Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Seven‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Seven

Purpose of Our Life

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should serve and worship Me. (Adh-Dhāriyāt, 51:56).

ʿIbādah, which has been translated as service and worship here, implies total obedience, willing surrender, and dedicated worship. The purpose of our creation and of the freedom of choice given to us is that we choose the path of submission and lead a life of loving service to our Creator. If we do so we’ll fulfill the purpose of our creation—which is the very definition of success. Its manifestation will be the everlasting bliss in Paradise. If we fail to do that, our life will have been a failure which will be manifested in the never ending punishment in the Fire.

If we choose other goals in life—goals that are contrary to this goal—then regardless of whether or not we succeed in achieving those goals, our life will have been a failure.

Individual Responsibility

أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
That no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden. (An-Najm, 53:38)

As Muhammad  Asad writes, this  expresses  a  categorical rejection of the Christian doctrine of the “original sin” with which every human being is allegedly burdened from birth; secondly, it refutes the idea that a person’s  sins could be “atoned for” by a saint’s or a prophet’s redemptive sacrifice (as evidenced, for instance, in the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ vicarious atonement  for mankind’s sinfulness, or in the earlier, Persian doctrine of man’s vicarious redemption by Mithras).

This also has serious implications in law. No one can be punished for the crimes of another. It thus negates collective punishment as well as guilt by association, principles that are being violated in the new security states now emerging.

Qur’ān is Easy

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
Indeed  We  have  made  the  Qur’ān  easy  for  seeking  advice.  Then  is there any that will receive admonition?? (Al-Qamar, 54:17)

The  Arabic word  is  dhikr,  which  means  remembering, mentioning, reminding, and invocating. This also implies seeking advice. The Qur’ān has been made very easy for all this. Its words are easy to memorize and easy to comprehend and  follow. Its  simple message solves the  riddle of  the purpose of creation and our role in this world. Anyone who approaches the Qur’ān with an open mind to seek guidance will be guided by it.

At the same time it is a profound work with an unending store of meanings and fiqhi points within its limited word list. The best of experts may spend a lifetime to unearth them and the store will still not be exhausted. The task of deriving legal rulings is therefore to be entrusted to those who have developed the requisite knowledge and expertise.

Sūrah Ar-Raḥmān

Called the bride of the Qur’ān, this beautiful sūrah has a unique rhythm to it punctuated by the constant refrain, “How many of the bounties of Your Sustainer shall you deny?”

Addressed to both human beings and jinns it describes their creation, reminds them that everything in this universe has a finite lifespan after which it will end and then will be resurrected to face the results of its endeavors—either Hell or Paradise. There is a moving description of both.

The Space for Women

حُورٌ مَّقْصُورَاتٌ فِي الْخِيَامِ
Most beautiful eyed ones (houris) houris, cloistered in cool pavilions. (Ar-Raḥmān, 55:72)

Regarding the maidens of Paradise, it is significant that we do not find them in the public space, where there are eternal young boys as servants. The maidens will be in private pavilions. And they will be happily cloistered in their vast pavilions. Maqṣūrāt has also been interpreted to mean restrained as to their glances. Either way they will be leading happy sheltered private lives.

If anyone harbors the suspicion that this arrangement may be uninteresting they may do well to ponder on what the Qur’ān says elsewhere about the Paradise, “Ones who will dwell in them forever. They will have no desire for relocation from there.” Paradise is the ideal state. And if our ideas of the ideal state are at variance from the Qur’ānic description, we need to seriously rethink our ideals.

This Life and That Life

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Know (O men) that the life of this world is but a play and a diversion, and pageantry, and (the cause of ) your boastful vying with one another, and (of your) greed for more and more riches and children. Its parable is that of (life-giving) rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil; but then it withers, and you can see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust. But (the abiding truth of man’s condition will become fully apparent) in the life to come: (either) suffering severe, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion. (Al-Ḥadīd, 57:20)

This is a description of the life lived in this world without concern for the life to come. Like the vegetation that brings delightful greenery and then withers and crumbles, this life goes through its cycles and no stage in this cycle is permanent, no matter how badly we may wish it to be. Permanencebelongs to the life to come. And wisdom is in not letting the fleeting pleasures distract us from the permanent ones.

One result of developing the correct outlook here will be a graceful life that will not be unduly impacted by the highs and lows of life. As the following āyah says: “so that you may neither grieve on what has escaped you, nor over-exult on what He has given to you.”

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Two‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Two

Sūrah al-Aḥzāb: Reflections on Hijab

In this sūrah, which was revealed at the time of the battle of the trench (also known as the battle of Aḥzāb), hijab was introduced as a formal requirement for Muslim women. This was a revolutionary change. The Arab society of the time was a stranger to the idea of segregation and hijab as mentioned in āyah 33 below. This era was declared as a dark era of ignorance (al-Jāhiliyyah al-Ūlā, or the earlier Jāhiliyyah) and the new Muslim community  was asked to move away from its cultural and social practices. The qualifier Ūlā (earlier) implies the prophesy of a later Jāhiliyyah, and what we are witnessing today in the modern world fits the bill.

Those who are trying to reconcile Islam to this modern Jāhiliyyah have been working hard to  water down these teachings. Among their arguments is that these āyahs were meant only for the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. Little do they realize that the household of the Prophet ﷺ was  charged with becoming the model that the rest of the  community would follow, for a revolutionary change in  such practices required the presence of cultural leaders. A careful reading of the following āyahs will make that amply clear.

يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا
O wives of the prophet, you are not like any other women, if you observe taqwā (righteousness). So, do not be too soft in your speech, lest someone having disease in his heart develop fancies (about you); and do speak with appropriate words. (Al-Aḥzāb 33:32)

This āyah makes two points. First, the wives of the Prophet ﷺ are at a level above other women because of taqwā. Second, in talking to other men their talk should avoid display of female charms to prevent the development of any fancies. Are we to believe that developing taqwā and preempting the possibility of developing lust were only the concern of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ?

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
Remain in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the days of earlier ignorance; and establish Ṣalāh, and pay Zakāh, and obey Allāh and His Messenger. Allāh only intends to keep (all sorts of ) filth away from you, O members of the family (of the prophet), and to make you pure through a perfect purification. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:33)

Here again the question will be whether breaking from the Jāhiliyyah practices was only required of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. What about Ṣalāh and Zakāh? Why are  they mentioned in this “exclusive” directive?

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا
And when you ask anything from them (the blessed wives of the Prophet), ask them from behind a curtain. That is better for the purity of your hearts and their hearts. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:53)

We can continue the same question here. Was the purity of hearts only needed for the wives?

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw down their shawls over them. That will make it more likely that they are recognized, hence not teased. And Allāh is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:59)

This āyah now extends the command to all Muslim women although wives and daughters of the Prophet ﷺ are again mentioned first. The reason for earlier specific addresses to them should now be obvious to everyone. They were charged to lead the cultural revolution—as they in  fact did. Hijab became a symbol of all Muslim women, not just that of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. The ban on free mixing extended to the entire community. Islam established separate spheres for men and women, and Muslim societies throughout the centuries held fast to this norm.

