What are the internal obligations of islam?
Islam has external obligations that one can observe in the external behaviour but also it has internal obligations like good manners, sincerity, mercy, generosity, justice, humility, chastity, patience, and many more. These are not seen on the outside as they make up the internal characteristics of the believer.
To clarify further, someone can fulfil their prayers externally fulfilling all the movements of the prayer like standing, bowing and prostration but these are not enough without respect and awe of God in the heart while praying. One can see the movements but cannot see the awareness in the heart. One can give charity to the poor, this is an external act that everyone can see but we need to have the right state of compassion and gratitude in the heart towards the recipient that he has accepted our charity rather than feeling that we have honoured him with something. We should not hurt the feelings of the poor when we help them by shaming their poverty. All these obligations are examples of duties which relate to our internal world. A believer reach perfection only by following the commandments both the internal and external that is following the letter of the law without losing the meaning of it.
The Noble Qur’an states the purpose of life as “لِيَعْبُدُونِ: so as my servants worship me.” The commentators of the Qur’an explained this verse as; “لِيَعْرِفُونِ: so as they get to know me.” Knowledge of Allah means recognizing Him in the heart and this only happens when the heart is opened. The heart only opens to divine illuminations when the slave fulfils the form as well as the spirit of the commandments, the outer and inner principles of them properly.
Imam Rabbani (may Allah have mercy on him) states in one of his letters to his disciples:
“When we follow the letter of the commandments externally, we should then purify our inner world so as to push heedlessness from it. That is because when our inner world is not cleansed, we cannot really fulfil the external commandments. Interestingly giving importance to one’s internal world necessitates adherence to the external laws and those who ignore the external while trying to cleanse the internal fall into disbelief, and whatever they achieved in their internal world is nothing but self-deception. These extraordinary states of the internal world are all satanic, since this person sacrificed the external acts of worship on the excuse of fulfilling their spirit. The best criterion of internal development is our fulfilling the shariah in our external behaviour. This is istiqamah (uprightness) in the Sufi path” ()
Many Muslims only follow the formal outward actions without seeking their deeper meanings. Some others do not obey the commandments but claim that their hearts are clean. They restrict worship and slavehood to God to internal good morals and character but such attitudes will never make for perfect slavehood to Allah.
In order to reach to the reality of slavehood a Muslim must join both the outward actions and the realisation of the inward meanings, fulfilling all the commandments with his form and sprit. Some of the internal obligations that a Muslim must follow are:
High moral qualities:
The most important of external commandments is to attain high moral qualities. The clearest indicator of one’s faith and worship is his morality, his perfection in high moral qualities. Emphasizing the importance of this the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) states in one of his hadiths:
“Nothing is heavier on the believer’s scale on the Day of Judgment than good character. For indeed Allah, Most High, is angered by the shameless obscene person.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 62/2002)
Allah the almighty has shown us the best example of high moral qualities in the person of His Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). He was sent as the best example (uswatul-hasana) until the judgement day. He is the matchless example to all humanity. The following verse of the Mighty Qur’an confirms this reality:
“Indeed you are truly vast in character.” (Qalam, 68:4)
The Prophet himself (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) also stated this in the following hadith:
“I have only been sent to perfect good moral character.” (Muwwatta’, Husnu’l-khuluq, 8)
We should strive to take the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as our example and always judge our morality against his to correct our faults.
In order to become close to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) who is our guide to the truth in the world and intercessor in the afterlife, we should increase our love for him and in order to increase our love for him we should sacrifice for him and obey his advice.
Shaykh Hasan al-Basri (may Allah be pleased with him) said in this matter:
“O Muslims! Do not misunderstand the saying of the Prophet “a person will be with the one he loves.” If you do not do virtuous acts when you can afford to like the good people do, then you cannot be like them. Even the Jews and Christians claim to love their Prophets but they are not with them when it comes to their moral qualities, actions and way of life.” (Ihya, c. II, s. 402)
In order to see our resemblance to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) we should judge our deeds with the deeds of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), what is the level of our obedience, sacrifice in the Prophet s way. All these show our level of love for Allah the Almightysince those who love Allah, follow the Prophet as stated in the Qur’an. “Say: If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive you your wrong actions, and Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most-Merciful” (Al’Imran, 3:31)
Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said,
“All my followers will enter the Garden except those who refuse.”
They said, “O Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)! Who will refuse?”
He said, “Whoever follows my Sunnah will enter the Garden and whoever refuses my Sunnah me is the one who refuses to enter it.” (Bukhari, I’tisam, 2)
Good manners and feeling ashamed in Allah’s presence
Allah is watching over us continuously so one should be ashamed of Allah while committing a wrong deed. Those who feel Allah’s presence will have spiritual courtesy (adab) all the time, some scholars even defined the whole religion as the following of good manners.
