Sustenance, Special Closeness, Gifts and Capacities
Issue 857 » August 28, 2015 - Zul-Qadah 13, 1436
Al-Shura (The Consultation) - Chapter 42: Verse 19
God provides for all His servants, the good and the bad, the believer and the unbeliever. People are too weak to be able to provide for themselves. God has brought them into life and given them what meets their basic needs. Had He chosen not to provide for the unbelievers and the wrongdoers, they would not have had anything and would have died of thirst and hunger. Had this been the scenario, God's purpose of giving them life and allowing them a chance to do what may be counted for or against them would not have been fulfilled. Therefore, He attached the question of provisions to different factors related to life situations and personal abilities. He made it part of the test people undergo in this life and the result of which is known only in the life to come. Thus, it has nothing to do with belief or unbelief, goodness of character or personality.
"In The Shade Of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol 15, pp. 166, 167
"Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you." [Tirmidhi]
If a person fulfill's Allah's right upon him, then Allah will be with him in all of his affairs. That is, Allah will support him, protect him, guide him and strengthen him in his actions. He will guide him to what is best for him and steer him away from everything that is harmful to him.
This is, of course a very special relationship that one may have with Allah. Allah sees and knows all things that exist in his world. Nobody can do anything without Allah being present via His knowledge. Nothing escapes Him. This type of "Allah's presence" is true for the believers and the disbelievers. However, this hadith is describing a special closeness to Allah. This is Allah's closeness to the believers in that He is always close with His help, protection and support. He is in front of them and guiding them.
As the person obeys Allah more and more and comes closer to Allah, Allah protects him in an even greater fashion. The extent of this closeness, protection and care from Allah is described in another hadith, wherein Allah says:
"My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have imposed upon him. And My servant continues to draw near Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it." [Bukhari]
Al-Haitami makes the point that "in front" is the only direction mentioned. He says that this is the case because every human being is headed forward, forward to the Hereafter, and is not going to remain in this world. Hence, he is like a traveler who is moving on. He is in need of having Allah in front of him, in the direction that he is moving, in order to protect him and safeguard him in that journey.
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, pp. 745-748
Gifts and Capacities
People and families are a pool of gifts and capacities, not a series of needs and deficiencies. Their suffering is an effect of their isolation and their being labeled. The struggle in their life is to find a way to use their gifts. In the way we traditionally deliver service, by raising money for and valuing their deficiencies, we reflect and reinforce the cause of some of their troubles.
We still call citizens who seek help "cases." People who serve them are called "case workers." What does it mean when someone is labeled a "case"? Lawyers, social workers, human service workers in general dehumanize those they are committed to serve by naming them cases.
Human services also relate to citizens through diagnostic categories. We are only interested in their needs and deficiencies. If a family or person has no pressing needs and deficiencies, nothing can be categorized, we have no interest in them. Perhaps we should develop diagnostic categories for people's gifts. Right now we have only crude positive labels: high-school graduate, economic status, size of family, job experience. Suppose we named people in categories, such as: a connector, knows everyone in the neighbourhood, street-level entrepreneur, fashion plate, compassion for those in need, lights up a room when they enter, creative speech, practical intelligence, risk taker. The shift is to focus on gifts and capacities.
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 169, 170