Where does a holy (sacred) thing take its holiness (sacredness) from? What things are holy?

The Details of the Question
Where does a holy (sacred) thing take its holiness (sacredness) from? What things are holy?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Holy means things that are blessed, sacred and clean. It means sacred, pure values that are related to Allah and it has a spiritual greatness. Allah Almighty, His names, books and prophets are holy. Religion, belief, worshipping, the Kaaba, mosques and things that are related to them are holy.

It is among the inevitable duties of all Muslims to show respect to holy things. The form of this respect changes based on the identity of the holy thing. To say “jalla jalaluhu” or “ta’ala” when one of the blessed names of Allah Almighty is mentioned, to hold the Quran with wudu, to start every good deed with bismillah, to utter salawat when the name of the Prophet (pbuh) is mentioned, to say “alayhissalam” when the names of the other prophets are mentioned and to say "radiyallahu anh" when the name of a Companion is mentioned is a necessity of Islamic good manners.

To curse the Quran, religion, belief, one of the prophets or a mosque and to despise them are regarded among signs of unbelief. To throw the Quran or any religious book into a dirty place deliberately is also regarded like that. It is necessary for such a person to repent immediately, to renew his belief and – if he is married – to renew his nikah.

It is necessary to attract attention to the following two issues in the light of the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh):

Firstly; According to the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet, it is necessary to believe in the divine religions before Islam and their prophets. If we express it through religious terms, it is fard. Otherwise, such a person is not a Muslim even if he believes in the Quran and Hz. Muhammad (pbuh). The basic condition of being a Muslim is to believe Islamic values and basics as well as the previous prophets and books. The Quran mentions the issue in the following verse:

“Say ye: ‘We believe, in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham Isma`il Isaac Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to Allah (in Islam).’” (al-Baqara, 2/136)

This belief makes it necessary for a Muslim to show respect to the religion and religious values of other faiths anytime and anywhere even if he does not believe in them. It is a very good example for not only Muslims but also everybody that the Prophet allocated his mosque to the Christians of Najran on Sunday so that they would worship.

Secondly; the understanding of respect to the holy things. Every faith has an understanding of holiness peculiar to it based on its historical, national, cultural, religious and ethical values. Something that is holy for a religion or faith might not be holy for another religion or faith; it can even be forbidden, nonsensical and ridiculous. This is the point where ways are separated. If a person evaluates others based on his own faith and treats others accordingly, it will be a point that makes living together in peace impossible. This causes the people who have this thought and viewpoint to alienate and isolate the others who have many human, ethical, legal, political and economic common grounds from the community. This leads people to polarization even if they live in the same country; polarizations will put people in a blind alley like the first and second world wars and the periods of cold war that we observed in recent history.

What Muslims need to know

The following practice of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding respect to the holy shows that it is beyond respect and encumbers different responsibilities on his followers. When the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Madinah, he saw that the Jews performed fasting on certain days of the month of Muharram. When he asked the reason, he was told that they performed it to commemorate the day when Sons of Israel were saved from the oppression of the Pharaoh by Hz. Musa (Moses). Thereupon, he ordered his ummah to commemorate that day by performing fasting. This order of the Prophet which expressed obligation continued until fasting in Ramadan was rendered fard by a verse of the Quran. As it is seen, Islamic teaching does not only accept the holiness that is based on a religious basis but also wants its members to join their commemoration.

I think we, as Muslims, who live and encounter native-foreigner, Muslim-Christian, rich-poor, woman-man, black-white people of various faiths all over the world, at home, at work, in the market etc., need to remember these two issues more than everybody else. That is, it is our religious duty to show respect to the other religions and the understanding of holiness of the members of those religions.

On the other hand, it is our right to expect a similar understanding from them. Within this framework, we should be able to include in our life accepting the religions of others and respect to their holy things without needing universal human rights that emphasize freedom of religion and conscience and the sanctions that are ensured by national or international treaties when these rights are violated. Then, it will be possible for the world to be a more livable place in terms of human relations.

We are indebted to Hz. Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) since he left such a value of belief to us as inheritance.

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