Satan: The Eternal Enemy of Human Beings

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا ۚ إِنَّمَا يَدْعُو حِزْبَهُ لِيَكُونُوا مِنْ أَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ
Surely Shayṭān (Satan) is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire. (Fāṭir 35:6)

There is only one permanent external enemy of human beings—Shayṭān (Satan), also referred to  as Iblīs or  the Devil. He is a sworn and irreconcilable enemy. Other external enemies, among humans, become enemies to the extent that they become agents for this eternal enemy. So there is a huge difference between the two classes of enemies. We do fight the human enemies when that becomes absolutely necessary, but we can also try to win them over with good character. Thus in sūrah Fuṣṣilat we are told how to turn enemies into friends: “Good and evil are not equal. Repel (evil) with what is best, and you will see that the one between whom and you there was enmity (will become) as though he was a close friend.” And if they stop following Satan, then former enemies become brothers as has been seen throughout the history of Islam. Not so with Satan. The Qur’ān reminds us repeatedly that Satan is a manifest enemy. Here, again, it is commanding us to make sure we treat him as enemy. We must fight him and protect ourselves from his cunning ways all our life. No appeasement, no compromises, no truce, no let up in the fight. Never.

While Satan invites us to unbelief, he also tempts us to commit all sorts of sins. However some sins have been specifically mentioned as high on the agenda of Satan. These include nudity and obscenities, consumption of alcohol and ḥarām food items, gambling, and extravagance.  A hadith mentions breaking up  the  family and  sowing dissension between husband and wife as being on top of the satanic agenda. To the extent that these are prevalent in a society, that society is under satanic influence. And the Believers have their job cut out for them to fight the enemy plans.

The True People of Knowledge

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ ثَمَرَاتٍ مُّخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهَا ۚ وَمِنَ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ. وَمِنَ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَٰلِكَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ
Did you not see that Allāh sends down water from the sky whereby We bring forth fruits having different colors. And among the mountains there are tracks, white and red- of different colors, and (others) utterly black. And among humans and beasts and cattle, there are those having different colors as well. Even so only those of His servants fear Allāh who have knowledge; surely Allāh is All- mighty, All-forgiving. (Fāṭir, 35:27-28)

After mentioning the great diversity in plant and animal kingdoms, in  geological  formations and  in  humans, this āyah goes on to give a new perspective on the knowledgeable and hence on knowledge itself. The examples mentioned are all the subjects of science. But not all those who would study and master them will have true knowledge, for true knowledge produces consciousness and fear of Allāh. If the latter is absent, so is the former. Such a person will remain an ignorant person in the sight of Allāh, no matter how many professional degrees and awards he or she has accumulated.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Five‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Five

The Purpose behind Economic Scarcity

وَلَوْ بَسَطَ اللَّهُ الرِّزْقَ لِعِبَادِهِ لَبَغَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ مَّا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ
For if Allāh were to grant (in this world) abundant sustenance to (all of) His servants, they would behave on earth with wanton insolence: but as it is, He bestows (His grace) from on high in due measure, as He wills: for, verily, He is fully aware of (the needs of) His creatures, and sees them all. (Ash-Shūrā 42:27)

Economics is the science that deals with the issue of scarcity. However it cannot see the Divine plan behind this scarcity and therefore leads to the same wanton insolence that is meant to be avoided through it. Scarcity of provisions leads to interdependence and makes the working of the human society possible. It also makes us realize our limits and keeps us from being haughty. The result is that we are thankful for the bounties we receive and patient over wants that go unfulfilled. But when this understanding is not there, it results in exploitation and oppression. We want to have monopoly over the limited resources and use that monopoly for unfair advantage.

That is why Islamization of Economics, and other social and physical sciences, is so important  for the welfare of humanity.

Shūrā = Democracy?

وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
Those who hearken to their Sustainer, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance; (Ash-Shūrā, 42:38)

This āyah highlights the importance of shūrā or the system of mutual consultation for the running of all collective affairs, whether in the family, in a small group or at the highest levels of the Islamic state. When carried out properly, the system shows that the power of the group is much more than the sum of its members. The group benefits from the best of individual resources, talents and ideas. The process of consultation also brings its members closer together, cementing the group. A hadith promises Allāh’s succor to those practicing shūrā.

Sometimes people mention  Islamic Shūrā as another name for democracy. This is a dangerous oversimplification and ignores the gulf of difference between their philosophical underpinnings.  Democracy is  not  a  system of  mutual consultation, but a system of negotiation between divergent interests. Each constituency on this negotiating table seeks to gain at the expense of others and will do whatever it can get away with—from vote rigging and gerrymandering to manufacturing consent through slick propaganda campaigns. The division of the community into political factions is part of the blueprint of democracy, as is the permanent division between the ruling and opposition groups.

All of these are the exact opposite of the spirit and purpose of shūrā, where everyone is working towards the same goals and seeks the greatest benefit for the entire group.

The centrifugal tendencies of democracy require some organizing principle to keep the group together. This was provided by territorial nationalism and the nation-state, which has done much harm to humanity. It is no accident that the rise of democracy and the nation-sate has been simultaneous. Needless to  say that  Islam stands in  total opposition to territorial nationalism.

The Perils of Affluence

وَلَوْلَا أَن يَكُونَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً لَّجَعَلْنَا لِمَن يَكْفُرُ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ لِبُيُوتِهِمْ سُقُفًا مِّن فِضَّةٍ وَمَعَارِجَ عَلَيْهَا يَظْهَرُونَ. وَلِبُيُوتِهِمْ أَبْوَابًا وَسُرُرًا عَلَيْهَا يَتَّكِئُونَ. وَزُخْرُفًا ۚ وَإِن كُلُّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمَّا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَالْآخِرَةُ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
Were it not that all people would become of a single creed (i.e. disbelief),  We  would  have  caused,  for  those  who  disbelieve  in Raḥmān, roofs of their houses to be made of silver, and the stairs as well, on which they would climb, and doors of their homes, and the coaches on which they would recline, and (would have made some of these things) of gold-ornaments. And all this is nothing but an enjoyment of the worldly life. And the Hereafter, with your Lord, is (destined) for the God-fearing. (Az-Zukhruf 43:33-35)

This is a perspective on the perils of gold and silver that is totally ignored today both by the experts and the laymen. It is a mercy of Allāh that He did not make all of the non-believers extremely rich. Otherwise the road to unbelief would become so slippery that no one would escape sliding down to it.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Three‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Three

Ignoring the Signs of Allāh

وَمَا تَأْتِيهِم مِّنْ آيَةٍ مِّنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَّا كَانُوا عَنْهَا مُعْرِضِينَ
There comes to them no sign from the signs of your Lord, but they turn away from it. (Yāsīn, 36:46)

The Prophetﷺ called sūrah Yāsīn the heart of the Qur’ān because it encapsulates the essential message of the Qur’ān and the signs in the universe that point to its truth in a very powerful way.

Yet  the  signs cannot  benefit those who are bent  on ignoring them. After mentioning various signs of Allāh (dead earth that comes to life with rain, night and day and sun and moon, ships and other means of travel), it points out the state of self-imposed ignorance whereby human beings refuse to learn from the signs. This nonchalance results in foolish argumentation from them, mentioned in the next two āyahs. (Why should we feed the poor, God could have fed them if He wanted? And when is this resurrection after death going to take place?) The answer is to shake them out of this frivolity by giving a glimpse of the Hereafter where the sinners will be separated from the pious. The difference between the former’s doom and the latter’s bliss is not something that any sensible person can brush aside lightly.

The charge of ignoring the signs applies to those who pay no attention to them as well as those who study them in great depth but with a closed mindset that has already decided that this is a creation without a Creator and a design without a Designer. Their study does not lead them to God, because of its prior assumptions and predetermined conclusions. This applies to almost all study of science even in the Muslim classrooms  today because they just ape the methods and philosophies of ignorant science leaders. This is a similar message to what was given in sūrah Yūsuf4  and should be a point of much concern for Muslim educators and scientists today.

Did Man Create gods?

قَالَ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مَا تَنْحِتُونَ
He  answered:  “Do  you  worship  something  that  you  (yourselves) have carved, (Al-Ṣāffāt, 37:95)

Atheists, new and old, have declared that man created God. With this they laughingly assure themselves that they have satisfactorily answered the question as to who created man. But this absurdity has a basis, which the Qur’ān points out here. Man, in fact, has created gods. Whether it is the physical statues of deities or the false ideas about gods, they are all human creations. They result when we surrender to our own lusts, desires, and wishes. That however does not negate the existence of the one True God who created us. Atheism took root in the non-Muslim world, where its leaders only saw the false gods of human creation and decided that that was the entire story. In contrast those who read the Qur’ān with an open mind will come in conversation with the one True God.

Worship has always been a common practice in all human societies. But we have two options about it. We can worship the one True God who created us or we can worship the false gods of our own creation—including the “no God” of atheism.

Doubt the Hereafter? Answer This.

أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَالْمُفْسِدِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الْمُتَّقِينَ كَالْفُجَّارِ
Shall We treat those who believe and do righteous deeds the same as those who commit mischief on the earth? Shall We make the God- fearing equal to the sinners? (Ṣād 38:28)

This is the question that everyone who rejects or harbors doubts about the Hereafter must answer. Allāh is just and justice demands the existence of the Hereafter where everyone will be rewarded or punished for their good and bad deeds. Those who reject or doubt the Hereafter necessarily believe in an unjust world.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Four‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Four

Sincerity

Sincerity and exclusive devotion to Allāh alone is the central tenet of Islam. In sūrah al-Zumar, which was revealed before the migration to Abyssinia and which is a concise statement of what Islam is all about, this tenet is repeated four times. It begins with a command and a statement of principle:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ فَاعْبُدِ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ. أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ
Surely We have revealed the Book to you with truth; so worship Allāh making your submission exclusive for Him. Remember, Allāh alone deserves the exclusive submission. (Az-Zumar, 39:2-3)

Then it reiterates the command:

قُلْ إِنِّي أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ
Say, “I have been ordered to worship Allāh, making my submission exclusive to Him. (Az-Zumar, 39:11)

And again it asserts a statement of fact:

قُلِ اللَّهَ أَعْبُدُ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ دِينِي
Say, “It is Allāh whom I worship, making my submission exclusive to Him. (Az-Zumar, 39:14)

Those who believe in Allāh being the sole creator and master of this universe still run the danger of losing the purity of their devotion due to lusts and desires. Attaining and maintaining this purity is a life long struggle.

It  helps to realize that  of all groups of Muslims, the Companions had the highest level of sincerity. And their unique status is due entirely to it. That is why Allāh announced in the Qur’ān that He was pleased with them, while Allāh does not accept anything which has any taint of insincerity. Learning about their lives and keeping an eye on their examples is thus an effective way of nurturing this sincerity.

Turning Back to Allāh

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ. وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ
Say: “(Thus speaks Allāh:) ‘O my servants who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of Allāh’s mercy: behold, Allāh forgives all sins. Surely, He is the One who is the Most-Forgiving, the Very-Merciful. Hence, turn towards your Sustainer (alone) and surrender yourselves unto Him before the suffering (of death and resurrection) comes upon you, for then you will not be helped.”(Az- Zumar, 39:53-54)

This is such a reassuring message for those who have sinned. By sinning we transgress against our own selves. But the All Merciful Allāh will still turn to us with mercy if we turn to Him in repentance. He is Most-Forgiving; there is no sin He will not forgive if we sincerely seek His forgiveness and take corrective action. The pencil which has been given to us to draw the course of our life’s journey does come with a huge eraser. It lasts as long as the pencil itself. There are no signs on the highway of life that prohibit a U-turn. No matter how messed up our lives may have been, we can always correct course. The door to repentance  is always open—until the very end of our life. But if we wait too long and the end comes in sight, then repentance will not help.

Admonishment to Pharaoh

يَا قَوْمِ لَكُمُ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ ظَاهِرِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَمَن يَنصُرُنَا مِن بَأْسِ اللَّهِ إِن جَاءَنَا ۚ قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ مَا أُرِيكُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَرَىٰ وَمَا أَهْدِيكُمْ إِلَّا سَبِيلَ الرَّشَادِ. وَقَالَ الَّذِي آمَنَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُم مِّثْلَ يَوْمِ الْأَحْزَابِ. مِثْلَ دَأْبِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ وَالَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ ۚ وَمَا اللَّهُ يُرِيدُ ظُلْمًا لِّلْعِبَادِ
“O my people, the kingdom is yours today, while you are dominant on the land. But, who is going to help us against Allāh’s punishment, if it comes upon us?” Pharaoh said, “I do not give you an opinion unless I myself believe it to be correct, and I do not direct you to anything but to the right way.” Thereupon exclaimed he who had attained to faith: “O my people! I fear for you something like a day of the (disbelieving) groups (of the past), like the fate of the people of Nūḥ and ʿĀd and Thamūd and those who were after them—and Allāh  does  not  intend  to  do  any  injustice  to  His  servants.”  (Ghāfir, 40:29-31)

The story of the believer in the court of the Pharaoh is described in some detail in this sūrah. He kept his belief to himself for fear of persecution. However when things started to go out of hand, he had to come out and tell the truth. In the first sentence above he spoke of we and us so as not to alienate them. Upon Pharaoh’s rejection of his passionate appeal, he had to tell them “I fear for you.”

Moral: The inclusive language should be used whenever possible and the exclusive language when necessary.

Fighting Evil with Good

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
Good and evil are not equal. Repel (evil) with what is best, and you will see that the one between whom and you was hatred become as if he were a close friend. (Fuṣṣilat, 41:34)

This teaching will keep the callers to Islam from ever going on ego trips in dealing with the opponents. In his commentary on this Sayyidnā ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās said, “Show patience when someone is venting his anger on you. Show forbearance when someone is rude to you. Forgive when someone hurts you.” We should never leave the high moral ground in dealing with adversity and it may even win over the most committed enemies.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty‏

July 18th, 2014

Juz Twenty

Friendships

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا. يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا. لَّقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي ۗ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنسَانِ خَذُولًا
And (be mindful of ) the Day the wrongdoer will bite his hands saying, “ Would that I had taken a path along with the Messenger! Oh, woe to me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend! He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allāh) after it had come to me! Ah! Satan is but a traitor to man! (Al-Furqān 25:27-29).

