Recently I started hearing this question a lot. The idea of believing in God without following His commands or the fara’ed (required acts) in the religion is becoming more common and appealing.
Some people would say: why are there required aspects in Islam to start with? Why can’t we just love Allah and get Paradise without requirements, just based on love and belief in the heart?
The main problem they seem to have is with the idea of having fara’ed (required aspects). They object to that or are inclined to feel rebellious against it.
This is interesting.
But let’s think about this together…
What happens when you want to create a Facebook account, for example?
You will have to fill an online form that has some “required fields”. The required fields are most commonly placed next to a red asterisk and must be filled out. What happens if you don’t fill in the required fields? Will you be able to move forward and create the account? No. You will continue to be referred back to the required fields.
So, the required fields are ‘required’ for you to move forward.
Did you revolt against these rules or think that Facebook is oppressive and controlling merely for placing some “requirements” on you to enter its world and use it services? Most probably not.
Most people just go ahead with filling the form because- if you think about it- everything else in this life also has requirements.
If you think, for example, about someone who wants to go on a diet and lose weight. This person will go to the doctor to help him lose weight and be fit and healthy. What will the doctor do? Most probably the doctor will give the patient a set of ‘requirements'; you have to eat healthy food, eat fruits and vegetables, avoid sugar, avoid sodas and fast food, start working out an hour everyday…..etc.
If you want to achieve a healthy and fit body, then you will follow the requirements, right?
It’s illogical then for you to tell the doctor: “why can’t I just lose weight and be fit automatically based on the desire in my heart, why do I have to follow certain rules and requirements, why are you oppressing me?”
This doesn’t make sense because achieving anything requires some effort. We go to the experts to get guidelines on what to do and what not to do to achieve great results.
Think about college students as well. For them to earn a prestigious degree, they have to take required courses and get certain grades. In any classroom, the student has to follow the professor’s requirements to pass the course. The Professor usually has a number of requirements for the students that they must abide by like; attendance, participation in class discussions, Midterm exam, final project…etc. Students have to follow the requirements in order to pass the course, move forward and progress in their academic life. Right?
Can you -as a student- go to the professor and say: “why can’t you just give me an ‘A'; why do I have to follow all these requirements, why are you oppressing me? Can’t I just be a good student without following all these rules?”
Well, how will the Professor be able to judge or test whether or not you’re a good student if you don’t act on what you’ve learned, prove yourself and showcase your knowledge?
It is not enough to say or claim that you understand or that you have knowledge, you have to show it and act on it in order to be graded and be taken seriously. If you want to be a Doctor for example, and you read many books on practicing medicine, but you haven’t actually been tested by any credible institute or have a degree, do you think people will allow you to operate on them? Most definitely not.
Following the requirements and being tested is a part of any committed, serious endeavour.
Now, think about Allah our Creator Glorified and Exalted. Is it really “oppressive and unnecessary” for Him to give us a set of requirements?
Consider the examples we mentioned above, and then think about this carefully.
First of all, requirements are part of nearly everything else we have in life. Even if you want to go buy some food and groceries, you are still ‘required’ to pay for that. We don’t usually say that stores are oppressive and controlling for setting prices on food. We just follow the rules. This is normal and this is part of our accepted day-to-day livelihood. This is what makes us civilised humans: that we learn and follow rules. We don’t simply act on our desires.
Second of all, achieving any goal requires a plan and a set of actions. If you want to buy a beautiful house in an Island for example to live in after you retire, then you will have to make a plan and put some effort. You need to assess the cost and the effort you need to put at work to earn enough money to buy your dream house. Right? That’s fair enough. Afterall, simply being granted the house without any effort from your side makes this whole experience meaningless. It is definitely not like earning it or working hard for your success. This is why many people criticize certain celebrities who are ‘famous for being famous’ because the haven’t really earned what they have through serious, substantial work.
Now, if you want to achieve eternal Paradise, doesn’t it make sense for this great goal to also have some requirements?
If you want to achieve the closeness and love of Allah Almighty, shouldn’t there by some guidelines for this relationship?
You’ll argue saying “well, why can’t I just love Him and He loves me?”
