Islamic Religious Council of Singapore
3 January 2020 / 7 Jamadilawal 1441H
The Excellence of a Muslim
Blessed Friday congregation,
Let us increase our taqwa in Allah by performing his commandments and abstaining from his prohibitions. Let us be grateful to Him for the continuous bounties He has bestowed upon us. Hopefully, we will attain happiness, excellence and His blessing in this world and the hereafter. Amin.
Alhamdulillah for the blessing of health. Alhamdulillah for having our lives prolonged such that we get to live to the year 2020. In conjunction with this new year, let us make a resolution to be closer to Allah and increase our efforts to achieve excellence, not just as an individual but also as a family member and a citizen of Singapore. The sermon in this new year would like to invite all of us to contemplate over the words of Allah in Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 143:
Which means: “And it is thus that We have made you to be an upright community so that you might be witnesses to all mankind and the Messenger might be a witness to you.”
My dear brothers,
The phrase ‘أمة وسطا’ (ummatan wasatan) in Arabic has several meanings. Among the interpretations of exegetes (mufassirun), such as Imam Ibn Kathir, is that the phrase refers to a chosen community that is exceptional and excellent. We can deduce here that Islam teaches us to continue striving for excellence in this world. This excellence does not limit to merely acts of physical worship, thereby abandoning all worldly matters. Instead, it teaches us to be excellent Muslims in all matters. For instance, a scholar from among our predecessors, Abbas Ibn Firnas, was the first person to invent flight. Also, Ibn Haytham was the first person to contribute to the invention of the camera.
Therefore, my dear brothers, let us kindle the spirit in us to strive towards excellence that will benefit those around us. However, there are a few things that we can observe in our effort to achieve excellence.
Our effort towards excellence does not solely depend on excellence in terms of intellectual development, science, economy and technology, but also emphasizes an aspect that is more essential than that, which is the quality of our spirituality, the nobility of our character and manners. Having good manners with others is indeed in line with the teachings of Islam. Let us contemplate the following hadith of Rasulullah s.a.w.:
Which means: “Most of what admits people into paradise is the fear of Allah and good character.” (Hadith narrated by Imam At-Tirmidzi)
Dear brothers, this hadith serves as a guidance for us all to contemplate and emulate, for us to continue striving to refine our character and manners as a Muslim. What is the point of excellence and progress if we forgo our morals and character? Let us bolster our character, adorn it with the resilience of faith, and treat our family, community and fellow citizens well.
Enhance this effort to improve our character by making self-reflection, especially at the start of this year, so that we be better individuals than we were previously.
Secondly: Instilling the spirit of brotherhood and the sense of community.
A Muslim who wants to excel in this world must also observe the quality of his social life. This can be seen when a Muslim is aware of the needs of his community and alleviates them, rather than serving merely his own interests. We also have to instill in ourselves the spirit of contributing towards goodness and peace. Such is the beauty of Islam that it emphasizes mercy and compassion for others. In fact, our lives will be more meaningful when we can help improve others’ lives, regardless of their background, race or religion. Let us observe the hadith of the Messenger s.a.w.:
Which means: “The best of mankind are the most beneficial of mankind.” (Hadith narrated by Imam Al-Baihaqi)
To realise and shape a community that continuously contributes and benefits requires self-development and skills. When we upgrade our skillset – regardless of our age – we become more confident and capable of playing an effective role in contributing our expertise to the development of the community and nation.
Among the ways we can upgrade our skillset is by taking up “MySkillsFuture”, an initiative that was set up by the government for us to benefit from it and upgrade ourselves. There are many skills we can gain from the initiative, such as typing, counselling and many more. So, let us benefit from this programme in upgrading ourselves. Let us observe the words of Allah in Surah Az-Zumar, Verse 9:
Which means: “Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.”
Therefore, my dear brothers, in our effort to diligently worship Allah s.w.t. and increase our knowledge, let us instill in ourselves the value of excellence, so that we can continuously contribute in beneficial ways, thereby shaping an excellent community, with exceptional manners and character. Amin ya Rabbal ‘Alamin.