Posts Tagged ‘Prophets’

Quran Reflections – Juz Thirteen‏

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Juz Thirteen

Sūrah Yūsuf

Sūrah Yūsuf is unique among Qur’ānic narratives as the entire sūrah is devoted to the story of Prophet Yūsuf. Further, his story, unlike other stories, is not mentioned anywhere else. The sūrah is filled with moral lessons, for which a good tafsīr should be consulted. Here are only some of those lessons.

In-between Muslims

اقْتُلُوا يُوسُفَ أَوِ اطْرَحُوهُ أَرْضًا يَخْلُ لَكُمْ وَجْهُ أَبِيكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا مِن بَعْدِهِ قَوْمًا صَالِحِينَ
“Let us kill Yūsuf, or throw him at some place on earth, and thus your father’s full attention will be devoted for you alone, and after doing that, you may become a righteous people.” (Yūsuf, 12:9)

The brothers of Prophet Yūsuf  were Muslims. They were driven by jealousy and not by an ideological conflict. But this jealousy led them to commit serious wrongs. Torn between their negative emotions and their sense of right and wrong, they were the in-between Muslims. They must have felt the pricks of conscience in formulating their evil plan. This is how they assuaged their guilt feeling. “Do this one wrong now, and afterward lead a virtuous life.” Anyone resorting to the same justification for any wrong should realize the hollowness of this logic.

Human Nature

This sūrah gives extremely valuable insights into  human nature. It also tears apart the idea that good people are above lusts and desires or that there can be such a thing as platonic love. This idea only helps remove the safeguards  thereby making succumbing to those desires easier. This is the story of a Prophet, whose innocence is attested to by the Qur’ān. Yet it also says clearly that he could have succumbed to the lust, except for the help from Allāh. The following āyahs make it very clear.

وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَن رَّأَىٰ بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ
She certainly desired him, and he might have desired her, had he not seen the proof from his Lord. Thus We did, to turn evil and lewdness away from him. Surely, he was one of Our chosen servants. (Yūsuf, 12:24) 

قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِفْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ
He (Yūsuf ) said, “My Lord, the prison is dearer to me than what these women invite me to do. If You do not turn their guile away from me, I might yet yield to their allure and become one of those who are unaware (of right and wrong). (Yūsuf, 12:33)

وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And yet, I am not trying to absolve myself: for, verily, man’s inner self does incite (him) to evil, and saved are only they upon whom my Sustainer bestows His grace. Certainly, my Sustainer is the Most- Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (Yūsuf 12:53)

In the first āyah Allāh is saying that Prophet Yūsuf might have desired her. In the second āyah Prophet Yūsuf  is seeking Allāh’s help against their seduction since without that help he might yield to their allure. The third āyah is a general observation about human nature which  has  inclinations to evil.

The idea that human beings can be reformed against their nature is a fantastic one. This story should liberate us from such illusions. The proper moral reform consists in recognizing human nature and eliminating the opportunities for it taking the wrong course. The attraction between the sexes is an important force of nature, which makes family life possible, which is the basic unit of society. When it spills outside marriage, it becomes a destructive force, which must be curbed. And the way to do that is to restrict the exposure and opportunities for interaction between the sexes in those situations. Hence the laws of hijab and the restrictions against free-mixing, which are based on a perfect knowledge of the human nature. All those who try to water them down are working against the forces of nature.

It should also be noted that Zulaykha was older than Prophet Yūsuf. He had entered their house as a child to be possibly adopted as a son. This removes any grounds for relaxation of the requirements of hijab for an older (as opposed to an old) woman. As long as the two are of marriageable age, the restrictions are to be observed.

