Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Status of Muslim Women in Life

Dr. Jamal Badawi
The status of women in society is neither a new issue nor is it a fully settled one.
The position of Islam on this issue has been among the subjects presented to the Western reader with the least objectivity.
This paper is intended to provide a brief and authentic exposition of what Islam stands for in this regard. The teachings of Islam are based essentially on the Quran (God's revelation) and Hadith (elaboration by Prophet Muhammad).
The Quran and the Hadith, properly and unbiasedly understood, provide the basic source of authentication for any position or view which is attributed to Islam.
The paper starts with a brief survey of the status of women in the pre-Islamic era. It then focuses on these major questions: What is the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society? How similar or different is that position from "the spirit of the time," which was dominant when Islam was revealed? How would this compare with the "rights" which were finally gained by woman in recent decades?

Islam - Elevation of Women's Status

by Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi
Assalaamu `Alaykum Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakaatuhu
Al hamdu lillaah was salaatu was salaamu `alaa rasoolillaah, `amma ba`d:
The topic that I was asked to discuss here at McGill University is the elevation of the status of women in Islam. Many, upon hearing the title of this lecture, might assume it to be an oxymoron because the prevalent idea - at least in the West - is that Islam. does not elevate the status of women, but that Islam. oppresses and suppresses women. So people might find the title in itself to be shocking or a curiosity at least.
In discussing this topic - since it appears to me that this is a mixed audience of Muslims and non-Muslims - I'd like to make my remarks and comments brief. I will take no more than thirty to forty five minutes, and then allow you an opportunity to ask your questions. Perhaps the question and answer session might be more fruitful in addressing specific accusations, understandings or misunderstandings regarding the status of women in Islam.
As we all know, in the world today, there are - for the overwhelming majority of humanity - basically two world views. These two views are often in conflict - not only on the personal level where individual human beings are making choices, but also on the international level in terms of the debate over the authenticity and correctness of these two world views.
The first world view, which I am sure most of us are aware of, is the Western liberal view. A view which claims to draw its roots from the Judeo-Christian tradition that probably, upon investigation, is more well rooted in the ideas that appeared after the reformation; ideas that are rooted in secularism and the world view that appeared thereafter during the 'era of enlightenment'.
The second view is that of the Muslims - the Islamic world view, and this view says that its roots and ideas lie in the revelation given by God (or Allah in Arabic) to the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). Those who proclaim this view say that it can be used by humanity during all ages and times, and that its relevance and benefit is not restricted to a certain period of time, geographic area or certain race of human beings. Likewise, the adherents of the first view, that of
Western secularism and the liberal tradition, believe that their world view, ideas, culture and civilization are the best for humanity. Some of you might have read a book that came out a few years ago by an American author of Japanese decent (Francis Fukuyama) called "The End of Time". He basically put forth the theory that human development in terms of its ideas has concluded with this final period of liberal secular thought and nothing more will come to humanity. However in his book he adds that that the only part of the world which has not adopted this secular human view is the Islamic world and proposes that there will be a conflict in terms of this ideology in the Islamic world.
With that brief introduction, one of the topics of contention between these two worlds views, that of the secular liberal humanist in the West and the Islamic tradition, concerns women. What is the position and status of women? How are women looked to? Are women elevated in one culture and oppressed in another?
The Western view is that women are elevated only in the West and that they are getting more and more rights with the passage of time, while their sisters - they say - in the Islamic world are still being suppressed. The Muslims who they encounter say that in actuality it is the Islamic system that provides the true freedoms for men and women alike, and women in the West as well as men, are deceived into an idea of freedom which really doesn't exist. What I'd like to discuss this evening is exactly how Islam. looks to women. And therefore my discussion will be more upon - what we might say for the lack of a better term - the philosophical basis, rather than the individual practices which vary from one country to the other. How women are understood in Islam. cannot be properly understood - and this is more significant, I feel - unless one understands exactly what we might call the philosophical basis or ideological understanding - since this is really a theological concept.
First, let's review how exactly women were thought of and understood in the western tradition, to compare and contrast perspectives. We know that the western tradition sees itself as the intellectual inheritors of the Greek tradition that existed before the prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), and so therefore many of the intellectual traditions of the West are found to some degree in the writings of the early Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Plato and so forth.
How did they look towards women? What were the ideas of Aristotle and Plato towards women? When one reviews the works of these early Greek philosophers, he finds that they had very disparaging views of women. Aristotle in his writings argued that women were not full human beings and that the nature of woman was not that of a full human person. As a result, women were by nature deficient, not to be trusted and to be looked down upon. In fact, writings describe that the free women in many aspects of the Greek society - except for the very few women of the elite classes - had positions no better than animals and slaves.
This Aristotelian view of women was later carried on into the early Christian tradition of the Catholic church. Saint Thomas of Aquinas in his writings proposed that women were the trap of Satan. The issue of Adam and Eve added a dimension to the earlier Greek ideas of Aristotle; women were the cause of the downfall of man and therefore were Satan's trap and should be looked at with caution and weariness because they caused the first downfall of humanity and all thus evil precedes from women. This type of thought was persistent within the writings of the Church fathers throughout the Middle Ages. In their writings we find this theme proposed in one aspect or another. However, after the Protestant reformation Europe decided to free itself from the shackles and chains of the Catholic church. Ideas which have been entitled as the Age of Enlightenment or thought of as such, caused them to feel that they needed to free themselves from many of these ideas. Some of these ideas were scientific in nature, that the earth goes around the sun, instead of the sun going around the earth; theological in nature, as in the writings of Martin Luther; and also social in nature, like the position of women in society. However, the writers of the Enlightenment still carried this basic theme that was not much of a switch - women where not full human beings. French writers during the revolution, like Rousseau, Voltaire and others, looked at women as a burden that needed to be taken care of. This is why I believe it's Rousseau in his book "Emile", which he wrote concerning the education of women, proposed a different form of education for women based upon the fact that women were unable to understand what men were able to understand.
This is the tradition that the West inherited and thereafter we find in the 1800's the first writings appearing by women and some men calling for the change of these ideas. And with this we have the origins of the first feminine movements. One of the first books written was the "Vindication for the Rights of Women" by Mary Walsencraft which appeared in the 1800's. Thereafter the tradition of women receiving certain rights came. The first of these were basically legal rights because until the 1800's women were not able to own property and were not able to dispose of their wealth as men did. It is very well known that the first laws that allowed women to own property in the United States or in Europe appeared only in the last couple of decades of the 1800's.
The Industrial Revolution caused another impetus, another search, to this feminist movement. Women in the Industrial Revolution, especially England, were forced to labor for many hours in the coal mines and so forth, and would receive no pay whatsoever compared to men. So therefore the first calling of the movement was that people who work the same amount of hours deserved the same amount of money or pay.
Finally a break occurred in this century of basically all which is understood from the Western tradition. Coming from the latter feminist movement which appeared after World War II, a new movement called for the emancipation of women not only in terms of legal rights, but it also questioned some of the morals of society and called for greater sexual freedoms for women and men alike. It contended that basically a lot of problems were caused by the institution of marriage and the ideas of family and so forth. People wrote concerning the need to break from these.
And finally in the 1990's, the prevalent argument in the West is that we should discuss genders, not sexes. This idea was expressed recently in a book which came out a year ago called "The Age of Extremes". The author discusses the idea that there is no difference between male or female and that gender is so only due to environment. So therefore we can change the environment so that men could take the roles of women and women take the roles of men by changing the education and climate. This is where it has ended up now. So we find in this 2500 year old western tradition, we come from the first extreme which was expressed by the Greeks, where women were denied their essential humanity, to this extreme expressed today where there is no differences between the sexes and it is an issue of gender, climate and environment. This is, of course, a very brief summary of the first world view. I didn't do justice to those 2500 years in just those few minutes, but it just gives us an idea.
The other view which I would like to talk about in more detail is the Islamic view. How does Islam. look at the issue of women? Well, first of all, we should understand that Muslims unlike, for instance, the Greek philosophers or the French writers after the French revolution, do not feel that their concepts, ideas and beliefs are those of fellow men. But rather they believe that what they are taught, what they believe, what they practice, and all that is tied to this, is part of a divine revelation given to them by God. And so, its truth and veracity is not questionable because of it being revelation from God. The argument is that God knows best that which He created. He created human beings, He is a God of wisdom, and a God of all knowledge and so therefore He knows what is best. And He decrees that which is best for humanity, His creatures. Therefore, Muslims try to live by a code of law which is an expression of that belief.
Now I don't want to discuss the various details of the code of law because that, I feel, would not really benefit us in this lecture. Although perhaps some of that might come out in the question and answer session and I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have. But what I would like to discuss is how does Islam. look at women, i.e. what is womanhood in Islam.? Did Muslims believe like the early Greek writers or early church fathers that women were not full human begins? Did they feel that women where Satan's trap, so therefore should be shunned and looked at as something evil and dangerous? How did they perceive women? Upon investigating into the traditions of Islam. which is, as I said, based on revelation known as the Qur'an, we find that it becomes very clear that Muslims are taught that men and women share a single humanity - that they are equal in their humanity and that there is no difference in the amount of human nature in them. We might now take that for granted, but as I explained, the initial western civilization was based on the fact that women were not full human beings.
