Good Acts, Domesticating Devices, Clothes of Death
Issue 908 » August 19, 2016 - Dhul Qida 16, 1437
Al-Araf (The Heights) - Chapter 7: Verse 9 (partial)
On the Day of Judgement man's deeds will be classified into positive and negative categories. The positive category will consist of knowing the truth, believing in it, acting upon it, and striving to make it prevail. It is such acts alone which will have weight in the Hereafter. Conversely, whenever someone follows and goes after lusts or blindly follows other humans or satans, his acts will be reckoned as 'negative'. Such acts will not only be of no value at all, but will also have the effect of reducing the total weight of one's positive acts.
Thus, a man's success in the Hereafter requires that his good acts outweigh his evil ones to such an extent that even if his evil acts cause the effacement of some of his good acts, he should still have enough left in his credit to ensure his scale is inclined towards the positive. As for the man whose evil acts outweigh his good acts, he will be like the bankrupt businessman who, even after spending all his assets, remains under the burden of debt.
"Towards Understanding the Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, Vol. 3, pp. 6, 7
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Pride and arrogance are characteristics of camel herders, while modesty and gentleness are the characteristics of shepherds.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Ibn Taymiyah writes:
When people live in the presence of certain animals, they take on some of their behaviours. This is how pride and arrogance become characteristics of camel herders and modesty and gentleness become the characteristics of shepherds. Camel herders and mule drivers acquire some bad traits as a consequence from the animals they work with. Likewise, tame animals acquire traits from the people they are constantly exposed to. They become sociable and less likely to flee.
We should expect that our constant interaction today with machines will affect us in a similar way. We see machines and electronic devices as a convenience and a means for entertainment. We forget how many people are injured or killed by machines. They far outnumber the global casualties of war.
We have become very comfortable around machines, because they make our lives easier. They reduce the time and effort it takes for us to complete tasks. We forget the price we pay for this convenience. There is a cost to our health from the sedentary lifestyle dependence on machines leads to. We are so captivated by the instant gratification of pushbutton convenience that we lose out on real human experience. We like the abundance that is at our fingertips, but we forget the numbing effect that an overabundance brings about.
It is not a good idea to shun them altogether or to forbid our families to use them. They are as much a part of Allah’s blessings as anything else. They are one aspect of the many ways in which Allah puts the world at our disposal. The problem is when we abuse these devices and let them dominate our lives.
However, instead of letting our lives and our souls become mechanised, we need to domesticate our devices. We should use them to bolster our good habits, strengthen our family ties, improve community cohesion, and bring the world closer together.
"Our Digital Lives... & Islamic Work" - Salman al-Oadah
Clothes of Death
You who have resolved to meet God and who have now come to the place of the appointed time must change your clothes behind the scene of the drama.
Clothes? That which the you-ness of you, the yourness of your being human has wound within it, worn; for clothes cover a person and what a great lie that a person wears clothes!
The word clothes (libas) has a very meaningful sense, as well, which is understood in its verb form. Iltibaz means mistake! To make a mistake! Clothes are a sign, are a separation, a manifestation, a mystery, a degree, a title, a privilege. The colour, design and quality of it all mean:
Me! And me means not you. Not you. Not us. It means distinction. It means boundary and, thus, separation. And this 'me' is a race. It is a nation. It is a class. It is a group. It is a family. It is a degree. It is a situation. It is a value. It is an individual. It does not mean being human.
Boundaries are numerous in the land of humanity. The sharp blade of the three-fold executioners of history-the children of Cain-has fallen into the midst of the children of Adam and has, piece by piece, cut humanity's unity into: master-servant, ruler-condemned, full-hungry, rich-poor, master-slave, oppressor-oppressed, colonialist-colonized, exploiter-exploited, brainwasher-brainwashed, powerful-weak, wealthy-agent, deceiver-deceived, aristocrat-abased, spiritual-physical, noble-common, landlord-serf, employer-labourer, prosperous-wretched, white-black, eastern-western, civilized-uncivilized, Arab-non-Arab.
Humanness has been divided up into races. Races into nations. Nations into Classes. Classes into sects, groups and families. Inside of each, again, position, reputation, degrees and honorary titles exist. Bit by bit they form an individual, a 'me' and all of these in different clothes.
Throw them at the appointed time. Put on the shroud. Wash out all colours. Whiten and harmonize with all colours. Become all. Emerge from your me-ness like a snake which sheds its skin. Become the people. Take off life's clothes. Put on the clothes of death. Throw away all ornaments, signs, colours and patterns which the hand of life has clasped over your body. Throw them all away at the appointed time. Become human. Be as you were in the beginning. Be one. Human being (adam). And as you will become in the end.
"Hajj: Reflection on its Rituals" - Ali Shariati