In my previous posts for "Ten Tips for Taqwa in Today’s Times" I explored some apps, techniques and extra litanies we can inculcate into our day — all with the aim of improving our quality of life and drawing closer to Allah.
In the final post we look at the most important of all of these. This list of ten-tips hasn’t been sorted in any particular order, but in terms of priority and effectiveness this would be highest!
10. Prayer and the everyday faraaid (necessary religious obligations) of a Muslim
" إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَالَ: مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا، فَقَدْ آذَنْتُهُ بِالْحَرْبِ، وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ، وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ، فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ، كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ، وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ، وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا، وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا"
"The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said: Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks." [Sahih]
In this hadith-qudsi (related to us from the Prophet telling us what Allah has said directly) — Allah tells us Himself that the best way for us to draw closer to Him is through the fard, religious duties enjoined upon every Muslim. Through doing this we hope to achieve a state of ihsan, and such mindfulness (taqwa) of Allah that we constantly see Him in all things we do.
So what are the fard - necessary obligations in Islam? These are the basic things enjoined upon Muslims without doubt. Among other things, these are actions such as those often summarised as the five pillars of Islam:
- Testifying the shahadah - “There is none worthy of worship but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
- Praying five times a day
- Fasting during Ramadan
- Performing Hajj once in a Muslim’s life
- Giving Zakat (2.5% charity on one’s wealth)
"A man questioned the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said: "Do you think that if I perform the obligatory prayers, fast in Ramadan, treat as lawful that which is halal, and treat as forbidden that which is haram, and do not increase upon that [in voluntary good deeds], then I shall enter Paradise?" He (peace be upon him) replied, "Yes."
“أَنَّ رَجُلًا سَأَلَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم فَقَال: أَرَأَيْت إذَا صَلَّيْت الْمَكْتُوبَاتِ، وَصُمْت رَمَضَانَ، وَأَحْلَلْت الْحَلَالَ، وَحَرَّمْت الْحَرَامَ، وَلَمْ أَزِدْ عَلَى ذَلِكَ شَيْئًا؛ أَأَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ” [sahih]
In this hadith we see the importance of the basic faraid (plural of fard) in the religion. Even the basics, when established in one’s life and done correctly can be the gate to paradise. The path to paradise doesn’t necessarily involve doing hundreds of extra things a day or dedicating oneself to a monastic life of asceticism. Rather just through fulfilling one’s obligations sincerely and properly, it may be enough for Allah to be pleased with one and for him to enter them into paradise.
In this sense the limits of the halal and the haram protect us, not just in the next life but in this life too. "The shariah is the fastest way for the lover to find The Beloved". On the path to truly loving Allah, respecting what he has laid out as halal and haram, is the fastest way for us to achieve nearness to him.
The limits of the halal and haram protect us from physical, spiritual, emotional and societal poisons. We ensure that by following them, we have good lives that are enjoyable, wholesome and pleasing to God. Through obeying these simple religious duties and respecting the limits of what is Halal, we hope to know our Creator and find peace therein.
In an ideal world we would fulfil all of our devotions out of our pure love for doing them. Sometimes however when worship may feel like a task as opposed to an enjoyment, taking the time to still fulfil the obligation is a sincere act of servitude and humility that Allah will reward a person for.
When thinking about our emotional and spiritual health, we can imagine it being like a house built upon layers:
- The fard (necessary religious duties) are like the foundations of the house — they need to be in place before we can start anything further.
- The sunnah (recommended acts) are like the walls and the roof of the house — they make us firm and protect the foundations that we laid.
- The nafil, optional praiseworthy extra deeds, are the home-furnishings, the bits we can really enjoy — these add to our foundations and our structure to really enliven us.
I mentioned nafil matters in the previous posts but to recap, this could be anything supererogatory such as:
- Extra prayers such as tahajjud(night vigil) and Ishraq (mid morning prayer)
- Fasting extra days outside of Ramadan
- Extra dhikr throughout our day
- Reading of the Qu’ran
The nafil acts give us more scope for choosing acts that resonate with us and are both easy and enjoyable for us while providing a spiritual connection to Allah. For example someone who enjoys fasting may love todo extra fasts, but someone who really struggles with fasting my find that they prefer to read the Qur’an as part of their daily routine.
In this sense the fard are the basic foundations that are obligated upon all of us to keep us healthy and to build a solid base to our worship and spiritual lives. On top of this the nafil (voluntary) acts allow us to express ourselves and worship in the ways we find that best resonate with us and helps to draw closer to Allah.
I pray that Allah accepts all of our good deeds, giving us the strength to be strong in establishing our fard acts and guiding us to any nafil and sunnah acts that can enliven our souls and help us to drawer nearer to Him in love and tranquility insha’Allah.