Transformation, Natural Fear, Broken Society
Issue 922 » November 25, 2016 - Safar 25, 1438
Al-Baqarah (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 284 (partial)
These few words, once fully absorbed, totally transform all our outlooks, attitudes and relationships with everything in the universe, including with our own selves. They are also enough to generate and sustain all the inner strengths that we require. These words mean:
One, we are trustees, not the owners. Allah is the Owner of everything. Even our lives, bodies, all possessions and relationships, are His - not ours. Keeping this in mind, we find the strength to become His, and to live and behave as we belong only to Him.
Two, being trustees and not owners, we must use everything in life in accordance with His Will. This gives us the strength to obey Him in everything.
Three, everything we receive or accomplish in life is from Him and because of Him. This enables us to remain ever thankful to Him.
Four, this also gives us the patience to face all adversities and tribulations.
Five, being trustees we will surely be called to account for our deeds and misdeeds in things and matters given in our trust. Even what we conceal in the deepest recesses of our heart we shall have to account for. Thus we always keep our eyes on that Day of Reckoning and Judgement, and prepare for the Hour when we shall stand face to face with Him.
Six, it is only in His power, and in no one else's, to forgive our faults and sins or to punish us. This makes us fearless of judgements passed by human beings like ourselves.
Seven, if that Judgement is the final arbiter of our ultimate fate, then we place all our hopes and fears in Allah alone, and turn only to Him for mercy and forgiveness, whenever we fail that test we are put to and commit a sin.
"Key to al Baqarah" - Khurram Murad pp. 26-27
Everyone will experience the loss of a loved one. When the Prophet lost his son Ibrahim, he wept but also praised God, the source of life and death. People who believe in God and in the Afterlife handle death well. The same is true with calamities and tribulations. Maurice Bucaille, the well-known French physician, said that what attracted his interest in Islam was how North Africans in France faced death. As a physician exposed to disease and death, he observed many of his own countrymen not knowing how to die or handle death.
The fear of death is natural. Reflexively, one protects himself from it. When angels in the form of human beings visited Prophet Abraham he offered them food. When he saw that they did not reach for the food, he grew fearful. Scholars say that Abraham thought they had come to take his life. The Prophet encouraged believers to desire a long life for two reasons: to make up for past iniquities or to increase good deeds.
The one who remembers death is ennobled by certain characteristics. One of them is contentment and a lack of covetousness. The Prophet said, "Contentment is a treasure that is never exhausted." He also prayed, "O God, provide for my family with what suffices them and grant them contentment with it." The wealthy soul is one that is content. This contentment is not the kind that originates from stupidity or not knowing any better. It is contentment that is informed by knowledge and by reflection on death and its meaning.
Second, the remembrance of death gives one energy to achieve good deeds: Wealth and sons are the ornaments of the life of this world, while enduring righteous deeds are better with your Lord in reward and better in hope (QURAN, 18:46).
Third, remembrance of death engenders seeking repentance when one slips or errs. Penitence rectifies wrong action, and that is the gift of remembering death. When one lives with this realization, he or she becomes prompt in seeking God's forgiveness. Those who are heedless of death have no compunction in doing wrong, since death is not a factor in their lives. They carelessly view the Day of Judgement as some distant event hardly worth worrying about or some ancient notion formed in a primordial epoch of human development.
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 135, 136
Hazrat Ali said two parties are required in order to bring about oppression. One is the oppressor and the other is the one who accepts the oppression. It is the co-operation of these two that brings about oppression. Oppression cannot be one-sided. An oppressor cannot perform oppression in the air. Oppression is like a piece of iron that is formed by the striking of the hammer of the oppressor upon the anvil of the oppressed.
Not only is oppression a result of corruption, deviation and misery, but also it requires two sides working together to come into being. In the defeat of a society, it is not just the victor who breaks it; society must also be broken. For instance, in the 7th century A.H., it was not Genghis Khan who defeated us. It was we ourselves who were corrupted from within. From the 5th to the 6th century, we were preparing ourselves to be defeated. It was because of this that Genghis defeated us. He only kicked the corrupted states once and we fell down and were defeated. The termites who had built their homes inside our tree and had begun eating away the body from the inside, left it empty, dry and without roots. These termites caused the tree to fall to the earth and not the strong wind that blew upon the tree. Strong winds always blow in the forest. Why is it that just this tree or that one falls down?
"Fatemah is Fatemah" - Ali Shariati, p. 131