Undoubtedly, the superficial practice of religion and the merchandise of religion for political interests are most dangerous challenges facing the Arab and Muslim communities. Some focus on form and appearance at the expense of content and essence giving form and appearance the absolute priority even if they fail to meet the human and moral standards that make them models and examples to follow. Actually, those persons, who are keenly interested in their external appearance at the expense of their behavior against the teachings of Islam, are among fatal elements conducive to destruction and repulsion. Assuming the appearance of devout people while exercising mistreatment, telling lies, cheating, deceiving, or devouring the wealth of people with falsehood is very dangerous. Indeed, those who do that are among the hypocrites. Our Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays” (Recorded by al-Bukhari in his Sahih).
Likewise, those who confine devoutness and practice of religion to acts of worship and diligent performance of rites while they misunderstand religion and exceed the proper bounds in excommunication (takfir), carry arms and revolt against the community are similar to the Khawarij who were the most practicing Muslims in their prayer, fasting and night prayer. However, they did not acquire the sufficient religious knowledge that would prevent them from shedding the blood of innocent people and thus they violently revolted against the community with their swords. If they sought knowledge first, as stated by Imam al-Shafi‘i (may Allah shower him with mercy), it would prevent them from that because Islam is a religion of mercy before anything else and hence everything that keeps you away from mercy drives you away from Islam. What matters most is the acceptable behavior and not the empty words as said: “Actions speak louder than words.”
Nonetheless, the acts of worship only bear fruit when they refine the human behavior and manners. He whose prayer does not prevent him from indecency and wrongdoing, his prayer is not acceptable. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do” (al-‘Ankabut: 45). He whose fasting does not prevent him from perjury, Allah will not accept his fasting. Our Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up perjury and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his abstention from food and drink” (Recorded by al-Bukhari in his Sahih). When it comes to Zakah and charity, Allah accepts only what is good and wholesome. Our Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good” (Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih).
Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “Allah does not accept a prayer without ablution, nor does he accept a charity from defrauded spoils” (Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih). The acceptance of pilgrimage is contingent upon licit provision and good conduct. The Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever performs Hajj and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew.” He also mentioned a person who travels widely with his hair disheveled and his body covered with dust lifting his hand towards the sky (to make supplication): O Lord, O Lord, whereas his diet is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, and his clothes are unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How can then his supplication be accepted?” (Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih).
More dangerous than the superficial practice of religion is the merchandise of religion for political interests whereby reference is made to those who take religion as a means to seize power abusing the religious sentiments and exploiting people’s love of their religion, especially the laymen. They give false impression that the goal for which they seek power is to serve the religion of Allah and support and empower it. We do not judge the intentions of people; only Allah can judge them. However, the experience we had with the terrorist group and other Islamist political groups and allies confirmed two things:
First, their cause was not religion at all; it was a bitter conflict over power and marginalization of others with arrogance and insolence in a way that made people averse to them and their behavior, which became a heavy burden to religion. We are now in need of strenuous efforts to remove this negative stereotype from minds of many people who linked between the behavior of those people and religion.
Second, they wronged their religion, distorted its purity and tolerant civilization and proved that they are not a people of religion or competence. Does religion call a man to betray his homeland, reveal its secrets, sell its documents and act as a spy against it? Does religion call a man to incite violence, killing and corruption and form what is called the qualitative committees that sow corruption on earth in an unprecedented treason against the homeland in service of the interests of its enemies? I have asserted and is still asserting that this terrorist group, which employed religion to deceive people and serve its interests to rise to power, is ready to collaborate with Satan to achieve its goals and ambitions for powers at the expense of religion, homeland or nation.