Counter Evil, Grief for the Loss, Introspection

Issue 976 » December 8, 2017 - Rabi-al-Awwal 20, 1439

Living The Quran

Counter Evil
Al-Maidah (The Table Spread) Sura 5: Verse 8

"O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do."

We witness daily that all over the world injustice is prevalent in many societies. People usually tolerate injustice either because they lack courage or fear the consequences of raising their voices. Some are keen to appease despotic regimes and tolerate the crimes committed by tyrants for purely material gain, and they do not want to upset the status quo. Nevertheless, it is an individual as well as the collective responsibility not to betray the truth and abandon the struggle to counter the forces of evil. One has to forego the short-term benefits and fight for what is right and support those who are standing up for justice. This is the clear message given in the above verse, that one should not deviate from justice even when dealing with one's enemies.

Compiled From:
"Treasures of the Qur'an: Surah al-Fatihah to Surah al-Mai'dah" - Abdur Rashid Siddiqui

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Grief for the Loss

Grief for the loss of a loved one is perfectly normal and acceptable, but it must be coupled with resigned acceptance of God's will. This is what is clear in the following report from Usamah ibn Zayd:

One of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) daughters (Zaynab) sent to him a message stating that a son of hers was dying and requested him to come over. He replied with a message starting with his greetings and adding: "To God belongs what He takes and what He gives. With Him everything occurs at its appointed time. She should remain steadfast and resigned to her loss." She sent a new message asking him by God to come over. He rose together with Saad ibn Ubadah, Muadh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Kab, Zayd ibn Thabit and others. The boy was handed over to the Prophet. His chest was noisy, almost like a waterskin that had become too dry. The Prophet's eyes were tearful. Saad said to him: "How come, Messenger of God?" He said: "This is an expression of compassion God has placed in His creatures' hearts. God is merciful only to those of His servants who are merciful." (al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, al-Nasai, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah.)

The fact that the Prophet was questioned for weeping because of the loss of a child tells us something about the Arabian society. At the time, this society considered weeping to be unbecoming of a man, even after the loss of a dear one. In fact, the loss of a child was not considered to be much of a tragedy. The Prophet's words are educative: they show that weeping in such situations is an expression of mercy. In fact, the Prophet wept on other occasions, such as the death of Uthman ibn Mazun and the illness of Saad ibn Ubadah.

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



In Islamic law, terrorism (hirabah) is considered cowardly, predatory and a grand sin punishable by death. Classical Islamic law explicitly prohibits the taking or slaying of hostages or diplomats even in retaliation against unlawful acts by the enemy. Furthermore, it prohibits stealth or indiscriminate attacks against enemies, Muslim or non-Muslim. One can even say that classical jurists considered such acts to be contrary to the ethics of Arab chivalry and therefore fundamentally cowardly.

It would be disingenuous, however, to propose that this classical attitude is predominant or even that familiar in modern Arab-Muslim culture. What happened to the civilization that produced such tolerance, knowledge and beauty throughout its history? A lot has happened. The Islamic civilization has been wiped out by an aggressive and racist European civilization. Colonialism and the expulsion of Palestinians happened. Numerous massacres against and by Muslims happened. Despotic and exploitative regimes have taken power in nearly every Muslim country. Most important, however, a dogmatic, puritanical and ethically oblivious form of Islam has predominated since the 1970s. This brand of Islamic theology is largely dismissive of the classical juristic tradition and of any notion of universal and innate moral values. This orientation insists that only the mechanics and technicalities of Islamic law define morality. Paradoxically, it also rejects the classical juristic tradition and insists on a literal reinterpretation of all Islamic texts.

Fundamentally, this puritanical theology responds to feelings of powerlessness and defeat with uncompromising symbolic displays of power, not only against non-Muslims but also against Muslim women. It is not accidental that this puritanical orientation is the most virulent in flexing its muscles against women and that it is plagued by erotic fantasies of virgins in heaven submissively catering to the whim and desire of men.

This contemporary orientation is anchored in profound feelings of defeatism, alienation, frustration and arrogance. It is a theology that is alienated not only from the institutions of power in the modern world but also from its own heritage and tradition.

The extreme form of this puritanical Islam does not represent most Muslims today. But there are two ways in which contemporary Muslim culture, Arab or non-Arab, inadvertently feeds these extreme trends. First, since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the onslaught of colonialism, Islamic intellectuals have busied themselves with the task of "defending Islam" by rampant apologetics. This produced a culture that eschews self-critical and introspective insight and embraces projection of blame and a fantasy-like level of confidence and arrogance. Second, Muslims got into the habit of paying homage to the presumed superiority of the Islamic tradition but marginalize this idealistic image in everyday life.

The reality of contemporary Muslims is unfortunate. Easy oil money, easy apologetics, easy puritanism, easy appeals to the logic of necessity have all but obliterated the incentive for introspection and critical insight. Arab and Muslim organizations in the U.S. are right to worry about hate crimes and stereotypical projections of Muslims and the Islamic religion.

The problem, however, is that Muslims themselves responded to the challenge of modernity by stereotyping and then completely ignoring their own tradition. It is not surprising that some extremists have taken this tendency to its logical and heinous extreme.

Compiled From:
"What Became of Tolerance in Islam?" - Khaled Abou El Fadl