So this being something that was taught 1400 years ago was a revolutionary idea in the sense that it is only within the last 100 years or so that the issue of women being full human beings has come to be accepted in western intellectual circles. Initially, women were not considered full human beings.
The Qur'an in describing the origins of human beings tells them, the translation of which would be something like "O humanity! Verily we have created you from a single male and a single female, and have made you into tribes and peoples so that you may know one another. Verily the most honorable of you are those who are most pious with God." [49:13] This verse in the Qur'an teaches that humans come from a single male and a single female. The indication here is that the male and female in terms of their human nature are at an equal level. Likewise another verse, from a chapter which is known in the Qur'an as the chapter of Women - because most of the issues discussed there are laws dealing with women - starts off with a verse which could be translated as "O humanity! Verily We have created you from a single soul, and have made from it its mate," this is a reference to Adam and Eve, "and have made from both of them many people, men and women, and scattered them throughout the earth." [4:1] So here again is the issue of men and women and all human beings coming from a single source, a single family, a single set of parents. This shows that women share in full humanity with men.
Likewise in the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) - which is the second source of the Islamic religion - we find that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said in a Hadith that indeed verily women are the twin halves of men. The Arabic word shaqaa'iq, which I translated as twin halves, means taking something and splitting it in half. The understanding is that there is a single humanity, a single essence which is shared, and there are twin halves of that - one is man and one is women. This is repeated often in the Qur'an The words of the Prophet Mohammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) also emphasize this. As I said, this is a very important concept to understand when one reflects on how traditional western civilization looked at women as not being full partners and not sharing in humanity. Although now, we might not find much surprise to that because it is a given perhaps that men and women are full human beings. But this is something that is a late occurrence in western traditions.
Let us take it to another step, what is the aim of humanity? What is the purpose for which human beings exist on earth, to what ends do they strive? What will occur to them if they strive to those ends and what will occur to them if they did not strive to those ends? Since Islam. is a religion which sees itself as revelation from God and the truth, Muslims would feel that human beings have a set purpose here on earth; that in everything of God's creation there is wisdom. There is nothing of God's creation that does not have any wisdom. There is nothing for sport or play and so therefore human beings have a purpose, and that purpose has been elucidated for them in the teaching of Islam. They were created to worship God. A verse from the Qur'an says that God says that He has not created human beings except to worship Him. So therefore, the essence of humanity is the same between male and female, and they also share the same aim and that is to worship God. And that is the most important issue in the Islamic culture and civilization. You know that the Islamic culture and civilization is rooted in religious belief. American civilization is rooted in what? In the writings of the founding fathers of the United States of America. It is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, the ideals which were placed therein. It is rooted in the Constitution of the United States. It is rooted in some of the arguments between monarchy or democracy which were written by some of the early writers or founding fathers. So it is rooted in a political thought. Yes, it might have some traditions which go back further and extend to certain ideas like in parts of Christianity and so forth, but in its essence it is a political thought, unlike Islam. which is a religion in its essence.
The civilization of Islam. - a civilization which is 1400 years old - is one which is rooted in religion. For a Muslim the greatest aim is to serve God, to worship God alone, and that is what the word Muslim means.
Muslim is not a racial description, it is not an ethnic category, Muslim means one who submits. Islam. means submitting to the will of God - the voluntary submission to God - so Islam. is a religion of submission. Therefore, in the most important aspect of the Islamic religion, we find that men and women share in the same aim and are expected to have the same responsibilities, in that men and women are both required or obligated to testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah alone - God alone - and that Muhammad is His Messenger. Men and women are both obligated to pray five times a day, which is the second pillar of Islam. They are obligated to fast the month of Ramadan. They are obligated to make pilgrimage to Makkah. They are obligated to give charity. They are obligated to have the same beliefs. They are obligated to have the same type of morality and the same type of code of conduct and behavior.
Men and women share these essential ingredients of Islamic behavior, which define a Muslim from a non-Muslim. And this is of extreme importance because it breaks from the tradition of religions. For instance fifty years before the birth of the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) who was born around 560 CE we find that there was a gathering of bishops in France to discuss whether women possessed souls or not, and that, if they do possess souls, what would be their purpose on earth? Was it to worship God? And if they worshipped God, would they go to paradise? In the end it was decided that, yes, women do possess souls - which was a break from previous tradition - but that their purpose was not just to worship God, but also to serve men.
In Islam., however, the basis of submission is not that women are submitting to men, but that men and women together submit to God. So therefore, when you read the passages of the Qur'an, it becomes very clear that the obedient from among both the believing men and women receive paradise, which is the greatest aim and objective in a Muslim's life, and the basis of that civilization. Likewise, those who are disobedient and who are renegades, and who do not want to worship God also receive the same punishment whether they are male or female. This is why throughout the Qur'an you find the wording addressed to both males and females. The Arabic language like French has two types of verbs, one representing the feminine and one the masculine. So in the Qur'an you'll find both categories of the human race, both sexes, being addressed. This you find over and over and over. There is no need to now recite all these passages, but they are there if anyone wants to know.
In summary we found three bases: that they share the same humanity, that they have the same aim on this earth, and also, they expect the same reward, which is the goal which they are working for collectively as human beings. And this is a break as I said from the previous religious traditions and also political and social understanding prevalent among the philosophers before the coming of Islam. And as a result of that, we find that Islam. accorded women rights which perhaps we take for granted now, but were given by God to men and women some 1400 years ago. These rights like the right to own property, the right to dispose of property according to their own wishes as long as they follow the laws of the religion of Islam., which apply the same for men or women and the right to certain what we would call now political rights, like the right to enter into a treaty with combatant, are something very recent relatively speaking in the West.
One of the rights given by Islam. in the time of the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) was that if a woman gives a treaty to a combatant from a non-Muslim attacking force - her treaty would be considered as was the case with a female companion of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). In the Christian church these companions would be called disciples for instance, the disciples of the Prophet Muhammad are the companions as they are called. They were in the hundreds and thousands not just twelve as with Jesus Christ, and there are both men and women amongst them. When the prophet Muhammad came to Mecca, one of the women companions by the name of Umm Hani, who was an inhabitant of Mecca and a believer in the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam), accorded certain relatives of hers protection that they would not be harmed. Her brother who was one of the main companions of the Prophet Muhammad and married his daughter, Ali Bin Abi Talib, wanted to execute two of these men who were known for harming the Muslims and fighting against them. So Umm Hani went to the Prophet Muhammad and complained that she had accorded them protection and the Prophet recognized her giving protection to those two individuals.
This is what we might call, in the classification and terminology that we now use, a political right. In the sense of according protection for another person during the state of war is something which is relatively new in the West and was a known tradition in the Islamic world 1400 years ago. Likewise, in terms of what we might call public participation, there are certain acts of worship which are public acts of worship in Islam., and there are certain acts of worship which are private. One of the public acts is the pilgrimage, when men and women all make pilgrimage, and this is one of the pillars of Islam. Likewise another public act of worship is the two `Eid prayers which occur twice a year, once after the pilgrimage and once after the pass of Ramadan. Men and women both participate in that publicly. Likewise, we have a verse which shows that the social contract between men and women is the same in Islam. This verse might be translated as the following: "And the believing men and women are," what we might translate as, "awliyaa" - the word in Arabic for friends or allies or supporters of one another, "they" - meaning men and women - "bid to that which is correct" i.e. they commend that which is correct, "and they forbid that which is evil". And this is a corrective process in society, removing evil and commending that which is good. And then "they perform the prayer", both men and women, "they pay the alms", or the charity to the poor, "and they obey God and His Messenger." And then God shows them the reward and that they are those upon whom God will have mercy and God is Almighty and All-Wise.
So in this verse, we find that the social contract between men and women, as individuals in the society, is the same, that they both go for the highest goal of bidding or commanding that which is correct, forbidding that which is evil, and that they share in the two major acts of worship, which are the prayer and giving charity. They share in the beliefs and obedience to God and obedience to the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) and likewise, they share in the reward in the end of obtaining Allah's mercy. This is a very important concept, which is in contradiction with what the western tradition is upon today, and that is as I said as a result of the initial extreme of the Greek philosophers that women did not share in humanity. As the result of that extreme another extreme occurred - at least the Muslims consider it extreme - that there is no difference between men and women.
So therefore, the idea of having genders - this is a term which is not used in a biological sense, as we might use the word sex in a biological sense for male and female, but the understanding today is that the traits that define maleness or femaleness, the social traits and so forth are determined by upbringing, culture, and environment and that there is no inherent difference in the way men and women think or act or what their make up is and so forth. And that is why they use the term gender.
This extreme resulted from the initial extreme that occurred 2000 years ago, when the Greek thought that the women did not posses humanity. So as a result of this 2000 year processes we now come to another extreme - at least this is what Muslims would say - this extreme now is that men and women are the same, that there is no difference.
Islam., although confirming that men and women do share in the same essence of humanity, also confirms that men and women are different. But does this difference mean that men are inherently good or women are inherently evil? No. And this is why when you look at one of the verses in the Qur'an that sheds light on this aspect, God says, recounting His creation, that He is the One Who created the night, as it envelops, as it comes - if you look at the horizon, it comes like a sheet enveloping the horizon - and He is the One Who created the day as it comes bursting, shining, - that is how Sun rises and He is the One Who created male and female. And then the next verse says, verily, what you strive for - human beings are into different ends, diverse ends - some strive for God's pleasure, some strive for disobedience of God, some strive to do good to humans, some strive to do harm, different ends. But what is the example here? God mentions night and day and then mentions male and female. The understanding is, yes, night has a purpose, and in the Qur'an you always find verse after verse, describing that night has a wisdom behind it. And also it tells humanity that had it been only night and no day human beings could not live on earth. And this is now shown scientifically that if it was only night and there was no sunlight, certain hormones of body would not be able to reproduce and human beings would die. Life as we know it on earth would not exist. And likewise, day has its wisdoms behind it. But can one argue and say, that night is good and day is evil? No, and no Muslim would believe that. And can one argue and say that day is good and night is evil? No. Likewise, male and female also have their roles to play. But can one say that the role of men is inherently good and the role of women is inherently evil? No. And can one say the opposite to that - the role of women is inherently good and the role of men is inherently evil? No. But they both have a role.
This is the main contention now between western thought and Islamic belief. Western thought has basically accepted, except for maybe some few corners perhaps in the Vatican or so, that men and women share in their humanity and that they are the same. Muslims have believed this for 1400 years. But the difference is that in western thought, as a reaction to the initial thought that women did not share humanity fully, the argument is that the roles of men and women in society are only defined by culture, environment and upbringing, therefore there is really no true role for men and no true role for women and that we can switch this, if we just teach the society correctly. But in Islam. there is a defined role for men and a defined role for women. Who is the one who defines this role for men and women? It's their creator. This is the major, if you want to use the term philosophical, even though it is an inaccurate term in that sense, but we can just use if for the lack of
better term, philosophical, ideological or theological difference between the two opposing arguments. Now with that said, it is important to understand that when Islam. gave these roles to men and women alike, it put responsibilities equal to obligations to both. I will give you an example for that: Islam. senses that women have the nature of mother not by cultural tradition or by sociological system but inherently are better in providing and taking care of the offspring, that there is a bond there which goes beyond tradition. A psychological bonding, a physical bonding, something which is more than just traditions of human beings. As a result of that it has placed greater responsibilities upon women towards their children are then those of men.
At the same time, the obligations that children have towards their mother in Islam. is greater than they have towards their fathers, and this is why when the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) was asked by a man one was his companions "Who should I befriend in this world?" The prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) replied "your mother." And then the man asked a second time, and the prophet replied your mother, and then a third time, and again he replied your mother, and on the fourth time, he said "your father". Likewise in the Qur'an we find that it tells human beings that your mother bore you from one hardship to the other hardship, talking about the labors and difficulties of pregnancy and childhood, and then fed you for two years, suckled you, and tells us to be kind to our parents and reminds us of our mother first before our fathers.
The point is that even though it has defined a role for women with the children which is different than the role of the father, at the same time it gives women honor and respect from their children which is greater than that received by the fathers. The fathers do receive respect and their honor, they are not just thrown out of the picture, but it is given to them and according to the degree of their responsibility. And likewise, because the mother inherently, not just because of cultural tradition, has something inherent which makes that bond greater between her and her child then the male. She receives a greater honor and respect from the child and at the same time she is required to give a greater obligation.
I only gave that as an example to show you that while Islam. recognizes differences between the sexes, it does not accept the concept that gender is just an issue of upbringing or cultural traditions, for there are inherent differences in males and females, and as a result of that the obligations and responsibilities of each of the two sexes are together. Imported from that is another matter that even though men and women are different, they are not in opposition to one another, which is the basis of much of the western thought and especially of feminist traditions. That there's a struggle between men and women, "There is a battle of sexes", as it is sometimes said in the popular sort of designation. This doesn't exist in Islam. Men and women work in tandem, just like day and night revolve, and you live in day time and you live in night time. You cannot live only in night, and you cannot live only in day, likewise, men and women are not against one another, they are not pitted against one another but rather they share in the same aim, the same purpose of being, the same humanity. They have different roles, but these roles complement one another and are needed by one another in order for the success of humanity, not in this world, but also - of course since Muslims believe in the hereafter- in the hereafter, which is the ultimate goal for Muslims.
Now, I would like to make one final comment and then I'll leave it open for questions. Let's look at the applicabilities of both of these programs. We discussed a lot of ideas, thoughts and beliefs and historical concepts, but when they are actually applied, which of the two view points is more successful. Which brings more bliss to humanity? Is it the secular western view or is it the Islamic view? And I have a concrete example which I'd like to share with you. When I was in Beijing this last summer for the UN 4th world conference on the women, there was a platform for action which was being discussed by the different nations and organizations there. The aim of the platform for action was to upraise, uplift, and to embetter the status of women around the world, which are of course noble and correct aims, there is no contention concerning that. The platform for action was divided into different areas of concentrations, such as poverty, health, finances, conflicts and violence and so forth, and one of it was the girl child. The 12th issue of the 12 concerned areas for the platform for action, the girl child, the status of girls - future women - in the world today. The country which was hosting the conference, China is known for the practice of killing girls. The reason why is because of their population. You can only have one child per couple and Chinese by their tradition view males as fewer then females and so as a result they will usually kill the female child, in hope that the wife gives birth to a boy.
This is an issue which exists and because the hosts were the Chinese, the United Nations didn't really want to get into this issue. They didn't want to talk about it because it was not politically correct to address that issue in China. Moreover, even though they might have passed certain regulations, platforms for actions and certain commitments which they have required of citizens of the world to follow, they at the end will see that perhaps in twenty-five to fifty years the status of the world child will not have markedly improved.
We can see from other things, one of the major issues which the United Nations was created for after World War II, was the slaughter of so many million human beings, six million Jews in Europe, and yet fifty years later, in the year of the fiftieth celebration of the UN, a genocide has taken place in Europe of the Bosnians. All the human rights, all of the declarations in the last fifty years has not been able to change anything on the ground. Now when the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) was sent to the Arabs, the Arabs had the same practice. They used to kill their girl children. The Arabs killed their girls for a number of reasons, most of the time due to poverty. Being a desert people without industry or any sort of means of trade, existence was very minimal. And as a result, out of fear of poverty they would kill their girl children, and they would bury them alive. This is a fact which is mentioned in the Qur'an and was well known during the time of the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). God condemns in the Qur'an with verses, the idea of killing of the girl child, the burying in the ground, and also the attitudes of the Arabs towards girls. One verse in the Qur'an says that "when he is given the good news that his wife is given birth." God calls it a good news, " - to a female child, a girl - his face becomes blackened and he becomes ashamed. Will he hide the fact "that he has given birth to a girl and not tell the people, because he feels it as a shame. "Or will he bury it in the ground", this is a condemnation of the practice of the people. And likewise the companions of the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) before they accepted Islam., many of them killed their girl children. One man came to prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) and said I killed ten of my daughters in my lifetime, will I receive paradise? For will God accept my repentance for this sin, now that I have left this pagan religion of before, worshipping idols and killing girl children and so forth. Within one generation, within 23 years this was how long the prophet was amongst the Arabs, the practice of killing girls ended. It no longer existed in Arabia. And likewise, it didn't just stop like that, but a change in attitude came towards women, in educating them and making morally upright people.
People receive no other reward, but paradise. Again that is the greatest aim for the Muslim and that is their motivation and reason of being. So Islam not only tried removing the negative aspect of murdering girls, but also included the positive aspect of educating girls and raising them in society, and this brings me to my final point. This is something of course which we can look at the previous declarations of human rights or whatever, irrespective of whether these being true or false, but they have not been able to achieve the aims which they have stated. As the example of human rights and the UN in Bosnia shows.
Fifty years after the creation of the UN, there is no change in Europe, the same land which killed six million Jews. The same genocide of the Bosnians occurs fifty years later by the same people who started the UN. They are unable to stop their own from this matter, and with this I come to my final point, that I would like to leave you with. Islamic civilization unlike any other civilization is based, of course on revelation, but it is in its essence supported and founded by women. The first person to believe in Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) was his wife Khadeejah, and it was through her money and through her support of him, her financial backing, and also her encouragement that the prophet was able to spread the message of Islam. in his first year of prophecy. The pagans did not have the ideas of freedom of religion, that you can take your own beliefs. This was not practiced by the pagans of Arabia - they saw this as an insurrection, they saw this as a changing of their ways, so they sought to stop it out by torture, by killing and by all other means that they could. And likewise, they tried to stop the Islamic revelation, this tradition, when the prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) converted only the people of Arabia. But as you know there are about one billion Muslims in the world. They are in every single continent of the world, even in Beijing where the UN was convening. There was a mosque there which is over a thousand years old. And the neighborhood that lives there is about forty to fifty thousands Muslims. Now the king’s palace, the forbidden city in front of Tien Anh Man square which many of you have heard of, is only 500 years old. This shows how the growth of Islam. and the sprit of Islam. is not just a Middle Eastern phenomenon or an Arabian phenomenon but extends to all people and races throughout the world.
Where is this teaching from, of course when prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) died after twenty three years Islam. only spread in Arabia. This religion of Islam was basically spread by four or five individuals who had the most in teaching. One of them was the prophet's wife `Aa’isha. She is among the most to have narrated his statements and likewise she is amongst the three, four, five who have mostly given religious pronouncements, who have given religious verdicts, explained what these verses in the Qur'an meant or what the words of the prophet meant.
