We all know that the Hijri calendar began with the Hijrah, the migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah. There are many lessons to be learned from Hijrah. Today’s sermon will touch upon one of the most important lessons, and that is the Prophet’s approach in dealing with two very different societies — the polytheistic Makkan society before Hijrah and the Islamic society in Madinah.

In both encounters, history tells us that the Prophet never compromised Islamic principles. These principles are the building block of Islam. Without them, Islam will simply cease to be the one and true religion preferred by Allah.

These principles are of four types. The first type is the central tenets of Islamic beliefs, such as believing in Allah, the prophets, and the hereafter. The second type is the compulsory acts of worship, such as prayer, fasting, zakah, and Hajj. The third type is Islamic moral values. And the fourth type is termed as the unchanging Islamic laws.

If we look back at history, we will find that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never compromised any of these four principles. For example, the Prophet never once compromised the central tenets of Islamic belief, neither during the time he was in Makkah before the Hijrah, nor when he was in Madinah after the Hijrah. During his time in Makkah before the Hijrah, when he was calling his people to worship Allah and not the idols they created, the leaders of the Quraish tried to negotiate with him. They would willingly worship Allah for one year, but on the condition that the Prophet and other Muslims worship their idols for one year. They thought that it was a very good deal, adopting each other’s belief for one year. In this way, they could have lived harmoniously side by side with the Muslims in Makkah.

How wrong they were! Immediately the verses of Surat Al-Kafirun were revealed by Allah, as an answer to their request. Allah says:

{Say O Unbelievers! I worship not that which you worship. Nor will you worship that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you are worshiping. Nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my religion.} (Al-Kafirun 109:1-6)

This firmness concerning Islamic worship and tawheed (belief in the oneness of Allah), remained even after Hijrah. Never once did the Prophet compromise the basic tenets of Islam. Prayer (salah) was obligatory before the Hijrah, even though it was difficult to perform because of abuse and intimidation from the unbelievers. And prayer remained obligatory after the Hijrah, even after the Muslim Ummah in Madinah managed to perform it peacefully. Nobody came to the Prophet and said, “Now that we are a strong community, and we don’t have to fear any intimidation from the unbelievers, let us reduce the number of prayers. We have better things to do like strengthening our community.”

There is no compromise over prayer. The five compulsory prayers must be performed in whatever condition we are in. Even if we cannot stand, we must do it sitting down. If we can’t find water for our ablution, we can do dry ablution. If we are forcefully hindered from performing it, we must make up for it later when we are free. There is no compromise on prayer, as much as there is no compromise on the other fixed principle, that is, the Islamic moral values.

In this regard, the Prophet showed to us how important it is to adhere to our moral values, in whatever surrounding and circumstances. For example, the Prophet led a modest life in Makkah when the unbelievers tried all means to undermine his da`wah even after Hijrah, when he was accorded the proper and highest respect. He was never arrogant and never looked down on other people. In fact, he went out of his way to help the poor and destitute, be they men, women, or children.

That is an example we should all emulate and follow: to adhere to the unchanged principles of Islam, even though the world around us changes. We cannot compromise on those principles. For if we do, Islam will cease to be Islam for us.

So there is no compromise on the six articles of faith. There is no compromise on the five articles of Islam. There is no compromise on the Islamic moral values. There is no compromise on the fixed Islamic laws.

My brothers and sisters in Islam, even though there is no compromise on those fixed four principles of Islam, we should know that Islam is also a way of life and a system of belief that is relevant for every situation and across time. Islam is not something that is confined by a certain environment and a fixed period of time. Thus, in Islamic jurisprudence, there is what is termed as ath-thawabit, the unchanged principles, and al-mutaghaiyirat, the evolving rules and regulations.

Evolving rules and regulations prove the flexibility of Islamic jurisprudence to change according to every situation and condition. It allows Islamic jurisprudence to be relevant for all times. But do remember that the evolving rules and regulations are different from the unchangeable principles. The evolving rules and regulations are those that the jurists differ about. These differences arise from their approaches, their ijtihad (personal reasoning) and their understanding of the Islamic Sharia. They differ about the best method of implementing the Islamic Sharia.

So we should not blame others who follow a different school of law or accuse them of not following the Islamic Sharia, or being astray because those differences are in the area open to differences. This reflects the flexibility of the Islamic Sharia to cope with each and every situation. For example, we should not blame those who do not recite qunut [du`aa’ recited before or after the first ruku` in prayers] in Fajr prayer as not following the Islamic Sharia. Nor should we blame those who do recite qunut in Fajr prayer as not properly following the Islamic Sharia. We should not blame Muslim women who do not cover their face with a veil as not following the Islamic Sharia, nor should we blame those who do cover their face.

All these, my brothers and sisters, fall in the category open to ijtihad and the differences among the scholars.

By The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore  

* Based on a Friday Sermon, February 11, 2005 (Muharram 2, 1426 AH). Courtesy of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.