This is the last sūrah revealed before hijrah; its āyah 85 was revealed when the Prophet ﷺ had already started his journey to Madinah. This was a heart breaking departure and he was consoled that Allāh would be bringing him back to this city as a conqueror. This happened within a decade although at that time there were no apparent clues leading to this result.

In preparation for the encounter with Jews in Madinah, the first 43 āyahs give a detailed account of the life of Prophet Mūsā not given anywhere else in the Qur’ān. The parallels between the lives of Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ and  that of Prophet Mūsā are unmistakable.  Prophet Mūsā had also left his home when his life was threatened. He was later brought back and ultimately the Pharaoh was drowned. The account thus provides assurance for the Prophet ﷺ and admonishment for the unbelievers.

Qārūn (Korah) and Others of His Ilk

إِنَّ قَارُونَ كَانَ مِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ فَبَغَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْكُنُوزِ مَا إِنَّ مَفَاتِحَهُ لَتَنُوءُ بِالْعُصْبَةِ أُولِي الْقُوَّةِ إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ قَوْمُهُ لَا تَفْرَحْ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَرِحِينَ. وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِن كَمَا أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ. قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِندِي ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَهْلَكَ مِن قَبْلِهِ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مَنْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ قُوَّةً وَأَكْثَرُ جَمْعًا ۚ وَلَا يُسْأَلُ عَن ذُنُوبِهِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ. فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ ۖ قَالَ الَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا يَا لَيْتَ لَنَا مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ قَارُونُ إِنَّهُ لَذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ. وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ وَيْلَكُمْ ثَوَابُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لِّمَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَلَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الصَّابِرُونَ. فَخَسَفْنَا بِهِ وَبِدَارِهِ الْأَرْضَ فَمَا كَانَ لَهُ مِن فِئَةٍ يَنصُرُونَهُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُنتَصِرِينَ. وَأَصْبَحَ الَّذِينَ تَمَنَّوْا مَكَانَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَقُولُونَ وَيْكَأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ ۖ لَوْلَا أَن مَّنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا لَخَسَفَ بِنَا ۖ وَيْكَأَنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ.
Indeed Qārūn (Korah) was from the people of Mūsā, then he rebelled against them. And We had given him treasures such that the very keys of them were too heavy a burden for a company of men endowed with strength. (Remember) when his people said to him, “Do not exult. Surely, Allāh loves not those that exult. And seek the (betterment of ) the Ultimate Abode with what Allāh has given to you, and do not neglect your share from this world, and do good as Allāh did good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land. Surely, Allāh does not like the mischief-makers.” Answered he: “This (wealth) has been given to me only by virtue of the knowledge that is in me!” Did he not know that God had destroyed (the arrogant of ) many a generation that preceded him—people who were greater than he in power, and richer in what they had amassed? But such as are lost in sin may not be asked about their sins (for ascertaining their sins). And so he went forth before his people in all his pomp; (and) those who cared only for the life of this world would say, “Oh, if we but had the like of what Qārūn has been given! He is a man of great fortune indeed!” But those who had been granted true knowledge said: “ Woe unto you! Merit in the sight of Allāh is by far the best for any who attains to faith and does what is right: but none save the patient in adversity can ever achieve this (blessing).” And thereupon We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling; and he had none to help him against Allāh, nor was he of those who could defend themselves. And on the morrow, those who but yesterday had longed to be in his place exclaimed: “Alas (for our not having been aware) that it is indeed Allāh (alone) who grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whichever He wills of His creatures! Had not Allāh been gracious to us, He might have caused (the earth) to swallow us, too! Alas (for our having forgotten) that those who deny the truth can never attain to a happy state!” (Al-Qaṣaṣ 28:76-82)

The account of Qārūn (Korah in the Bible) is given at the end of the sūrah. Qārūn is the personification of the possible evils of wealth. He was given tremendous wealth, which got to his head. He believed, as many do today, that his economic success was the result of his own knowledge and smarts. Little did he realize that for every smart person who has struck it rich, there are many smarter people who have not. How many are the economically successful who can see that their success was the result of simply being at the right place at the right time? Failure to comprehend that our wealth or lack thereof is a test decreed by Allāh according to His plan leads to the other common evil. The surplus wealth begs to be put on display to advertize the superiority of those who hold it. Qārūn did the same. And it did take its toll on the shallow people who are captivated by this world and have not received the revealed knowledge. (Such are the people being produced by our education systems today). They said Qārūn had got it made and wished they had the same. The people of knowledge (i.e revealed knowledge) tried to talk sense to them telling them the real important things were faith and virtue. The truth of this was finally realized by the first group when Qārūn was buried alive along with his wealth.

Wealth also took another toll on the poor Qārūn. He belonged to a colonized people (Bani Israel) and had accepted to work for the Pharaoh as his agent to control his own people. He betrayed his people and became an oppressor for them— because his narrowly conceived vested interests dictated so.
We can see the dark character of Qārūn, the agent, in the history of colonized people to this day. We can also see the character of Qārūn, the filthy rich, in every society.

Successful Personality

تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
As for that Ultimate Abode (the Hereafter), We assign it to those who do not intend haughtiness on earth nor mischief. And the (best) end is for the God-fearing. (Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28:83)

The eternal success belongs to the good people. Their defining characteristic is that they seek neither oppression of others nor corruption. They are a God-fearing people or muttaqī in the special Qur’ānic terminology.

Nurturing of taqwā is a central Islamic goal. The Qur’ānic guidance is beneficial only for those who have taqwā. The purpose of fasting is also to develop taqwā. All acts of virtue are performed by the muttaqīn (plural of muttaqī). Paradise has been created for the muttaqīn.

Limits of Parental Rights

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا ۖ وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۚ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
We have charged man to do good to his parents. But if they insist upon you that you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. To Me is your return; then I shall tell you what you were doing. (Al-ʿAnkabūt 29:8)

The persons who have the  greatest right on  us are our parents. Yet when this right impinges on the right of Allāh to be worshipped alone, it will be disregarded. It follows that rights of other people will be disregarded even more when they conflict with the commands of Allāh. There is absolutely no obedience to other people that results in disobedience to Allāh.

A Great Reassurance

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
But as for those who strive hard in Our cause—We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold, Allāh is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-ʿAnkabūt, 29:69)

This āyah holds great reassurance for all those who may find hurdles in obeying Allāh. When doors seem to be locked and all options look bad, let us have faith. We should turn to Allāh seeking His help and do the best we can under the circumstances. And we will find a way out with help from totally unexpected sources. The Qur’ānic words are very emphatic. Let us find comfort in their great promise. If we keep this āyah in front of us, we’ll never lose hope, no matter what the current circumstances.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Nineteen‏

July 18th, 2014

Juz Nineteen

Friendships

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا. يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا. لَّقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي ۗ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنسَانِ خَذُولًا
And (be mindful of ) the Day the wrongdoer will bite his hands saying, “ Would that I had taken a path along with the Messenger! Oh, woe to me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend! He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allāh) after it had come to me! Ah! Satan is but a traitor to man! (Al-Furqān 25:27-29).