Look at any other civilization in the history of humanity, you will not find a women playing a role in its establishment where it can be attributed to her efforts for its establishment. The Greeks - look at the philosophers Plato, Aristotle and others - all were men. The early church fathers writings were basically men and until today the idea of women scholarship is limited in some areas of the church. The French writers at the French revolution and Voltaire and the Russians were men. The founding fathers of the United States were men, and also other civilizations are basically based upon men. Islam is the only civilization which is known by humanity where a leading input in terms of its transmission and establishment was based upon the efforts of women. Central - and this is an historical matter which is not open to interpretation, it is a fact - these are the people who transmitted these teachings these are the people who supported it hereafter. Those are just some thoughts and impressions concerning how Islam. uplifted women.

Why Were We Created?

by Author: Bilâl Philips
All praise is due to Allâh and may His peace and blessings be upon his last Messenger sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam and on all those who follow the path of righteousness until the last day.
We have to answer the most fundamental question that every human being asks himself at some point in his or her lifetime. Not just Muslims, but every single human being.
"Why was I created? Why am I here? What am I doing in this world? Why did God create me?"
These questions, are questions which each and everyone of us reflects on at some point during their life. We have some answers, which are given generally, but usually these answers don’t satisfy us, they seem somewhat simplistic. We still wonder. "Why me? Why here?" I know all of you, generally speaking, in the back of your mind, you are saying "to worship Allâh, khallas(finish), what more is there to say? Why do we need to have a big long talk on why we were created, when we all know it is to worship Allâh?" But wait, if this is presented to a non-Muslim, the next logical question would be  "why does Allâh want us to worship Him?" and then your stuck.
It means, in our own minds it is not really clear to us. Why did Allâh create us to worship Him?
The question, why did Allâh create us, for some people, and we have to deal with those people around us, who don’t consider there to be any purpose in man’s creation because he is just a product of evolution that the forces of nature have produced him, and just as we don’t have apes, dogs or cows thinking about why they are here, then we don’t really have to think about it either. Of course that being the basis of the philosophy of western society, that man is without purpose, then the whole issue of government, morality etc has no basis in Revelation, there is no guidance there. The product of this is of course the corruption that we are living in.
For a Muslim, when we go in to this topic, we have to find our understanding in divine revelation and not human speculation. Because human speculation has no bounds, we can imagine all kinds of things, and is any of you have studied philosophy of religion, you can see how many opinions exist about the creation of man and existence. Because of the variety of philosophies, which are out there, no one can say this one is correct or that one is incorrect, because there is no guidance behind it. No divine revelation. It is only from divine revelation that we can determine the reality of our creation, because it is Allâh who has created us and he knows the purpose of our creation. We can hardly understand ourselves, much less try to understand the essence of things.  So it is for Allâh to inform us through the revelation in the Qur'ân and the Sunnah which was brought by his lastMessenger sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam and the Messengers before. Now if we are to look, initially into revelation, to determine why was man   created, there is a deeper question that we should be asking before that. "Why did God create?" Before we even get to man, why did god create, because man is not the greatest act of creation that we should be so focused on why man. No, because Allâh says:
"The creation of the Heavens and the Earth is indeed greater then the creation of mankind; yet, most of mankind know not." [SûrahGhâfir, verse 57]
Man is not the greatest act of creation, this universe is far more complex and far more magnificent then man. So the issue of creation should then go to why create? As opposed to simply why create man?
Fundamentally, we can say that the creation is the natural consequence of the attribute of creator. Allâh is the creator. That is one of his attributes. That is what he has informed us. That being his attribute, the creator, the natural consequence or the product of this attribute is his creation.
A painter, if we are to draw a similitude on a lower level, who tells you that he is a painter, if you ask him where are his paintings and he replies I don’t have any. What kind of painter is this? The concept of a painter who doesn’t paint, there is some thing not quite gelling together here, of course Allâh is beyond this. But if we are to understand on the simplest level, the two go together. The perfection of a painter lies in his paintings. His quality and his ability to paint, is manifest in his paintings. And Allâh, beyond all that, as creator, this quality of creation is manifest in the creation itself. Allâh didn’t create out of a need. No, the fact that he is the creator, is manifest in the creation.
Furthermore, consider the act of creation, this act, with regards to Allâh is unique. Though we use the term i.e. So and so created a table etc, actually it is in a limited sense. Human beings don’t really create, they manipulate, because they can only "create" what already exists. When we make a chair or a table, we didn’t create the wood, we had to take it from a tree, we didn’t create the metal, which makes the screws etc, we had to melt down rocks and take the metal out. So we are not creating from nothing. We are manipulating things which Allâh has already created in to different shapes and forms which are useful to us. We call it "creation" but the real act of creation, is creation from nothing, and this is unique to Allâh alone.
This is a concept, which many people in ignorance, because they couldn’t grasp the idea of creation from nothingness, it lead them to conclude that the world is Allâh. Those who say "inside of each and every atom is Allâh." And you have people, who call themselves Muslims saying this. Non-Muslims have said this before and there are Muslims who claim this. That Allâh is inside each and everything, because Allâh is the reality and everything else is fake in their interpretation.  That means then, that the creation is Allâh, and Allâh is the creation. Very, very dangerous concept, which leads some of those who make this claim to say that you don’t have to worship outside of yourself. Ibn Arabi, was famous for this statement, he is considered to be one of the saints, amongst the so called Sûfî religion. Ibn Arabi said "There is no need to worship one outside yourself, you are Allâh. It is sufficient to worship yourself." This is Shirk.
This concept of Allâh being within his creation, no distinction the creation and Allâh, it leads them to this shirk. Because they are unable to accept the uniqueness of Allâh’s creation, they compare the act of creation by Allâh to human creation. That is, just as we manipulate, Allâh took pieces of himself and made the earth and the universe. Others will say that all human beings have inside of themselves Allâh, that there is a part of Allâh inside each and everyone of us. The whole essence, the purpose of life is for us to realize that we have part of Allâh inside of ourselves, remove the material blocks which keep us from Allâh and again become one with Allâh in what they call "fana".  This is again a teaching of the Sûfî religion.
Becoming one with Allâh, returning back to Allâh in this sense. But this is in fact part of the teachings of shirk. Shaytân (Satan) has deluded man into this imagination. It is part of the belief of the Hindus. Nirvana, the concept that when you die, you are reborn again, and you move up in stages, each time, if you are a good boy or good girl, you go up higher and higher, until you get to the top. You know you have reached the peak, because when you die the next time you become one with the universal soul, Nirvana. That is the end of rebirth. So your whole purpose is to return and become one with God again. This is all, as I said, a product of the inability to understand the concept of creation from nothingness, which is unique to Allâh. Allâh says:
"There is nothing like him, and he is the hearer and seer of all."
So when we try to interpret Allâh’s creation like the way we create, then we have made Him like his creation and it leads us ultimately to those aspects of shirk which I have mentioned. This is quite common amongst the Muslim world today, because when you look into the various branches of the Sûfîreligion, where they have prescribed various acts of purification, they call it dhikr, exercises to torture the body through spinning and dancing. What is the purpose of this? They will tell you, to liberate the soul from this earthly body and to achieve that state of "fana" or "itihâd", a variety of names they have for it.
It is this concept, which lead al-Hallaj, many centuries ago, when he was promoting this idea, and he was put before a panel of judges questioning these concepts, which he was expressing. When they asked him to recant, to take this stuff back, he stood up, opened up his cloak and said "There is nothing inside this cloak except Allâh". So they executed him. And of course, those in the Sûfî religion, they have stories that when they cut his head off, it rolled around saying "Allâh, Allâh, Allâhu Akbar etc". It might have, that is Shaytân may have entered and said these things, as happened with the calf of the Isrealites, when the Prophet Mûsa (Moses) let Egypt and the people, after crossing the red sea, had a desire to have a god that they could see, so they made a golden calf which they began to worship. This calf was saying "moo" like the calves do. This is what convinced them that this was the real thing. We know it wasn’t the calf saying this. The evil jinn can enter the in to physical entities, make sounds and give these impressions. So there is no problem for us to say ok, maybe when they cut of al-Hallaj’s head that it said these things, because this was part of a test. If we are clear in terms of creator and creation, this is no problem for us. 
Allâh is the creator and everything besides Him is His creation, which He created from nothing. It is not Him, nor is He it. This is the pure concept as taught by the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam, his companions, and the early generations of righteous scholars, the students of the companions and those who came after them. The best of generations. That is how they understood this matter. There was no confusion in their minds. It wasn’t until Islâm spread to areas like Egypt, India and Persia, areas where the Christians had already gotten into deep philosophies, trying to explain how Jesus was a man and god at the same time. When they came in to Islâm they brought it with them. This is the reality. It is not something we should necessarily condemn them for or feel is unusual. It is natural, when a person reverts to Islâm, that they will carry with them what they believed before. What has been clarified for them, of the basic principles, they accept, and they reject things, which obviously contradict. But it doesn’t mean that every last thought that they have, and everything that was wrong in their philosophies, ideology and concepts will be erased. They will carry these things in with them. This is why in the later part of the Prophet's sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam life, prior to his death, when he was coming back from one of the battles, his companions asked him to set aside a tree for them, that they could hang their weapons on, like the way the pagans would hang their weapons on trees, believing that when they hung the weapons, it became super-powerful, as if some power was coming from the tree, that their shields would now block steel and their swords would cut through the enemy. Some of the companions who had newly accepted Islâm, asked the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam to designate one for them, a special one, an Islamic one. They understood that what the pagans had, this was wrong. These were the companions of the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam and he had to clarify it for them. He said:
You are like the companions of Mûsâ who asked to have the calf built.