Sermon in the Prison

قَالَ لَا يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلَّا نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي ۚ إِنِّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ. وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ آبَائِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۚ مَا كَانَ لَنَا أَن نُّشْرِكَ بِاللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ. يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ. مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
I have abandoned the way of those who do not believe in Allāh, and who are deniers of the Hereafter. And I follow the creed of my forefathers Ibrāhīm (Abraham), Isḥāq (Isaac), and Yaʿqūb ( Jacob). It is not conceivable that we should (be allowed to) ascribe divinity to anyone beside Allāh: this is (an outcome) of Allāh’s bounty unto us and unto all mankind – but most people are ungrateful. O my companions in imprisonment! Which is more reasonable: (belief in the existence of numerous divine) lords, each of them different from the other—or (in) Allāh, the One God, who holds absolute sway over all that exists? All that you worship instead of Allāh is nothing but (empty) names which you have invented—you and your forefathers—(and) for which Allāh has bestowed no warrant from on high. Sovereignty belongs to none but Allāh. He has ordained that you shall not worship anyone but Him. This is the only right path. But most of the people do not know. (Yūsuf 12:37-40) 

This is a very powerful sermon that  passionately appeals to our ingrained sense of truth and falsehood to show the truth of the universal call of Islam. Prophet Yūsuf, like all prophets, is constantly on the lookout to call people to Allāh. He gets an opportunity when the inmates approach him for interpretation of their dreams. With great wisdom and passion he uses the occasion to deliver them the message. It is a penetrating question, which can  be  posed to all the polytheists of the world: “Which is more reasonable: (belief in the existence of numerous  divine) lords, each of them different from the other—or (in) Allāh, the One God, who holds absolute sway over all that exists?”

It  is telling that  this important  part  of the  story is completely missing from the narrative in the Torah, which otherwise has many historical details (names, places, numbers) not mentioned in the Qur’ān. Such details are a characteristic of human  story telling. On  the  other  hand  the  Qur’ān ignores such details and focuses totally on telling the stories to highlight the guidance for humanity inherent in them.

Tawakkul

وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لَا تَدْخُلُوا مِن بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُّتَفَرِّقَةٍ ۖ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنكُم مِّنَ اللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۖ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ ۖ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ
And he said, “O my sons, do not enter (the city) all of you from the same gate; rather, enter from different gates. And I cannot help you in any way against (the will of ) Allāh. Sovereignty belongs to none but Allāh. In Him I place my trust, and all those who trust should trust in Him alone.” (Yūsuf, 12:67)

For security reasons Prophet Yaʿqūb (Jacob) asked  his sons not to travel together. But after advising them of  the necessary precaution, he made it very clear that his trust was not in his prudence but in Allāh. This is a lesson in the very important concept of tawakkul: We should take the  best steps needed based on our knowledge and  understanding, then leave the results to Allāh. Tawakkul means making and executing the plans to the best of our ability and then putting our trust in Allāh to make our plans and actions bring out the desired outcomes. This is Islam’s middle way between the extremes of taking matters completely in our hands or leaving them altogether and  hoping for desired outcomes without any effort. Tawakkul  ends worries and  anxieties without compromising on our plans and actions.

Forgiveness

قَالَ لَا تَثْرِيبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ يَغْفِرُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
He  said,  “No  reproach  upon  you  today!  May  Allāh  forgive  you, and He is the Most- Merciful of all those who show mercy. (Yūsuf, 12:92)

قَدْ أَحْسَنَ بِي إِذْ أَخْرَجَنِي مِنَ السِّجْنِ وَجَاءَ بِكُم مِّنَ الْبَدْوِ مِن بَعْدِ أَن نَّزَغَ الشَّيْطَانُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ إِخْوَتِي
(My Lord) favored me when he released me from the prison, and brought you from the countryside after Satan had caused a rift between me and my brothers. (Yūsuf, 12:100)

This is the greatness of the Prophetic character, an example in both forgiveness and thankfulness. After all the ordeals through which his brothers had put him as a young child, he forgave them. And the forgiveness referred to in the first āyah mentioned above was really meant as we can see in the second āyah quoted above. Prophet Yūsuf, instead of blaming his brothers, simply referred to whatever  happened to the inspirations of Satan.

When  Prophet  Muḥammad  ﷺ conquered  Makkah and he was in a position to take revenge from the Quraysh leaders who had left no stone unturned in hurting him and his followers for more than a decade, he used the same words to forgive them.

