Fortitude, Manhood, Scriptures
Issue 931 » January 27, 2017 - Rabi Al-Thani 29, 1438
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 153
This verse asks people who have attained to faith to seek aid in patience and prayer when faced with adversity. There are many people in this world who are tested by adversity, just as the Muslims in Medina were. In our time, the world is only too familiar with refugees who have been driven from their homes, have had to flee leaving behind all their possessions, and consequently know danger, hunger and the loss of the fruits of their labour. A large proportion of such refugees today are Muslims.
To those who are patient in adversity the Quran gives 'glad tidings'. Is this evidence of a religious tradition that offers only fatalism? The question has always been posed and not just to Islam. The question misses, or rather misconstrues, the significance of the patience to be found in prayer. In the face of adversity the first necessity is the fortitude to endure rather than succumb, and this is exactly the aid to be derived from patience and prayer. The patience summoned is the inner strength and resolve to face down the adversities of one's situation. Despite their adversities the migrants to Medina were not passive and fatalistic, they were engaged in founding a new kind of society whose glad tidings were the possibility of living in a more just, equitable and righteous way. They are tested to the limit but faith is fortitude and hope.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar
Today, a man is expected to be stoic, unemotional, inexpressive, tough, and unbending. Physical aggression is glorified and emotional expressiveness ridiculed. One of the most common definitions of manhood today is the lack of emotional expressiveness. It is almost universally believed that to cry is 'unmanly' and weak. And yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) described it very differently. When the Prophet was handed his daughter's son who was dying, his eyes flooded with tears. His companion Saad then told him, "What is this, Prophet of God?" He said, "This is a mercy that the Almighty has made in the hearts of His servants. And surely God has mercy to the merciful ones among His servants." [Bukhari]
But today, a man is not only expected to hide feelings of sadness, he is taught early on that even other emotions are not to be expressed. During the time of the Prophet , there were some men who believed the same. Once while a villager was present, Prophet Muhammad kissed his grandsons on the forehead. At that, the villager said with surprise, "I have ten children. I have never kissed any of them!" Prophet Muhammad looked at him and said, "He who does not have mercy will not have mercy upon him." [Bukhari] In fact, with regards to showing affection, the Prophet was very clear. He said: "If a man loves his brother in faith, he should tell him that he loves him." [Abu Dawud]
"Reclaim Your Heart" - Yasmin Mogahed
'The slaves of God can do deeds that please the Lord of the Worlds, deeds that displease Him and deeds that cause neither anger nor approval,' explained Shah Wali Allah. This statement underlined the great questions at the heart of the Islamic tradition: how should God be understood, what actions please Him and how should human society be ordered to accord with His will? To find answers, Muslim scholars turned to three sources. First, there was the Quran, 'The Recitation' bestowed from on high upon Muhammad. Held to be the word of God in Arabic, it was revealed through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad intermittently over the course of his twenty-three-year prophetic career. It descended in verses and sometimes in whole chapters to answer questions, to inspire, to warn and to provide glimpses into the power of the divine and the nature of the unseen. It was the one intact moment of God's instruction to humankind. As the years passed, Muhammad ordered and reordered these separate transcripts into chapters forming a stream of divine consciousness, neither a strict chronology nor a linear narrative. The Quran lived privately in the recitations, prayers and scattered parchments of Muhammad's followers until the revelation was formalized in one official copy some twenty years after the Prophet's death.
Although the Quran was the epicenter of the Islamic movement, it was not a lengthy book. Shah Wali Allah memorized it by heart before he was seven years old (many Muslims still do the same today), and only a fraction of its verses provide details about Islamic law or dogma. The five daily prayers and the details of the Ramadan fast are found nowhere in the holy book. These were provided by Muhammad's teachings and his authoritative precedent, which explained and elaborated on the Quran. Known as the Sunna, or 'The Tradition,' Muhammad's collective words, deeds, rulings and comportment were understood to be the Quran's message implemented in one time and place by the living example of the infallible 'Messenger of God.' How the Sunna was communicated and implemented in subsequent generations would be a central cause of diversity in Islam.
The tendency of Western readers to assume that 'scripture' refers only to the book written by or revealed to a prophet and not to the prophet himself misunderstands the nature of scripture in Islam. The full systems of Islamic theology and law are not derived primarily from the Quran. Muhammad's Sunna was a second but far more detailed living scripture, and later Muslim scholars would thus often refer to the Prophet as 'The Possessor of Two Revelations.'
Alone, however, the revelation of the Quran and the Tradition or Sunna that accompanied it would be voices unheard. It was the minds of Muslims poring over this ilm, or sacred knowledge, that interpreted it and mapped it onto earthly affairs. The meaning of the Quran's language and edicts had to be determined, and the myriad sayings of the Prophet placed within a hierarchy of rules and exceptions. Ultimately, human reason was thus a third source of guidance. It derived scales of equity and principles from the revealed teachings of the Quran and Sunna and then reapplied them to those two sources to ensure that they were understood properly. It scanned and digested the natural world that God had created, reading the Quran and Sunna coherently against its backdrop.
"Misquoting Muhammad" - Jonathan A.C. Brown, pp. 17, 18