Tongues and Colours, God's Will, Standing at Arafat
Issue 1012 » August 17, 2018 - Dhul-Hijja 6, 1439
Tongues and Colours
Al-Rum (The Romans) - Chapter 30: Verse 22
We all deserve to be treated with equality and dignity. But the Quran goes on to make some more explicit points. All human beings, whatever their creed, race, class and culture, are equal, we are told. And it is not just the individuals who deserve respect. The 'diversity of your tongues and colours' are 'His signs'. So discrimination is forbidden not just on the basis of colour, but also on the basis of language and culture. The Quran insists that all languages and cultures are equal, equally important for maintaining diversity, and have to be valued equally. Thus Arabic is as important as, say, Swahili, Urdu or English; one language cannot claim superiority over the other. And the culture of, for example, Australian Aborigines is as important and deserving of respect as European cultures. One cannot assimilate the other; or relegate the other to the margins.
In the 'diversity of your tongues', the Quran tells us, 'there are messages' for those 'who possess knowledge'. What could these messages be? One obvious message is that diversity and difference are the very essence of God's creation. Everything exists in multiples and in diverse forms. Only the uncreated God is one. Another message is that diversity is a prerequisite for survival itself. When diversity is diminished—a language disappears, one culture is assimilated into another, flora and fauna are eradicated—we and our world are diminished. Diversity makes it possible for us to exist and live in our terrestrial abode and thrive. Equally, it enables us to engage with one another, to recognise each other, and hence to know each other.
What is it we can know of each other if we live in different nations, with different religions, different languages, being people of different races and cultures? These are the elements that define identity. Quran is saying that identity is central to our capacity as human beings first to know ourselves and then through knowing ourselves as God's creation know other people equally as God's creation. Only when we are grounded in our own identity can we learn how to extend to others the obligations and responsibilities, the rights and the duties we claim for ourselves.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 241, 242
Ibn Abbas reports: 'A man said to the Prophet: "Whatever God wills and you will". The Prophet said to him: "You have set up an equal to God. It is what God alone wills".' [Ahmad, Ibn Majah, al-Nasai]
The Prophet is clearly teaching us to place the will of any person as completely secondary to God's will. This is the proper Islamic attitude. The Prophet wanted to inculcate this point in the minds of his companions and followers. Thus, he points to the fact that the conjunction 'and' signifies partnership without ranking; thus it makes whatever it joins together as equals. In this, it is different from the word, 'then', which signifies a secondary position. Thus, then makes the wish of a person subservient to God's will.
All this obviously applies to things in which people's wishes or actions play an actual part. Needless to say, there are things no one other than God can influence. These may not be attributed to anyone other than God, even if we use the conjunction, 'then'. To attribute them to anyone in addition to God signifies that God cannot accomplish them on His Own. This detracts from God's ability. Hence, we should be very careful. In fact, it is always better to speak of God's will as being the ultimate, without adding anyone as involved.
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi
Standing at Arafat
When you behold the thronging crowds, hear the loud voices speaking in many tongues, and see the various groups following their Imams through the ritual observances, matching their actions to theirs — recall the site of the Resurrection, the gathering of the communities with their Prophets and leaders, each community following its Prophet, aspiring after his intercession, all wavering with equal uncertainty between rejection and acceptance. After that recollection, set your heart on supplication and entreaty to God, Great and Glorious is He, that you may be resurrected in the company of the mercifully successful; make certain your hope of being answered, for the place is noble and mercy reaches all creatures from the majesty of the Divine presence through the venerable hearts of the mainstays of the earth.
The standing-place is never devoid of a generation of the saintly and holy, nor of a generation of the righteous and magnanimous. When their aspirations are joined, their hearts devoted exclusively to humble supplication and entreaty, their hands raised to God, Glorified is He, their necks outstretched and their eyes turned heavenward, as they aspire of one accord in quest of mercy, do not suppose that He will disappoint their hopes, frustrate their endeavour or begrudge them an overwhelming mercy. That is why it is said that it is a most grievous sin to be present at Arafat and to imagine that God, Exalted is He, does not forgive one. It would seem that the conjunction of aspirations, and the strength derived from contiguity with the saintly and holy people assembled from all quarters of the earth, constitute the secret of the Pilgrimage and its ultimate purpose, for there is no way to obtain the mercy of God, Glorified is He, in such abundance as by the conjunction of aspiration and the simultaneous mutual support of all hearts.
"Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship" - Imam al-Ghazali