Prophet Yūsuf  had faced three great  tribulations. First, he was mistreated by his brothers. Second, he had to withstand long separation from his  parents. Third, he was unjustly put in prison. Here in summing up his story he is giving a profound lesson in thankfulness. First, he reversed the order making the last incident the most important and the first, which had started it all and for which his brothers were directly responsible, the least. Second, he focused not on the ordeal but on the ending of the ordeal. He thanked Allāh for helping him get out of the prison, and for bringing back his parents and family. No complaints about his long ordeal, no ill feeling about his brothers. Only thanks and rejoicing.

Knowledge, Wisdom, Blindness

أَفَمَن يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَىٰ ۚ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
Now, can the one who knows that whatever has been revealed to you from your Lord is the truth, be equal to one who is blind? But only men of understanding heed. (Ar-Raʿd, 13:19)

Allāh’s guidance has been mentioned in many places as the light. This light makes the believers see the truth as truth. Others are in utter darkness and therefore they cannot see it. That is, they are blind to it.

Worldly Provisions

اللَّهُ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ وَفَرِحُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا مَتَاعٌ
Allāh expands the provision for whom He wills and narrows it (for whom He wills). And they (who are given abundance) rejoice in the life of this world—even though, as compared with the life to come, the  life  of  this  world  is  nothing  but  a  fleeting  pleasure.  (Ar-Raʿd, 13:26)

Too  many  people get deceived into  thinking  that  their economic achievements are a result of their own smarts. This āyah should help destroy this myth. A person who truly believes in this statement will always be thankful to Allāh for all his provisions and earnings, will not be tempted by ḥarām sources of income, and will be a contented person.

Peace of Mind

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
The ones  who  believe  and  their  hearts  are  peaceful  with  the remembrance of Allāh. Listen, the hearts find peace only in the remembrance of Allāh. (Ar-Raʿd, 13:28)

This is the real recipe for achieving that elusive peace of mind. Remembrance of Allāh (dhikr) brings one closer to Allāh. And as one gets closer to Allāh his worries and anxieties are replaced by tranquility and contentment.

Dhikr is the food for the soul. Nothing else would satisfy a healthy soul. On the other hand a sick soul may not be able to digest it, but it will find nothing else either that can provide proper nourishment for it. That is why the āyah first says that the guidance of Allāh is for those whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allāh. In other words those who have healthy souls. Then it tells that real peace lies only in the remembrance of Allāh.

Conquering Nature?

اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِيَ فِي الْبَحْرِ بِأَمْرِهِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهَارَ. وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَائِبَيْنِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ
It is Allāh Who has created the heavens and the earth and sends down rain from the skies, and with it brings out fruits wherewith to feed you; it is He Who has made the ships subject to you, that they may sail through the sea by His command; and the rivers (also) has He made subject to you. And He has made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day has He (also) made subject to you. (Ibrāhīm 14:32-33)

Here is the cure for the delusion of modern science that it is conquering nature. We constantly hear how man  has conquered the earth and is now out to conquer space. The apparent control over rivers and seas, mountains and deserts, and plants and animals that mankind seems to exert, the astounding ability with which the powers of the sun and the moon have been harnessed to serve human needs, the wonderful inventions that seem to put gigantic forces of nature at our disposal-all of these result from His Will. It is Allāh who created the universe and it is He who has granted us control over it. (And whenever He wills, He takes it back as well.) Instead of congratulating ourselves for “conquering” it, we should be thanking Allāh for granting us this domination.

The disasters that modern science has produced, especially the  environmental disaster, are a  result of  its  delusion. A scientist informed by this āyah will be freed from this debilitating sickness  that is threatening the humanity. He would act responsibly, knowing that he is accountable before Allāh for how he uses the domination given to him as a test. He would be a grateful and humble servant of Allāh instead of the mad scientist out to maximize his power and profits. He would know that Allāh created the universe to serve us and created us to serve Him.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Two‏

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Juz Two

The Middle Nation

وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)

Ummatan Waṣaṭan can be translated as the middle nation, the best nation, and an Ummah justly balanced. The phrase captures the essence of Islam, which is to shun all excesses. At other places (e.g. Al-Mā’idah 5:12) the Qur’ān refers to the path it shows as sawā as-sabīl. Abdullah  Yūsuf Ali explains: “The Arabic word sawā signifies smoothness  as opposed to roughness; symmetry as opposed to want of plan; equality or proportion as opposed to want of design; rectitude as opposed to crookedness; a mean as opposed to extremes; and fitness for the object held in view as opposed to faultiness.”