This is direct reference to the case of ʿUqbah ibn Abu Muʿayṭ, who accepted Islam then turned back and even spat on the face of the Prophet ﷺ under the pressure of his friend Ubayy ibn Khalaf. Both of them reached an evil end.

But the wording is general and is a reminder that we should never accept as friends those people who may lead us away from the path of the Messenger ﷺ. If we do we’ll get nothing but regrets in the end. We should choose friends who will be a positive influence on us, whose friendship will make it easy for us to follow the path of piety and righteousness. A hadith makes it very clear: “Everyone is influenced by his friends, so watch out whom you are befriending.”

The Qur’ān and Us

وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
And (on that Day) the Messenger will say: “O my Sustainer! Behold, (some of) my people have come to regard this Qur’ān as a thing to be shunned” (al-Furqān, 25:30)

The reference in my people (qawmī) is to the mushrikīn of Quraysh. But the general wording should give pause to the Muslims whose behavior fits the description. Today we have severed the link between the Qur’ān and our daily life. We do not read it, try to understand it, reflect on it, and make it the guiding light for the individual and collective affairs of our life as we ought to do. To the extent that we are deficient in these obligations, we are liable to be accused as mentioned here. May Allāh protect us from the Qur’ān and the Prophet ﷺ becoming our accusers.

Portrait of Believers

This sūrah ends with another snapshot of the character of believers. As mentioned  in  the  reflections on  Sūrah al- Mu’minūn, these should not be seen as so many disjointed commands, but as pointers to the desirable personality. These are the people who can affectionately be called the servants of the Most Merciful.

It is also to be noted that the qualities are listed not as goals but accomplishments. These āyahs are not saying, “O believers do this.” Rather they are saying, “Believers are already doing this.” At other places in the Qur’ān believers have been praised for virtuous acts though they were not commanded to do them anywhere in the Qur’ān. Reflecting on this will enlighten us about both the role of the Prophet ﷺ and that of the Companions. The Companions  either learned these qualities directly from the Prophet ﷺ or as a result of Prophetic training, they developed that mindset that automatically led them to the praiseworthy course of action.

Qualities:
They walk humbly.
They avoid arguments with the ignorant people.
They spend the nights in worship of Allāh.
They follow the path of moderation in economic matters. They are neither spendthrift nor stingy.
They respect sanctity of life.
They do not commit fornication or adultery.
They do not bear false witness.
They do not turn deaf and dumb to the words of Allāh.
They seek and pray for raising a family based on piety and virtue.

Pharaoh and “Political Islam”

قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ. يُرِيدُ أَن يُخْرِجَكُم مِّنْ أَرْضِكُم بِسِحْرِهِ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ
He (Pharaoh) said to the chiefs around him “This man is certainly an expert sorcerer”. He wants to expel you from your land with his sorcery. So what do you suggest?” (Ash-Shuʿarā’ 26:34-35)

The encounters of Prophet Mūsa with the Pharaoh are reported in several places in the Qur’ān including  here.  It is obvious that both Pharaoh and his expert  advisers were looking at the “problem” of Prophet Mūsa as a political problem. For them it was all about a power struggle. They painted Prophet Mūsa as the leader of a “political Islam” that threatened to drive them from power and fashioned their strategy and propaganda campaigns accordingly. In  sūrah Taha we see them calling Prophet Mūsa as a threat to their superior lifestyle. “Said they, ‘Certainly, these two are sorcerers who wish to drive you out from your land, and do away with your excellent way of life.’”

This preoccupation with political analysis became the big barrier that kept the Pharaoh and his advisers from seeing the Truth.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Eighteen‏

July 16th, 2014

Juz Eighteen

Surah al-Mu’minun

Reflections on Falaḥ (Success)

This sūrah begins with the promise of falāḥ for the believers who have certain qualities. It  ends with  the  categorical assertion that non-believers will not get falāḥ. The first eleven āyahs specify the type of person who will definitely achieve falāḥ. Translated  as success, falāḥ signifies a state where a person’s every wish comes true and at the same he is protected from everything undesirable. This point is also made explicit in other āyahs. “We have been your friends in the worldly life, and (will remain as such) in the Hereafter. And for you here is whatever your souls desire, and for you here is whatever you call for.” “And there will be whatever souls desire and that which eyes enjoy. And you will be living in it forever.” The point to ponder is that if everyone can get all their wishes fulfilled, this could also potentially lead to chaos.

People, after all, are capable of harboring wild wishes! The answer is that only those people will be admitted to Paradise who can handle such a privilege with responsibility, who have purified themselves thoroughly and developed a personality that is qualified to get such a blank check. Paradise is an exclusive place. Not in the sense that it is reserved for a specific race or nationality or color or economic standing. But in the sense that it is meant only for those who have developed the required personal qualities. It is a beautiful place, more beautiful than the most beautiful place the human mind can even imagine. It is meant for people who have developed an inner beauty. Unlike physical beauty which may be inherited, this is the beauty of the soul which is to be acquired—through the purification of one’s intentions and actions.

The  qualities mentioned  in  this  sūrah  (āyah 1-11) should be read with this perspective in mind. This is not a disjointed list of some things that believers are supposed to do; the qualities paint the portrait of the God fearing and God conscious personality that is always seeking good and avoiding evil. We should be judging ourselves not only on the specific qualities listed here but also on how close we are to that ideal personality to see how far we are from true and eternal success.

Qualities for Attaining Falaḥ

The listed qualities are:
A) They are believers. This is the key quality. The success in the Hereafter belongs only to the believers. The point is further emphasized in the end of this sūrah, where it says: “Lo! Disbelievers  will not  be successful.” Paradise is not something that will be given away to those who do not even believe in it and are not even seeking it.
B) They concentrate their attention in humbleness when offering ṣalāh (prayers). This is the state of their prayer. Concentration  and  humbleness mark  it,  and  with  the frequency of ṣalāh in their daily life, make these the overriding parts of their personality.
C) They keep themselves away from vain things. They stay away not only from sins, but also from vain pursuits and useless and purposeless activities. They know the value of their time and their resources and do not waste any of them on things that will not contribute to their success.
D) They are performers of Zakāh. This refers to self purification  as well as the purification of one’s wealth through the charitable donation normally known as Zakāh.
E) They guard their chastity. They stay away from all extramarital  sex and things that can lead to it.
F) They honestly look after their trusts and covenants. They are a people for whom talk is not cheap. When they give their word, they honor it. Their pledges are solid. They are honorable people in their dealings with everyone.
G) They (strictly) guard their prayers.The desirable traits are bracketed with references to ṣalāh, thus indicating that it is the pillar of the successful personality. A Muslim negligent in his prayers is far from the model of success that Islam espouses.

Surah an-Nur: Hijab

One of the key qualities for eternal success mentioned in the previous sūrah was guarding chastity. This sūrah further amplifies on it and gives commands both for the preservation of that chastity and for the punishment when it is violated. It begins with the punishment for fornication, followed by punishment for slandering a chaste woman or man. These are two of the four Ḥudūd laws, which are not subject to any change with the passage of time. The other two Ḥudūd Laws deal with punishments for theft and consuming alcohol.