When we read the verses of the Mighty Qur’an with the eyes of wisdom and reason we see that many of its verses teach us good manners (adab) and feeling ashamed of Allah (haya) while doing something bad. The stories of the Prophet s all preach us how to attain good manners and haya, reaching the perfect moral character and refraining from the evil acts by fearing Allah. Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi (may Allah have mercy on him) emphasises the significance of haya in the following verses:
Whoever did not take his share of bashfulness from Allah, is not a human being. Since the only difference between man and animals is the emotions of bashfulness and shyness.
When we are in the presence of a king we cannot behave as we do with others. We try our best in order to show our respect and behave according to the royal etiquette. Perfect Muslims feel the divine presence all the time and they are therefore extremely careful in fulfilling the good manners in the divine presence, hence this shyness in the presence of Allah is reflected in their daily lives. They experience the meaning of following verse:
“…He is with you wherever you are – Allah sees what you do…” (Al-Hadid, 57:4)
Abdullah bin Mas’ud narrated that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“Have Haya for Allah as is His due.” We said:
“O Prophet of Allah! We have Haya, and all praise is due to Allah.” He said:
“Not that, but having Haya for Allah which He is due is to protect the head and what it contains and to protect the insides and what they include and to remember death and the trial and whoever intends the Hereafter, he leaves the adornments of the world. So whoever does that, then he has indeed fulfilled Haya meaning the Haya which Allah is due.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 24/2458)
Purging the nafs from its evil characteristics (Tadhkiyah):
Allah the Almightystates in the Noble Qur’an:
“Allah showed great kindness to the believers when he sent to them a Messenger from among themselves to recite His Signs to them and purify them and teach them the book and the wisdom, even though before that they were clearly misguided.” (Al ‘Imran, 3:164)
Tazkiyah is to purify our inner world from all kinds of negative feelings especially from disbelief, hypocrisy and committing shirk in the minor form. Because the biggest commandments of all is to believe in Allah’s existence, in his oneness and not to associate any partners with Him.
“The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“He who dies without associating anything with Allah will enter the Garden. He who dies associating something with Allah will enter the Fire. (Muslim, Iman, 151)
Mankind fist cleanse themselves from disbelief, hypocrisy and associating partners with Allah so as to open their hearts to divine realities. This is similar to first cleaning the wound before applying the medicine over it. The following principle of Majallah (a book of Islamic law written for Ottoman courts) states: “Def’-i mefasid, celb-i menafiden evladır.”
That is preventing evil has priority over bringing goodness.” Therefore the declaration of faith starts with “there is no god” first cleaning the heart from false deities, hence cleaning the heart from spiritual dirt then placing the truth “except ALLAH” in the purified space of the heart forever.
Tadhkiyah is to clean the inner world from all kinds of evil and then filling it with belief, wisdom, knowledge, good feelings and other characteristics like fear of Allah. It is done in the Sufi path so as break the authority that the desires of the lower self and the ego have over our soul so the luminous spiritual reality of the soul becomes the authority. This is only possible by very wise training of his/her will by austerities measures striving in the path of Allah. Struggling to oppose the selfish desires in Sufism is to limit its authority, forcing it to do good acts and sacrifices in the path of ALLAH even it does not like it.
It is impossible to control the ego in the absolute sense and as a matter of fact it is not necessary as long as its desires are within the boundaries of the divinely revealed shariah. The important thing is to train it in a way that it respects the divine limits set down by Allah the All-Merciful.
Purification is to get rid of worldly greed which is the mother of all wrongs. Only by purification one can attain salvation as stated in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“…and the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or taqwa (fearful awareness of Allah), he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed.” (As-Shams, 91:7-10)
Sincerity means aiming only for the pleasure of Allah, when we do any act without mixing it with a worldly and selfish interest. It is the main reason for the acceptance of the good deeds.