This āyah charters the Ummah to  be a force against extremism. Extremism is a product of ignorance. Given two extreme points on a straight line, anyone can point out where the middle point lies. But a person who cannot see the entire line will also miss the middle point. He may be sitting on an extreme edge, yet congratulate himself for being in the middle.

Our  own  instruments  of  observation and  intellect, wonderful as they are, are simply not up to the task of finding the perfectly balanced course in the complex, ever-changing, multidimensional maze, which is the real life. Yet we know that we do need to find it. Our physical well-being requires that we eat a well balanced diet and follow the course of moderation. Our economic, social, and spiritual well-being similarly demands finding the balanced approach and the moderate course in all these spheres. Our total well-being requires finding the path of moderation for our entire life.

Hence this charter. It says that the middle path is the one shown by the Messenger ﷺ to us so we can show it to the rest of humanity. Paths that deviate from it deviate toward extremism of one form or another—even though they may be slickly packaged as being paths of moderation.

The Prophet’s Role, Our Responsibilities

كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِيكُمْ رَسُولًا مِّنكُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيكُمْ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُوا تَعْلَمُونَ
As also We have sent in your midst a messenger from among you, who recites to you Our revelations, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and the wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know. (Al-Baqarah, 2:151)

See the  repeated reference to  “you.” This āyah describes the  assignments of  the  Prophet  ﷺ regarding us.  That automatically  fixes our responsibilities regarding each one of these tasks. It was his job to teach; it remains our job to learn. It is our job to learn the recitation of the Qur’ān as he taught, to get purified, to learn the Book and wisdom,  and learn whatever he came to teach us. For each discipline, there are unbroken chains of teachers going back to the Prophet ﷺ from whom we can learn. The Qur’ān teachers, sufi masters, scholars, Hadith experts, and jurists are all there as are the books they have produced for our education.

This message is repeated in  An-Nisā’ 3:164 where it begins by saying that “Allāh has surely conferred favor on the believers” by sending the Messenger ﷺ with these tasks. We need to ask ourselves whether we are showing gratefulness for this favor.

When Calamity Strikes

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
Who,  when  a  suffering  visits  them,  say, “ Verily,  unto  Allāh  do  we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:156)

While most of us may know these words and use them at the death of someone, their true significance escapes many. The preceding and subsequent āyahs give glad tidings to those who say these words at the time of any calamity declaring, “Those are the ones upon whom there are blessings from their Lord, and mercy as well; and those are the ones who are on the right path.” According to a hadith these blessed words are a special gift of Allāh for this Ummah. That is why we do not find even previous prophets using them.

Their use should not be limited to the occasion of death. According to a hadith, everything that hurts a believer is the suffering mentioned here. Every instance of discomfort is an occasion for saying these words and getting the reward for being patient. The Prophet ﷺ showed by example that the scope of usage of these words extends to small things as well: a thorn prick, an insect bite, a lamp running out of oil, a shoe lace breaking.

Finally we must say these words with full consciousness that everything indeed belongs to Allāh and must return to Him. When we lose a person or a thing, they have simply gone back to the One to whom they belonged. This consciousness will help us face any loss with dignity.

Guidance and its Prerequisites

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
True piety does not consist merely in turning your faces towards the east or the west—but truly pious is he who believes in Allāh and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives wealth, despite (his) love for it, to relatives, orphans, the helpless, the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage and observes the Ṣalāh (prayers) and pays Zakāh; and (truly pious are) they who keep their promises whenever they make a promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril. Such are the people of truth, the Allāh-fearing.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:177)

Turning  our  face toward  the  Kaʿbah is  a  requirement in offering ṣalāh. Earlier āyahs in this sūrah detailed the commandments regarding this requirement. Here the issue is being put in proper perspective. The external forms of the prescribed acts of worship are important, but they should not distract us from focusing on the essence of piety which is described here. While paying attention to the external forms of worship, we should never lose sight of the attributes in this āyah. Other people have gone to two extremes in this matter. Some discarded the forms altogether. Others gave them so much weight, they lost the essence. The middle path of Islam requires that we avoid both extremes.

