Today's Reminder

February 24, 2020 | Jumada II 29, 1441

Living The Quran

Al-Maida (The Table Spread)
Chapter 5: Verse 93

Contextual Reading
"No harm falls upon those who believe and do good works for what they have consumed as long as they are conscious of God and believe and do good works and then are conscious of God and believe and then are conscious of God and do good. Verily, God loves those who do good."

The "occasion of revelation" (asbab al-nuzul) of a verse gives a different kind of context than the Sunna. Whereas the Sunna shows the way the Prophet put general principles and specific commands of the Quran into practice, the occasions of revelation give context for Quranic statements for which there may or may not be correlating information from the Sunna. Without the background of the occasions of revelation, the normative value of many Quranic statements could be misunderstood if the verses are read in a literal fashion.

There is a report that some early Muslims understood the above verse to permit believers to consume alcohol. This claim was contested by one of the Companions, who said, "If they had know the occasion of revelation they would not have said that; (the occasion) is that when wine was forbidden people used to say, 'What about those who were killed in the path of God [before this prohibition] and died after they had been drinking wine which is an abomination?' Then this verse was revealed." The point of this verse, then, is not that the sacred law is waived for those who have faith and do good works, but that those who are ignorant of the law will not be punished for lack of compliance with it. What this story shows is that a decontextualized reading of the Quran can lead to a grave misunderstanding of its meaning.

Compiled From:
"The Story of The Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, p. 168

From Issue: 514 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Logic of Faith

Some schools of thought and Islamic sects surely went to extremes, for example, Mutazilis, in rejecting some of the sahih hadiths that seemed far-fetched to their reason. We have seen this in the attitude of some of them with regards to the following hadith:

"In the Garden there is assuredly a tree in whose shade a rider may travel for a hundred years without crossing through it." [Bukhari, Muslim]

Ibn Kathir said in his Tafsir, "This hadith from God's Messenger is well-established, indeed definitively mutawatir in being sahih according to the leaders of hadith scholarship."

The outward sense of this hadith is that the hundred years are the years of this world. None knows except God the kind of anything between the time of this world and the time of the world that is with God. When a hadith has been authenticated there is no scope for us except to say we are content: we believe and we affirm the truth of it, being certain that the particular norms in the hereafter are different from the norms of this world. Ibn Abbas said: "There is nothing from the world in the Garden except the names!"

Compiled From:
"Approaching the Sunnah: Comprehension & Controversy" - Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pp. 176, 177

From Issue: 917 [Read original issue]


Spiritual Experiences

The best of worship occurs with the combination of speech and reflection. When practiced for a long time regularly, one achieves what is called fana in Sufi terminology. Imam al-Junayd is said to have coined the term, which literally means extinction. When it comes to the world of remembrance, it includes achieving supreme realizations about God the Exalted and His acts. When one reflects deeply, he separates himself from others and even from his own limitations.

Imam al-Junayd says that in spiritual practice there can be profound experiences. One is called a hal, which can be an overwhelming spiritual. The scholars of this science differentiate between hal and maqam. Maqam (station) is more or less a fixed condition or state, not a momentary burst of spiritual epiphany. For example, the maqam of tawba (station of repentance) is one in which one cannot willingly be disobedient to God. But the hal of repentance is when someone becomes so overwhelmed with remorse over what he had done wrong in the past, he rushes to God the Exalted and profoundly seeks His forgiveness with a powerful sense of God's presence. It is an inrush that comes into the heart, filling it with light and spiritual expansion. It is highest when one is not aware of himself, only of God and His attributes. This kind of extinction of the soul is caused by one's focus and heightened spiritual experience.

Our objective is not merely to go through these spiritual experiences, but to be firmly grounded in a path that takes us to the pleasure of God and salvation in the Hereafter. If one performs remembrance properly and often, things will happen to the inner self. These things are studied by scholars of the inner sciences. But we're also aware that Satan can play games with those who engage in certain practices blindly and without knowledge and prioritization. That's the peril of New Age practices and philosophies that can lead to sensations and experiences in which the one having them cannot distinguish between satanic influences, psychological phenomena, and true spiritual encounters.

What fana alludes to is altogether different. It is founded on the sources of Islam and the tutelage of learned people who have knowledge of both the Sharia and spiritual matters. The person who is doing dhikr with reflection loses awareness of himself. There are authentic reports of the Companions of the Prophet and other righteous people of later generations who, as they stood in prayer, were completely unaware of their surroundings.

Compiled From:
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf

From Issue: 1023 [Read original issue]