The Longing, God's Protection, Celebrating Diversity

Issue 686 » May 18, 2012 - Jumada al-Thani 27, 1433

Living The Quran

The Longing
Ibrahim (Abraham) - Chapter 14: Verse 39 (partial)

"... surely my Lord hears all prayers."

Abraham's long and humble supplication in this surah (verses 35-41), which also mentions a number of God's blessings and expresses gratitude and thanks for them, employing a fine musical rhythm, imparts an air of gentle tenderness and care which makes people's hearts long to be with God, and remember His grace and blessings. Abraham, the father of a long line of prophets, is seen as a pious servant who does not forget His Lord's grace, or his duty to be thankful for it. He is given as an example to be followed by God's servants who truly believe in Him, for, just before relating Abraham's supplication, the surah addressed them.

We note how Abraham repeats several times the addressing phrase, "My Lord" or "Our Lord". This repeated acknowledgement of God's Lordship over him and his offspring is significant. He does not mention God by His attributes of Godhead, but instead by His Lordship. Godhead has rarely been subject to controversy in societies. Nor was it so in the ignorant society of Arabia at the advent of Islam. What people have always argued about is the Lordship of God, and the need to submit to Him in everyday life on earth.

The Quran relates Abraham's supplication to the Arab idolaters, emphasizing his acknowledgement of God's Lordship to draw their attention to the fact that their own way of life was in complete contrast with what this supplication truly signifies.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 10, pp. 281-285

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Upholding God's Protection

Narrated by Anas, The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, said, “Whoever prays our prayer, faces our qibla, and eats our halal meat is a Muslim who has God’s protection and then the protection of God’s Messenger. So do not betray God in His protection” (la takhfiru ‘llaha fi dhimmatihi) [Bukhari].

The word dhimmah has several meanings, including, “care, custody, protection, covenant of protection, compact, responsibility, answerableness, liability, inviolability, security, and conscience.” The Arabs say, “‘ala dhimmati,” meaning, “upon my word of honor.”

According to this hadith, God has placed His protection over certain things – in the case of this particular hadith, Muslims, but more generally, according to the Qur’an, many other hadith, and Islamic law, His creation in the world. Hence, trees, wells, rivers, oceans, air, soil, food, animals, and most importantly people, irrespective of faith, color, or creed have God’s protection. However, God has made the human being the divine custodian of this protection.

The above-mentioned hadith does not exclude people of other faiths. Those who are not Muslim, which includes people of all other faiths and not just the Abrahamic ones according to the Maliki and Hanafi schools, are people of covenant in Muslims lands, as was Ottoman practice for centuries; hence, they are called, “the covenantal people of protection” (ahl dhimmah). Included also in this category are nations that have treaties with Muslim nations and peoples in non-Muslim lands in which Muslims are living safely. In other words, all these people are in God’s and His Messenger’s protection. This is why, on the Day of Judgment, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, is the advocate of a person of covenant who was betrayed by Muslims against the Muslims who betrayed him.

Of all God’s creatures, it is children who warrant the greatest protection due to their helplessness and innocence, which is why the punishment for violating them is severe. The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, loved children and honored them on many occasions, such as calling them by honorific epithets or patting young ones on the head, leaving the scent of musk upon them for the rest of the day. In fact, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, visited one child whose pet had died in order to offer condolences and cheer him up. The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, also cursed those who mistreated animals and told of a person punished in the hellfire for torturing a cat; contrariwise, he told of a prostitute forgiven for giving water to a dog dying of thirst.

Terrible crimes perpetrated against children are also a sign that we not only have freewill but, according to our creed, that God is not obliged to intervene when we use it to break covenants of God’s protection and violate the inviolable. The ability to break this covenant of protection is called freewill. The rights and protection that God has given humans is to be upheld and honored by each of us. If anyone betrays that trust, then, in this world, the government has the authority and right to redress the wrong. In redressing the wrong, wholeness is restored, and healing can take place. If this does not occur, the victim must remember: there is a day when the divine redresser will right every wrong, heal every wound, fulfill every vow, and remove for all eternity the scars of this world that were unjustly inflicted by those who betrayed God’s protection.

Compiled From:
"When Children Suffer" - Hamza Yusuf


Celebrating Diversity

When we hear the word diversity, we typically think of racial and gender differences. But there is so much more to it, including differences in physical features, dress, language, wealth, family, religious beliefs, lifestyle, education, interests, skills, age, style and on and on.

The world is fast becoming a great melting pot of cultures, races, religions, and ideas. Since this diversity around you is ever increasing, you've got an important decision to make regarding how you're going to handle it. There are three possible approaches you can take:

Level 1: Shun diversity
Level 2: Tolerate diversity
Level 3: Celebrate diversity

Shunner's Profile

Shunners are afraid (sometimes even scared to death) of differences. It disturbs them that someone may have a different skin colour, worship a different God, or wear a different brand of jeans than they do, because they're convinced their way of life is the "best," "right," or "only" way. They enjoy ridiculing those who are different, all the while believing that they are saving the world from some terrible pestilence. They won't hesitate to get physical about it if they have to and will often join gangs, cliques, or anit-groups because there's strength in numbers.

Tolerator's Profile

Tolerators believe that everyone has the right to be different. They don't shun diversity but don't embrace it either. Their motto is: "You keep to yourself and I'll keep to myself. You do your thing and let me do mine. You don't bother me and I won't bother you." They see differences as hurdles, not as potential strengths to build upon.

Celebrator's Profile

Celebrators value differences. They see them as an advantage, not a weakness. They've learned that two people who think differently can achieve more than two people who think alike. They realize that celebrating differences doesn't mean that you necessarily agree with those differences. In their eyes, Diversity = Creative Sparks = Opportunity.

So where do you fall on the spectrum? Take a hard look. Think about a group that has contrary religious belief to yours. Do you respect their beliefs or do you write them off as a bunch of weirdos?

The truth is, celebrating diversity is a struggle for most of us, depending on the issue. For example, you may appreciate racial and cultural diversity and in the same breath look down on someone because of the clothes they wear.

Compiled From:
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" - Sean Covey, pp. 184-185