And he clarified for them that all of this is shirk and there is no place for it in Islâm. So if it could happen to some of the companions, then we cannot blame the generations who have come after them, who come into Islâm and carry with them some of their old ideas. What it is for us to do is to clarify.
So what we have in front of us then, is that Allâh created this universe out of nothing, and everything that is in it was created. For example:
"Allâh created all things, and he is the agent, upon which, all things depend." [Sûrah 39, verse 62]
This is the reality. This is stressed for us, in order for us to realize that ultimately, all good, all evil, that takes place in the world, only takes place by the permission of Allâh. Therefore we should not seek any other channels to protect ourselves from evil, or to gather for ourselves good, as people commonly do today. They will go to fortunetellers, this is big business today, all the magazines have various forms of fortunetellers like dial a horoscope etc. in a society that has lost touch with Allâh, this is what is open to them. Allâh has stressed for us that no calamity will befall us except by Allâh’s permission;
"Nothing is taking place in this world except by the permission of Allâh."
And the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam further emphasized this principle by saying;
"If the whole of mankind gathered to do some thing to help us, they could help in anything which Allâh had not already written for us. And if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm us, then they would not be able to harm with anything which Allâh had not already written for us."
Therefore what is required of us is to depend on Allâh, put our trust in Allâh. This is what we have to draw out of this attribute of Allâh being the creator. This creation exists because of that attribute. Its practical significance to us lies in putting our trust in Allâh.
There is another aspect, besides the fact that the creation exists because Allâh is the creator. We can also see from what the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam has informed us, that in the creation there is manifestation of Allâh’s attributes of mercy, forgiveness, kindness etc etc. Allâh created man in paradise, they disobeyed Allâh, but Allâh had taught them how to repent, how to turn back to him and seek his forgiveness, then he would forgive them. Having done that, they were forgiven, Adam became the first prophet, and mankind was absolved of that sin. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of human existence. Human beings are given a consciousness of Allâh. When Allâh created all human beings, as he states in the Qur'ân, he took from Âdam (Adam) all of his descendents, and made them all bear witness that Allâh is their Lord. So we are all born with that consciousness. He has also given us a consciousness of what is right and what is wrong.
"We have inspired each and every soul to an awareness of corruption and righteousness."
Allâh gave revelation through his commandments, not to eat of the tree. However, human beings forget. And when they forget Allâh then they fall into sin. We can absolve ourselves of that sin by means of repentance, and Allâh forgives us when we repent sincerely. The Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam said;
"The one who repents is like the one without sin."
"If you did not commit sins and turn to Allâh seeking his forgiveness, then he would replace you with another people who would sin, ask Allâh’s forgiveness and he would forgive them."
So in our sinning and asking Allâh’s forgiveness, the attribute of Allâh’s mercy and forgiveness becomes manifest. Allâh knew what we were going to do before he created us, he knew that he was creating a species who would sin. If he didn’t wan t them to sin, if it was not his intention to permit them to sin, then he could have created angels, more angels. But the had already created angels, so he chose to create a being, that would disobey his commandments through forgetfulness or just simple disobedience, but would turn back to him in repentance, and his attribute of forgiveness would become manifest. Similarly, his mercy;
The Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam is quoted as saying that when Allâh created the universe, He made an obligation on Himself, recorded in a document, kept by Him, that "My mercy precedes my wrath." He sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam also was reported as saying;
"Allâh created mercy with a hundred parts. One of which was sent down upon the jinn and human beings and other living creatures. It is out of this one part that they love each other, show kindness to one another, and even the animals treat their offspring with affection. Allâh has reserved the remaining ninety-nine parts for his true worshippers on the Day of Judgment."
This is the mercy of Allâh manifest in his creation. What is also manifest in creation, in the act of creation, the creation of man, is his attribute of justice, fairness, which comes out as the judgment at the end of this world. I am sure we have all read the ahadîth in which the Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"Allâh created some people for hell and some people for paradise."
For allot of people, this is something very heavy. And the companions, they asked the prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam then what is the point in doing good deeds? If Allâh created some for heaven and some for hell then what is the pin in doing anything? It has already been decided. TheProphet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"Each one of you will find it easy to do what he was created for."
So if you choose the evil way, you find it easy and you carry on in that way, then that was what you were created for. But ultimately it is your choice. You choose hell. The fact hat Allâh has recorded, before anything was created, who would be in hell and who would be in heaven does not change the fact that it is we who choose. The judgment is only to manifest to those who go to hell, that they deserve to be in hell. It is only for them basically. Because if Allâh created you, and put you in paradise, with all that is in paradise, and you see those people in hell suffering, are you going to ask Allâh, why did you put me in paradise? No. your going to say "all praise be to Allâh!" you don’t want to question or to wonder, all you will be is ecstatic that you are of those in paradise. So the judgment is not for you, it is for those who are going to hell. If you happen to be amongst those who were created for and put in hell, you would say, why me? Why did you put me in hell? And Allâh would say; because you would have done so and so in your life. But you would say; no, no I wouldn’t. If  you give me a chance I would do good deeds. You would not give up arguing.
So Allâh has allowed us to live out our lives. So when we stand before him, our book of deeds is spread before us, we know without a shadow of a doubt, that we chose hell. That Allâh’s judgment is just. There is no injustice in it, in any way shape or form. Allâh says he oppresses no one. We will know that we chose hell.
And the only thing that remains for us, and I pray that it is not in fact us, who are going to hell, is to beg Allâh for another chance. Allâh says;
"If you cold only see when the sinners will bow their heads before their lord, saying; O Lord, we have now seen and heard, so send us back and we will do righteous deeds. Verily, we now believe with certainty."
This is the only response, which will be left for them. Or as Allâh said;
"And those whose light scales of good deeds, they ruined themselves and they will be in hell eternally. The fire will burn their faces, and they will grin with disfigured lips, I will say to them; Were My Verses not recited to you, and you rejected them? They will reply; Our Lord, our misery overcame us and we were a people astray. Our Lord, bring us out of this, and if we ever return we will truly be unjust."
When we die, there remains behind us a barrier, the Barzakh, none of us will come back, it is a one-way ticket. Those poor individuals who think they will get another chance, this is the new age religion, they think it is new, but it is just plain old Hindu delusion, that when you die, you get another chance to come back again. The effects of this actually, among Hindus, where I am in the UAE, there are a lot of Hindus here, everyday in the news paper you read about a Hindu man or woman who ties a rope to a ceiling fan, which is found in many of the homes, put it around their neck, kicked away the chair and passed out of this world. Suicide is common amongst them. Why? Because they think they have another chance. It will be a rude awakening for them when they meet the angel of death and find themselves in the next life, realizing that there is no coming back.
In the creation of man is manifest the grace of Allâh. This is a particular point which all of us should reflect on and be thankful to Allâh for. His grace, and Christians, they like to refer to us Muslims as those who don’t believe in the grace of God, we are those who look at God’s judgment and it is just about deeds, you do good then you go to heaven, you do bad and you go to hell, that is it, no grace there at all. For them the grace of God is there for all those who accept that he became a man, and was crucified by man, to provide salvation for human beings who’s sins had become so great that they could not remove that sin through any act themselves. So it was with the spilling of the "Blood of God" that we could be absolved of our sins. For them, if you accept that God spilt his blood for mankind’s salvation, then you have earned the grace of God. Does not matter what you do as long as you have accepted this belief in the grace of God.
Muslims also believe in the grace of God. Actually it plays a major and significant role. Often it is not stressed but it is important for us to realize how the grace of Allâh is manifest in our creation. The Prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam said;
"Observe moderation, but if you fail, try to do as much as you can moderately and be happy. For none of you will enter Paradise only because of his deeds."
Of course when the companions heard that they said;
"O messenger of Allâh, not even you? And the prophet sallallâhu 'alayhi wa sallam said, not even me. Were it not that Allâh wrapped me in his mercy. And bear in mind that the deed most loved by Allâh is one done constantly even if it is small"
What does this mean? It means that God’s grace is manifest in our lives in that were He to call us to account, one good deed, one evil deed, equal to each other, then we would not enter paradise, not even the prophets of Allâh. But Allâh through his grace and mercy has multiplied the value of the good deeds. Allâh says;
"Whoever brings a good deed, shall the value of ten like it. And whoever brings an evil deed will be punished with one like it. And they will not be wronged." [Sûrah Âl-'Imrân, verse 160]
This is Allâh’s grace. Good deeds erase evil deeds. One good deed will erase at least ten evil deeds. Allâh’s grace is not arbitrary, simply because you say I believe you have his grace, no matter what you do, no. The more good you do, the more of his grace is manifest in you. If you chose evil and reject the good, then you don’t receive His grace, it doesn’t matter what you say. If you say, I am a Muslim, I believe, but really you don’t believe, it is just some words you are saying, them you will not be subject to the grace of Allâh.
