I love fast cars and I like driving.
I once drove to Boston from New York, pushing 95 mph on the interstates.
To me then, the speed limit was just a hindrance preventing me from getting there without wasting any time. Worse, it prevented me from experiencing the glory of the horsepower under my hood.
I slowed down only to avoid a speeding ticket. I didn’t think much about the inherent value of the restrictions on speed.
Now I understand (and I’d like to think that most people do) that the rules of the road are in place not to hinder us, but for our general safety.
If I had always raced around at 95 mph, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this. I could have taken other lives along with my own.
There are good reasons for the limits chosen. At 40 mph the likelihood of pedestrian death is high, whereas at 30 mph the likelihood of survival is high.*
We speed lovers might not be able to drive as fast as we want, but the benefit obviously outweighs our small sacrifice.
When it comes to people who don’t understand (or don’t care about) the wisdom behind regulations and would not implement them, law enforcement helps ensure public safety by instilling the fear of “being caught”, as well as with the ensuing punishments levied on those who are.
We all follow a plethora of rules and social conventions.
Some are law, some are unspoken.
It is impossible not to.
For some reason though, a lot of emphasis is put on rules that exist in Islam and many people think of it as “a religion of dos and don’ts”.
Recently, a family member of mine explained to me her theory that my choosing Islam must have had something to do with an unconscious desire for rules, to create order in what she perceived as a reckless life. (She couldn’t have been more wrong of course!)
The thing that strikes me here, is not so much her idea that I would somehow crave a life of strictly adhering to rules, (while I spent a good portion of my life scoffing at both laws and social conventions) but the overarching idea that Islam is like that: a religion whose identifying quality is law and order…
While in reality, the primary quality of Islam is monotheism: there is nothing worthy of worship except the One God, the Creator of everything.
We don’t see it as a religion of rules at all.
We see it as a message from our Merciful Creator, informing us about Him. Through it, we learn who He is, why He made us and why we are on Earth.
It’s hope and peace for the human soul. A direct line of communication with our Maker.
Islam, for the Muslim, provides a map that leads directly back to Him,
helping us navigate this worldly life, safely and easily.
The mother who forbids her child from touching a hot pot, is only concerned for the child’s safety and wellbeing. She is teaching him intelligence; he can follow his mother’s guidance and avoid a trip to the burn unit.
If the child disobeys, no one will say, “He was so smart for ignoring his mother and finding out on his own, that hot pots burn.”
Similarly, The One who created us, provided us with guidance in the life that He created. Following this guidance is intelligence.
Without guidance from the One who designed life, living would be a game of trial and error. Since we have only one short chance at it, it’s best to follow the instructions because, there are no do-overs.
We are glad we haven’t been left to flounder about in darkness and ignorance without any guidance.
Every directive in Islam is for our own benefit, sort of like the speed limits, but with much deeper wisdom.
For a Muslim, adhering strictly to them is not a hindrance, but a blessing one strives for.
Furthermore, following the directives in Islam is like the fruit and proof of faith, not what the faith is built on. The basis of Islam is its establishment and maintenance in the heart, facilitated in part by institutions, such as regular prayer and fasting.
As I explained in another post, Islam means submission to the will of the Creator. Once a person believes and Has faith and love for God, they truly desire to submit their will to His as much as they can.
The submission of the heart must come first, making the submission of the limbs easy and a desirable goal one strives for daily.
The wife of the prophet Muhammad, Aisha – a scholar in her own right – explained, that the first parts of the Quran to be revealed were the chapters which deal with fundamental knowledge of God, the purpose of life, and the hereafter. She went on to say, that if legal injunctions had come first, the people would have refused and said that they would never stop doing the things they had been accustomed to; such as drinking alcohol and being promiscuous.**
So, it makes no sense to approach Islam by way of its rules and regulations.
The first thing to look at is the concept of God. The Quran is very clear about who He is, describing His many beautiful names and attributes. Here are some examples from the Quran:
“All Praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, Owner and Sovereign of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, You alone we ask for Help. Show us the straight way…” [Quran 1:2-6]
“Say, He is God, the One and only. Allah; The Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And there is nothing similar to Him.” [Quran 1:1-4]
“And We (God) did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them aimlessly (without purpose). That is the assumption of those who disbelieve ” [Quran 38:27]
So, first and foremost, we learn about the Creator. The more we know about Him, the more we love Him. We learn about why He created us and what He is pleased with for us. We learn that this life on Earth is just a stop on our way back to Him – That it is merely a test, one we took on ourselves. The best way to get through it, is to keep God on our minds. To live and act with consciousness of Him; to follow His map.
Do we ever break the speed limit?
Of course we do.
Our Maker knows our weakness and does not expect perfection, but the people who have the best standing with Him, are the ones who, when they make a mistake, they return to Him in repentance, looking for His help and longing for closeness to Him.
We trust the judgement of the One who created humankind and the world we live in. The One who created life, knows better how to successfully navigate through it.
In addition to that, we look forward hopefully, to a reward from Him, beyond our wildest dreams.
When we forget God and ignore the assistance He has lovingly provided us – when we say, “No thanks, I choose to do whatever I want, regardless of the purpose I was created for.” – Then, we no longer qualify for the prize that comes from completing the test successfully.
It’s our choice.
So, look beyond the superficial.
Every human being has been given freedom. Free will. You are always free to choose. You can speed, or obey the limits. It’s up to you.
Even as a Muslim, one has free choice. There are just some basics which enter a person into the fold of Islam. The most important is the testimony of faith. After that, is the Prayer. Those are the basic necessities that make someone a Muslim.
Here’s another analogy to help you put yourself into our shoes: If your local government offered $100,000 cash for going five years without any speeding tickets, wouldn’t you feel affection for those in power? Wouldn’t you obey the speed limit at all times and seek that reward? Through the process, you might even discover naturally, that obeying the speed limit is also the wise and safer thing to do. Many would strive for that $100,000.
That is why when people choose Islam and they really believe in it, they self regulate. They try very hard, in public and in private, to be the best they can be. Dutiful citizens, family members and friends.
Now, even I strive to obey the speed limit.
**The narration is in Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 515