It also deals with the slander of Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah by the hypocrites, rebuking them and testifying to her chastity. It  continues to  give commands for  the  preservation of ḥayā in the social life of the Muslim community. This forms the essential Islamic “sex education” course. And a key component of that course is contained in the following two āyahs.

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
Tell the believing men that they must restrain their gazes and guard their chastity; it is more decent for them. Surely Allāh is All-Aware of what they do. (An-Nūr, 24:30)

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
And tell the believing women that they must restrain their gazes and guard their chastity, and must not expose their adornment, except that which (necessarily) appears thereof, and must wrap their bosoms with their shawls, and must not expose their adornment, except to their husbands or their fathers or the fathers of their husbands, or to their sons or the sons of their husbands, or to their brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters, or to their women, or to those owned by their right hands, or male attendants having no (sexual) urge, or to the children who are not yet conscious of the private parts of women. And let them not stamp their feet in a way that the adornment they conceal is known. And repent to Allāh O  believers,  all  of  you,  so  that  you  may  achieve  success.  (An-Nūr, 24:31)

The first step toward preserving chastity is the creation of the environment in which temptations are minimized. A woman’s beauty is not public property to be enjoyed by one and all. It is a private treasure that has to be kept private. Both men and women have to restrain their gazes so the looks that can potentially start lusts are nipped in the bud. But women have to do more by covering themselves as detailed above.

Haya’

Islam’s laws about hijab, its ban against free mixing of men and  women, its teachings about  gender-relations—all  of these reflect a deep concern for ḥayā. The only people who will try to water down these injunctions are those who are not fully cognizant of ḥayā’s central place in Islamic life and the destruction caused in the society by its absence.

What is ḥayā? It is normally translated as modesty or inhibition but neither word conveys the same idea as ḥayā. Modesty suggests  shunning indecent behavior but  it also implies bashfulness based on  timidity.  That  is why the adjective based on  its opposite, immodest, is sometimes also used as a compliment suggesting courage. Inhibition is defined as: “Conscious or unconscious mechanism whereby unacceptable impulses are suppressed.” This is a very neutral definition with no reference to right or wrong. Thus one finds psychiatrists “helping” their patients overcome inhibitions.

In contrast to the moral ambiguity of these words, ḥayā refers to an extremely desirable quality that protects us from all evil. It is a natural feeling that brings us pain at the very idea of committing a wrong.

Along with its unique connotation comes the unique value of ḥayā in Islam. Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said: “Every religion has a distinct call. For Islam it is ḥayā.”   Another famous hadith says: “There  are more than seventy branches of Īmān (faith). The foremost is the declaration that there is no god except Allāh and the least of it is removing harmful things from the path. And ḥayā is a branch of Īmān.” As some Muḥadithīn point out, the number seventy is a figure of speech. What the hadith tells us is that the declaration of faith is the most important part of Īmān but that is not all. Īmān also has to reflect itself in all kinds of actions in real life. Moreover, ḥayā is a centerpiece of most of the actions that Īmān calls for. It is the basic building block of Islamic morality. When it is lost everything is lost.

Restraining Gazes

The command to restrain gazes is seen today in wholesale violation. In fact women feel they are a greater target of stares on the streets, say, in Karachi or Istanbul than they are in Los Angeles or London. This sad reality then leads some to question the very restrictions  being violated. Maybe we can have better morality if all the restrictions are removed?

We need to put this delusion to rest. What we are seeing in Los Angeles or London are better manners and not better morals. The alarming rates of sexual improprieties at every level of the society, from the President on down, at the same time that sexual impropriety  is being constantly redefined and narrowed down, are sufficient to put an end to this fanciful thesis.

However it does show that when believers violate Allāh’s commands, they may become worse than anybody else in their manners as well. This should not detract us from the fact that the goal of the believers is to excel in both manners and morals. This can only be achieved by turning back to Allāh. Once again, we need to start listening to the Qur’ān to get out of this terrible mess.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Sixteen‏

July 15th, 2014

Juz Sixteen

Sūrah Al-Kahf

This sūrah starts in the fifteenth juz and is concluded in the sixteenth. It is highly recommended that we recite it every Friday. Several ahadith promise that those who do so will be protected from the deceptions of Dajjāl. The Dajjāl will be a person who personifies deception. His will be an era of extreme trials and tribulations for the believers. We are asked to always pray for protection against those trials. While the Dajjāl has not yet appeared, we are indeed living in an age when dajjālic deceptions are increasingly manifest all around us.

The story of the People of the Cave is narrated in āyahs 9-26. These were young people for whom their faith was all important. They lived at a time when the people of faith were being persecuted by a ruthless king. They could not fight him, nor could they surrender to him. So they took refuge in a cave. They put their affair in the Hands of Allāh and He saved them from persecution through a miraculous sleep that lasted for three centuries.

The story of Prophet Mūsā and Khiḍr is narrated in āyahs 60-82. Its most important moral is that things are not always what they appear to be. We should not be deceived or disheartened by the events that unfold before us every day. What seems to be an imperfect world is  actually a perfect testing ground.

The story of Dhul Qarnayn is told in āyahs 83-98. He was a powerful, just, and Allāh fearing king. Two actions of his are specially highlighted.

1) His declaration that he would punish the unjust and deal kindly with the virtuous. This makes moral purpose and virtue as the yardstick with which to measure any ruler. In contrast secular western democracy holds that the government has no business deciding morality or virtue.
2) He refused to tax the people for a national project even when the tax was offered by the people. This was obviously not for the purpose of improving his chances of reelection; it was the extension of morality and virtue to the economic field.

Here are reflections on some āyahs from this sūrah.

InshāAllāh

َلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدً إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ
And never say about anything, “I shall surely do this tomorrow,” without (adding), “If Allāh so wills.” And remember your Lord if you forget. (Al-Kahf, 18:23-24).

Here is the background for this āyah. The account of the Seven Sleepers, the encounter between Prophet Mūsā  and Khiḍr, and the story of the king Dhul  Qarnayn  were unknown to the Arabs. The Quraysh of Makkah were advised by Jewish scholars in Madinah to ask the Prophet ﷺ about them as a test of the authenticity  of his prophethood. He promised to answer the question the next day expecting the revelation to come by that time. This sūrah was the answer. (This was a most brilliant answer that not only gave details about them, but also applied their stories to the situation at hand to show that the Quraysh were on the side of wrong in the stories about right and wrong. Unfortunately obstinacy kept the Quraysh and the Jews from accepting the Truth.)

This sūrah was the answer, but it was delayed by two weeks. The two anxious weeks were a Divine reminder of an important message mentioned in this āyah. We should never announce plans about the future as if we control it. Rather we should qualify these by the words, inshāAllāh (If Allāh wills). There was a time when in the Western world, the phrase God willing, carried the same message. Today the secularized discourse shies away from acknowledging that we do not control the  future. And even when it  does acknowledge that, it refuses to acknowledge that the control belongs to God. So “God willing” is replaced by any number of clumsy expressions, whose common concern is to avoid mentioning God, like “If fate decrees,” “If the wind blows right,” “Hope it’s my lucky day,” “Barring some unforeseen (circumstance/ incident/accident),” “If things work out,”  and  “If things go according to plan.” Superstition also reigns supreme as people normally  say “knock on wood” or “keep your fingers crossed.”