So the creation is a manifestation of Allâh’s attribute of being the creator. In the creation of man within the scheme of things, there is manifest Allâh’s attribute of mercy, his attribute of justice and this is the reason for the creation of man from the point of view of Allâh. From human perspective, why did God create man in terms of for what purpose? Then this is the one we all know and are familiar with;
"We did not create the jinn and men except to worship us" [Sûrah adh-Dhariyyat, verse 56)
So relative to Allâh, we were created in a means or a way in which Allâh has chosen to manifest his attributes of creation, mercy, grace etc and he could have chosen another one. But relative to us as human beings, we know that our purpose is to worship Allâh. As we said, Allâh does not need our worship, a Allâh didn’t need to create. When he created us to worship him, he didn’t create us, out of a need for our worship, because Allâh has no needs. In a famous hadîth qudsî in which Allâh says;
If all of you, jinn and mankind, were to worship like the most righteous amongst you, it would not increase the dominion of Allâh in any way shape or form. And if all of us, jinn and mankind ...
Therefore when we look for the purpose of worship, we have to look into man. Allâh created us to worship him, because we need to worship him. It is something he has given us as a means of benefiting ourselves. We are the ones who benefit from it. Worship has been established, fundamentally for the growth, the spiritual growth of man. This growth takes place through the remembrance of Allâh. When you look at all the different aspects of worship, you will see the core of it is focused on the remembrance of Allâh.
"Establish the prayer for My remembrance." 
This is the essence for the consciousness of God. Allâh says that he has:
"…prescribed for us fasting, as he prescribed it for those before us, so that we may fear him."
Worship is there for us to remember Allâh. And it is in the remembrance of Allâh, that we achieve that consciousness. Because it is when we forget Allâh, that Shaytân causes us to disobey Allâh and fall into sin. So it is only in His remembrance that we can attain salvation. All of the various acts of worship from saying "Bismillâh" when we eat is to help us remember Allâh in order to grow spiritually.
Allâh has said that he has created us to test us, to see which of us is best in deeds. He is not testing us to know, in the sense that he doesn’t  already know, but this world is a test for us in order again that we can grow spiritually.
We cannot develop this spiritual characteristic of generosity unless some of us have more then others and then we are required to give of the wealth we have. When we give, we grow. Similarly, if we were not in a position where others had more then us then we wouldn’t have the ability to develop the higher spiritual quality of contentment, patience, satisfaction in what Allâh has given us.
So it is all there in order to bring out the higher spiritual qualities, which enable us to attain the state, which makes us suitable and eligible to return to paradise. The paradise from which we were created, we were created in paradise and for paradise. Through our choices we have left, in this life, a field of testing, where we can grow to a state where we deserve paradise.
The purpose of this life is the worship of Allâh, this life is a test. A test for us, will we worship Allâh, or will we forget Him. This is where our focus has to begin.

Shahada Confession of a Muslim

Shahada Confession of a Muslim
La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah
(None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)
Shahada has three aspects: A, B, and C
A. To be a Muslim is to pledge the above covenant with Allah, the Creator of the heavens and earth, the Ruler of all that exists, the Lord of Majesty and Highness, stating La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad -ur-Rasool-Allah, but first one must understand what this means.
Believing "La ilaha il Allah" (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah)
Point 1: Tauhid-ar-Rububiyya
  • A confession with your heart that the Creator (of everything) is Allah, subhana watala, it is that you have to say: "I testify that the Creator of all the universe, including the stars, the planets, the sun, the moon, the heavens, the earth with all its known and unknown forms of life, is Allah. He is the Organizer and Planner of all its affairs. It is He Who gives life and death, and He (i.e. Allah Alone) is the Sustainer, and the Giver of Security, etc." And this is called your confession for the "Oneness of the Lordship of Allah," Tauhid-ar-Rububiyya.
Point 2: Tauhid-al-Uluhiyya
  • A confession with your heart that you have to say: "I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone." The word "Worship" (i.e. Ibadah) carries a great number of meanings in the Arabic language: It conveys that all kinds of worship are meant for Allah (and none else, whether it be an angel, Messenger, Prophet Jesus - son of Mary, Ezra, Muhammad, saint, idol, the sun, the moon and all other kinds of false deities). So pray to none but Allah, invoke none but Allah, ask for help from none (unseen) but Allah, swear by none but Allah, offer an animal as sacrifice to none but Allah, …etc. and that means, -- all that Allah and Allah’s Messenger, saws, order you to do (in Qur’an and in As-Sunnah [legal ways of Prophet Muhammad (saws) you must do, and all that Allah, swt, Allah’s Messenger (saws) forbid you, you must not do. And this is called (your confession for the) "Oneness of the worship of Allah", Tauhid-al-Uluhiyya. And that you (mankind) worship none but Allah, subhana watala. Those whom they invoke besides Allah have not created anything, but are themselves created. [The Noble Qur'an 16:20]
Point 3: Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat
  • A confession with your heart that you have to say: "O Allah! I testify that all the best of names and the most perfect qualities with which You have named or qualified Yourself in Your Book (i.e. the Qur’an) or as Your Prophet Muhammad (saws) has named or qualified You, with his statement, I confirm that all those (names and qualifications) are for You without changing their meanings or neglecting them completely or giving resemblance to others." As Allah, swt, said:
"There is nothing like unto Him and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer." (v.42:11)
  • This holy Ayat (verse) confirms the quality of hearing and the quality of sight for Allah, subhana watala without resemblance to others, and likewise. Allah, subhana watala, also said:
"To one whom I have created with Both My Hands," (v.38:75)
  • and Allah also said:
"The Hand of Allah is over their hands." (v. 48:10)
  • This confirms two Hands for Allah, swt, but there is no similarity for them. Similarly Allah, swt, said:
"The Most Beneficent (Allah) Istawa (rose over) the (Mighty) Throne." (v.20:5)
  • So Allah rose over the Throne really in a manner that suits His Majesty. And Allah is over Allah’s Throne over the seventh heaven, as the slave-girl pointed towards the heavens, when Allah’s Messenger (Muhammad, saws) asked her as to where Allah is? He only comes down over the first (nearest) heaven to us on the day of ‘Arafat (Hajj, i.e. the 9th of Dhul-Hijja), and also during the last third part of the night as mentioned by the Prophet saws, but Allah is with us by His Knowledge only, not by His Personal-Self (bi-Dhatihi). It is not like that, as some people say that Allah is present everywhere here, there, and even inside the breasts of men. He sees and hears all that we do or utter, etc. And this is called (your confession for the) "Oneness of the Names and Qualities of Allah" Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat and this is the right Faith, the Faith which was followed by the Messengers of Allah (from Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus to Muhammad, peace be upon them all, and the companions of Prophet Muhammad (saws) and the righteous followers [i.e. the salaf ] of these Messengers, saws.
Believing "Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah" (Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)"
  • A confession with your heart that you have to say: "O Allah! I testify that Muhammad is Your Messenger." That means that none has the right to be followed after Allah, but Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as he is the last of Allah’s Messengers. As Allah said:
"Muhammad (saws) is not the father of any man among you but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets and Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything.’ (v.33:40).
"And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad, saws, gives you, take it
and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain from it." (v. 59:7)
  • And Allah said:
    "Say (O Muhammad to mankind): ‘If you (really) love Allah, then follow me.’" (v. 3:31)
As for others than Muhammad (saws), their statements are to be taken or rejected as to whether these are in accordance with Allah’s Book (i.e. the Qur’an) or with the Sunnah (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.) of the Prophet, saws, i.e. Sunnah or not. As the Divine Inspiration has stopped after the death of Muhammad (saws), and it will not resume except at the time of the Descent of Jesus, son of Mary and he (i.e. Jesus) will rule with justice according to the Islamic laws, during the last days of the world as it has been mentioned in the authentic Hadith (i.e. narration) of Prophet Muhammad (saws) in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Hadith No. 425.
B. It is essential to utter, La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad saws, is the Messenger of Allah, swt). As it has come in the statement of Prophet Muhammad (saws) to his uncle Abu Talib at the time of the latter’s death: "O uncle, if you utter it (La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool Allah), then I shall be able to argue on your behalf before Allah, on the Day of Resurrection." Similarly, when Abu Dhar Al-Ghiffari embraced Islam, he went to Al-Masjid-al-Haram and he proclaimed it loudly in front of the Quraish infidels until he was beaten severely.
C.It is essential that the limbs and all other parts and organs of one’s body testify to it, and this is very important as regards its meaning (i.e. the meaning of La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool Allah). So whoever has confessed this (with his or her Lord), he shall not commit sins like robbing, killing, stealing, illegal sexual intercourse, eating pig meat, drinking alcoholic beverages, taking undue advantage of orphan’s property, cheating in trade, bribery and earning money through illegal means, telling lies, back-biting etc., or otherwise the limbs, all other parts and organs of his body will testify against him that he was a liar in his words which he pledged to Allah, swt. In case he commits the above sins, he should know that it is a sin that obliges him to repent to Allah, swt, and ask Allah’s Forgiveness, as (his) body parts (i.e. skin, private parts, hands, tongue, ears, etc.) will testify to the above mentioned crimes (i.e. actions) against his self on the Day of Resurrection.
And with the confession of this great sentence (i.e. principle) a person enters in the fold of (i.e. embraces) the Islamic religion accordingly.  It is essential for him to believe in all the Messengers of Allah (peace be upon them all) and not to differentiate between them. As it is mentioned in Allah’s Book (Qur’an):
     "Do then those who disbelieve think that they can take My slaves (i.e. the angels; Allah’s Messengers; Jesus, son of Mary, etc.) as ‘Auliya (lords gods, protectors supporters etc.) besides Me? Verily We have prepared Hell as an entertainment for the disbelievers (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism). Say (O Muhammad (saws)); ‘Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds?’ Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought they were acquiring good by their deeds?"
