What does sha’air (marks) of Islam mean? What can we understand exactly from the word sha’air?

Details of the Question
What does sha’air (marks) of Islam mean? What can we understand exactly from the word sha’air?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"Sha’air" means customs, marks of Islam and rules about Muslims. For instance, to mention Allah, to praise Allah, to call adhan and to wear Islamic garments are sha’air. They are called "Sha’air al-Islamiyya (Marks of Islam)". They are issues and signs that are related to Muslims and that involve the community of Islam.

"The most important among the practices are those that symbolize Islam and are connected with its ‘marks.’ The marks of Islam are worship, concern the community, and quite simply are general rights of a sort. Just as the whole community benefits from one person doing them, so too if he gives them up, the whole community is answerable." (Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Lem'alar)

"Just as there are two sort of rights, “personal rights” and “general rights”, which are held to be “Allah’s rights” of a sort; so too among the matters of the Shari‘a, some concern individual persons and others, with regard to generality, concern the public. These latter are called “the marks of Islam”. These marks concern everyone and everyone participates in them. To interfere in them without the consent of the public is an infringement of the public’s rights. The most minor of those marks (one which has the status of Sunna) is equal in importance to the greatest matter. They concern the whole world of Islam directly. Those who are trying to break the luminous chain to which all the great figures of Islam since the Era of the Prophet till now have been bound, and to destroy it and corrupt it, and those who assist them, should dwell on what a ghastly error they are making. If they possess the smallest grain of intelligence, they should tremble!”

First of all, we should state that the sha’air that are marks of Islam are various. Some of them are fard like prayers, some of them are wajib like sacrificing an animal and some of them are sunnah like calling adhan and greeting. 

Sha’air are a fact that has been kept by Muslims for centuries. Therefore, all Muslims, from the Prophet (pbuh) to the Muslims of today, have rights on them. To harm them means to violate the rights of all Muslims. It is fard al-kifayah to keep sha’air alive.

Sha’air is a duty of worshipping belonging to the community in the form of the right of the public. When somebody does it, the whole community benefits from it; when nobody does it, the whole community is held responsible. Due to this importance, it is more virtuous to do sha’air openly rather than secretly, like fard worshipping. Hypocrisy is not included in sha’air; they are declared to everybody. For, to show sha’air gives spiritual power to believers and demoralizes deniers.

Declaring sha’air means conveying the message of Islam spiritually, and to announce and show to people the reality of belief and the Quran. All Muslims, from the Era of Bliss to today, have rights on them. The crime of those who try to alienate Muslims from sha’air is big accordingly. It is seen that Muslims are sometimes mistaken about those who attack sha’air. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi determines this sate as “a strange characteristic of this age”. Due to the extraordinary gullibility of Muslims, when they see only one good deed of “the horrible criminals who destroy the rights of thousands of people”, they forget about their bad deeds and state that they support these people. This causes the deviant and criminal people who are very few to dominate the right majority with the help of the gullible supporters. In fact, a person can forgive only the bad deeds committed against him. He cannot waive the rights of others, especially the rights of the community. Otherwise, he is regarded to have joined the cruelty.

One of these terrible cruelties is the demand to recite the translation of the Quran and the adhan. They are the greatest and holiest marks of Islam. Many words and phrases like Subhanallah, alhamdulillah, words of salam, bismillahirrahmanirrahim, words that express wonder and appreciation like mashallah, barakallah, words like taqwa and tawakkul are regarded asmarks of Islam (sha’air al-Islamiyya).

Minarets, gravestones, madrasahs, the epitaphs on fountains are marks of Islam in this sense. They remind us Allah, the Quran and Islam. Muslim names, some idioms and proverbs that have become part of our language can also be included in them.

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