Islam Means Submission To God
What is Islam and why is it sensible to submit your will to God?
Islam means submission to God and Islam is indeed in accord with sense and reason. This is so because such a submission does not contradict sense or reason. Let us explain and, as we try to do so, let us do so according to sense and reason.
It is sensible and reasonable that the principles of the religion (the Muslim way of life), which we are required to understand and observe in our lives, should be set forth in the Holy Book. How else would we know them? The Holy Book is a revelation of reality. The demonstrations therein presented concerning Divinity require messengerhood since our knowing about Divinity cannot be separated from messengerhood. Indeed, it is by the messengers that the Divine is made known to mankind.
As the demonstrations concerning Divinity and messengerhood appeal to reason and sense, so also do those concerning death and resurrection. The intuition of eternity possessed by mankind actually arises from eternal life itself. If it were not so, no such intuition could exist within the bounds of human experience or conception.
We do not intend here to discuss how all the branches of the principles of the religion are in accord with sense and reason. Our aim is only to argue that all matters related to faith in Islam can be demonstrated by reason. Yet such demonstration means little or nothing at the level of truly profound human perception.
Every act of God is by definition in accord with sense and reason since He is the All-Wise and the All-Knowing Whose works are purposeful, not in vain. We are bound to conclude that, compared to the works of God, the works of the most skilled of men are almost of no significance. The world given to us within which we live exceeds, always and by far, all that our living adds to that world; and even what we add is only by God. We can derive from this a clearer realization that God has a definite purpose in His every act. That is a realization wholly pleasing to sense and reason.
We cannot but believe in God, the All-Mighty, such is His Majesty which we apprehend through, on the one hand, contemplation of the Divine laws that operate in the world about us, and through, on the other hand, inward personal conviction.
That believing in God, that sense of His Being, whether in the outer world or within ourselves, inevitably leads to submission to God. In this way a path moving from sense and reason has ended in submission. And submission means a willing, intended obedience to God in all His commands and prohibitions by the observance of prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and pilgrimage, and by avoidance of usury, bribery, intoxicating drinks, adultery, and the like evils.
God has sure reasons for His commands and prohibitions, some of which we can understand. One reason for them is, to give an example, the benefits that we derive, individually as well as collectively, from abiding by them. There are many reasons why each of the five prayers must be done in its own time (self-discipline and order, stability of faith and community, for example). The manner of praying is also prescribed for definite reasons. The great value of the washing of certain parts of the body in preparation for worship is obvious. Congregational prayer plays a great part in enabling and sustaining the life of a believing community. Zakat, the alms-tax, contributes significantly to preserving responsibility and balance between the rich and the poor in society. Fasting is of undeniable benefit in respect of man’s health. As a further example, let us add that the Islamic penal code (in a social context created by the Islamic community abiding by the Divine commands) will also, if studied in the light of sense and reason, lead to submission to the All-Wise and All-Mighty.
Regarding Pilgrimage, the Holy Book says: Pilgrimage to the House is a duty to God for all who are able to make the journey. That is a clear command. If we hear and obey it without question, we make the pilgrimage, and this constitutes an act of submission. To what does this act of submission lead? To the experience of Pilgrimage which, in turn, leads us to contemplate its benefits. We see that the hajj operates as a worldwide conference for Muslims, an occasion for them to be together for the sake of God without discrimination of race or sex or color or level of education.
Whether we start from an act of submission and the use of our sense and reason, or we use our sense and reason and are thereby led to submission, Islam is confirmed. For this religion is grounded both in sense and reason and in submission. It is a system put into operation by God and it could not have been ordered otherwise.
By M. Fethullah Gulen