Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Seven‏

Friday, 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 Three‏

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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 Seven

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

The Tyranny of the Majority

قُل لَّا يَسْتَوِي الْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّبُ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ كَثْرَةُ الْخَبِيثِ ۚ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
Say, “The corrupt and the good are not equal, even though the abundance of (what is) corrupt may attract you. So, fear Allāh, O people of understanding, so that you may be successful.” (Al- Mā’idah, 5:100)

The term khabīth applies to  all forms of corrupt things, people, and ideas. When applied to things, the āyah means that a little wealth from ḥalāl sources is far better than a whole lot of it from ḥarām sources. Referring to this Sayyidnā Abū Hurayrah said, “One dirham from ḥalāl income that I give in charity is more beloved to me than a hundred thousand dirhams from  ḥarām  income.” ʿUmar  ibn  ʿAbdul ʿAzīz invoked this āyah when government revenue  was reduced considerably after his economic reforms that eliminated unjust taxes. Some functionaries were concerned about the running of the government. Not he. His response: Fill your rule with justice just as it was filled with injustice before, and Allāh will take care of us. Today we witness wholesale violation of this message in the running of everything from small organizations to big governments. We think that a hundred bucks are better than one, regardless of how they were earned.

The message is general and  cautions us that  in  any situation we should not be swayed by numbers alone. This is the antidote to the tyranny of the majority and the claim to truth of the prevalent. We should never be the ones that go with the flow. We judge all things based on their own merit and not on their popularity or preponderance. Good is what Allāh declared to be good, no matter what the opinion polls say. Wrong is what He declared to be wrong, no matter how many pundits line up in its favor.

Self Reform

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
O you who believe, take care of your own selves. The one who has gone astray cannot harm you, if you are on the right path. To Allāh all of you have to return. Then He will tell you what you have been doing. (Al-Mā’idah, 5:105)

Our first responsibility is to reform ourselves for we will stand accountable to Allāh for our own actions and inactions, not of others. Our normal conversations consist of criticizing others. This has a place in the proper scheme of things, when it is part of our conscious effort to promote good and prohibit evil and when it is guided by the Sharīʿah limits on such conversation. But when this becomes our sole occupation, to the exclusion of our self monitoring and accounting, there is a serious problem.

This is not a negation of our responsibility to enjoin good and forbid evil. Rather it assures us that when we have done our job in promoting good, yet people do not listen, then we will not be responsible for their actions. Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyab said: “When you have enjoined good and forbidden evil, and you are following the right path, then the going astray of a person despite your efforts will not harm you.”

Denying Life after Death

وَقَالُوا إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا حَيَاتُنَا الدُّنْيَا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَبْعُوثِينَ. وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذْ وُقِفُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ قَالَ أَلَيْسَ هَٰذَا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ وَرَبِّنَا ۚ قَالَ فَذُوقُوا الْعَذَابَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْفُرُونَ
They say, “There is nothing but this worldly life of ours, and we are not going to be raised again.” If only you could see when they will be made to stand before their Lord! He will say, “Is this not a reality?” They will say, “Of course, by our Lord, it is.” He will say, “Then, taste the punishment, for you used to disbelieve.” (Al-Anʿām 6:29-30)

This was revealed in Makkah and documents the belief of the pagans regarding the Afterlife. The great intellectuals, scientists, professors, and authors of today who hold and promote this view are no better or  different than  the  ignorant people of the  pre-Islamic Jāhiliyyah society quoted here. All corruption arises from this basic premise that there is no life after this one. If this life is all there is to it, then might must be right because it works and moral principles are meaningless because they require you to give up immediate gratification and many a time go unrewarded in this world.

The second āyah tells us that visualizing the utter shock of those who subscribe to this view when they come face to face with reality after death is the best answer to their philosophies.

Limits on Interactions with the Non-Believers

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ ۚ وَإِمَّا يُنسِيَنَّكَ الشَّيْطَانُ فَلَا تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ الذِّكْرَىٰ مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
When you see men engaged in vain discourse about Our signs, turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes you forget, then after recollection, sit not in the company of those who do wrong. (Al-Anʿām, 6:68)

This ayah sets the  limits on  interaction with  the  non- believers. If in any gathering, truth is ridiculed, blasphemy is perpetrated, or someone is making fun of Allāh and the Prophet, we must not sit in such company, watch or listen to such a program or participate in the chat. If we find ourselves in it, as soon as we realize it, we must show our disapproval by leaving. If this is isolationism then be it. We must isolate ourselves from evil environments  for our own protection.

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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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