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Today's Reminder

December 01, 2020 | Rabiʻ II 15, 1442

Living The Quran

Desire to Give
Al-Insan (Humans) - Chapter 76: Verses 8-10

"Who give food - though they need it themselves - to the needy, the orphan and the captive, [saying within themselves,] 'We feed you for the sake of God alone. We desire neither recompense from you, nor thanks. We fear the day of our Lord: a bleak, distressful day.'"

These verses describe the compassionate feelings of true believers, symbolized in their offering of food, which they need for themselves, to people who are less fortunate than themselves. In other words, they put such needy people, orphans and captives ahead of themselves, feeding them despite their own need of the food.

We see compassion overflowing from such hearts that seek God's pleasure, looking for no reward or praise from any creature. They do not hold up their favours in an attitude of conceit. They simply want to avoid the woes of a bleak and grim day, which they genuinely fear.

Giving food to the needy in such a direct manner was at the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the proper expression of the believer's own compassion and the most needed type of help. Ways and forms of charity may be completely different in other circumstances and social environments. What is important is the need to maintain such compassion towards others and the desire to do good only for God's sake, looking for no earthly recognition or reward.

Taxes may be regulated in society, and a portion of such taxes may be allocated for social security, ensuring that the poor are helped. However, this meets only one part of the Islamic objective that these verses refer to. Islam imposes zakat duty to fulfil this part of meeting the needs of the poor and the deprived. Islam, however, considers an equally important part of this objective, the feelings of those who give; in other words their desire to give elevates them to a high, noble standard. We must not belittle the importance of this objective. Islam is a faith that sets a system to cultivate people's better feelings and sentiments. Kindly feelings and generosity refine those who are charitable and benefit the ones in need.

Compiled From:
"In the Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol 17, pp. 410-412

From Issue: 697 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Natural Fear

Everyone will experience the loss of a loved one. When the Prophet lost his son Ibrahim, he wept but also praised God, the source of life and death. People who believe in God and in the Afterlife handle death well. The same is true with calamities and tribulations. Maurice Bucaille, the well-known French physician, said that what attracted his interest in Islam was how North Africans in France faced death. As a physician exposed to disease and death, he observed many of his own countrymen not knowing how to die or handle death.

The fear of death is natural. Reflexively, one protects himself from it. When angels in the form of human beings visited Prophet Abraham he offered them food. When he saw that they did not reach for the food, he grew fearful. Scholars say that Abraham thought they had come to take his life. The Prophet encouraged believers to desire a long life for two reasons: to make up for past iniquities or to increase good deeds.

The one who remembers death is ennobled by certain characteristics. One of them is contentment and a lack of covetousness. The Prophet said, "Contentment is a treasure that is never exhausted." He also prayed, "O God, provide for my family with what suffices them and grant them contentment with it." The wealthy soul is one that is content. This contentment is not the kind that originates from stupidity or not knowing any better. It is contentment that is informed by knowledge and by reflection on death and its meaning.

Second, the remembrance of death gives one energy to achieve good deeds: Wealth and sons are the ornaments of the life of this world, while enduring righteous deeds are better with your Lord in reward and better in hope (QURAN, 18:46).

Third, remembrance of death engenders seeking repentance when one slips or errs. Penitence rectifies wrong action, and that is the gift of remembering death. When one lives with this realization, he or she becomes prompt in seeking God's forgiveness. Those who are heedless of death have no compunction in doing wrong, since death is not a factor in their lives. They carelessly view the Day of Judgement as some distant event hardly worth worrying about or some ancient notion formed in a primordial epoch of human development.

Compiled From:
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 135, 136

From Issue: 922 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Enemy's Narratives

There is much talk of the need for dialogue as a way of improving international relations. But will it be an aggressive dialogue that seeks to humiliate, manipulate, or defeat? Are we prepared to "make place for the other," or are we determined simply to impose our own will? An essential part of this dialogue must be the effort to listen. We have to make a more serious effort to hear one another's narratives. All too often, when the enemy starts to tell his story, the other side interrupts, shouts him down, objects, and denounces it as false and inaccurate. But a story often reflects the inner meaning of an event rather than factual, historical accuracy. As any psychoanalyst knows, stories of pain, betrayal, and atrocity give expression to the emotional dimension of an episode, which is just as important to the speaker as what actually happened. We need to listen to the undercurrent of pain in our enemy's story. And we should be aware as well that our version of the same event is also likely to be a reflection upon our own situation and suffering rather than a dispassionate and wholly factual account. We have to learn to look carefully and deeply into our own hearts and thus learn to see the sorrow of our enemy.

Compiled From:
"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" - Karen Armstrong, pp.187, 188

From Issue: 794 [Read original issue]