     "They are those who deny the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and the meeting with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall not give them any weight."
     "That shall be their recompense, Hell; because they disbelieved and took my Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc.) and My Messengers by way of jest and mockery."
     "Verily! Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, they shall have the Gardens of Al-Firdaus (Paradise) for their entertainment."
     "Wherein they shall dwell (forever). No desire will they have to be removed there from."
     "Say (O Muhammad to mankind): If the sea were ink for (writing) the Words of my Lord, surely the sea would be exhausted, before the Words of my Lord would be finished even if We brought (another sea) like it for its said."
     "Say (O Muhammad ): I am only a man like you, it has been inspired to me that your Ilah (God) is One Ilah (God, --i.e. Allah). So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord." (v. 18:102-110).

What are some of the other basics of becoming a Muslim?
     The acceptance of the righteous deeds (such as your Shahada/confession to become a Muslim) is stipulated with the following two basic conditions which must be fulfilled:
  1. The intentions while doing such deeds must be totally for Allah’s sake only without any show off or gaining praise or fame, etc.
  2. Such a deed must be performed in accordance with the As-Sunnah (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.) of Allah’s Messenger Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah, the last (end) of all the Prophets and the Messengers, saws.
     You are only held accountable for that which you know. And you are also held accountable to make the time to learn that which you don't know, in areas you know you need to learn about.
     So, if you are not a Muslim, it is your responsibility to seek the knowledge of Al-Islam, to ask questions about things you do not understand or agree with regarding the basic fundamental beliefs of Islam (as explained above).  

How do I become a Muslim?
     By first attaining the above understanding of Shahada ("La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah") and then confessing it to Allah, glory and praise to Him.  
     To take your Shahada (i.e. make the confession of faith), just make your best attempt at pronouncing, in Arabic, the statement, "Ashadu an (I bear witness that) La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah".  You do not have to have witnesses to this event, and you should not make a big ceremony out of it, because it is a very personal commitment.  It is, however, recommended, if you can, to make your Shahada with Muslim witnesses, but do not delay becoming a Muslim for this or any such reason.  After you become a Muslim, then you are held responsible for learning when and how to do salah and wudu, acting upon the pillars of Islam and faith, and for implementing what you learn, when you learn it.

What should I do after becoming a Muslim?
Immediately upon becoming a Muslim, you should take a bath or shower (i.e. Ghusl).  
If able, you should then offer a two Rak’at prayer.
Then you must study and act upon the five principles (pillars) of Islam, and study and believe in the six articles of Faith.
The Five Pillars of Islam (or the five basic duties of a Muslim):
[Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/7, Narrated by Ibn 'Umar]
Allah’s Messenger (saws) said: Islam is based on the following five (principles):
  1. To testify La ilaha ill Allah wa anna Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger).
  2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly (Iqamat-as-Salat, i.e. Salah).
    • Says al-Khattabi, "Basically, one's prayer does not suffice if he does not recite al-Fatihah. If one can recite neither al-Fatihah nor other portions of the Qur'an, he should recite at least seven verses of a similar meaning from the Qur'an. If he can not learn any part of the Qur'an (due to some innate inability, poor memory, or because it's a foreign language), he should say the tasbeeh (Subhana Allah - Glory be to Allah), the tamheed (al-Hamdu lillah - All praise is due to Allah), and tahleel (La ilaha illal-lah - There is no God except Allah). It is related that he said, "The best remembrance after the speech of Allah is Subhana Allah, al-Hamdu lillah, La ilaha illal-lah and Allahu akbar." This is supported by Rafa'ah ibn Rafa', who narrated that the Prophet said, "If you have something from the Qur'an, recite it. If not, then say the tamheed, takbir and the tahleel and then bow."  [This Hadith is related by Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i and al-Baihaqi. The former considers it as hassan]
  3. To pay Zakat (a specific charity paid yearly for the benefit of poor Muslims; 2.5% of wealth).
  4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. pilgrimage to Makka).
  5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.
The Six articles of Faith, (found in Sahih Muslim) are the belief in:
  1. Allah
    • To believe in the ONENESS of Allah, swt.  (i.e. Tauhid-ar-Rububiyya, Tauhid-al-Uluhiyya, Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat).
    • Part of the belief in Allah is the belief in all that with which He has described Himself in His Book or with which His Prophet (peace be upon him) has described Him without any distortionnegationspeculation (as to the exact nature of these attributes), nor analogy(i.e. between Allah's attributes and those of His creation bearing the same names)
      1. Distortion
        • The Jahmiy (follower of the deviations of Al-Jahm ibn Safwan) negates Allah's statement about himself that he "sat on the throne" by adding an extra letter to the word in the Qur'an.
          • [Istawaa 'alaa al-'arsh] innovated to [Istawlaa 'alaa al-'arsh]
        • The innovators who changed the case of a noun in the Qur'an in an effort to negate Allah's attribute of speech:
          • [Wa kallama Allahu Musa takleeman] innovated to [Wa kallama Allaha Musa takleeman]
        • Others distorted meanings of Allah's attributes without actually changing the words. Examples include those who said that Allah's anger (Ghadhab) means His intention to punish, His mercy (Rahma) means his intention to have mercy, His hand (Yad) is His generosity or His power, etc.
      2. Negation/Denial (At Ta'teel)
        • Negation of the Exalted Perfection of Allah Most High via the negation of His Names and Glorious Attributes.
        • Negation through negation of appropriate interaction with Allah and neglect of worship of Him and obedience to Him, or the association of others with Him in acts of worship and/or obedience.
        • Negation of the relationship of the creation to its Creator, such as the negation of the philosophers who claimed that this physical universe has no beginning, and that it has always and will always work according to its own internal rules. They turn Allah into an essence with no attributes - which is an impossibility.
      3. Speculation and Analogy (At-Takyeef wa At-Tamtheel)
        • At-Takyeef means attempts to ascribe a detailed understanding of the exact nature of the various attributes with which Allah has described Himself. Just use the words and understanding given in the Qur'an and not your own philosophies as to what Allah is.
        • At-Tamtheel means to make a direct comparison or analogy between one of Allah's attributes and a human attribute having the same name, such as the comparison of Isa (Jesus) by the Christians to Allah Most High, or that of Uzair by the Jews or that of the idols by the polytheists to Allah Most High. Likewise the Mushabbiha among the Muslims who compare Allah with His creation by saying that He has a face like our faces, hands like our hands, hearing and sight like ours, etc.
  2. Allah’s Angels
    • Angels are real beings, not illusions, a metaphysical force, or figments of human imagination. They are created from light.
    • A Muslim must believe specifically in all the angels named and/or described in the Qur'an and the Sunnah:.
      • Jibreel ("Gabriel"): in charge of delivering revelation.
      • Mika'il: in charge of bringing the rain.
      • Israfil: the blower of the horn on Qiyama (Judgement Day).
      • Malik-ul-Maut: the Angel of Death who takes people's souls at death.
      • The Noble Recorders: those who record people's actions.
      • The Protectors (Al-Mu'aqqibat): who keep people from death until its decreed time.
      • Ridhwan: in charge of Paradise.
      • Malik: in charge of Hell.
      • Munkar and Nakir: the questioners in the grave.
      • The Carriers of the Throne.
      • Those who record the future of the fetus.
      • Those who enter the Haraam: 70,000 every day.
      • Those who move about, descending upon gatherings at which Allah and His Book are mentioned and studied.
      • Belief in the angels is an integral part of iman (faith). [See 2/285 Al-Baqarah]
      • Kufr (disbelief) with respect to the angels is kufr (a state of disbelief). [See 4/136 An-Nisaa]
  3. Allah’s Messengers
    Belief in the prophets, prayers and salutations of Allah be upon them.
    • Belief in the process of prophet hood.
      • Allah in His wisdom did not neglect His creation.
      • Prophets sent to guide us in this life and the next.
    • Specific belief in the 25 prophets named in the Qur'an: (1) Adam, (2) Nuh, (3) Idris, (4) Saleh, (5) Ibrahim, (6) Hud, (7) Lut, (8) Yunus, (9) Isma'il, (10) Is-haq, (11) Ya'qub, (12) Yusuf, (13) Ayub, (14) Shu'aib, (15) Musa, (16) Harun, (17) Alyas', (18) Dhu Al-Kifl, (19) Daud, (20) Zakariya, (21) Sulaiman, (22) Ilyas, (23) Yahya, (24) Isa, and (25) Muhammad, prayers and salutations of Allah be upon him and upon all the messengers of Allah.
    • General belief that there are many other prophets and messengers, but never assuming anything without knowledge from Allah (i.e. Qur'an and Sunnah).
    • The subject matter of the prophet hood.
      • Warnings and glad tidings.
      • So the disobedient will have no excuse before Allah. (Prophets sent to every nation.)
      • Enjoining the worship of Allah and the avoidance of At-Taghoot (Shaitaan, etc.) [Study: 4/165, An-Nisaa; 16/36, An-Nahl]
    • Attributes of the Prophet Muhammad:
      • Seal of the prophets; Imam of the pious; Foremost among the sons of Adam; Imam and Khatib of the prophets when they assembled; Possessor of the Praiseworthy Position which all of mankind will wish they had attained (and which is mentioned in the Du'a of hearing the adhan); Owner of the pool in paradise; Intercessor for all mankind on the day of Qiyama (Judgment Day).
