The Priority of Starting with the Fundamentals Before the Branches
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on November 7, 1997)
It is very important that the Muslims' priorities be organized in such a Way that the fundamentals of deen come before its branches when it comes to building the Islamic personality and in the da’wah to Islam. The fundamentals of deen are like the foundation of a building; the foundation always comes into being first, then followed by the building itself. Also, the fundamentals of deen are like the roots of a tree; the root always comes into being before the trunk, branches, and before the leaves and the fruits.
This is the understood logic of life and this is exactly similar to the logic of deen, which the texts of our deen, The Qur'an and the Sunnah, have clarified.
The pillars of faith (Iman) always come before the pillars of Islam, despite the fact that all of them constitute the pillars of deen, and even the pillars of faith (Iman) are prioritized among themselves in a way that believing the Oneness of Allah comes first (La-Ilaha-Illa-Llah). Then the rest of the pillars of faith (Iman) follow; Like believing in the angels, the Books and the messengers and the Hereafter and the predestination good and bad from Allah (S.W.T.). This is how they are mentioned in The Holy Qur'an and this is how they mentioned in the sunnah. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Baqarah, (Verse 285), what can be translated as, "The messenger has believed in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His angels, his books and his messengers." And that's what the prophet (S.A.W.) told angle Gabriel when he came and asked about the faith (Iman). The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, what was reported by Imam Muslim, "It is to believe in Allah, his angels, his books, his messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the predestination good and bad."
The belief (Iman) is the foundation and the action is a branch therefrom. If the action came before the belief, it would not be accepted by
Allah. This is the situation of the disbelievers who may do the good deeds in this life without belief. They come on the day of judgment with all these deeds that are weightless and without value in the sight of Allah (S.W.T.). Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Nuor, (Verse 39), what can be translated as, "As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it be water, until he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing, but he finds Allah with him, Who will pay him his due (Hell)." Allah (S.W.T.) also says in surat Al-Furqan, (Verse 23), what can be translated as, "And we came to what they (the disbelievers) did, and We shall make such deeds as scattered floating particles of dust."
If one looks at the life of the messenger (S.A.W.), he will see that in the Makkan period, the prophet's work was restricted to the da'wa to Allah and concentration on the fundamentals of Al-Aqeedah by deeply implanting the Oneness of Allah in all its aspects, and rejecting the Shirk and keeping away from tawghut. And The Qur'anic Ayat that were revealed in that period focused on the same issue. Allah (S.W.T.) did not make people preoccupied and busy with the branches of the divine rules in that period, instead He (S.W.T.) focused on the importance of the total submission exclusively to Allah in all aspects of life big or small with no exception. And this period took thirteen years and which was more than half of his life in prophet-hood. Then, the Islamic legislation was revealed one piece at a time, as it is known.
This is the methodology of the messenger (S.A.W.) in reforming the humans’ life. This is how it should be because it is a method based on divine guidance from the revelation of Allah. He (S.W.T.) knows the best, because he is the creator, He is The Kind and The all Knowing.
This method becomes very clear from the life of the messenger (S.A.W.) in the way he called people to Islam even after the revelation of the Islamic legislation like salah and zakah... We are inspired from the saying of the prophet (S.A.W.) to Mu'ath Bin Jabal, when he sent him to Yemen, reported by Imam Bukhari and Muslim, "You will meet the people of the book, so call them first to La Ilaha Illa Lawh, and if they accept it, then make them aware that Allah prescribed on them five daily prayers,
And if they accept that, then make them aware that Allah prescribed on them zakah taken from the wealth of the rich, to be distributed among their poor...."
From this dadith, we understand the method of the prophet (S.A.W.) in the da'wah. First, the da'wah to the Oneness of Allah (total submission to H0im), because it is the foundation of all pillars of faith (Iman) and the pillars of Islam and the rules of what is allowed halal and what is prohibited haram, because the da'wah to the Oneness means that man submit exclusively to Allah in all aspects of life, and to take all his legislation from Allah alone, the divine legislation that covers the whole life of humanity. If this issue is deeply planted in the minds and hearts of the people. And it is surrendered to and submitted to, then the main problem of man, the problem that keeps man away from his creator and closer to other than the creator, is solved. Then abiding by the Islamic legislation comes as a natural coherent result. So, legislation starts with the greatest pillars of Islam (the five daily prayers) because the prayer is the main pillar of Islam; if it is established, then deen is established, if it is forsaken, then he deen is destroyed. So whosoever establishes the five prayers in his life, he is prepared and ready to establish the other pillars of Islam much like they are supposed to (like the zakah and fasting and hajj) and also he is prepared to abide by the rules of Halal and Haram which cover all the human life.
So we should follow the method of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in calling people to Islam to reform their lives and proceed exactly according to his steps; first comes first, because the prophet is infallible and guided with the divine revelations in all phases of da'wah.
If we follow the method of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in da'wah, then we should expect the right fruits and if they are present, the deen will be established practically on earth. The last people of this ummah will not become righteous except with what its first people had become righteous.