Spouses: The Metaphor of Garments

هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُن
They  are  (like)  a  garment  for  you  and  you  are  (like)  a  garment  for them. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

The first thing this āyah tells us is that both husbands and wives equally need each other. Each one needs the other just as they need their garments. Realizing this mutual dependency will mold attitudes which are exactly opposite of the attitudes generated by a notion of independence, which is so prevalent today and has been so disastrous.

Further, the metaphor of garment defines the nature of relationship between spouses. It implies intimacy, comfort, covering, and protection. Our  garments provide physical protection from the elements; the protection spouses provide is also spiritual and moral. The ideal husband and wife will help protect each other from sins.

Wine and Gambling

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ ۖ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا
They ask you about intoxicants and gambling. Say, “In both there is great sin, and some benefit for people. But the evil which they cause is greater than the benefit which they bring.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:219)

It is one of the Prophet’s  ﷺ great miracles that he  made an entire people kick their deeply rooted drinking habit in a short period of time. He turned the Arabian Peninsula and subsequently every Muslim land into a dry land.

This  is  one  of  the  earlier āyahs that  started  this unprecedented revolution. It just declared that the harms of wine far outweighed its benefits, without any discussion of its legal ruling. Then, the āyah that prohibited drinking around the time of the five daily ṣalāhs was revealed. Finally, a total prohibition of wine was declared.

The Qur’ānic messages were amplified by the Prophetic statements and actions. He said: “Allāh has cursed wine, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who carries it, and the one to whom it is carried.”

When a total prohibition was proclaimed the Prophet ﷺ said: “Verily Allāh, the Exalted, has forbidden wine. So who hears this verse and he has anything of it with him, he should neither drink it nor sell it.” And this hadith goes on to report that after this, “The people then brought whatever they had of it with them and spilled it on the streets of Madinah.”

The miraculous eradication of drinking with all its evils demands reflection. How was it done? This is how: Minds were prepared, commands were issued for restricting and then totally prohibiting all use of and trade in alcohol, and punishments were declared and strictly enforced for violators. It was all based on īmān, firm faith in Allāh and His promise of rewards and punishments, and sincere submission to His commands. The overwhelming  majority stopped drinking upon hearing the command.  A few people failed to do so and were brought into line through strict enforcement of Sharīʿah punishments. Education and enforcement  is the winning mix of strategies for the eradication of all social evils. Today social evils proliferate because both are absent.

Rights of Women

وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
And women shall have rights, similar to the  rights  against  them, according to what is equitable. But men have a degree (of advantage) over  them.  And  Allāh  is  Exalted  in  Power,  Wise.  (Al-Baqarah, 2:228)

This is the foundation over which the entire structure of spousal relations is built by Islam. In one word that basis is equity, not equality. There are societies  today that for centuries refused to consider women as human beings or to give them any rights. Now they have gone to one extreme from the other. Islam has nothing to do with such extremism. When women had no rights in the world, it made the above declaration. That remains its Command  today and  forever. Similar rights, not same rights. Equity, not a blind equality. Both men and women are equal in their humanity, in their accountability before Allāh, in their responsibility to perform their assigned tasks and be judged based on their performance. But their assigned tasks are not the same. They have been given different capabilities by their Creator and their tasks are based on those capabilities. This differentiation is not an error that needs to be corrected. It is the only basis for building a healthy and prosperous society. Islam liberates a woman from the modern tyranny of having to become a man in order to have a sense of self worth and achievement.