      • Allah sent him with the best of the books and the best of His law. Allah made his nation "the best nation brought forth for mankind." Allah gave him (and us) all of the good that was given only partially to the previous nations. His nation is the last in creation, the first in resurrection.
      • From the moment of his prophet hood, Allah made him the criterion (Al-Farooq) for distinguishing Allah's allies and their actions from His enemies and their actions: None can have any relationship to Allah except through belief in the Prophet (saws) and following what he brought in public and in secret. Whoever claims love or closeness to Allah while disobeying the message is actually drawing closer to Shaitaan, farther from Allah.
  4. Allah’s revealed Books
    Muslims should have general belief in the phenomenon of the sending of the revealed books. Keep in mind, all the revealed books were allowed by Allah to be corrupted, except the Qur'an.
    • Six specific books mentioned in the Qur'an:
      • As-Suhuf of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Musa (Moses).
      • Az-Zaboor given to Daud (David).
      • At-Taurat (The Torah) revealed to Musa.
      • Al-Injeel revealed to Isa (Jesus).
      • Al-Qur'an - the final revelation.
    • Attributes of the Qur'an:
      • Flawless and untampered with: [See 41/42 Fusilat]
      • The final authority over any remnants of the previous books. [See 5/48 Al-Maidah]
      • A guidance and a mercy. [See 10/37 Yunus]
      • The Qur'an must be followed and applied. [See 6/155 Al-An'aam]
  5. The Day of Resurrection (Qiyama)
    • Belief in the resurrection (Al-Ba'th). Reconstruction of the body and return of the soul to it. People will come forth out of their graves like locusts. Faces bent down. Rushing to the Caller. [See 53/76 Al-Qamar; 70/43 Al-Ma'arij; 17/49 Al-Israa; 36/78 Yasin; 20/108 Taha]
    • The resurrection is of the body and the soul, not some metaphysical resurrection of the latter.
    • "The sun will come down toward the people on the day of Qiyama until it is only about a mile up. The people will be in their own perspiration according to their acts: some of them will be in it up to their ankles, some up to their groin and others up to their chins, and he pointed to his mouth." [Hadith - Narrated by Muslim]
    • A disbeliever once came to the Prophet (saws) with an old bone, crumbled it with his hand and said: "O Muhammad, will Allah bring this back to life after it has rotted?! The Prophet said: "Yes, Allah will resurrect this and he will cause you to die, bring you back to life, and put you into the fire of Jahannam!"
  6. Al-Qadar (Divine Preordainments and Decree i.e. whatever Allah, subhana watala, has ordained must come to pass).
    • A Muslim believes in Allah's predestination of all things and events (Qadhaa), His decree (Qadar), His wisdom in His actions, and His will. Nothing in the universe can occur, even the voluntary actions of His slaves, except after Allah's knowledge, and His decree of that event. A Muslim further believes that Allah is Just in His predestination and His decree, Wise in all of His actions. His wisdom follows His will: Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not. There is no power nor any movement except by Allah. This is substantiated by the textual and logical proofs which follow:
      1. Allah (glory and praise to Allah) informed us of this in the Qur'an:
        • Verily, We have created all things with Qadar (Divine Preordainments of all things before their creation, as written in the Book of Decrees Al-Lauh Al-Mahfûz). [Qur'an 54/49]
        • And there is not a thing, but with Us are the stores thereof. And We send it not down except in a known measure. [Qur'an 15/21]
        • No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfûz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. [Qur'an 57/22]
        • No calamity befalls, but with the Leave [i.e. decision and Qadar (Divine Preordainments)] of Allah, and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart [to the true Faith with certainty, i.e. what has befallen him was already written for him by Allah from the Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], and Allah is the All-Knower of everything. [Qur'an 64/11]
        • And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record. [Qur'an 6/59]
        • Evidence also in: Qur'an 9/51, 7/43, 21/101, 18/39, 81/27-29
      2. The Prophet (saws) has informed us about the reality of Allah's predestination and decree in many Hadith:
        • "Verily, each one of you is formed in his mother's womb forty days as a drop, then he is something suspended for a similar period, then he is a piece of flesh like a chewed piece of meat for another period of forty days, then the angel is sent to insert the soul. This angel is ordered to record four things: the sustenance which he will receive during his lifetime, the length of his life, all actions that he will do, and whether he will end up miserable (in hell) or joyous (in paradise). I swear by the One other than whom there is no deity, one of you may do the works of the people of paradise right up until there is only an arm's length between him and paradise, but his destiny overtakes him, so he does the actions of the people of the fire and enters it. And, verily, one of you may do the works of the people of hell until there is nothing between them and hell except for one arm's length, but his destiny overtakes him, and so he does the works of the people of paradise, and enters it." [Muslim]
        • "Young man, I will teach you some words: Preserve (your obligations toward) Allah and He will preserve you. Guard (your obligations toward) Allah, and you will find Him on your side. When you ask, ask Allah. When you seek aid and succour, seek it from Allah. And know, that if the entire nation got together to benefit you in some way, they could never benefit you at all except for that which Allah had already decreed for you. And, if they all got together to harm you in some way, they could do you no harm except for that which Allah had already decreed for you. The pens have been lifted, and the tablets have dried." [At-Tirmidhi, and he rated it Sahih]
        • "The first thing which Allah created was the pen. Then, He said to it: Write. It asked: My Lord, what should I write? He said: Write the proportions of all things up until the Hour." [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, and it is hassan]
        • "Adam disputed with Musa. Musa said to Adam: "O, Adam, you are the father of the human race, Allah created you with His hand, and blew into you of His spirit, and made His angels prostrate to you, why did you expel yourself and us from the garden?" Adam said to him: "You are Musa whom Allah favored with His speech, and wrote for you the Taurah with His hand, so (tell me) by how many years before my creation did you find it written about me: [... then Adam disobeyed his Lord and got lost.] (Qur'an 20:121)? Musa said: "By forty years." Then, Adam said: "So how do you blame me for something which Allah had decreed for me before my creation by forty years?" The Prophet said: "And so, Adam defeated Musa in the dispute."
        • "Act, for each of you will find easy that for which he was created." (Muslim)
        • "O, Abdullah ibn Qais, should I not teach you a word which is one of the treasures of paradise? (It is to say): There is no movement nor any power except from Allah."
        • "Someone said: That which Allah wants and you want. To which the Prophet (saws) replied: That which Allah alone wants." [An-Nasaa'i, and he rated it sahih]
      1. Reason does not reject the idea of predestination and decree and of Allah's wisdom and His will. Just the opposite, reason demands that this is the case without doubt because of the clear evidences of it in the universe around us.
      2. Belief in Allah and in his perfect might and power demands the belief in His predestination and His decree, His wisdom and His will.
     If, after becoming a Muslim, all you know how to do is wudu (the ablution before salah), you do wudu 5 times a day and take the time out to study the prayer briefly or to do what part of it you DO know how to do. If you don't know how to do wudu, then you do what you remember of it (starting with saying "bis mih Allah" [in the name of Allah] and washing your hands 3 times).  You should also study how to do the entire salah regularly at a time separate than the time for salah, until you learn it.
     So, regarding the 2 rakat of salah prayer that is done right after saying Shahada, just like all the salahs, you cannot do it if you do not know how, so you just do that which you knowAllah swt knows your intentions, and no-one expects you to know how to do a single rakat before you're a Muslim nor to suddenly realize how once you JUST became a Muslim.
     Learning these things and more, will come in time, insha'Allah; just make it a priority to learn how to do salah.  If your intentions are sincere, the proof will be that you learn salah soon after becoming a Muslim.  A Muslim who abandons his/her salah abandons his religion and is in a state of disbelief (kufr), i.e. is no longer a Muslim.  So do not abandon learning the salah.  But do not go to the other extreme and expect to learn everything overnight; exercise patience while you are trying to learn and do not be timid in humbly asking Muslims questions to achieve knowledge.  
    Expect to be corrected often by other Muslims, whether you've just become a Muslim or have been one for years. This is because of our love for one another and our obedience to Allah swt, that we correct one another.  We should remain humble and accept correction such as by saying, "Allhumdulilah" ("All praise is due to Allah alone") and/or "JazakAllah" ("May Allah reward you) to the Muslim correcting us.  We should not correct others except when we are certain that our correction is right, and we should do so with kindness and using the speech of the Qur'an and Sunnah and not reformatted personal opinions.  The Qur'an is complete for our lives, providing a lifetime of learning and growing as a person... growing in submission to our Lord.
     Insha'Allah (Allah willing), you may be blessed to say your Shahada in the presence of another Muslim, who can lead you in your first salah. If not, do not worry... you're only held accountable for that which you know and for seeking out that which you don't know yet are able to seek.  For instance, a "mentally challenged" person is not held accountable to Allah swt for that which they cannot comprehend!  Likewise with a baby.   
     It is important not to delay to become a Muslim once you understand the Shahada and agree with it -- because you ARE held accountable for that which you do know!  Act upon what you understand and trust Allah swt to guide you, protect you, and aid you in embracing the most beautiful way of life, the way that leads to peace... Islam.