The Dimensions of the Religion – Excerpt from the Forthcoming Book “Being Muslim” by Asad Tarsin

Being Muslim – “Welcome to the Reading Room”

This following excerpt is from the forthcoming book “Being Muslim”. It is suitable for those who are simply curious about Islam, newly practicing, or lifelong Muslims who would like a refresher. It assumes no background knowledge in Islam and systematically covers some of the most essentials aspects needed to begin studying the faith.


(Note: all material is copyrighted and may not be reproduced or printed without written permission by the author)

© Asad Tarsin 2010 Work In Progress – Do Not Copy or Distribute Without Permission

The Dimensions of the Religion

To better understand the final message from God to humanity, we will examine a concise yet comprehensive summary of the religion given by Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace). This took place as one of the most famous and significant historical events in Islam, one day while some of the closest Companions2(sahābah) were sitting with the messenger of God. The story is narrated by ‘Umar (may God be pleased with him), who tells us the following:

One day while we were sitting with the messenger of God there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet. Resting his knees against his and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said, “O Muhammad, tell me about islām3”.

The messenger of God said: “Islām is to testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is the messenger of God, to perform the prayers, to pay the purifying charity, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the Sacred House if you are able to do so.”

He said, “You have spoken rightly.”And we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken rightly. He then said, “Then tell me about imān.”

He replied, “It is to believe in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof.”

He said, “You have spoken rightly.” He then said, “Then tell me about ihsān.”

The Prophet said, “It is to worship God as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you”.

He said, “Then tell me about the Hour4.”

The Prophet replied, “The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.”

He then said, “Then tell me about its signs.”

He replied, “That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsman competing in constructing lofty buildings.”

Then [the man] left and I stayed behind for a time. Then [the messenger of God] said, “O ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?”

I said, “God and His messenger know best”.

He said, “He was Gabriel (Jibrīl), who came to you to teach you your religion.”

With four questions, the Archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl), upon him be peace, brought forth a summary of the foundational elements of the religion from God’s final prophet to humanity. The religion, we learn, is comprised of three elements: islām,imān, and ihsān. The fourth aspect mentioned, namely the signs of the Hour, provides us with the understanding that there is a downward trend of the human story, and thus the believing community as well. There are many such statements from Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) which indicate the moral decline of the latter days, and the consequent need for believers to hold more tightly to their principles, values, and beliefs, despite the increased difficulty in doing so.

These three elements are called the dimensions of Islam. The first of the three dimensions discussed was islām, which is presented as a sub-category within the religion itself, Islam. In Arabic, the word linguistically means “to surrender,” or “to submit.” We see from the definition laid out by Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), that it is the dimension of our religion involving the external actions of our bodies, acts of surrender. To state the Testimony of Faith5, to pray, to fast, to pay, and to make pilgrimage are all acts we perform through the medium of our bodies. These are called the Five Pillars of Islam. We understand from them that actions of external conformity, which include ritual worship and more, are absolutely indispensable to a complete characterization of the religion.

Next, we heard about imān. In Arabic, the word linguistically means “to believe.” Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) starts his definition by using that phrase exactly: “it is to believe….” What follows is a series of beliefs that a person must affirm in order for their faith to be complete. Unlike the dimension of islām, these are not acts, but convictions of the mind which settle in the heart. We thus learn that the affirmation of realities as they truly exist is also indispensable to the characterization of the religion of Islam.

Lastly, we learn about ihsān. The word in Arabic linguistically means “to make beautiful or good.” We are told that involves the internal constitution of a believer’s heart – his spiritual state. It is the basis of your relationship with God Almighty. Here, Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) defines the dimension by telling us its very result. So, to attain a particular spiritual constitution, of complete awareness and reverence of God Almighty, is an indispensable component of the religion, the one that gives it purpose.