We should not give in to this secular madness. We need to bring inshāAllāh2  (and God willing) back to our everyday discourse—on  every continent and in every language of the world. For wherever we are and whatever language we speak, the future is always totally in the Hands of Allāh.

Extremism

وَاصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ ۖ وَلَا تَعْدُ عَيْنَاكَ عَنْهُمْ تُرِيدُ زِينَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَا تُطِعْ مَنْ أَغْفَلْنَا قَلْبَهُ عَن ذِكْرِنَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُهُ فُرُطًا
Keep yourself content with those who call their Sustainer morning and evening, seeking His countenance, and let not your eyes overlook them, seeking the splendor of the worldly life. And do not obey the one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, and who has followed his desire and whose behavior has exceeded the limits. (Al-Kahf, 18:28)

Here is the most profound—and ignored—truth about extremism. Those who do  not  remember Allāh end  up following their own desires and go to extremes in satisfying them. It  all starts from a single minded devotion to the splendor of this worldly life. Extremism is thus a direct and inevitable result of materialism and unbelief. And turning to Allāh—and away from obedience to our lusts and greed—is the only way to fight it.

Recently the spelling of this expression has received undue attention due to some misconceptions about the meaning of the phrase when “inshā” is written together in English (as opposed to “in shā”). The fact is that readers of English tend to pronounce and understand it in the same manner when written as “inshallāh” or “inshāAllāh» or «in shaa Allāh.» In all cases they clearly understand it to mean «If Allāh wills.» So all are valid forms as affirmed by many scholars.

The Life of this World.

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُوهُ الرِّيَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّقْتَدِرًا
Set forth to them the similitude of the life of this world: It is like the rain which we send down from the skies: the earth’s vegetation absorbs it, but soon it becomes dry stubble, which the winds do scatter: it  is  (only)  Allāh  who  prevails  over  all  things.  (Al-Kahf,18:45)

All the pleasures and riches of this world are short-lived. Here today, gone tomorrow. How foolish that one should make them the yardstick to measure success in life. This comment follows the  account of the  encounter of two characters: a rich non-believer and a poor believer. The latter was not at all impressed by the riches of the former and was much concerned about his unbelief and ungratefulness towards Allāh. The former refused to listen to him and was destroyed. This āyah captures the moral of the story. That encounter continues today and so does the need for remembering the story and its moral.

The Greatest Loss

قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا. الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا. أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَائِهِ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا
Say, “Shall We tell you about the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those are the ones whose effort in the worldly life has gone in vain, while they think they are doing well. Those are the ones who rejected the signs of their Sustainer and (the concept of ) meeting with Him, so their deeds have gone to waste, and We shall assign to them no weight at all.” (Al-Kahf, 18:103-105)

Good deeds without the right motives are a waste. Motives are the soul of every action. In turn motives are driven by belief. When belief in Allāh and the Hereafter is absent then one’s good deeds are soulless. This is an all important reminder that we need to purify both our intentions and our actions. If we do not seek rewards from Allāh in the Hereafter, we’ll surely not get them.

The Blessed People

أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ مِن ذُرِّيَّةِ آدَمَ وَمِمَّنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْرَائِيلَ وَمِمَّنْ هَدَيْنَا وَاجْتَبَيْنَا ۚ إِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَبُكِيًّا
Those are  the  people  on  whom  Allāh  bestowed  His  grace,  the prophets from the progeny of ’Ādam, and of those whom We caused to board (the Ark) along with Nūḥ, and from the progeny of Ibrāhīm and Isrā’īl ( Jacob), and (all of them were) whom We guided and selected. When the āyahs of The Raḥmān (The All-Merciful) were recited before them, they used to fall down in Sajdah (prostration), while they were weeping. (Maryam, 19:58)

In sūrah al-Fātiḥah we make the dua to be shown the path of those on whom Allāh bestowed His grace. Here the same exact word is being used to tell us that the prophets were the people who were so favored. So anyone sincerely looking to find Allāh’s true favors and blessings should be following in the footsteps of the prophets.

And the thing to note in their behavior is their attitude toward the words and commands of Allāh. Falling down in sajdah with tears of love and awe in their eyes captures  their willing and loving devotion to Allāh and His commands.

We can judge where we stand with reference to Allāh’s true blessings and grace, by seeing where we stand in relationship to Allāh’s words and commands.

Reflections on Āyahs of Sajdah (Prostration)

This is one of the fourteen āyahs of sajdah in the Qur’ān. These āyahs are themselves a reminder of the miracle of the Qur’ān. When reciting any of these āyahs, or listening to their recitation, inside the ṣalāh or outside, believers always perform sajdah. That simple act of prostration that we do not think much of is in reality an extraordinary event. To realize that we can ask if anyone can produce a book such that whenever readers reach a certain point in it they will perform a prescribed act of devotion. All of them. All the time. We can challenge the multibillion dollar publishing empires to pool all their resources and marketing talents to produce such a book. They will fail. For only the Words of Allāh can command such devotion.

There is another important  message  here. We cannot approach the  Qur’ān  as  another  book,  to  be  critically evaluated and judged and selectively  accepted or rejected based on one’s understanding. This is the way an Orientalist will approach the Qur’ān. But for a Muslim these āyahs set the tone for all our interaction with it; it is one of total and loving submission.

Importance of Ṣalāh

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا
Then came  after  them  the  successors  who  neglected  Ṣalāh  and followed their lusts and desires. So they will soon face Destruction. (Maryam, 19:59)

This emphasis on Ṣalāh came in Makkah (in the 5th  year of Prophethood) about five years before the five daily prayers were ordained. After narrating the stories of many prophets, we are told how deviations came in their followers. The prophets had shown the Straight Path. With the passage of time, their followers were overcome by lusts and turned away from this path. And the first error they committed, which finally led to this tragic result, was being negligent in ṣalāh. A famous hadith gives the same message. Ṣalāh is the pillar of dīn, the Islamic way of life. Whoever destroys it destroys his dīn. In other words one cannot build an Islamic life, an Islamic community, an Islamic institution,  or an Islamic government while neglecting or weakening this pillar.

In one of his circulars Sayyidnā ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb sent instructions to all his administrators saying,  “In my opinion, ṣalāh is the most important of your obligations. Whoever takes good care of it and safeguards it safeguards his religion and whoever neglects it will neglect other things even more.” He then added instructions about the times for the five ṣalāhs and admonition against dozing off before Isha.

This letter from the ruler of a vast empire to the officials of his government—shall we call it Executive Order?—gives us a lot to reflect upon. For ṣalāh is among the most emphasized

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Quran Reflections – Juz Fifteen‏

July 15th, 2014

Juz Fifteen

This juz begins with Sūrah al-Isrā’ (also known as Sūrah Banī Isrā’īl). The very first āyah establishes the permanent, irrevocable  importance of Masjid al-Aqṣā for Muslims. It refers to the miraculous night journey of Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the high heavens for a meeting with Allāh, Most High. The  second part of this journey is known as Mi’rāj  or  Ascension. This second part is mentioned later in Sūrah an-Najm (53). The five daily prayers were ordained  during Mi’rāj and are referred to in āyah 78 in this sūrah.

