by Khurram Murad
Part One: Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) Today
One in every five persons on this earth firmly believes that the Prophet Muhammad is the last Messenger of God. He was a Muslim and there are more than 1.3 billion such Muslims today.
Not only individuals but entire countries take pride in declaring their allegiance to him. There are 54 such Muslim states today, ranging from those as large as Indonesia and Bangladesh, with populations of 200 and 125 million respectively, to those as tiny as the Maldives or Brunei with populations of 230,000 and 260,000. Even in non-Muslim countries, large Muslim populations constitute significant minorities; as much as 120 million in India and 20 million in China. Indeed, within the last half century, Islam, the religion brought by the Prophet Muhammad, has become the second largest religion in most European countries, as also in America and Canada.
Black and white, red and yellow, followers of the Prophet Muhammad come from all human races. Whether in Asia or Europe, Africa or America, in every nook and cranny of this globe, you are sure to find Muslims. They live in the most advanced, sprawling megalopolis as well as in the most primitive nomadic tent, village, hamlet, and even in the bush.Read more...
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
(2:177) It is no virtue that you turn your faces towards the east or the west, but virtue is that one should sincerely believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets and, out of His love, spend of one’s choice wealth for relatives and orphans, for the needy and the wayfarer, for beggars and for the ransom of slaves, and establish the Salat and pay the Zakat. And the virtuous are those who keep their pledges when they make them and show fortitude in hardships and adversity and in the struggle between the Truth and falsehood; such are the truthful people and such are the pious.
Turning one’s face towards the east or the west is mentioned here only by way of illustration. The actual purpose of the verse is to emphasize that the observance of certain outward religious rites, the performance of certain formal religious acts out of conformism, and the manifestation of certain familiar forms of piety do not constitute that essential righteousness which alone carries weight with God and earns His recognition and approval.
It is not piety, that you turn your faces, in prayer, to the East and to the West. This was revealed in response to the claim made by the Jews and the Christians to this effect. True piety, that is, the pious person (al-birr, is also read al-barr, in the sense of al-bārr [‘the dutiful person’]) is [that of] the one who believes in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Book, that is, the scriptures, and the prophets, and who gives of his substance, however, despite [it being], cherished, by him, to kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the traveller and beggars, and for, the setting free of, slaves, both the captive and the one to be manumitted by contract; and who observes prayer and pays the alms, that are obligatory, and what was [given] before [alms were made obligatory], in the way of charity; and those who fulfil their covenant when they have engaged in a covenant, with God or with others, those who endure with fortitude (al-sābirīna is the accusative of laudation) misfortune (al-ba’sā’ is abject poverty), hardship, illness, and peril, at the height of a battle in the way of God; these, described in the way mentioned, are the ones who are truthful, in their faith and in their claims to piety, and these are the ones who are fearful, of God.