If Muslims had done their job, they would be asking for universal rights for women as given by Islam and generally ignored in the world today. Based on our dismal performance, and the current discourse on the subject, that  would be quite a revolutionary—and liberating—act. Islam’s universal declaration of women’s rights would include the following:

  1. Men and women have been given dignity by their Creator, but forces of immorality and darkness attack it in many ways. A prevalent form of this attack on women is pornography. Pornography is an affront to the respect and honor of women and produces an atmosphere where other crimes against them become possible. In many countries it has become an “industry” and they are exporting this filth to all parts of the world. Newer technologies, especially the Internet have become mediums of choice for the purveyors of filth, posing a serious threat to morality everywhere. Pornography must be condemned and all trade in porn banned universally in the same way that dangerous drugs are banned.
  2. Prostitution must be recognized as a despicable act of exploitation of women. No one who condones it can be taken seriously in their claims to respect women’s rights.
  3. It is the responsibility of the husband to provide for the family. Islam has freed the woman from this responsibility so she can take care of the home. All efforts to snatch this freedom and economic security from the women and forcing them out of the home into the labor force must be resisted.
  4. Homemaking is a very honorable job and a serious responsibility; it is the foundation on which healthy societies can be built. The societies that disrespect homemaking lose the homemakers and end up with broken homes as can easily be witnessed in many parts of the world. It should be recognized that the trend to belittle the task of homemaking is anti-family and anti-society and must be curbed.
  5. It is a Muslim woman’s right to dress modestly, wear hijab, and refuse to be put on display. This right must be accepted universally and any effort to restrict this right must be recognized for what it is: religious discrimination  and/or persecution.
  6. There is only one legitimate form of the family, that created by the union between a man and woman as provided in all revealed religions. Any other form is not only immoral; it poses a serious threat to humanity.
  7. Families should be protected from outside intrusion, especially intrusion by governments  as much as possible. This also includes intrusion in the name of help. For resolution of family disputes, Islam suggests a three phase procedure.

    A) Resolve the conflict within the home.
    B) Resolve it within the family by involving elders from the families of husband and wife.
    C) As a last resort resolve it through courts of law.

Generosity in Dealings

 ۚ وَلَا تَنسَوُا الْفَضْلَ بَيْنَكُمْ
And do not forget magnanimity towards one another. (Al-Baqarah 2:237)

If  we  listened to  this  teaching, it  would  bring  out  a revolutionary change in  our  family and  social relations. Healthy relationships require a healthy dose of generosity. When giving to others, we should be willing to give more than their due. When receiving, we should be willing to take less.

It is also significant that this has been mentioned during a discussion of divorce when anger and resentment would be at a high level. If a person can be generous even at that time, they can certainly be expected to be generous at other occasions. In that environment difficulties would be resolved amicably. If a people have that attitude, divorce would be uncommon among them, and a bitter divorce would be unheard of.

Today divorce attorneys work on  an exactly opposite platform. They say, forget generosity. Get as much as you can from the other person. The more money you get the happier you would be. This false promise has filled the most affluent societies with walking wounded, people who appear to be doing fine, but are living with deep wounds in their souls. Unfortunately Muslims are also following in their footsteps, and are reaping the bitter harvest of broken homes and ruined lives.

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Christmas Lessons: Prophets Birthday

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011


“Say O People of the Book! Exceed not in your religion the bounds of (what is proper), trespassing beyond the truth. Nor follow the vein desires of people who went wrong in times gone by, — who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even Way.” [Al-Maidah, 5:77]

Both Muslims and serious Christians can learn a lot from Christmas, the annual celebration of the victory of paganism over the religion of Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ), alayhi salam.

No one disputes that the event and all its symbols came from pagan religions; it has nothing to do with the birth or teachings of Jesus Christ. For one thing, no one knows with certainty the date of birth of Jesus Christ. “In fact, dates in almost every month in the year were suggested by reputable scholars at one time or another,” notes The American Book of Days. For another, the celebration of birthdays is itself a pagan idea, never promoted by any Prophet or Book of God, including the Bible. Early Church leaders opposed it strongly. As late as 245 CE African Church father and philosopher Origen wrote that it was sinful even to contemplate observing Jesus’s birthday `as though he were a King Pharaoh.”[The American Book of Days].

But the pagan world did have prayers and celebrations during the winter season. Those who worshipped the sun god because of its apparent power, used to become concerned about the fate of their god, in a world of many gods, as days became shorter and air very cold. It looked like the sun was being defeated by the god of snow that brought death and misery with it. “… in Rome, the sun in its winter solstice was at its weakest on December 25 and had to be born anew with the help of bonfires, lights, processions and prayer.” [Reader’s Digest Book of Christmas]. The Roman pagan celebration was called Saturnalia. The Persians also had similar celebrations for Mithras, their sun god.

