Perverse Nature, Divine Source, Broken Covenant

Issue 964 » September 15, 2017 - Dhul Hijja 24, 1438

Living The Quran

Perverse Nature
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 258 (partial)

"Allah does not give guidance to wrongdoers."

This sums up the basic principle concerning guidance and error. The term zalimin (wrongdoers or unjust persons) in Quranic terminology refers to those who misuse the gifts and faculties given to them by Allah. Instead of considering them as Allah's blessings and being grateful to Him, they regard them as theirs by right — a privilege that they deserve. Consequently, they become proud and insolent like Iblis, the Devil. Instead of obeying Allah and adoring Him, they install themselves over others as their gods and lords. Such people, the Quran says, are unjust and become wrongdoers and are left to grope in darkness all their lives. No matter how clear and plain the message of truth is, because of their perverse nature, they always find some excuse to refute and reject it. Like Nimrod, they are sometimes dazzled by truth, but they cannot see clearly. They may at times be puzzled and rendered speechless, yet they will not embrace the truth and walk in its path.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Divine Source

Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave people information that he could not have acquired in any way other than Divine revelation. These were normally matters that the people themselves took part in, and every person involved realized that the Prophet could not have had his information from a human source.

For example, Umayr ibn Wahb and Safwan ibn Umayyah sat one night in the semi circle area next to the Kabah in Makkah and spoke sadly of the loss the Quraysh suffered at the hands of the Muslims in the Battle of Badr. They were all alone. They agreed that Umayr, who was a very courageous fighter, would travel to Madinah to attempt to kill Muhammad. Safwan promised to repay Umayr's debts and look after his family as his own if Umayr came to any harm. Thus, Umayr went to Madinah, and the Prophet instructed his Companions to admit him. The Prophet asked him why he came to Madinah, to which he responded that he only wanted to secure the release of his son who was taken as prisoner in the Battle of Badr. The Prophet pressed him to tell him the truth, but he insisted that that was his purpose. The Prophet then recounted to him his conversation with Safwan, word for word, including the promises each of them gave the other. We should remember here that this was fourteen centuries ago, a time when there were none of the rapid means of communications we have today. The only way news travelled was by word of mouth or by human Messengers who could travel only on horse- or camel-back. Umayr immediately realized that the Prophet could only have been informed by a superior power. He declared his belief that Muhammad was God's Messenger and became a Muslim.[Ibn Hisham]

Those who accepted the logical conclusion of the prophet's knowledge were quick to declare their acknowledgement that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a Prophet and a Messenger of God. They could not see any way of gathering such information, except through Divine action. There were others who may have seen such signs but refused to accept their logical conclusion. They were blinded by other considerations: such as their perceived interests, pride, position or even illogical prejudices.

The Prophet had no tangible miracles or material proof to show to people so that they would believe that he was God's Messenger. Instead, he gave a simple message, based on God's Oneness and people's accountability on the Day of Judgement. People with open minds responded favourably, but most people followed their leaders, parents, friends or the community. Only some intelligence and openness of mind is needed in order to accept the message of Islam, yet to change one's way of life, as religion in general and Islam in particular require, is difficult for most people.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Broken Covenant

Religious belief — like all systems of ideological conviction — is powerful. And in the case of religion in particular, its power comes from its ability, among other things, to synchronize between the physical and the metaphysical; to integrate between the individual and the collectivity; and to give an individual the sense that it is not only that he or she belongs to the collectivity, but also that the collectivity stands behind the individual. Part of the power of religion is that it defines its own strengths. It promises what appears to be unattainable.

At times, that power could disintegrate into a form of careless thinking where the aspirations are not connected to any material or logical or rational premises, but, where it becomes something that yields the power to dream. To dream — it is remarkably powerful — powerful whether it produces love, beauty or any opposites. Furthermore, depending of course on how one handles religious conviction, in many ways, it allows the individual to have a claim to the universal; to make the universal attainable through an individuality. The personal, with all its details, can suddenly become relevant to much more than itself. And ultimately, this power redeems the promise of the comfort of a truth that can give coherence to matters that often are confronted with cynicism, and a sense of hopelessness, or at least a sense of futility. It can render the incoherent coherent in a word.

But that power sits in tension and is quite at odds with another aspect of the religious. The religious quite often is not self-referential. Rather, it references something quite bigger than the individuality claimed. In the case of Islam, it is not sufficient that the individual says, "I feel, I want, I dream." In the case of Islam, in many ways, the individual's struggle is the attempt to understand what God wants, what God desires, what God says.

Now, naturally, the individual is asked to handle the power that is profound and awesome — a power of divinity. And, without a remarkable dosage of humility, perhaps a constant dosage of humility — daily injections of humility and modesty — what religion promises could turn on itself in very profound ways.

Here we come to another aspect of the Islamic situation. When we often speak about Islam, simply saying "Islam" is grossly insufficient. What we are presented with when we say, "Islam," is various attempts by various human beings acting within a variety of contexts subject to a variety of contingencies and attempting to represent or assert something on behalf of the divine, all along struggling with whether the covenant that balances the relationship — the relationship between the human being and the divine — is being violated in any way. To restate this, there is a covenant in Islamic belief that is between the divine and the human being. The covenant is multi-faceted, but at the core of this covenant is the notion of balance — a balance that never allows a human being to become divine, and never allows the divine to become human; a balance that is intricate. The minute that humans transcend the proper bounds of their place, they are transgressing upon the divine and the covenant is broken.

Compiled From:
"Speaking, Killing and Loving in God's Name" - Khaled Abou El Fadl