Each of these components speaks to an aspect of the human experience. The first is devotional acts – of the body; the second is faith– of the mind; and the third is purity – of the soul. And so Islam is a religion that speaks to every element of our humanity. It is essential to understand that these three dimensions must all simultaneously be fulfilled harmoniously in order to have a complete characterization of the religion. To neglect any one of these will lead to imbalance and misplaced emphasis, a sure path to misguided religiosity. For example, to neglect the affirmation of our beliefs would make Islam a kind of cultural tradition void of its main purpose. To neglect the external conformity to God’s commands leads to an abstract religion guided by personal whims with no arena within which to prove faith through application. And lastly, a neglect of the spiritual leads to a version of the religion that, void of reverence and love of God the Sublime, becomes rigid, cold, and legalistic. It is thus only with the complete surrender of our minds, bodies, and spirits to God that the complete vision of Islam can be realized.


2 – A companion (sing. Sahābī, pl. sahābah) is a believing Muslim who met the Prophet during his lifetime. A follower (tabi’ī) is a believer who met a companion of the Prophet. The companions are the best generation of believers overall, while the followers are the second best generation.

3 – For the purposes of the discussion presented, the Arabic terms have been retained and not translated, since their definition is the purpose of the dialogue and follows shortly thereafter.

4 – The Last Day and the Hour are other names for the Day of Judgment.

5 – Scholars explain that stating the Testimony of Faith (Shahadah) is a precondition to the other four pillars.

© Asad Tarsin 2010 Work In Progress
Do Not Copy or Distribute Without Permission

Biography of Malik ibn Dinar

Malik ibn Dinar

He was a companion of Hasan of Basra. Dinar was a slave, and Malik was born before his father’s emancipation. His conversion began as follows. One evening he had been enjoying himself with a party of friends. When they were all asleep a voice came from a lute which they had been playing: “O Malik! why dost thou not repent?” Malik abandoned his evil ways and went to Hasan of Basra, and showed himself steadfast in repentance.

He attained to such a high degree that once when he was in a ship, and was suspected of stealing a jewel, he no sooner lifted his eyes to heaven than all the fishes in the sea came to the surface, every one carrying a jewel in its mouth. Malik took one of the jewels, and gave it to the man whose jewel was missing; then he set foot on the sea and walked until he reached the shore.

It is related that he said: “The deed that I love best is sincerity in doing,” because an action only becomes an action in virtue of its sincerity. Sincerity bears the same relation to an action as the spirit to the body: as the body without the spirit is a lifeless thing, so an action without sincerity is utterly unsubstantial. Sincerity belongs to the class of internal actions, whereas acts of devotion belong to the class of external actions: the latter are completed by the former, while the former derive their value from the latter. Although a man should keep his heart sincere for a thousand years, it is not sincerity until his sincerity is combined with action; and although he should perform external actions for a thousand years, his actions do not become acts of devotion until they are combined with sincerity.

(Excerpt from Chapter XI of “Kashf al-Mahjub” by the Gnostic Ali Hujwiri)

Justice and Its Relationship to Knowledge – Sayyid Naquib al-Attas

Justice and Its Relationship to Knowledge

By Sayyid Naquib al-Attas

The modern era has witnessed three significant developments that have created unprecedented challenges to the Muslim community: (1) public education, mass media, and mass literacy, (2) the disintegration of Islamic polities, and (3) the formation of learning institutes based on Western concepts, values, and processes. The first development has resulted in the masses acquiring access to classical Islamic texts without possessing the tools and skills to understand them properly. The second development has resulted in the loss of state patronage of Islamic institutions of learning. The third development has resulted in the intelligentsia of Muslim societies adopting Western and secular models.

The result of these three developments is a dissonance in Muslim spiritual development and intellectual unity. In this excerpt from “Islam and Secularism”, Sayyid Naquib al-Attas explains how the rise of injustice and oppression in Muslim societies is a result of a loss of wisdom which he traces to the loss of knowledge. In his work, the remedy he proposes to this problem is the Islamization of knowledge.

