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Today's Reminder

December 16, 2019 | Rabiʻ II 18, 1441

Living The Quran

Al-Ahqaf (Sand Dunes)
Chapter 46: Verse 20 (partial)

Overindulgence
"The unbelievers shall one day be brought before the fire of hell and be told, 'You have squandered away the good things in your worldly life and enjoyed them to the full and today you shall be rewarded with ignominious punishment...'"

It is reported by Ibn Atiyyah that this verse had left a strong impression on Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph. As the head of an expanding Muslim state Umar was a model of simplicity and austerity. On entering Syria with the victorious Muslim army, he was greeted by the leader of the expedition, Khalid ibn al-Walid, who offered him a sumptuous meal. His immediate response was: "If this is what we eat, what about the destitute Muslims who died without having had their fill of barley bread?"

Khalid replied: "They shall have Paradise!" Umar, it was said, broke down crying, saying that in that case the poor Muslims were the winners!

It is true to say that God does not forbid the enjoyment of the good and lawful things, but seeking luxury and affluence could lead to a life of extravagance and overindulgence resulting in preoccupation with one's pleasures and desires and negligence of one's duties and responsibilities.

Compiled From:
"A Thematic Commentary on The Quran" - Muhammad al-Ghazali, pp. 559, 560

From Issue: 503 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Truthfulness

Authentic books of Tradition as Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim, and Sunan Abu Dawud relate from Abdullah Ibn Masud that God's Messenger said: "Always tell the truth, for this guides to absolute piety and piety leads to Paradise. Those who always tell and pursue the truth are recorded by God as truthful. Don't lie, for this guides to sinfulness and sinfulness leads to Hellfire. Those who always tell and pursue lies are recorded by God as liars."

Truthfulness opens the door of happiness in both worlds. No one can taste true bliss while living in the darkness of lies and lying. Lying is "an assertion contrary to God's knowledge," a pillar of unbelief, and the most manifest sign of hypocrisy. The current prevalence of lying is destroying our security and morality, and contaminating the whole community (especially its political circles) like a contagious disease. Any structure based on lying must eventually perish due to its very nature.

This hadith states that truthfulness leads to absolute piety, while lying leads to sinfulness. Birr, the Arabic word translated there as piety, encompasses every virtue, from sound thinking, truthfulness, and pure intention to honesty, decency, and good conduct. Its opposite, fujur (sinfulness), denotes every kind of deviation and evil, among them debauchery, indecency, and perversion.

Compiled From:
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 100-101

From Issue: 562 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Projection

One payoff for believing that problems and the suffering in our cities are the inevitable products of modern life and culture is that it lets us off the hook. The payoff begins the moment we believe that problems reside in others and that they are the ones who need to change. We displace or assign to others certain qualities that have more to do with us than with them. This is called projection, an idea most of us are quite familiar with. The essence of our projection is that it places accountability for an alternative future on others. This is the payoff of stereotyping, prejudice, and a bunch of "isms" that we are all familiar with. This is what produces the "other." The reward is that it takes the pressure off of us. It is a welcome escape from our freedom. We project onto leaders the qualities or disappointments that we find too much to carry ourselves. We project onto the stranger, the wounded, the enemy those aspects of ourselves that are too much to own.

We are generally familiar with these ideas from the psychology of projection for individuals, but projection also works more broadly at the level of profession, institution, and community.

Take poverty, for example. When we see low-income people, we focus on their needs and deficiencies, and that is all we see. We think their poverty is central to who they are, and that is all they are. We believe that the poor have created the condition for themselves. We view them with charity or pity and wring our hands at their plight. At this moment we are projecting our own vulnerability onto the poor. It is a defence against not only my own vulnerability, but also my complicity in creating poverty.

If we took back this projection, we would stop denying that each of us plays a role in creating poverty - by our way of living, by our indifference, by our labelling them "poor" as if that is who they are, by our choice not to have them as neighbours and get to know them. It's the same with unemployed, with broken homes, neighbourhoods, youth on the street, and all the other symptoms we live with.

Compiled From:
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 57-58

From Issue: 515 [Read original issue]