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The Essence of Islam

by | Mar 28, 2021

Even if Islam is complete as a faith and perfect as a religion, Muslims are nonetheless human beings, with their qualities and faults. Therefore, you are bound to find a Muslim who is arrogant, egocentric, blasphemous, racist… A Muslim is not excluded from error or sin. Yet, whoever models his behavior on the Quran and the prophet Muhammad (ppuh) will truly be a remarkable person in this life and the afterlife. A main component of Islam is preaching it, in speech, and especially in deed. This is in fact the essence of Islam and that is what the prophet did for 23 years of his life.

This brings me to the story of a man who passed more than half his life on this path, the same path taken by prophets and messengers; and whoever follows this path knows that it is a long and arduous one. This man is Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate enough on this incredible person since this is only a blog and not a book, so if you want to know more about him and his work, look up the links at the bottom of the page.

So back to his story, Abdul Rahman was born in Kuwait in 1947 in a well-off family. He was accustomed to praying at the mosque near his house and never missed morning prayer (morning as in before sunrise). He had a passion for reading and was a talented student. He always had a sense of wanting to help others. And when I mean helping, I don’t just mean helping an old lady cross the road, I mean investing time and money to solve problems. While still in high school, he and his friends chipped in to buy a used car that they would use to drive poor laborers to their place of work every morning before they would go to school. As in most regions, especially where the disparity between rich and poor is noticeable, the transportation system is not at par. So, instead of watching poor workers scorching away in the desert sun, he took action. Just as a sidenote, when you want to change the world, you shouldn’t wait for others to move, you get going first and others will follow.

But Abdul Rahman’s appetite for helping did not stop there, he pursued his education in medicine and became a doctor and specialized in internal medicine. He graduated from Universities in Bagdad, Liverpool, and Montreal, where he worked as a practicing physician in the late 70’s. Even then, he would use a good chunk of his salary to translate religious books into English and to print pamphlets on Islam to distribute in Canada and abroad. How he accomplished this, by living a life of necessity and not of want. He would have everything he needed to live but not all he desired. He would have a car, but a used one; he would live in an apartment, not a villa; He would have clothes, but not a wardrobe. Hey! We are talking about a doctor! Generally speaking, the highest-paid civil servant. If he wanted, he could afford a new car every year!

When he finished his studies and moved back to Kuwait, he could now resume his life in the lap of luxury, right? He could have, but he didn’t. He could have occupied any prestigious position in any hospital in Kuwait… Kuwait! That was like the Dubai of the 70’s moneywise. Instead, he concentrated his efforts in Africa.

Islam has always had strong roots in Africa, and I do mean Sub-Saharan Africa, Black Africa. Islam has no boundaries of geography nor race. Since the time of Negus of Abyssinia, at the time of the prophet, there have been Muslims in that region to a point that half the continent was Muslim in number and in area. This is the flame that Dr. Al-Sumait wished to rekindle. At the start, it was just supposed to be a little stint to build a mosque and return home, but that stint turned into 29 years of relentless aid, support, building, and preaching. 29 years of fighting poverty, ignorance, and tribal squabbles. 29 years of braving the elements, living in huts, and navigating through dense forests to barren lands. 29 years of preaching and living by a mindset that can change the present and forge the future.

That’s nice to hear, but what does it mean in numbers? This is a list of realizations and accomplishments by organizations he founded and was part of:

  • 4 universities
  • 124 hospitals/clinics
  • 200 training centers for men and women
  • 860 schools
  • 5 700 mosques
  • 9 500 wells
  • 95 000 students financed (schooling/school material/tuition)
  • 150 000 orphans sponsored
  • 6 000 000 Qurans distributed
  • 11 000 000 Muslim converts

I mean, entire countries aren’t as productive as this! I would just like to focus on the last number, 11 million converts to Islam. Skeptics would be quick to point out that these people converted out of need, which is false for two reasons. First, charity and humanitarian relief were offered regardless of faith, whoever was in need received help. Secondly, if someone just believed out of need, he would revert right back to his previous way of life as soon as he got the chance.

Moreover, what opened and won the hearts of the people that Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait rubbed shoulders with is exactly that; he rubbed shoulders with them. He wasn’t a missionary that lived in a villa and ate meat every day, he lived in the same conditions as the people he served and helped. It was his honesty, his sincerity, and his manners that enticed millions of Africans to embrace Islam. One must not forget that the vessel is as important as the message. This is comparable to the 8th-century Muslim merchants who traveled to South East Asia, and through their attitude and manners helped convert an entire region to Islam (contrary to the grave misconception that Islam was spread by the sword). Not one single Muslim soldier set foot in that region. To this day, Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population at around 230 million Muslims.

