Today's Reminder

December 05, 2021 | Rabiʻ II 29, 1443

Living The Quran

The Last Resort
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 216

"Fighting has been prescribed for you, although it is a matter hateful to you. But it is possible that you hate a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. God knows, and you know not."

This verse deals with the proper restraint we should have for violence and warfare, the last resort argument, and that while it might be 'ordained' in the sense of being inevitable under certain circumstances, it always comes with limits and should be against our better judgements.

We can hate something that is good for us, just as much as we might love a thing that is bad for us. The line of judgement we have to make concerns the conditions, the circumstances that make the last resort inevitable. War is heinous, but the balance is that 'persecution is worse than slaughter'. Sometimes it is necessary to defend those who are being demeaned, denied their freedom and rights, who are made second-class citizens or worse because of who they are or what they believe. This verse must be read in conjunction with verse 190-193, 'do not commit aggression', as it is definitely not a blanket warrant for going to war, but rather an argument about the judgement that has to be made between two evils. It is clearly addressing the historical context of the time of the Prophet while generating universal principles.

There are obvious parallels, far too many of them, in our own time where communities have been left to suffer oppression, persecution even genocide, without the rest of the world springing to their aid. However, every universal principle we derive from the Quran should come with one caveat: the examples it provides are moral examples. As times change so the means we use to apply these moral principles can and perhaps should change. There are more ways than going to war to fight oppression, combat persecution and defend the dignity and freedom of those afflicted. Sometimes it may be impossible to find another way, but that does not mean we should stop trying to find peaceful means; though equally, it can mean, however heinous, it may be necessary literally to fight for the sake of a greater good. The trouble is that human beings have been much better at devising the means of destruction, the techniques of war and array of modern weaponry than devising strategies for making peace.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 156-157

From Issue: 988 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Poorest and Weakest

Anas ibn Malik reports that a woman known to be mentally unstable said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Messenger of God. I need your help in a certain matter.” He said: “Choose any road and I will come to you and sort out what you need.” He stopped with her at some road and discussed her need until she had finished her business. [Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud]

The Prophet was seated with his Companions when this woman, who was known to be mentally unstable, told him that she needed his help. His immediate reaction was to keep her happy. He told her that he was ready to listen to her. At the same time he respected her privacy, and did not ask her to discuss her problem in front of other people. Needless to say, there were no cafes or restaurants in Madinah at the time. Hence, anywhere in the street would do.

This was typical of the Prophet, as he always attended to the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Anas reports: "Any young maid in Madinah would come the Prophet and take him by the hand. He would not remove his hand from hers. She would take him anywhere she wanted." [Ahmad, Ibn Majah] A maid may have been told by her people to do or fetch something and might not have known where to get it or how to fulfil her duty. The best person to seek help from was the Prophet, and so she would take him by the hand. To reassure her, he would allow her to lead him wherever she wanted until he had given her the help she needed.

These are two among the numerous examples of how the Prophet treated the weakest elements in society. He wanted them to feel that he was always available to them and that he would help even the poorest or the weakest in anything they wanted. To him, everyone was important. If a girl needed his help, then that help was forthcoming. The second hadith does not mention a particular maid. Rather, it suggests that this was the normal behaviour of the Prophet, and it appears from the wording of this hadith that it was customary for maids to come to him for such help.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Characters and Conduct" - Adil Salahi, pp. 137, 138

From Issue: 837 [Read original issue]


External Laws

The human influence on the course of history depends on the level of willpower and consciousness. The greater the spiritual strength of the partakers in historical events, the greater is their independence from external laws. The conditionality here is in reverse proportion to the activity of the subject. In principle, man is completely free, and external laws have no power over him. He has managed with his willpower to resist illnesses and dangers. Man, if he found himself among lions, would be lost, but this evident law does not apply to a lion tamer. History is a continuing story about small groups of decisive, courageous, and clever people who have left an indelible stamp on the course of historical events and managed to change their flow.

The power of objective circumstances increases to the same degree as the individual factor decreases, as it becomes more and more inert - that is, as the subject becomes less of a man and more of an object. We have power over nature, and over history as well, if we have power over ourselves. This is Islam's attitude toward history.

Such an essentially Islamic view of historical movements can efficiently explain the flow of history and also determine the share of people in historical events; their power over historical events, and the limits of that power; the distinction between what man can do and what he must do as a subject of historical occurrences. This attitude explains the creative influence of ideals on historical reality and the changes of this reality through man's will and energy. On the other hand, it also explains the role of objective factors, the necessity of relying on facts. It rejects both historical determinism and any empty idealism not rooted in reality. Facts and ideas, and so reality and man, assume in this concept their proper measure.

Compiled From:
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, p. 233

From Issue: 918 [Read original issue]