July 31, 2021 | Dhuʻl-Hijjah 21, 1442
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 210
The verse condemns those who waver and are reluctant to submit and come into the fold of God's peace. It questions their motives and the reasons that hold them back, and asks whether they will remain fixed in their obstinacy until such time as God, flanked by angels, should appear to them in person. In other words, are they waiting for the fearful Day of Judgement to arrive? That day will indeed come, and the surah moves at once to that momentous day to tell us that everything has been settled. Time has come to a stop. The opportunity to believe and repent has gone for ever. No one could be saved now, as all stand facing their Lord to whom "shall all things return".
This is an illustration of the Quran's unique and effective style, which brings to life the scenes it describes, and makes the reader or listener feel and see and hear what is going on as if it were happening now.
How much longer will they dither when the chance to come into the fold of God's peace is calling, and the final judgement is so close? God's invitation is a promise of peace and happiness both in this life and the life to come.
"In the Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 1, p. 243
From Issue: 752 [Read original issue]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave clear instructions equating virtuous speech with faith itself: "Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, he should say something good, or remain silent." [Bukhari, Muslim]
Speech has a most powerful and direct effect on the soul, and the words said may also lead the person being spoken to down a particular path of thought and emotion. The believer's duty is to make sure that everything he or she says is both good and beneficial, not simply that it is the truth. Does it make someone happier? Does it bring two people closer together? Does it remind someone of their duty to God? If so, it is the kind of statement that is positive in its effect. The Muslim is a force of positivity to himself and others around him. Speech is the primary mode of communicating such positivity between people and spreading positive thoughts to others.
At times our egos fool us into thinking that something is worth saying even if it is hurtful, as long as it is true. But our actual motivation may be a desire to inflict pain, and the justification that our statement is "worth saying because it is true" may be pure self-delusion.
This simple yet challenging teaching of Prophet Muhammad will improve social relationships between people, while calling us to examine the things we say and the reasons why we say them.
"Being Muslim: A Practical Guide" - Asad Tarsin
From Issue: 940 [Read original issue]
Accountability and Oversight
There is the risk that the deference ordinary people are sometimes expected to show to religious leaders and Sayyids can make it difficult to hold the latter accountable for any misbehaviour. Early modern reformers, who were keen to bureaucratize the religious sector, were particularly concerned about this. But even before modernity, there was a strain of Muslim popular and folk culture that related tales of the religious classes using their charisma and social capital to exploit the underprivileged, and to avoid accountability for their actions. A strong strain of what could be called "anti-clericism" has therefore, always existed alongside the reverence shown to "saints," Sayyids, and charismatic religious leaders. In the end, what is clear is that in the religious sector, as in the political sector, it is critical that institutions are accountable to the greater community. It is only with such accountability and oversight that any sector of Muslim society can carry and transmit the values their community ascribes to the Quran.
Ordinary people will never demand such accountability, however, if they do not have a certain level of confidence in their convictions and courage to articulate them. This is why we need not only to study the history of the dominant leaders and institutions in Muslim societies, but also to search for the voices of marginalized individuals and groups - to see how they articulated and maintained their faith when they had little power. It is for this reason that Abu Dharr's opposition to the Umayyads serves as an inspiration for those fighting the status quo. But here we need to exercise some caution. We cannot simply romanticize the voice of protest - after all, Abu Dharr was claimed as an inspiration not just by pious reformers but also by Arab communists. Further, the Khawarij were a marginalized protest movement - but they were ruthlessly violent and intolerant. Indeed, there is a lesson in that history as well: sometimes groups are marginalized for good reason, and no person, no matter how noble his stated cause, is immune from error or the temptations of arrogance and power.
"The Story of The Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, p. 226
From Issue: 829 [Read original issue]