Surah Fatihah - The Path of Moral Rectitude
SIRAT-I-MUSTAQIM (Path of Moral Rectitude)
In Surah Fatihah, believers are taught to pray for being shown Sirat-ul-Mustaqim which means, literally translated, the Straight Path. It has been related by Hazrat Abdullah ibni Masood that the Prophet (peace be on him) said that Sirat-ul-Mustaqim means ISLAM.
Muslims do not generally seem to know that Sirat-ul-Mustaqim is specifically defined in the 19th Ruku, comprising verses 152 to 154 of the sixth Surah (Al Anaam). It is essential that every believer should commit the verses to memory so that he may know the meaning of Islam. Pickthall translates the verse thus:
"Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath made a sacred duty for you; that ye ascribe nothing as partner onto Him and that ye do good to your parents because of penury. We provide for you and for them - and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath commanded you, in order that ye may discern.
"And approach not the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better, till he reach maturity. Give full measure and full weight in justice. We task not any soul beyond its scope. And if ye give your word, do justice thereonto, even though it be (against) a kinsman, and fulfil the covenant of Allah. This He commandeth you that haply ye may remember.
"And (He commandeth you, saying:
'This is My Straight Path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way'.
This hath He ordained for you that ye may ward off (evil)."
The precepts in these verses may be enumerated so that none may be overlooked or forgotten.
Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him
This is the basic principle of Islam. A Muslim is one who has surrendered himself, body and soul, to the service of Allah. All praise is for Him. We worship Him alone and ask Him alone for help. The surrender to Allah which Islam implies frees man from other sort of bondages and invests him with a dignity which places him above meanness of every sort, and every sort of evil and iniquity becomes abhorrent to him. A man may profess to be a Muslim and still be a Mushrik if he treats any person or thing as his lord beside Allah or if he becomes a slave to his selfish desires. There is a clear warning against being a Mushrik in the latter sense in XXV-43 -
"Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god?"
Self-discipline and restraint are an essential part of Islam and the path of moral rectitude. In the present times the worship of abstract nouns is proving more harmful to mankind than the worship of gods of wood and stone did in earlier times. The late Dean Inge compared misguided nationalism with devil worship thus: Devil-worship remains what it was even when the idol is draped in the national flag.
That ye do good to parents
This is a pious duty of the reason for which is obvious. It would be the height of ingratitude for one to forget the self-less love of one's parents.
- That ye slay not your children because of penury
Infanticide was practised in Arabia on account of the paucity of the means of subsistence. The problem of feeding the growing population of the world has been engaging the attention of economists throughout modern times. The pessimistic fore-bodings of Malthus and his school of economists have been proved false by reclamations of waste lands and deserts and ever increasing food crops. It seems that there would be no objection to birth control if it be brought about by the exercise of greater self control and self discipline. Allah's Bounty is boundless, but we should not neglect such legitimate precautions as reason may indicate.
- That ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed
To comply with this precept one must avoid even a semblance of lewdness in thought, word or deed.
"All indecencies such as them as are apparent and such as within"
are declared (absolutely forbidden) in VII-33. Christianity also lays particular stress on purity of thought, word and deed. It appears, however, that the teachings of Christ have been neglected in Christian countries in modern times. The nudity and dancing and the night clubs and obscene cinema pictures of the present day present a regrettable contrast to Christian teachings and way of life. An incident of the 12th century in the city of Rome illustrates the strictness with which Christians obeyed the teachings of Christ. A lady went to a cobbler to have her sandal repaired. The cobbler felt that as he was examining the sandal his eye had strayed improperly to the lady's foot. He gouged out the offending eye and threw it away. It was the high moral standard of the Christian peoples which gave them ascendancy in the affairs of the world. Many people in the Christian countries now neglect religion and some even deride Christian teachings. Such people ignore the fact that they owe their progress more to the teachings of Christ than to anything else.
