Short Answer: In surrendering to His will, we are not denying our humanity. We are completing it. This submission, does not destroy human free will, nor does it take anything away from our faculties as humans. We can submit to Allah and still have love in our hearts. There is no contradiction.
Asalamu Alaikum brother,
Thank you for your very thoughtful and philosophical question.
It is always good to challenge ourselves with such ideas, if in the end it will draw us closer to Almighty Allah. At the very heart of Islam we have the concept of surrender to God.
Surrender and Free Will
You are, of course, quite right that at the very heart of Islam we have the concept of surrender to God.
The word “Islam” comes from an Arabic lexical root word which means both surrender and peace. A “Muslim” is one who submits to the will of Allah.
In doing so, he or she finds both peace and fulfillment in this world and looks to eternal bliss in the Hereafter.
This submission, though, does not destroy human free will, nor does it take anything away from our faculties as humans. Submission is a continuous, positive choice.
Each moment of each day we are called as Muslims to surrender our heart and will to Allah.
During Ramadan, for example, we restrain our bodies, fasting for the sake of Allah. And we show our bodies that we are in control of them, rather than they are in control of us.
In submitting to Allah, we even give up those bodily appetites from sunrise to sunset.
As Muslims, we use a phrase which is essential to the very meaning of being Muslim. In anything we talk about, we preface it with in sha’ Allah (if God wills).
Even though we are thinking beings, we admit that nothing can happen unless Allah wills it to be so.
In raising our children or loving our wives or serving our brothers and sisters in the community, we have in mind the will of Allah. As Muslims, we always want to do His will.
Yet, it is most important for us to remember something.
Almighty Allah chose to create us as men and women.
He could have created us to be jinn or angels. He could even have created us as inanimate objects or fish in the sea, each praising and serving Allah in its own way.
Yet, He made us men and women. As men and women, we have feelings and appetites, given to us by our Creator.
Surrender and Being Human
Surrendering to the will of Allah, then, does not mean that we stop being human.
We can submit to Allah and still have love in our hearts for the little baby that calls out to us. We can still submit to Allah and earn food for our families as a sign of the love we have for them.
In Islam, there is no monastic tradition. It is not encouraged that men leave all things, as in other religions, and forsake the world to live a life apart.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was well aware of such traditions, as he was in contact with Christian holy men right from the start, but he chose not to encourage this way of life.
Instead, the normal way of life for any Muslim is to marry and to have children and to work in this world. After a man has prayed in the mosque and discussed with his friends, he goes back home to his wife and children.
It is normal, too, that our imams are not looked up to as holy men, but as brothers highly respected in the community for their knowledge and for the uprightness of the lives. But they earn their living like anyone else.
As Muslims, we revere scholarship and hold our scholars in esteem, but these scholars are men, like us.
In Islam, there are no priests or popes or intermediaries between Allah and men. It is for each one to give an account of his deeds.
There will be no one to intercede for him on the Day of Judgment. Each person must take responsibility for his actions in this world.
So “surrendering to the will of Allah” must not be mistaken for surrendering our responsibilities in this world.
When a man marries, he completes half of his religion.
Marriage is not a distraction that prevents him from being a good Muslim or from serving Allah with all of his heart and soul. Marriage actually leads him to Allah.
So, we must never confuse the sweet and gentle message of Islam with the teachings of other faiths. Nor should we look for a spirituality that diverts us away from who we are.
We are men and women, called to live and work in this world, and to find holiness and do goodness in our lives by the way we carry out our responsibilities.
Weeping over the loss of a son is not a weakness that we should try to avoid.
Desperately longing to be with our spouse after a period of enforced separation, perhaps because of travel, is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of manliness.
King’s Good Servant, but God’s First
One of the figures from British history who I admire immensely is Sir Thomas More.
He was the Chancellor of King Henry VIII, and he was ultimately beheaded because he refused to give his vocal assent to the King’s divorce so that the King could marry someone else.
Just before he was beheaded, More spoke from the place of execution. “I am the King’s good servant,” he said, “but God’s first.”
These words explain the place and the role of Muslims in this world.
We live in this world, enjoying all its good things and celebrating all the blessings we receive each day. Ultimately, though, Allah is our final end.
There is neither strength nor power, save in Allah, we proclaim.
In surrendering to His will, we are not denying our humanity. We are completing it.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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