This event took place toward the end of the Makkan period and signified the beginning of a new era where Islam would be established as a state. Thus important commandments for collective life were given in this sūrah in āyahs 22-39. The beginning and ending āyahs of this section are given below.

Tawḥīd

لَّا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتَقْعُدَ مَذْمُومًا مَّخْذُولًا
Do not set up any other deity besides Allāh, otherwise you will find yourself disgraced and forsaken. (Al-Isrā’, 17:22)

ذَٰلِكَ مِمَّا أَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ رَبُّكَ مِنَ الْحِكْمَةِ ۗ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتُلْقَىٰ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَلُومًا مَّدْحُورًا
This is  part  of  that  knowledge  of  right  and  wrong  which  your Sustainer has revealed to you. Hence, do not set up any other deity besides Allāh, lest you be cast into hell, blamed (by yourself ) and rejected (by Him)! (Al-Isrā’, 17:39)

The list begins and ends with the reminder that we must not worship anyone except Allāh alone. Corrupt practices have corrupt ideas behind them and to remove the corruption from our lives, we must begin with the purification of our ideas and beliefs. Thus tawḥīd is the all important belief. A talk of “good deeds” is meaningless without it. Tawḥīd is the cornerstone of Islamic life, and shirk (polytheism) is its exact opposite. It follows that it must be a Muslim’s top most concern to avoid shirk of all forms in his beliefs and practices.

Parental Rights

وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا. وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
Your Sustainer has decreed that you worship none but Him, and do good unto your parents. If any one of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them: uff (a word or expression of anger or disgust) and do not scold them, and address them with respectful words. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Sustainer! Bestow on them your Mercy just as they cherished me in childhood.” (Al-Isrā’, 17:23-24)

These āyahs set the bar for kindness to parents so high that no one can ever be complacent about it and think that they have done all that they should have done. And to compensate for our shortcomings, we should be regularly praying for our parents as mentioned in the second āyah. It should be kept in mind that parents have rights even when they are non-Muslims. In the hierarchy of rights, parental rights are the greatest among all the rights of other human beings. But they are subservient to the rights of Allāh. Thus one cannot revoke obedience to Allāh under the command of his or her parents. Although even in that situation politeness is required.

Being Spendthrift

وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلَا تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا. إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the satans; and the Satan is very ungrateful to his Sustainer. (Al-Isrā’, 17:26-27)

There are two related terms used in the Qur’ān regarding improper spending. Tabdhīr, used here, is spending on projects for which no spending is justified. Isrāf, mentioned elsewhere, is spending extravagantly on projects which are in themselves permissible. Both are condemned. Unfortunately, both are very common in the Muslim world today. The extravagant spending in weddings and celebrations, so common today one might think that it was normal or fine, is just one example of this epidemic.

Killing Children for Fear of Poverty

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا
Do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide sustenance to them and to you, too. Killing them is a great sin indeed. (Al-Isrā’,17:31)

This also refers to abortions. While the āyah refers to the economic motive, as it was the common motive in pre- Islamic Jāhiliyyah, it is obvious that killing for other reasons is no more permissible. Birth control for fear of poverty, as a personal or national project, is also prohibited in Islam.

Adultery and Fornication

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا
Do not even go close to fornication. It is indeed a shameful act, and an evil way to follow. (Al-Isrā’, 17:32)

Islam does not just prohibit all extramarital  sex, it also closes the doors that may lead to it. That is why what is prohibited here is getting close to fornication. This means it is obligatory to stay away from things that  can excite the desires and situations that can make extramarital sex possible or easy. The problem today is that while societies still claim that they want to eliminate adultery, they insist on leaving open all the channels that lead to it. Their strategies make as much sense as putting a pot full of water on the stove and turning on the stove, then prohibiting the production of steam.

Today’s media based commercial and cultural propaganda campaigns have put all their energy in exciting sexual desires because they help sell. The same can be said about the music industry, fashion industry, film industry, and all sorts of businesses that make money from exploitation of lust. This is the first time in history that the inviting picture of a woman has been placed on every square inch of available space. Coeducation and free mixing in general which have become commonplace today and are considered as marks of human progress, all stoke the fires that lead to fornication and adultery and all sorts of sexual perversions. The pot is full and the heat setting is at the highest level. Is it any wonder that steam production is also at the highest levels?

Quite expectedly those who have chosen to declare fueling the fires as a fundamental human right have taken fornication off the list of crimes. This makes the statistics not look as bad, but does not change anything in reality. The destruction of family life, which has reached epidemic proportions, is a direct result of this attitude.

Islam’s call is to end this fatal contradiction and self delusion. Solve the problem at its roots. Close the doors that lead to sexual anarchy. It is a shame that the Muslim world, in large parts, has also become deaf to this Qur’ānic message with the result that the graphs of incidents of sexual crimes are at an all time high and going up. This is another reminder that our problems will not be solved until we start listening to the Qur’ān.

Murder

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَمَن قُتِلَ مَظْلُومًا فَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا لِوَلِيِّهِ سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يُسْرِف فِّي الْقَتْلِ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مَنصُورًا
And do not take any human being’s life—(the life) which Allāh has willed to be sacred—otherwise than in (the pursuit of ) justice. Hence, if anyone has been slain wrongfully, We have empowered his heir (to exact a just retribution); but even so, let him not exceed the bounds of equity in (retributive) killing. Surely, he will be helped (in a just retribution). (Al-Isrā’, 17:33)

Killing is permitted only in the execution of a legal sentence,in a just war, or in legitimate self-defense. The overriding concern for justice demands that we avoid excesses in both directions: in letting murderers go unpunished, or going beyond limits in punishing the murderer and even others merely suspected of capital crimes. We see both extremes in the world today. Murderers go unpunished as capital sentence is considered too harsh. Yet killing men, women, and children on mere suspicions using remote killing mechanisms (like drones) is considered legitimate, even virtuous.

Vain Pursuits

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا
And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; verily, (your) hearing and sight and heart—all of them—will be called to account for it (on Judgment Day). (Al-Isrā’, 17:36)

This is banning idle curiosities, vain pursuits, and all pointless uses of our faculties of sense and intellect. This is the stuff that fills up most of the modern media and countless hours in Internet surfing, chatting, and texting. Social networks have taken this human weakness to an entirely new plane. This is a reminder that our use of our faculties must be made with a heavy sense of responsibility and accountability before Allāh. Only this sense of ultimate accountability can prevent us from misusing these God given faculties.

Arrogance

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا
And walk not on earth with haughty self-conceit: for, verily, you can never rend the earth asunder, nor can you ever grow as tall as the mountains! (Al-Isrā’, 17:37)

This is meant to cut the megalomaniacs of all grades to size. A six foot tall human being walking arrogantly on the face of this vast earth, in comparison to which he is nothing more than a speck, makes an interesting spectacle. Let us be honest—and be humble.

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