Asalamu Alaikum (Peace be with you) Dave,
First of all, I would like to thank you for this intelligent and important question that is so needed at times like these to erase doubts from the minds of many Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Let’s start the whole story from here: Almighty God (Allah) created people and placed them on earth to act as vicegerents and fulfill His will: developing the earth and worshiping Him.
God sent messengers to people to show them the suitable ways to make their existence on earth easy, pleasant, and satisfactory to God.
These messages included one single item that could be found unchanged in all of them: the purpose of the existence of human beings.
So, in every message there was an unchanged element telling people “You are here on earth to worship the One True God and to associate no partner with Him”.
However, other elements in each message changed according to the details of time and place and the context in general.
These elements were mainly meant to regulate the life of people and to establish a law to govern their relations so that everything functioned properly without violating any rights or responsibilities.
Therefore, the Shariah (which literally means “the way”) is there to organize the life of people, to regulate the relation between human beings and their Creator, as well as their relation with one another and other parts of creation, like animals and the environment.
Without this way being explained and made manifest, the life of people would be very difficult and earth would be governed by chaos. In addition, there would be no meaning to life because life would lose its purpose of being a test to see who will submit their will to the will of God.
Similarly, there would be no reason for free choice because there is no actual choice. People would just act on their desires.
When we say that Almighty Allah has commanded us to pray and fast and so on, we are actually showing that the role of Allah’s commands (in other words, the Shariah) is to test our will and regulate our life.
It tests how obedient we are to Allah and how thankful we are to the One Who has created us out of nothing and fashioned us in the best form.
At the same time; prayer, fasting, and modest behavior are just a means to make us better because worship in Islam means, at its core, to be in a continuous state of self-development.
If a person who prays and fasts without carrying out the message of prayer-that is to avoid what is evil and enact what is good-he or she will be spoiling the reward of his prayer and performing them in vain.
Understanding the Wisdom
But let’s get deeper into the wisdom of having a Shariah, which tells us what is lawful from what is not.
In fact, having a Shariah is necessary because it teaches us how to cope with the Divine law of this universe. Almighty Allah has created this universe in perfect order and in marvelous system; it does not function aimlessly.
If we look into any creatures of Allah, we will find that they have a law in a certain sense (i.e. they have a law which they follow and it regulates their life).
That is why we find that a male deer fights with another male deer for the leadership of the herd. This is because of the natural law Allah created among this animal society that necessitates that leadership must be for the strongest male deer that is able to defend and protect the herd against dangers.
Therefore, when we say that human beings, who are considered to be the vicegerents of Allah on earth and the assigned beings to carry out His will, it becomes natural then for us to act according to a law or a Shariah because we are part of the creation of Allah.
It becomes necessary even for us to have a law because having a law is a part of Allah’s honoring us. Without it, we would become even more base than animals.
It is necessary to our life and purpose to have halal and haram- as previously mentioned -because through our submission to the will of Allah and acceptance of Allah’s command, our will is tested.
It is similar to the employer employee relationship. How can you know if your employees are really following the rules of the company or not?
Normally, you will put a list of “dos” and “don’ts”. In this way, you can test the employees’ compliance.
If an employee does something he or she is not allowed to do, he or she may jeopardize the safety of the company as well as his or her own safety since he or she may be subject to punishment.
It is obvious that a person who betrays the place where he or she works, and gives priority to his or her desires over the interests of the workplace, is surely ungrateful and thus deserves punishment.
The Five Pillars Are Not Enough
One important fact to learn here is that doing the five pillars is not enough to claim that you deserve to be saved from Allah’s punishment. You need to show the reflection of these beliefs and actions on your life by obeying Allah and submitting to Him, and by doing what He commands and avoiding what He prohibits.
The scholar Imam Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Faith is not by mere wishes; rather, it is what runs deep in the heart and you act according to it.” So, it takes more than only belief to be a true believer and to be saved from the Hellfire.
I hope this answers your question. Please stay in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archive)
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