Sayyid Muhammad al-Naquib bin Ali al-Attas (born September 5, 1931) is a prominent contemporary Muslim philosopher and thinker from Malaysia. He is the author of twenty-seven authoritative works on various aspects of Islamic thought and civilization, particularly on Sufism, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy and Malay language and literature. (Source)

[Justice in Islam is Primarily a State of Being within Man Himself]

“In Islam – because for it religion encompasses life in its entirety – all virtue is religious; it has to do with the freedom of the rational soul, which freedom means the power to do justice to itself; and this in turn refers to exercise of its rule and supremacy and guidance and maintenance over the animal soul and body. The power to do justice to itself alludes to its constant affirmation and fulfillment of the Covenant it has sealed with God. Justice in Islam is not a concept referring to a state of affairs which can operate only within a two-person-relation or dual-party-relation situation, such as: between one man and another; or between the society and the state; or between the ruler and the ruled; or between the king and his subjects.

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Alhamdulillah: A Statement of the Oneness of God

“The Surah [Fatihah] begins with the words Al-hamdulillah, signifying that all praise essentially belongs to Allah. Whosoever praises anything anywhere in the world is ultimately praising Allah.

[Everything Indicates Towards Allah]

The sensible world contains millions of things which compel man’s attention and admiration for their beauty and usefulness, but if one tries to look behind the veil of appearances, one would find in each and every thing the manifestation of the same creative power. Admiring anything that exists in the created world is no more than showing one’s admiration for a work of art or craft, which in fact is a praise of the artist or the craftsman.

[Only Allah is Worthy of Praise]

This small statement of the Holy Qur’an opens a new perspective for man lost in the labyrinth of multiplicity, and shows him how the many are knit together in the same unity, and how all praise in reality belongs to One whose power is absolute, and that it is only in our ignorance or indifference that we regard this praise to be due to anyone else.

[Only Allah is Worthy of Worship]

If there is only one Being in the whole universe who inherently deserves all praise, it necessarily follows from it that this Being alone should be Worthy of adoration and worship.

Thus we can see that although the phrase, Al-hamdulillah, has been used to signify praise, yet, by implication, it cuts the very root of polytheism or the worship of created beings, and at the same time brings out in a self-evident manner the first and the basic principle of the Islamic creed – Oneness of God.”

(p 63-64 of Volume I of “Ma’ariful Qur’an” by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani)

Understanding the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah: Al-Muhaymin

Al-Muhaymin means “an overpowering authority”.  Think a parent who sets rules for the child’s best interest. Recall, of course, that Allah is absolutely dissimilar from His creation and yet He Sees and Hears everything. One facet of Allah’s overpowering authority is that He controls the various trusts a human being has been given.

One of the greatest trusts humans have been given is the heart which must be authoritatively guarded for it is the greatest of the human faculties. It is through the heart that one ultimately attains cognizance of Allah.  If one has attained a mastery over their own heart, they should strive to protect other peoples’ hearts if they are given permission by a Sheik to be a guide.  Even if one has not attained this level, they may still help others spiritually by advising towards good and forbidding against evil in ways that are best.  However, among the other faculties that must be controlled are one’s sight, speech, emotions, etc.  Though there is a great amount of flexibility in what is allowed, there is still the comprehensive interest of obedience to Allah.

Beyond ourselves, there are those who we have been given authority over.  Anyone who has children must use their authority to protect them from falling into evil.  People who have employees or have been placed in managerial positions must prevent their subordinates from falling into unscrupulous business practices.  The list goes on.

May Allah allow us to control ourselves and allow us to use the authority we have been given over others in a positive manner.

Allah’s Impoverished Servant,
-Ibraheem Shakfeh

Raising Children with Deen and Dunya

by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

I still vividly remember the first night I spent by myself in the hospital after delivering my eldest son Shaan. The guests were gone for the day, the hallway lights were dimmed, the nurses were speaking outside my room in muted tones.

“Knock, knock!” came a cheerful voice from the doorway. “Someone’s hungry and wants his mommy!”

The nurse wheeled in the crib that held my newborn, only a few hours old at the time. She cooed over him as I struggled to sit up, then efficiently handed him into my waiting arms, bustling out of the room after giving me a few words of encouragement.

I pulled the blanket away from his cheek and smiled in awe at this fragile, little creature who was being left alone with me for the first time ever. I felt privileged to be trusted with his care, overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility. No one was watching over my shoulder; he was all mine and I could do whatever I wanted.

I felt it was an appropriate time to take care of something that no one had thought of arranging so far — introductions.

