September 21, 2023 | Rabiʻ I 6, 1445
Dignity of free will
Al-Shuara (The Poets) Sura 26: Verse 4
If God willed, He could, for example, write His Name on the surface of the heavens with starts or, as He caused Mount Sinai to tower above the Children of Israel to compel them to keep their covenant, He could compel people to believe in some way. However, the signs he provides in creation and the lives of humankind, as well as through the Prophets, are perfectly sufficient for one who is not overcome by arrogance, wrongdoing, misjudgement, and carnal desires; if God were to provide a more obvious sign, this would mean negating human free will and nullifying the purpose of the tests we are put through.
God has endowed human beings with distinguishing faculties and honoured us with free will. He has also created us with a disposition to believe and worship. Moreover, just as the whole universe and our physical composition provide multiple signs for Existence and Unity of God, each human being has many experiences throughout their life that also give certainty to their conscience about this same, cardinal truth. In addition, God sent numerous Prophets throughout history, the character and life of whom, along with the many miracles God created at their hands, were an undeniable sign for the truth of the Message from God. In short, God opens all the doors to faith for human reason and conscience. However, He never compels human beings to believe, because this would be in contradiction to the dignity of free will.
Unbelief arises not from there being a lack of sufficient signs, but rather from human arrogance, wrongdoing, misjudgement, an attachment to the world and worldly benefits, or carnal desires. This is clear in the history of many peoples who refused to believe, even when the miracle they asked their Prophet to perform had been shown to them, and who were subsequently destroyed as a result.
"The Quran: Annotated Interpretation in Modern English" - Ali Unal, pp. 762, 763
From Issue: 575 [Read original issue]
Transformer of Hearts
The Prophet, peace be upon him, asked all those around him who were not convinced of the truthfulness of his message to seek, to observe signs, to search for meaning while fighting the illusions of the self and its conceit. He taught Muslims - those who had recognized the presence of the One - to carry on their inner struggle, to remain humble and aware of their fragility, to seek to derive spiritual nourishment from dhikr (the remembrance of God), and to ask God to keep their hearts firm. The Prophet used to pray to God and say, "O Transformer of Hearts, keep my heart firm in Your religion!" [Ahmad, Tirmidhi]
Thus, in peacetime, some were searching for truth and some were searching for sincerity, while they all experienced a new form of inner conflict that required effort, patience, and a perpetually awake consciousness. At a time when the prospect of the final establishment of the last religion seemed to be opening up , each of them was sent back to his or her own inner universe to seek light or forgiveness, to find peace and the clemency of He Who constantly returns to those who come, or come back, to Him.
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 194, 195
From Issue: 737 [Read original issue]
Paths to Peace
Only in the crucible of self-mastery can freedom be smelted. Far from how others see us, far from our constant complaining, we all have a deep need for silence and introspection: the silence of our conscience. We need to listen to our hearts, to recognize our needs. Islam—like all spiritual traditions—teaches that we can never fully realize ourselves, never attain our freedom by acting against others, or in relation to the judgments—founded or unfounded—of others. To be means to return to our conscience, to our intelligence and our heart, and to pledge, to the full extent of our abilities, to know and to educate ourselves. Knowledge of God, the Qur’an reminds us, lies “between man and his heart”: God invites us to know ourselves, to rely upon our conscience, to seek responsibility. But above all God summons us to understand our faith, our practice as believers and ourselves. The Unique calls upon humans to become beings of conscience, to take themselves fully in hand and to become—overcoming all obstacles—forces for good, for human well-being and peace.
It is time to stop lamenting if life fails to ease our suffering and our tears. Muslims must reconcile themselves with the full force of this message. Must rediscover the Divine One in intimate dialogue, and then, in confidence, find themselves. Must become responsible: such is the first freedom. Never lose hope: such is the ultimate message of Islam. To be, to know one’s self, to be thankful and to serve in the deep belief that peace lies in the intention and the meaning of all we do, and not in the visibility of the result or the sound of applause. The philosopher noticed: “What does not kill you makes you stronger”… life, which by definition does not definitely kill us, must be the way that strengthen us spiritually. Time, confidence and silence will be required; we must learn to care for ourselves. Islam needs Muslims—women and men—who understand its teachings, who attempt to live by them and who bear witness before humanity and Nature of its simple, luminous and yet demanding message: if you believe you seek; when you seek you love; if you love you serve; when you serve, you pray.
Self-reconciliation, the empowerment of autonomy and freedom, can only come about through the mediation of those around us, with their respect, and in their service. Like the signs of the universe that remind us of the signs of our deepest intimacy, like the order of the cosmos that reflects peace of heart, we must learn, understand, step outside ourselves. To love and to serve means to step outside ourselves: to step outside ourselves holds the promise of self-reconciliation. A paradox, and such a beautiful truth.
"Paths to Peace" - Tariq Ramadan
From Issue: 726 [Read original issue]