The evergreens, holly, ivy, and mistletoe plants, which remained green even during this wintertime, were similarly considered by the pagans to have magical powers. The Druids, whose Stonehenge temples can be seen in England, regarded mistletoe with reverence and used to burn it in sacrifice during the solstitial festivities. They also used to hang it in their houses. When you don’t know the One True God, even leaves and plants can become god. They thought it brought good luck, fertility, and protection from witchcraft, and was an antidote to poison. Mistletoe is used even today, although the U.N. might consider banning it if the fertility claim proves true!

In 1822 a Dr. Clement Moore, professor of divinity, wrote a poem titled “The visit of St. Nicholas.” The poem became popular and Santa Claus was born. The reason for popularity? “… the time was ripe. A myth was needed, and the recreation of `old Christmas’ was well in the wind.”[William Sanson, A Book of Christmas]. Some decades later The New York Sun answered an 8 year old’s question: Is there a Santa Claus? The answer has become classic and is worth noting. “Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.” So Santa Claus is divine, and judging from the Christmas celebrations, certainly more important than Jesus Christ himself.

Early church leaders wanted to Christianize the pagan festivities, but their operating principle became: When you can’t beat them, join them. For as Pope Gregory declared in 601 CE, “… from obdurate minds it is impossible to cut off everything at once.” It was a license for another pearl of “wisdom”: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

And so they did. First slowly and then rapidly. The Son of God replaced the sun god. Saturnalia was replaced by the ceremony for Christ or Christ Mass, which later became Christmas. For several centuries it was solely a church anniversary, observed by religious services. “At Christmas, men and women were not, repeat not, to dress up or mime; there were not to be auguries, such as superstitions about fire; houses were not to be decorated, no presents given, no well-laden tables, and a strict watch was to be kept on drink.” But false religion drives out true religion. Consider Christmas gifts, a carryover from the Roman practice of giving dolls as gift in lieu of their earlier barbaric custom of offering human sacrifices. “The early Church frowned on gift giving as a pagan custom. But the people enjoyed it too much to abandon it, and so finally the Church accepted the idea and sanctioned it.” [Barbara Rinkoff, The Family Christmas Book]. Evergreens? “The early church forbade the use of them, but here again the custom was too deeply rooted and the ban was ignored. Finally the church accepted the use of evergreens for decoration.” And on and on. Now consider this portrait of Saturnalia and contrast it with the original don’ts mentioned above: “… a fortnight of near riot, of drunkenness, noise and games, naked slaves singing, men dressing up as animals and behaving with less dignity, sex, often with perversion.” [Reader’s Digest Book of Christmas]. Anyone can see which picture represents today’s Christmas more closely.

With the advent of Capitalism, the old pagans got a new supporter in the form of the adman. George Bernard Shaw observed: “Christmas is forced on a reluctant … nation by…shopkeepers and the press.” This is how they can serve God, and make money at the same time. This in itself is a pagan idea and it is alive and well today.

This defeat of Christianity at the hands of paganism must be contrasted with Islam’s resounding victory over it. Before Islam, Arabia was a pagan country–big time. But none of the pagan customs survived after Islam. None whatsoever. There was no such thing as `the people wanted it very much so the church allowed it.’ Islam completely eradicated not only the beliefs but also the practices and the symbols of paganism. This in itself is a miracle that serious students of comparative religions must reflect upon. Here is a living proof of the authenticity of the last Messenger, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

The success continued throughout the centuries. The secret of this great success lies in what Stuart Brown (The Nearest in Affection, see book review), deplores as Muslim “antipathy to innovation.” The first Khalifah, Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu, had declared in his first address as the new ruler, that he was a follower not an innovator, thereby setting the tone for all successors.

Throughout Islamic history there have been attempts to introduce bida (innovation) as innocent good practices, but unlike Christianity, there have always been rightly guided ulema who fought them strongly. The struggle continues today. Yes, Muslims can learn from Christmas. Those of us who may be wondering what is wrong with Milad Nabi celebrations may do well to realize that Christmas also started as Milad for Jesus Christ.

By Khalid Baig

Source: Al-balagh

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