Saturday, October 18, 2008

Declaring the Testimony of Faith

Declaring the Testimony of Faith
By Anthea Davis

Picture ©Microsoft.comHow many times do you come to a crossroad in your life? You get this feeling that whatever choice you make will affect the rest of your life. There is excitement and fear.
Your mind comes up with all kinds of possibilities of what could happen depending on either choice. The best of people will feel confused and wary. Some people may stand at this crossroad for a large portion of their lives, wavering in indecision, while others feel sure and steadfast and willingly and knowingly take the plunge.
This is so for decisions like buying a certain house, marrying a certain person, or taking a certain job. What about if the decision is about changing your whole way of life?
Obviously such a decision must be based on knowledge, inner certainty, and commitment because without these, your steps will falter. When you make the step to accept Islam, all of nature rejoices with you and the Muslims who are true to their covenant will welcome you with open arms.
So you have heard about Islam and have become interested in it.
You have read some books, listened to some cassettes, and talked to some people. You have spent time thinking about your life and where you are heading. Possibly you have withdrawn from old friends and found yourself in transition between the old and the new. Perhaps your family is unsure about the changes they see happening in you. Maybe they think it is a passing fad or maybe they think you are serious and feel threatened.
You have been through the process of a spiritual awakening, and you feel you have come to know your Creator and wish to be close to Him and to earn His pleasure. You are sure that by surrendering to Him, acknowledging His existence and His right to be obeyed, and following His last prophet, you will be on the straight course that leads to success and happiness in this life and the next.
Now comes the moment of truth. One day you will take the trip to the local Islamic center, to a mosque, or to some Muslims who will witness your declaration of faith and hence your entrance into the Muslim community. Naturally you will be excited and hopeful of the future. You may also be a little afraid, wondering if you will be able to live up to the covenant you are making with Allah. When you declare your faith, you are saying that you will worship only Allah. That means that you will only comply and submit to others as long as what they ask of you coincides with what Allah asks of you.Allah tells us in the Qur'an what means:
[And if they contend with you that you should associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them, and keep company with them in this world kindly, and follow the way of him who turns to Me, then to Me is your return, then will I inform you of what you did.](Luqman 31:15)

This first declaration of faith is a landmark in life.
You are obliged, because of your covenant with Allah, to stand up for what is right and hold your ground. For example, you know that Allah forbids Muslims from taking any intoxicant like drugs, alcohol, and so on; so when you make this covenant with Allah, you are saying you will comply with His order. Someone may offer you a drink or may even demand you drink in order to maintain your social position or your job. They might threaten you that they will no longer be friends with you if you do not drink and so on. This is a test. Will you obey that person or Allah? Because of your testimony of faith and the promise of obedience that you make to Allah, you will resist this temptation and take the consequences regardless of what they are.
Having the strength to stand up for what is right and to care for others when other people might be manipulating or using them takes courage. But when you pass such tests, you will be greatly rewarded by Allah. The more strength you show, the more strength you will get and the more peace you will feel. Surely there is peace of mind in knowing you are doing the right things.
Whenever something happens in your life and you are not sure what you should do, the answer lies in the Qur'an and Sunnah, not in the opinions of people or your own personal desires.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an what means:
[O you who believe! obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end.] (An-Nisaa' 4:59)
So you are expected (by Allah) to turn to the sources of His guidance to you and follow them. At the same time, a part of this promise to Allah is that you will seek more and more knowledge so you will know how to worship and obey Him and how to spread goodness in the world.
But do not make the mistake of thinking you make this declaration of faith just one time in your life. As Muslims we make it every time we pray. So we are actually renewing our covenant with Allah every single day of our lives. And thereby we continually remind ourselves of the obligation to worship Him, obey Him, follow His Prophet (peace be upon him), and spread goodness throughout the earth. How can we ever forget our promise as long as we pray and renew it five times a day?
It is also the path that the pious throughout the ages have trodden.
But this first declaration of faith is a landmark in life. It is the turning point when old habits and beliefs are left and new habits and beliefs that are good for you and help you to grow and be a better person are adopted. It is the beginning of making daily checks on one's words and actions. When mistakes are made, Muslims are quick to see their mistakes and make amends. If they speak hurtful words to others, they quickly seek forgiveness from the person they hurt and turn to Allah with a contrite heart. There is no intermediary between the worshiper and Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful and All-Forgiving and promises to forgive and guide those who sincerely seek to do the right things.
As human beings we constantly make mistakes and are often careless and lazy. Allah is kind and merciful and whenever we turn to Him, He turns to us and forgives and guides us.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an what means:
[And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah's Forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.](An-Nisaa' 4:110)
So your initial declaration of faith is the first step on a pathway that has been trodden by all the prophets and messengers of Allah including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). It is also the path that the pious throughout the ages have trodden. It is a path that is easy to fall from and is surrounded by tests and difficulties. But the help of Allah is always near and the guidance of Allah is there for us to follow so we can stay on that path. It leads to Paradise: to eternal happiness and closeness to Allah.

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