Return to Islam

A CERTAIN Jew lived near Shaykh Bayazid Bastami, the great Sufi saint. When this saint passed away, someone asked the Jew if he ever got attracted towards Islam during his interactions with the Sufi saint. The Jew answered; “I saw two Islams, neither of which I liked. On the one hand there was the Islam of Shaykh Bayazid Bastami, which called for extraordinary capacity to follow. Then there was the Islam of most Muslims, which I would be ashamed to make my own”.

On closer examination of this opinion of the Jew we can understand that from the point of view of people of other faiths the religion of the Sufi saint appeared to be a life of renunciation, total retreat—from the world and unstinted devotion. Great feats of endurance are its hallmark; nights spent in vigil, days in lengthy recitations; arduous pilgrimages, punctuated by prayer at almost every step; memorized incantations, repeated over and over again, thousands of times.

Islam is a simple, natural religion, possessing a tremendous inherent appeal to human nature.

The religion that would be apparent in the rank and file of Muslims in general, on the other hand might be one which appears far from the true Islam as presented by the Prophet. For instance they might talk about faith with great fervour but in action might keep to their self-interests. They might prostrate before God, but behave arrogantly with people. They might recite the Quran but fail to follow the commandments given in it. They may even resort to violence in the name of Islam. Such actions when witnessed by others make them think, ‘is this worth following’?

Islam is a simple, natural religion, possessing a tremendous inherent appeal to human nature. Because of the directness of this appeal, it spread over a large portion of the globe in the first phase of Islam in the time of the Prophet and his Companions. Later, however, contrived, innovatory versions of Islam began to appear, with the result that Islam lost its natural appeal. Islam is a preserved religion. For this to be restored, all artificial veils have to be removed from the face of Islam. Islam has to be presented in its original form, as it is presented in the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet.