poor man…even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you…God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.”
That was what I saw these people doing. They had the spirit of the masjid in them. Islam is not a religion to be practiced solely at the masjid, it’s to be practiced in the community. It’s to be practiced with open hearts, in the community we serve, perhaps somewhere along the way we’ve strived so hard to become scholars. We love scholarship, but have we forgotten about practice.
The Prophet said, “Anybody who believes in God and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor, and anybody who believes in God and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously, and anybody who believes in God and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet. There is reward for kindness to every living thing. There are many doors to goodness. (Saying) ‘glory to God,’ ‘praise be to God,’ ‘there is no deity but God,’ enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf (until you understand them), leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the weak with the strength of one’s arms – all of these are (forms of) charity prescribed for you.”
For those who truly want to follow Islam it’s not enough to have knowledge, we must apply it. When we sit on knowledge we benefit no one. We have to lead by our feet and walk as an example for others to see the true glow of our deen. When “I” becomes “We” we’ve truly become Muslims and learned how to practice Islam. May God’s blessings and peace be unto you.