Social Change, Greatest Ten Days, Powerful Questions
Issue 657 » October 28, 2011 - Dhul-Hijja 1, 1432
Striving for Social Change
Al Hajj (The Pilgrimage) - Chapter 22: Verse 78 (partial)
The Arabic word Jihad means to strive ones utmost for an objective. In Islamic terminology, jihad refers to well thought-out, strategic and organised actions, guided by Islamic values and principles, taken by an Islamic movement to enjoin good, forbid wrong practices and to remove obstacles in the way of advancing positive social change. These actions, dependant on the context and circumstances, can be either intellectual, social, political or military. In other words, jihad engages a movement directly with the main stream of society and world affairs. This enables it to face the emerging challenges and to influence their direction for achieving an Islamic change. All possible means within the limits set by Islam can be employed for this purpose. In short, jihad aims at:
- Striving against the evils within oneself.
- Intellectually challenging ideologies, beliefs and ways of life that conflict with God's Way.
- Challenging and engaging with societal powers for eradicating social evils, immoral ways, and wrong practices.
- Striving to liberate people from oppression and injustice.
- Influencing positive social, economic and political change in society according to Islamic ideals.
Jihad is a duty upon Muslims. This duty cannot be ignored or evaded. All the noble Prophets of Allah strove against corrupt powers and unjust practices, and the Muslims are encouraged to do the same. Simply sitting in mosques, meditating, praising God and praying all day long without any practical efforts and struggle, cannot lead to much positive change in social conditions.
"Building A New Society" - Zahid Parvez, pp. 158, 159
Ten Greatest Days
Even for those not performing the pilgrimage, Hajj, the first ten days of Dhul-Hijja are considered very sacred and a time for increased reflection, seeking Allah's forgiveness, doing good and various other forms of worship.
Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) has said about the first ten days of Dhul Hijja: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days." The people asked, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing (Bukhari).
Ahmad and at-Tabarani recorded from Ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah said, "There is no day more honourable in Allah's sight and no acts more beloved therein to Allah than those done in these ten days. So say tahlil (There is no deity worthy of worship but Allah: La ilaha illallah), takbir (Allah is the greatest : Allahu Akbar) and tahmid (All praise is due to Allah : alhamdu lillah) a lot [on those days]." [Reported by Ahmad]
Abu Hurairah relates that the Messenger of Allah said, "There are no days more loved to Allah for you to worship Him therein than the ten days of Dhul-Hijja. Fasting any day during it is equivalent to fasting one year and to offer tahajjud (late-night prayer) during one of its nights is like performing the late night prayer on the night of power. [i.e., Lailatul Qadr]." [This is related by at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and al-Baihaqi]
Jabir reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There is no day better in the sight of Allah than the Day of Arafah (9th of Dhul-Hijja). On this day Allah, the Almighty and the Exalted One, descends to the nearest heaven, and He is proud of His slaves on the earth and says to those in heaven, ‘Look at My servants. They have come from far and near, with hair dishevelled and faces covered with dust, to seek My mercy, even though they have not seen My chastisement.' Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafah than on any other day.” [Ibn Hibban]
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spent the day at Arafah until almost sunset. Then he said, “O Bilal, ask the people to be quiet and listen to me.” Bilal stood up and asked the people to be quiet and listen to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). When the people were quiet, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O people, a little while ago Gabriel (peace be upon him) came to me. Gave me salutations from Allah and informed me that Allah has forgiven those who spend the Day at Arafah and those who stop at Al-Mashar Al-Haram, and that He has guaranteed them [relief from] debts.” [Ibn Al-Mubarak]
Abu Ad-Darda reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “On no other day does the Satan feel so belittled, humiliated, and angry as he does on the Day of Arafah. The reason for this is the mercy of Allah that descends (this day) and the forgiveness that He grants to people for major sins, except the day of the Battle of Badr, which witnessed a far greater mercy of Allah descending upon people, which caused great sadness to Satan." (Reported by Malik and Al-Hakim).
Generally, all good deeds are rewarded highly at this blessed time. These actions include praying, reading Quran, making Dua (supplication), giving in charity and being good to our families.
Questions are more transformative than answers and are the essential tools of engagement. They are the means by which we are all confronted with our freedom. In this sense, if you want to change the context, find powerful questions.
Questions create the space for something new to emerge. Powerful questions are those that, in the answering, evoke a choice for accountability and commitment. They are questions that take us to requests, offers, declarations, forgiveness, confession, gratitude, and welcome, all of which are memorable and have a transformative power.
Questions that have the power to make a difference are ones that engage people in an intimate way, confront them with their freedom, and invite them to cocreate a future possibility.
Powerful questions are the ones that cause you to become an actor as soon as you answer them. You no longer have the luxury of being a spectator of whatever it is you are concerned about. Regardless of how you answer these questions, you are guilty. Guilty of having created this world. Not a pleasant thought, but the moment we accept the idea that we have created the world, we have the power to change it.
Powerful questions also express the reality that change, like life, is difficult and unpredictable. They open up the conversation - in contrast to questions that are, in a sense, answers in disguise. Answers in disguise narrow and control the dialogue, and thereby the future.
We can generalize what qualities define great questions, and this gives us the capacity not just to remember a list but also to create powerful questions of our own.
A great question has three qualities:
It is ambiguous. There is no attempt to try to precisely define what is meant by the question.
It is personal. All passion, commitment, and connection grow out of what is most personal.
It evokes anxiety. All that matters makes us anxious. It is our wish to escape from anxiety that steals our aliveness. If there is no edge to the question, there is no power.
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 101-106