Sincerity is like the soul for the body, if it is absent it is a dead body, a lifeless form, actions done without it only brings tiredness without any fruit. Therefore, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Truly actions are by intentions.” (Bukhari, Iman, 41)
Hence we have to eradicate all kind wrong intentions from our hearts, Allah the Majestic says in the holy Qur’an:
“We have sent down the Book to you with truth. So worship Allah, making your deen sincerely His” (Az-Zumar, 39:2)
“Say, “I am commanded to worship Allah, making my deen sincerely His.” (Az-Zumar, 39:11)
The following hadith explains the significance of sincerity very clearly:
“Human beings are all dead except the scholars, the scholars are all asleep except those who put their knowledge into practise and those who practise their knowledge feel proud of themselves are deceived by their devotion except those whom Allah gave sincerity. Even those slaves of Allah with sincerity are not exempted from the dangers.” (Bayhaki , Shuayb, IX, 181)
Contemplation of the reality is another important means to carry man into the peaks of spirituality when it is done in complete silence. Contemplation according to Qur’an is a key to a strong faith. The more one contemplates the more one attains divine love, in this way their share in the hereafter will increase. Allah invites His slaves to contemplation in many verses of the Qur’an:
“In the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are Signs for people with intelligence.” (Al ‘Imran, 3:190)
“Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Al ‘Imran, 3:191)
“Have they not looked at the camel – how it was created? and at the sky – how it is raised up? and at the mountains – how they were embedded? – and at the earth – how it was smoothed out?’’ (Al-Ghashiyah, 88:17-20)
The Majestic Qur’an from its beginning to its end continuously invites man to contemplate and reflect over the causes of creation, the extraordinary order of the universe and the miraculous nature of the Qur’an’s speech. In many place it asks people: “why don’t you think, why do not you contemplate, why do not you take lessons.” In order to fully appreciate our human dignity and lead the life of good Muslim, to attain spiritual depth and aliveness one needs to contemplate as described by the Holy Qur’an.
Humility is to feel one’s own nothingness and powerlessness against the power and grandeur of God, recognizing our own limitations. Allah Glory be to Him, promised eternal bliss to those who do not behave arrogantly, those who do not create mischief on the earth and who fear and love God at the same time. The Holy Qur’an states: “The Abode of the next world – we grant it to those who do not seek exalt themselves in the earth or cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who have taqwa (fearful awareness of Allah).” (Al-Qasas, 28:83) those who are deprived of the gift of humility and developed the characteristic of arrogance will eventually end up making their egos their gods.
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) mentions the characteristics of the humble people in the following hadith:
“Shall I not inform you about the inhabitants of The Garden? They said: do so, of course. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: every humble person who is considered to be humble if he were to adjure in the name of Allah, He would fulfil it. He then said: May I not inform you about the denizens of the Hell-Fire? They said: Yes. And he said: every haughty, fat and proud (person).” (Bukhari, Ayman 9, Tafsir 68/1, Adab 61; Muslim, Jannah, 47)
Trustworthiness and truthfulness:
A Muslim should always disseminate peace and tranquillity to his surroundings. So he has to be a person from whose hands and tongue people should be safe and sound. Cheating deception and fraud cannot be in the dictionary of a good Muslim at any time.
Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:
“–Some people asked Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace),
“Whose Islam is the best? i.e. (Who is the best Muslim)?” He replied,
“One who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands. (Bukhari, Iman 4, 5, Rikāk 26; Muslim, Iman, 64, 65)
In another hadith the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) states:
“Truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to the Garden and a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Fujur (wickedness) and Fujur leads to the Fire, and a man may keep on telling lies until he is written before Allah, as a liar.” (Bukhari, Adab, 69; Muslim, Birr, 103-105)
Patience is to keep one’s balance against the changing conditions of life, to endure the difficulties of life, to keep one’s moderation and calm against the calamities without compromising in belief and practise.
Patience is a central part of Islamic morality, it is the key to salvation and happiness, thus it is considered half of the Iman (belief/trust). The first condition of praiseworthy patience is to show it at the first instance of the calamity, if it is shown after a long time it has no real value.
Although patience is bitter in the beginning it will turn out very sweet in the end. Those who can bear patiently against calamities will attain the pleasure of Allah and will attain the Garden which is the place of eternal bliss. Allah the Mighty and Majestic commands us to be patient in the following verses:
“You who have iman (belief), be patient; be supreme in patience; be firm on the battlefield; and have taqwa of Allah; so that hopefully you will be successful.” (Al ‘Imran, 3:200)
“The patient will be paid their wages in full without any reckoning.” (Az-Zumar, 39: 10)
The following hadith is teaching us a good lesson in attaining the Garden through patience:
Ata Ibn Abi Rabah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates, one day Ibn Abbas said to me,
“Shall I show you a woman of the people of the Garden?” I said, “Yes.” He said,
“This black lady came to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said, ‘I get attacks of epilepsy and my body becomes uncovered; please invoke Allah for me.’ The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said (to her),
‘If you wish, be patient and you will have the Garden; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.’ She said,
‘I will remain patient,’ and added, ‘but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.’
So he invoked Allah for her.”” (Bukhari, Marda, 6; Muslim, Birr, 54)
This is the reward of showing patience for the sake of Allah.
 Bkz. Az-Dhariyat, 56.
 Imam-I RabbanI, Mektubat, III, 87-88, no: 87.
 Bkz. Bukhari, CenaIz, 32. Hadithi sharifin metni için bkz. sf. 174.
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş , Journey To Eternity, Erkam Publications