That’s great. Allah already loves us. He created the entire universe for us and made it submissive to us. We need almost everything in the universe, and it doesn’t need us, it will function perfectly without us. And Allah created eternal Paradise for us. But any loving relationship still has some requirements and guidelines.
Please think about any relationship that you have. Think of a husband and wife, for example. Are there absolutely no requirements whatsoever in this loving relationship just because they love one another? Of course there are. Actually this love is there because there has been some proofs for this love. If a wife disrespects her husband, neglects Him, doesn’t spend time with Him and spends most time with her friends, doesn’t fulfil his needs or respond to his calls, would this relationship work? Absolutely not.
There are requirements for the relationship. You can’t simply tell your wife “I’ll love you in my own way on my own terms, I don’t have to listen to you, or follow anything you say.” Is this love really? If you love, you try to learn about your beloved and try to do what he/she likes. Right?
Now, can you claim to love God without putting any effort to know what He asked for or do what He required?
Truth be told, that’s not an acceptable relationship to anybody. You won’t even accept someone doing that to you. You won’t accept someone not knowing about you, not listening to you, not engaging with you as you like, then claiming to love you. That’s not real, that’s not sincere.
And what we need to remember here is that Allah Almighty doesn’t really take anything for Himself. He is free of need. You might ask: “If He is free of need, then why is He asking us to do certain things?” Well because He wants YOU to benefit from doing these things, He cares about YOU and loves YOU and is asking you to do what will eventually benefit YOU not Him. Why is a mother asking her child not to come near the oven? Or asking him to eat his veggies? Because HE is the one who will benefit. She is making those requirements out of love for him and his well-being. She is not the one who will get burnt by the oven or become more healthy by eating the veggies. She doesn’t really benefit but it is pleasing to her to see him benefit.
And why does the Professor require you to do your assignments and your classwork? He won’t benefit, but you are the one who is going to learn and develop and be taken seriously in your academic career.
Why did the doctor prescribe certain activities and diet for the patient? This won’t affect him, but the patient is the one who is going to reap the benefits of those requirements.
Essentially, everything that Allah requires us to do has benefit for us spiritually, physically, intellectually and socially. His requirements essentially are there for our own well being.
As the Creator of the heart, mind and soul, He is The Most Knowing of them and He instructs us to do what is essentially beneficial for the heart, mind and soul that He created.
“Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?” ( Qur’an 67: 14)
And Allah doesn’t want to burden us, rather He wants to lighten our burdens.
“…Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…” ( Qur’an 2: 185)
“Allah wants to make clear to you [the lawful from the unlawful] and guide you to the [good] practices of those before you and to accept your repentance. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” ( Qur’an 4: 26)
“And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” (Qur’an 4: 28)
So, to think about it thoroughly, the requirements are for our own well being; and just like you listen to a Doctor because He has some knowledge, it makes sense to listen to the Creator because He has all knowledge. Any loving relationship has some basic rules and requirements. Allah doesn’t really take anything for Himself. If you think about it fairly, the human being lives on this earth on average for 70- 80 years. If we worship God for 70-80 years, then fairly, we should get around 80 years worth of Paradise. Right? But is this the case? No. Allah is offering eternal Paradise in which one will get absolutely anything he/she wants and will never be asked to do anything or any work whatsoever anymore. This is too generous and much more rewarding for the few requirements that we were asked for. Truth be told also, we do NOT spend our 70- 80 years in worship. We take time to sleep, eat, commute, engage with our friends and families, have fun and practice out hobbies….etc. If you actually count how much of the 24 hours Allah gav us daily we actually use to engage with Him, it will be a rather insignificant time.
The reality is, Allah is requiring too little and He is giving too much.
Is it really nice that even in the little that we are required to do, we argue and reject and object and ignore and follow our own desires? Scratch that, is it really loving to do so?
When did you tell a loved one that you want to love them on your own terms without listening to what they say or without owing them anything? Did this relationship really work?
” O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous,
Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you?
In whatever form He willed has He assembled you. (Qur’an 82: 6-8)
This is just food for thought and to Allah belongs all Mercy and Wisdom…
May Allah make us among His grateful, humble, committed creations. May He facilitate for us deeply knowing Him, sincerely loving Him and actively following Him the way He asked us to follow Him for our own peace and our own well being in this life and the next. Ameen.