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Today's Reminder

December 05, 2021 | Rabiʻ II 29, 1443

Living The Quran

Choices
Ta-Ha (Ta-Ha) - Chapter 20: Verse 50

"He [Moses] said: Our Lord is He who gave each thing its form then guided [it]."

There is evidence to indicate that each of us is born with a distinct, unique temperament, which influences many aspects of our developing personality. Temperament is seen as: "Relatively consistent, basic dispositions inherent in the person that underlie and modulate the expression of activity, reactivity, emotionality, and society." It has its origins in the genetic codes that guide the development of the brain, and elements of it are apparent from birth. Within a few months after birth, temperamental individuality is clearly established. This character then influences a person's relations to, and interactions with, the environment. The environment may have an impact upon the personality as well.

Allah indicates this natural, inherent characteristic of humans in this verse. Although the word 'form' may refer to those aspects that are common to humans, it also applies to traits that differ from one individual to the next. This adds to the diversity in experience and is part of Allah's plan in creation. For example, some people may be more extroverted, preferring social connections, while others may be more introverted or reserved.

While certain aspects of personality are genetic, experience and the choices that we make also shape who we are. Allah created humans with the potential for both good and evil. The test for every human being is to choose which of these characteristics we will support and develop, and which we will attempt to control or eliminate.

Compiled From:
"Psychology from the Islamic Perspective" - Dr. Aisha Utz, p. 98

From Issue: 894 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Dead Heart

Being pleased with an evil is a sin in itself. Every Muslim must realize that evils are displeasing to Allah. Out of his love for Allah, a Muslim must hate everything that is displeasing to his Lord. If he does not have this feeling, it is a clear sign that there is a shortcoming in his faith. In addition, he will be held accountable for his liking a sin even if he does not witness or perform that deed. Abu Dawud recorded the following hadith,

"If a sin is committed on the earth, the one who witnessed it and hated it is like one who was not present. And the one who was not present at the sin but is pleased with it is like one who was present [and did not repel it]." [Abu Dawud]

If a person sees evil around him and does not have much feeling or hatred in his heart for it, this is a sign that his heart is diseased. But when the heart no longer cares about the evil that is around it, it is, in reality, a dead heart. In other words, if a person does not mind seeing evil and he does not hate seeing all of the acts that are displeasing to Allah around him, it means that his heart has lost all of its faith and is, for all intents and purposes, a dead or useless heart. Ibn Masood was once asked what is a dead heart and he answered, "The heart that does not recognize and like the good and that does not reject and repel the evil."

Compiled From:
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, Vol. 2, pp., p. 1009

From Issue: 926 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Moral Ambivalence

Unfortunately, an inordinate number of Muslim men, and also women, fail to recognize the many ways that patriarchy is an offence against morality and Islam. Too many Muslims and non-Muslims are not sufficiently sensitized to the fact that patriarchy is despotism and that it is a morally offensive condition. As an institution, patriarchy feeds on the eradication of women's moral agency; it erases and marginalizes women; and, most significantly, it negates the possibility of true surrender to God. Likewise, an inordinate number of Muslims fail to reflect upon the extent to which patriarchy exploits the instruments of religious authority but ends up displacing God's authority altogether.

Often erasure is purposeful and sinister, as when it is the result of willful animosity to women, but what is more challenging and also endemic is when erasure is subtle, inconspicuous, and nearly imperceptible because it is the outcome of moral ambivalence, or a well-theorized and well-fortified act of self-deception. After all, what could be more potent and dangerous than the seemingly endless ability of human beings to deceive themselves into believing that those who are erased are actually being affirmed, that the oppressed are actually in the process of being liberated, that the marginalized are well sheltered and protected, and that, ultimately, they like it this way?

Centuries ago the Quran warned human beings against the psychology of ambivalence - the dealing with moral failures through escapist strategies of displacement and projection. The Quran warned that the psychology of ambivalence creates people who are oblivious to the true nature of their conduct - such people corrupt the earth while insisting that they are doers of good. Corrupting the earth is a Quranic expression that refers to conduct that fundamentally undermines and tears apart the fabric of God's creation. However, the quintessential act of corruption is, whether intentionally or obliviously, to perpetuate conditions that rob humans of their agency and thus their ability to partake in God's covenant in any meaningful way. A part of this corruption is to attempt to erase the Divine presence, to replace God's role by usurping and claiming the authority of the Divine as one's own, to arrogantly and pretentiously stand ready to issue judgments about God's will without due diligence, critical moral reflection, or conscientious pursuit of learning. It is the psychology of ambivalence that is responsible for the virtual flood in self-designated so-called experts indulging in ijtihad-talk and simultaneously spewing a plethora of ill-informed fatwas.

Speaking one's mind is an exercise in autonomy and agency, but the practice of ijtihad has its own equally compelling ethics, the most essential and basic of which is well embodied by the meaning of the word itself, which is: to exert and exhaust oneself in the pursuit of thought and knowledge in search of the Divine will. Without question, Muslims ought to be free to speak their minds and voice their opinions, but it is a different thing altogether to pretend to speak the mind of the Divine and, instead of humbly voicing one's opinions, presumptuously endowing oneself with the voice of God.

Compiled From:
Foreward to "Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Khaled Abou El Fadl

From Issue: 1015 [Read original issue]