Five Morals, Concessions, Right to be wrong
Issue 970 » October 27, 2017 - Safar 7, 1439
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verse 17
This verse mentions five moral characteristics: sabr, sidq, qunut, infaq and istighfar.
Sabr, in essence, means to stand firm and to pursue the truth steadfastly under all kinds of conditions and circumstances, whether easy or difficult, whether one is afflicted with poverty, disease, or distress and even when faced with bitter hostility. To pursue truth with fortitude and to confront whatever comes one's way patiently — without despairing or losing heart, without regret or complaint and refusing to surrender to falsehood come what may. A major portion of the din — the religion of Islam – is based on sabr or patience and fortitude. In essence, Islam has appropriately been described as half gratitude and half patience. Human experience shows that in the absence of patience one cannot even be truly grateful.
Sidq, in essence, means being in full harmony with reality or facts. It signifies firmness and solidity of substantial nature. A spear with patently strong joints is described as sadiqa-l kuub, which when tested, is actually found to be strong, firm and reliable. Some of the manifestations of sidq are harmony between heart and tongue, words and deeds, the apparent and the internal life of a person, and consistency between one's beliefs and actions.
As to qunut, its essence is humility and self-abasement before Allah, born out of the realisation of a sense of gratitude for the countless blessings of Allah and His limitless power, glory, and majesty. Qunut transforms any blessing received into a form or means of showing our gratitude to Him, while any misfortune or hardship encountered along the way offers yet a fresh opportunity to exercise patience. Qunut is thus the direct opposite of the proud and arrogant attitude born out of the mistaken notion that whatever Divine blessings one receives are one's by right for which no gratitude is due to anyone. Qunut initially denotes humility of mind and heart and it is essentially reflected in one's appearance, speech, gait, and character.
As for infaq, it is obviously the opposite of spending on worldly pleasures for one's selfish gratification. The characteristic of spending on others is a clear proof that in one's eyes the life hereafter and its enduring blessings are more important and worth striving for rather than wasting one's energies on worthless trinkets of this transitory life on earth.
Istighfar means calling upon Allah and supplicating to Him in humility to cover one's lapses, sins, and shortcomings. Such a lament and cry for help is the result of the humility and fear induced in a person on realising the infinite blessings of his Sustainer upon him along with the thought that He is the Lord of impeccable justice and retribution. The addition of the words "who pray for forgiveness in the early hours of the morning" shows that this is the most suitable time for the acceptance of supplications for forgiveness. This time is most secure against the hazards of showing off and most appropriate for concentrating the mind and pondering earnestly over the messages of Allah. It is indeed a great bounty of our Most Generous Sustainer that He has not only directed us to make istighfar but has also at the same time taught us about the most suitable time for its acceptance.
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi
The Prophet (peace be upon him) spent much time in worship. He would spend long hours of the night in prayer and supplication. However, he always made things easy for his Companions and followers. He was keen not to give them tasks that they would find too arduous. The Prophet wanted to ensure that his Companions and his followers in future generations would not overtax themselves in trying to be devout, and so he would often point out concessions. He made sure that people would act upon these. He tells us: "God loves that the concessions He grants are exercised in the same way as the tasks that require hard effort be attended to." [Tabarani]
People, however, tend to make things harder for themselves. They often belittle their good actions and think that they need to do more. Aisha reports: "The Prophet did something, pointing out that it was a concession given to people. Some, however, refrained from doing it. This was reported to the Prophet. He addressed the people, starting by praising God. He said: 'What is the matter with some people? They refrain from doing what I do. By God, I am the one who knows God best and the one who is most God-fearing.'" (Bukhari, Muslim)
The Prophet makes it clear that even the most strenuous effort in worship and good deeds will not be sufficient for anyone to ensure their admittance into heaven. This is due to the fact that God has given us enormous blessings. Were we to spend all our time in prayer and devotion, we could still not thank God enough for what He has given us. Instead, it requires an act of God's grace, which He is certain to give for everyone who is sincere in faith. Aisha quotes the Prophet as saying: "Do the right things in moderation and rejoice. No action will be sufficient for anyone to enter heaven." People asked: "Not even you, Messenger of God?" He said: "Not even me, unless God will grant me His forgiveness and grace." (Bukhari and Muslim)
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi
Right to be wrong
A particular risk for Muslim women in our own time is our frequent reluctance to treat other women as individuals, rather than as exemplars of our collective feminine identity. Too often we seem to feel that obtaining a dignified identity for women in general is so vital that we need to sacrifice the rights of some women for the sake of the group. It is common in marginalized groups that there is pressure for individuals to conform for the sake of the good of the collectivity. Many are afraid that if some of their peers make statements that are too challenging, perhaps there will be a backlash. However, we need to remember that there is no general woman; there are only individual woman, each with their own idiosyncrasies, values and beliefs. Women should be able to live in all their diversity, with all of their flaws and talents, with all of their strengths and weaknesses, in their collective and individual identities just as men do, no more, no less.
Certainly, there is much value in respecting common norms of behavior and not acting counter-cultural simply to provoke a reaction. However, sometimes it is only outrageous behavior that will elicit a necessary reaction in the face of mindless complicity. Who is to judge when it is appropriate to sacrifice individuality for the sake of the common good, and when it is necessary to fight for one's rights, despite protests that one is creating discord (fitna)? In the end, this is a judgment call that we all might have to make, and we should not assume that any of our judgments are infallible. When it comes to women's rights, we should not be so terrified of a backlash that we disown our sisters who take a more radical path. We might think that their behavior is outrageous, ridiculous, or over-the-line, and we can make that judgment. Still, we should support their right to be wrong.
Muslims in the West are under this enormous pressure to project themselves as a so-called "moderate community". This leaves many of us, for example, uncomfortable with the veiling practices of any woman who covers to any degree more fully or traditionally than ourselves. If we do not wear a headscarf, we think that women who wear the headscarf are an intrinsic threat to our dignity and autonomy. Women who wear a simple headscarf with otherwise Western clothes feel embarrassed to be seen with women wearing jilbab with a matching tarhah (scarf covering the whole upper-body). Most of us are annoyed by women who cover their faces. We cannot let our fear that we all will be looked at as "extremists" or as "unassimilated" to deny a woman's right to dress as she chooses.
"Heaven's Gate: How Muslim Women Open or Close Doors for Their Sisters" - Ingrid Mattson