“Assalaamu alaikum,” I whispered to the warm bundle nestled against my chest, “I’m your mommy.” I stroked his face and then asked the rhetorical question that every mother has asked since time immemorial. “Now…how am I going to raise you?”

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Fundraising Results, Thank You, and Next Steps

Tarek El-Messidi (Outreach, SeekersGuidance) thanking supporters of the “Help Haiti, Heal Haiti” Emergency Online Fundraiser.

Videos from the “Help Haiti, Heal Haiti” Emergency Online Fundraiser: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Imam Mohamed Magid, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Imam Tahir Anwar, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Imam Khalid Latif and Others

Just in case you missed the “Help Haiti, Heal Haiti” Emergency Online Fundraiser, here are the videos from the event:

Audio The Purpose of Seeking Islamic Knowledge – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus » Yahya Rhodus – Purpose for Seeking Sacred Knowledge

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus gives insight and guidance on the purpose and reality of seeking Islamic knowledge. [right click to download]

Over $105,000 Raised Through the “Help Haiti, Heal Haiti” Emergency Online Fundraiser – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Others Exhort Us to Support Our Neighbors in Haiti

As-salamu alaikum,
May this reach you in the best state of health and iman. Ameen.

Earlier today, Islamic Relief, SeekersGuidance, MSA National, United for ChangeFawakih Institute, and Relief Works banded together for an emergency online fundraiser to alleviate the suffering of the victims of Haiti Earthquake. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, resulting in wide spread devastation and destruction. Several Muslim organizations immediately initiated relief efforts, including SeekersGuidance.

Alhamdulillah, thanks to you and your contributions, we were able to raise over $105,000 in just two hours. If you were unable to attend the event, we will be uploading pictures and videos soon, but please take a moment and make a donation to Islamic Relief for the noble cause of eliminating global hunger. You can make a donation here.

Special Thanks
We would like to give special thanks to our wonderful scholars and speakers – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam Mohamed Magid, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Imam Tahir Anwar, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, Imam Khalid Latif, Joshua Salam, Nader Khan, Nura Sediqe, Christopher Abdurrehman Blauvelt, and Faraz Siddiqui.

We would also like to thank key members of the SeekersGuidance staff and team, especially Sidi Khuram Zaman, Sidi Abu Bakr Batasi (Outreach), Tarek El-Messidi (Direct Programs), Ibraheem Shakfeh (Outreach) for their efforts in making this event a success on such short notice. And to Naeem Muhammad, Anwar Khan, and Sheema of Islamic Relief USA and Sr. Hafsa Hasan of Islamic Relief Canada.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf made a surprise live webcast at the end of the fundraiser

Imam Zaid’s Challenge: Let us raise $1,000,000 for the people of Haiti

The original goal for the fundraiser was $100,000 and by its conclusion over $105,000 was raised. Imam Zaid Shakir said that we as a community must strive our hardest and should try and raise $1,000,000 for the people of Haiti.

Our income as a community is $170 billion. Brothers and sisters, what is one million out of $170 billion? Its nothing! We can do this and inshaAllah, we will do this! … We are a community that is on this earth to make a difference and to do positive things … Remember the saying of our Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) “Allah will continue to help His servant as long as His servant is helping his brother.”

To facilitate this, SeekersGuidance will give a free course for the Winter 2010 semester to anyone who donates over $500. (To view our course catalog, go to Once you’ve donated, send an e-mail to our help desk stating “Haiti Online Fundraiser Donation” in the subject.

Donate Now!

You can donate at any one of the following links:



IR Worldwide:


The Call of Compassion

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, founder of and instructor at SeekersGuidance, drew connections between the character of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the last speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968 –  just four days before his assassination.  (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation …. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today.”

This is the call of the Prophets. It is the call of compassion. It is a call of mercy. Let us answer that call. For it is, “The merciful who are granted mercy by the all-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the Worlds will be merciful to you,” said the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He said, “Be merciful to those on earth:” Whoever they may be, if any person who is in need, if any thing that is in need, it is the believer’s duty to hasten and assist.”

May Allah (Most High) grant us success and accept our efforts. Ameen!


SeekersGuidance Staff