The strict injunction against even a suggestion of obscenity goes to the root of social evils which lead to endless misery. Unfortunately a great deal of obscenity is tolerated in the guise of art and literature. Art and literature in which there is even a suggestion of obscenity should be shunned by all who care for Islam.
A society which can banish lewdness in all its forms can easily free itself from a variety of physical and mental illnesses which plague mankind as a result of sex perversion and frustration. A lot of insanity is attributable to violation of the precept against lewdness. Guy de Maupassant, the well-known French novelist whose romances are characterized by obscenity, died insane after he had abandoned himself to dissolute habits. Dr. Axel Munthe has mentioned this from personal knowledge his classic, The Story of San Michele.
A true believer has an instinctive aversion to all forms of obscenity. Aversion to obscenity and indecency is an important part of Taqwa (guarding against evil) and is of the essence of faith
- And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice
Human life is sacred. It would appear from the frequency of murders and fatal road accidents caused by rash driving of vehicles that people are either not aware of this precept or that they are unmindful of it.
- And approach not the wealth of the orphan save that which is better, till he reach maturity
Society owes a duty to orphans and other helpless persons to take steps to alleviate their hardship. It is a regrettable fact that orphans' inheriting wealth are too often cheated their rights by greedy relations and others. It is important to realize the enormity of the sin of taking advantage of an orphan's helplessness to defraud him of his rights.
- Give full measure and full weight, in justice
This precept of fair dealing applies to all human affairs and to all dealings between man and man. It is of the essence of Islam. The duty of fair dealing and justice is stressed throughout the Quran. In V-8 believers are told:
Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is near to your duty. Justice is the purpose of religion: We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure. (LVII-25)
Fair dealing and proper discharge of duties and obligations are essential to peace and prosperity, and their neglect leads to dissensions and disgrace. The salvation of mankind depends on due observance of the duty of giving full measure and weight in justice.
- And if ye give your word do justice thereunto, even though it be (against) a kinsman
A believer is required to adhere to the truth at all times and in all circumstances, regardless of consequences.
- And fulfil the covenant of Allah
This sums up the duties of a Muslim. Having surrendered himself, body and soul, to the service of Allah a Muslim is bound to obey His laws. Allah's laws are all for the good of His creatures. The wellbeing of mankind depends on the obedience to these laws of Truth and Justice.
Muslims are passing through critical times. They have to ponder and reflect and ascertain the causes of their decline, with a view to the eradication of those causes. Islam spread quickly and helped people in distant lands to cast off shackles of superstition and slavery, and to lead the good life of Faith and Freedom. Muslims of the earlier days set a notable example of virtuous conduct and fair dealing, and they attained high standards of accomplishment in the realms of Science and Arts and Trade and Commerce. That was the position when Muslims were true to their compact with Allah and served Him with devotion. One who serves Him with devotion acquires a mental attitude of his honest detachment. He is master of his self, having suppressed greed and selfishness. His belief in the eternal life after death saves him from falling from grace in the face of temptation of immediate gain. For several centuries Muslims seem to have been suffering from stagnation and decay. The reason is weakening of Faith and straying from the path of moral rectitude. Wanton breaches of the covenant of Allah are not compatible with genuine Faith. It looks as if Muslims had forgotten the meaning of Islam and Sirat-i-Mustaqim.
We must not waste time over vain regrets. What we need is to overcome lethargy and to fulfil the covenant of Allah by freeing ourselves from prevailing evils and resolutely following the Sirat-i-Mustaqim, that is Islam. We are sure to overcome all obstacles if we have Faith. Allah helped believers in the past and is sure to help us again if we prove our Faith by fulfilling His covenant.
We must first deserve improvement of our lot by improving our standards of conduct and cleansing our heart of greed and corruption of every sort:
"Verily Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts." (XIII-II).
Modern politicians talk endlessly of raising people's standard of living. What is needed is the raising of the standard of conduct. There is sure to be general prosperity if everyone in his place does his duty and gives full measure in justice.
(Courtesy: Yaqeen International)