Fortunately, he was not alone in this endeavor, thousands of people chipped in to help financially and on the ground, may Allah bless them all and accept their deeds. However, it is more often than not the people closest to the heart that keep you striving forward. In Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait’s case, it was his wife, Um Suhayb, who was his trail mate and spent wisely her entire inheritance on humanitarian causes. It is one thing to have an understanding wife, but it is another thing when she keeps you steadfast on the right path. The prophet (ppuh) said:

“Whomever Allah blesses with a righteous wife, He has helped him with half of his religion, so let him fear Allah with regard to the other half.”

Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, Al-Albani.

We have mentioned multiple times before that results are not the goal, the satisfaction of Allah is the goal. Yet, seeing these results encourages us to be better. Let’s face it, we are not all forged from the same ore as Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait, but seeing our contemporary’s actions and accomplishments inspires us to greater heights.

In sum, spreading the word of Islam is an integral part of this religion. However, it can only be done accompanied by exemplary conduct and righteous action. This is something that Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait understood fully and applied rigorously. May Allah accept his good deeds, forgive him for his shortcomings, and enter him in the gardens of Paradise.

If you’re still hungry to find out more about this Muslim hero and role model, here are a few links that just might satisfy your tastebuds. Just don’t forget, nothing can replace righteous action for the sake of Allah.

Direct Aid Organization: Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait was one of its founders

Magazine article on the life of Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait

Video from The Great 100 Muslims, episode 18 on Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait

And if you enjoy reading Arabic, here is a good read:

Fi Suhbah Al-Sumait, Rehlah Fi A’maq Al-Qarrah Al-Mansiyya (In the Company of Al-Sumait, A Journey to the Depths of the Forgotten Continent) A book about preaching, humanitarianism, and adventure. I enjoyed it, hope you will too.

Is there Anything Bad in the Quran? – Existential Questions

Is there Anything Bad in the Quran? – Existential Questions

When I mean bad, I mean something that everyone will agree to as fundamentally wrong. I don’t mean what is acceptable to modern standards, but fundamentally evil. Not only there is no evil within what is ordained, but it can only be depicted as righteous and good when looked at as a whole. Here are some Islamic principles that are listed in the Quran:

Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.”

And do not approach the orphan’s property except in a way that is best until he reaches maturity. And give full measure and weight in justice. We do not charge any soul except [with that within] its capacity. And when you testify, be just, even if [it concerns] a near relative. And the covenant of Allah fulfill. This has He instructed you that you may remember.

And, [moreover], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.

Surah Al-Anam (6 – 151-153)

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.

Surah An-Nahl (16 – 90)

And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.

And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.”

Your Lord is most knowing of what is within yourselves. If you should be righteous [in intention] – then indeed He is ever, to the often returning [to Him], Forgiving.

And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully.

Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful.

And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word.

And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent.

Indeed, your Lord extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]. Indeed He is ever, concerning His servants, Acquainted and Seeing.

And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.

And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.

And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].

And do not approach the property of an orphan, except in the way that is best, until he reaches maturity. And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.

And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result.

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.

And do not walk upon the earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height.

All that – its evil is ever, in the sight of your Lord, detested.

That is from what your Lord has revealed to you, [O Muhammad], of wisdom. And, [O mankind], do not make [as equal] with Allah another deity, lest you be thrown into Hell, blamed and banished.

Surah Al-Isra (17 – 23-39)

Most of the accusations come from people who do not agree with the standard of morality or virtue that is ordained in Islam. For instance, the Hijab for women; not being allowed to have a sip of wine or not even having a girlfriend… These practices have become customary in “modern” civilizations, yet they are considered illicit in Islam. Society is always faced with dumbing down standards and laws to curtail the desires of the majority. But the fundamental question remains; what makes it right now but made it wrong before (and vice versa)? This type of thinking induces decadence. Virtues and morals become trivial, unattainable utopias, unrealistic… mockeries.

This was the same discourse used by the people of Lot thousands of years ago when they wanted him and his family out of their city.

But the answer of his people was only that they said, “Evict them from your city! Indeed, they are men who keep themselves pure.”

Surah Al-Aaraf (7 – 82)

Wow! Accused of being too pure… It’s like someone who says: “Ah! He gets on my nerves because he is too polite.” or: “look at her; she thinks she is so superior! She doesn’t even want to dress like us.” and the classic: “Look at that geek; he thinks that his A+ is going to stop him from that face pounding.” What is it that makes that person’s conduct wrong in the first place; what did he do to deserve this reprimand? Is it high self-esteem (or lack of it)? Is it because a person is different (where his difference is not accepted)? Is it because of jealousy (or more likely envy)?

It is sad to see that we have reached a point where righteous conduct is ridiculed and marginalized. Someone who gives his seat on the bus is looked at awkwardly; a student who says Mam and Sir is called a suck-up; a 16-year-old virgin is made fun of. But, as we have seen, this attitude has been present for millennia, all depending on the context and stage in which a society is to be found.

But in the end…

And it will be said to those who feared Allah, “What did your Lord send down?” They will say, “[That which is] good.” For those who do good in this world is good; and the home of the Hereafter is better. And how excellent is the home of the righteous –

Surah An-Nahl (16 – 30)


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