June 10, 2023 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 21, 1444
Living The Quran
An-Nahl (The Bee) Chapter 16: Verse 78
"God brought you forth from the bellies of your mothers; you knew nothing and He gave you hearing, sight and minds so that you might have cause to be grateful."
The Quran frequently returns to the theme of the arrogance of those who have a sense of entitlement to their wealth and social status. The unbeliever claims self-sufficiency when the reality is that everything he possesses, even his body and mind, were created by God.
The great scholar of the Quran Toshihiko Izutsu showed the importance of this Quranic concept of "gratitude" (shukr) in defining the relationship between God and humanity. He rightfully pointed out that the word kufr, usually translated as "disbelief," also signifies "ingratitude." In this respect, the Quran draws a close connection between faith and gratitude towards God. Disbelief is a wilful refusal to acknowledge God's favours to humanity. It is to be expected that someone who does not even acknowledge his responsibility to show gratitude to God will reject the idea that he has moral obligations towards humanity. Presenting himself as a "self-made man," the ingrate is arrogant and irresponsible towards God and humanity.
"The Story of The Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, p. 48
From Issue: 773 [Read original issue]
Understanding The Prophet's Life
If the life of this world is an illusion, the period of greatest illusion occurs during youth. It is a period of high energy and great enthusiasm, coupled with an air of invincibility and perpetuity. Like the driver of a fast car, one may also develop a disdain for the slower cars on the highway of life. It is difficult to imagine that the car will run out of fuel and that one day the engine will wear out.
For the moment though the car is fast and it can go places!
For this reason there are special warnings for the youth and glad tidings for the person who uses this energy wisely. A famous saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us that on the Day of Judgment no man will be able to move from his place until he answers five questions. "How did he spend his life? How did he utilize his youth? How did he earn his wealth? How did he spend it? And, how did he practice what he learnt?" [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]. While the first question asks generally about one's life pattern, the second especially focuses on the period of youth.
On the other hand, the person who devoted his youth in obedience of Allah will be among the selected seven kinds of people [Bukhari, Muslim].
A fast car is dangerous if it does not have strong controls. And that is where Shaitan targets the vulnerable --- by loosening the controls. It has been his time-tested trick to work through temptations and make desires look irresistible. The path of deviation looks good. It is cool. It is fun. It is endlessly entertaining. The only problem is, it leads to assured disaster.
"Youth: On Culture, Religion, and Generation Gap" - Khalid Baig
From Issue: 689 [Read original issue]
Due heed must be paid to small voices (or inner voices) that sometimes challenge the interpretations offered by those who are considered to be speaking authoritatively. Many Muslims have a strong internal conviction that God is just and fair, and that any Quranic interpretation that conflicts with their sense of justice and fairness, even if it is considered authoritative, demands, at the very least, further scrutiny. To this end, stories like the following can encourage ordinary Muslims to feel confident enough to voice their reservations or discomfort with certain interpretations of the Quran.
Zaynab bint Muayqib was a woman of Madina, who, along with thousands of others, went out to attend the funerals of two great men - one a religious scholar and one a poet - who died on the same day at the beginning of the second century of Islam. Zaynab was among a large group of women who were gathering behind one of the coffins. A prominent Sayyid, Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Ali ("al Baqir" - who would be identified by the Shiites as their fifth "Imam"), tried to approach the coffin. Blocked by the crowds of women who would not part to let him through, Abu Jafar began to snap his cloak at them saying, "Enough, you companions of Joseph!"
In response to Abu Jafar's insult, Zaynab called out, "O son of the Messenger of God, you are correct that we are the companions of Joseph - and we treated him better than you!" After the funeral was over, Abu Jafar sent someone to bring Zaynab to him. The narrator of the story says that Zaynab arrived "as though she were a spark of fire." Abu Jafar asked what she had meant when she said that "(We) women are better than (you) men." Zaynab responded to him: "We women, O son of the Messenger of God, invited (Joseph) to the delights of food and drink, and to enjoy and be comfortable. But you men threw him in the well, sold him for a miserable price and locked him in prison - so which of us was more tender and kind to him?"
When Abu Jafar used the Quran to dismiss the women who got in his way, Zaynab knew this was not fair. Her knowledge was not based on an academic study of the Quran, nor on the claim that she had any special spiritual status that gave her unique insight to the meanings of the Quran. Zaynab, rather, had confidence in her intuitive sense of fairness which allowed her to tell Abu Jafar how she perceived misogyny in his words (for his part, Abu Jafar is said to have expressed admiration at Zaynab's spirited defense). As a woman, Zaynab also had a different perspective than Abu Jafar on the Quranic story of Joseph. In her eyes, the story clearly shows a male propensity for violence and acquiring power at any cost.
"The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, pp. 226-228
From Issue: 505 [Read original issue]