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Today's Reminder

June 25, 2021 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 15, 1442

Living The Quran

One Community
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 213

"Mankind was one single community. Then God sent forth prophets as heralds of glad tidings and as warners; and with them sent down the Book with the Truth, to judge among humankind in matters in which they disputed. But none other than the selfsame people who had been granted this [revelation] began, out of mutual jealousy, to disagree about its meaning after clear signs were sent to them. Then God guided the believers to the Truth, regarding which they differed. For God guides whomsoever He will to a path that is straight.'

The Quran is not saying that this original condition of being one community is somehow before the fact of revelation, nor that revelation is the reason we are no longer a single community. Rather, once again we are brought back to an obvious conclusion. It was humanity's predilection for defining differences, for disputing over identity and belief, which sundered the single community. A succession of prophets, 'heralds of glad tidings' and warners brought the means to judge, to reason and resolve the disputes that divide and separate peoples and societies from each other. Yet, once again, people who received revelation out of 'mutual jealousy' fell into disagreements about its meaning. Of course, we should remember that while in this and earlier passages the Children of Israel are cited, Christians are also included, and both stand as examples of the timeless temptation and errors that face all followers of organised religion. The verse ends with the clear statement that, despite the disputes and contention, God guided the believers to the Truth. Within all religions, indeed all societies, among all people there are those who hold to the straight path. The clear implication is that on the straight path we can and perhaps should strive to be one community: the community of common humanity in all our diversity and differences working together to make a better world.

All human beings began with the same potential and possibilities, the same sense of values. It was human diversity which 'sundered what God had joined'. Revelation exists to enhance and clarify the scales of human judgement—to refine the ability to choose and discern between different courses of action. And still, people disagree about the meaning, implications and application of these messages from God. This verse speaks to the simultaneous contexts of past, present and future. It has considerable relevance in today's world where we can, on the one hand, imagine a global community but, on the other, cannot eradicate racial prejudice and hatred or rabid nationalism and all the other ills that divide people. The moral challenge remains the same, and it is a challenge to everyone, no matter what their faith or no faith.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 155, 156

From Issue: 985 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Praying Quietly

Once, the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, were travelling, and loudly engaging in dhikr (remembrance of Allah). The Prophet Said:

"O people! Be gentle on yourselves, for you are not calling someone who is deaf or absent. Rather, you are calling the One Who hears everything, Ever-close."
[Bukhari]

Ibn Taymiyyah delved into the wisdom of making dua silently, and mentioned a number of benefits to this:

Firstly, it is a sign of strong iman, as the person demonstrates that he firmly believes that Allah can hear even the quietest of prayers and thoughts.

Secondly, it is a sign of respect and manners in front of Allah. For, just as it is considered improper for the servant to raise his voice in front of his master, or the peasant in front of the king, even so it is improper that a slave raise his voice loudly in front of the Creator.

Thirdly, it is a means of achieving humility and humbleness, which is the essence of worship. The one who is humble does not ask except meekly, whereas the one who is arrogant asks loudly.

Fourthly, it is a means of achieving sincerity, since others will not notice him.

The companions of the Prophet understood the importance of saying a dua silently. Ibn Abbas stated: "A silent dua is seventy times better than a loud one!" And al-Hassan al-Basri said, "We used to be amongst a group of people (i.e., the Companions) who would never do any act in public if they could do so in private. And those Muslims would strive in making their dua, and not a sound would be heard from them! For they used to whisper to their Lord."

Compiled From:
"Dua: The Weapon of the Believer"- Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi, pp. 86-89

From Issue: 554 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Our Needy People

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent an envoy to a tribe that had converted to Islam, he asked the envoy to teach them the five pillars of Islam. Speaking about zakat, he told him to explain to them that it had to be deducted from the money of the rich among them and distributed to “their needy people” (‘ala fuqara’ihim). The scholars, in all the schools of law and through the ages have, thus, always insisted on the necessity of spending the zakat locally first, for the poor and the needy people of the place, the locality or the society within which it has been collected. It is only when the local needs have been satisfied, or in exceptional situations such as natural catastrophes or wars etc., that the spending of zakat abroad can be done.

Not only does the zakat shape the social conscience of the Muslim but it also directs him/her towards his/her immediate environment in order to build this conscience by facing up to the difficulties and dysfunctions of his/her society, its poor or/and marginalised people. Zakat, unlike the voluntary alms (sadaqa) is first intended for the Muslims and our faithfulness to its teaching demands of us to observe what is going on around us, within our nearest spiritual community. This "priority to proximity" is fundamental: it imposes a requirement to know one’s society, to care about the state of the Muslims in one’s area, town and country.

We are very far from living up to this teaching today. In the majority of the Western societies, in the United States, in Canada, in Britain, in France as in Australia, one finds women and men who give zakat to charitable organisations in the Third World or to their countries of origin. They care very little about the situation of those who live near them and they are convinced they are doing right since those from "over there" are poorer than those from "around here". The mistake consists in forgetting that the poor from around here have rights (haqun ma’lum) over the rich from around here. Nothing prevents the latter from sending voluntary alms (sadaqat) to the deprived people of the entire world or to their countries of origin but they have an established duty, from which they cannot escape, towards the needy people of their country of residence: once again it is, before God, the rights of "their poor people".

One can but be sad, and sometimes disgusted, when observing how the Muslims care so little about the local realities: obsessed by the international scene and the situation of the Muslims "from over there", they no longer see the reality of the education’s deficit, unemployment, social marginalisation, drugs, violence and prisons in their own society. Though the awareness of their brothers’ misfortune elsewhere is positive, per se, it has had the very negative consequence of making them very passive, neglectful and unaware of the appalling situation of brothers at their own doorsteps. This is a tragedy, an error and, in fact, a betrayal of the fundamental teaching of zakat.

The Muslim organisations have a great deal of responsibility in this failure since they have difficulty proposing programmes and priorities for the zakat's collection and distribution at the local level, in the towns and the regions. A correct understanding of this dimension of zakat would shape the individual’s spiritual and his/her citizen's conscience with which one understands that one has to be involved in one’s environment. This means one has to study it and to find the best, fairest and most coherent means to spend the purifying social tax in one’s own society, in Britain, France, the United States, Canada, Australia or elsewhere.

Compiled From:
"One day, our poor people will ask" Tariq Ramadan

From Issue: 699 [Read original issue]