Today's Reminder

June 10, 2023 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 21, 1444

Living The Quran

God's Will
Al-Fatir (The Creator) Chapter 35: Verse 8 (partial)

"God leads astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills."

God has two kinds of Will. One is His (pre-eternal) Decree concerning the creation, including responsible, conscious beings. This Will, called Mashiah, is absolute with regard to things and unconscious beings, while it takes into consideration the (future) will of responsible, conscious beings. That is, God knows beforehand in what way those beings will use their free will and decrees accordingly. God's other Will (iradah) entails what He demands from His servants and denotes those things with which He is pleased.

In this verse God leads astray whom He wills means that He lets go astray those who choose to follow Satan and the promptings of their carnal soul, with the result that they follow their fancies and personal ideas and commit evil deeds that, though not based on true knowledge, seem just to them. As for, He guides whom He wills, this denotes those who choose to resist the temptations of Satan and their carnal soul, and instead follow the guidance that God sends through His Messengers, and they see as good whatever God decrees as so.

Compiled From:
"The Quran: Annotated Interpretation in Modern English" - Ali Unal, p. 896

From Issue: 609 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Measure of Greatness

In society, each person has a window (status) through which he or she looks out to see others and be seen. If the window is built higher than their real stature, people try to make themselves appear taller through vanity and assumed airs. If the window is set lower than their real stature, they must bow in humility in order to look out, see, and be seen. Humility is the measure of one's greatness, just as vanity or conceit is the measure of low character.

The Messenger, peace be upon him, had a stature so high that it could be said to touch the "roof of the Heavens." Therefore, he had no need to be seen. Whoever travels in the realm of virtues sees him before every created being, including angels. In the words of Said Nursi, the Messenger is the noble aide-de-camp of God. He lowered himself to stay in the world for a while so that people might find the way to God. Since he is the greatest of humanity, he is the greatest in modesty. This follows the well-known saying: "The greater one is, the more modest one is."

The Prophet, peace be upon him, never regarded himself as greater than anybody else. Only his radiant face and attractive person distinguished him from his Companions. He lived and dressed like the poorest people and sat and ate with them, just as he did with slaves and servants. Once a woman saw him eating and remarked: "He eats like a slave." The Messenger replied: "Could there be a better slave than me? I am a slave of God." [Haythami]

Compiled From:
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 297, 298

From Issue: 694 [Read original issue]


The Divine and the Human

Muslim countries need to set aside the pointless, counterproductive, and empty quarrel over the conflict between secularization and Islam and/or Islamism (which masks important issues by reducing to so-called essentials the relations between religion and state, glossing dangerously over the substantial variances in historical experience that separate the two civilizations); far from these warped controversies, Muslim countries must give serious and sustained consideration to the relationship of Islam to authority in its many forms. From the outset, Muslim scholars in their work of interpretation distinguished between divine authority on the one hand, as expressed in the texts bearing upon the credo (aqida), worship (ibadat), and religious duties and prohibitions (wajibat, muharramat), and human authority on the other hand, which, in social affairs (muamalat) must manage the primary sphere of the permitted through consultation (shura) and a majority decision-making process. The distinction between the two levels of authority is absolutely not foreign to Islam; it is, in fact, an essential teaching in a religion that has neither a clergy nor a religious hierarchy. These legal stipulations can be found in the works of the founders of Islamic legal philosophy (usul al-fiqh: the fundamentals of Islamic law and jurisprudence), figures like Jafar as-Sadiq or ash-Shafii, in both the Sunni and Shiite traditions.

The history of Islam and of its cultural and social references demonstrates that rationality, criticism, recognition of the status of the individual, and of social and political dissent (up to and including the legitimate challenge of particular dynasties, despots, or religious castes) are an integral part of Islamic civilization. The principled position of Ibn Rushd (Averroes), whose Decisive Treatise criticizes state authoritarianism, is not at all remote from the stance of his predecessors, the Muslim scholars of the dominant Islamic legal tradition, who rejected any attempt by the state to impose any particular school of jurisprudence. Malik ibn Anas (711-795), who in the name of jurisprudential pluralism stood steadfast against the efforts of Caliph al-Mansur (714-775) to declare his work, al-Muwatta, as the state’s sole legal standard, or Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855), who resisted attempts by the state to impose a single doctrine on the createdness or uncreatedness of the Quran, stand out as examples.

How curious, and disturbing that in the West only Ibn Rushd’s position is credited (undoubtedly because of its philosophical proximity to Locke’s Letter concerning Toleration) to the detriment of scholars who, despite their courageous struggles and stands, have gone unrecognized as thinkers and intellectuals. Even more disturbing, in Muslim majority societies, Muslims themselves accept what amounts to a reductive and biased reading of the history of Islamic thought. This is no small matter: it locates outside the purview of religion the distancing of oneself from the state, criticizing it and opposing its despotic character (politically, doctrinally, legally, and religiously)—in keeping with a very “Western” way of what a secular “thinker” or “philosopher” should be. In so doing, it overlooks the critical rationality and political independence of Muslim scholars like Malik ibn Anas and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, whose courage cost them years of imprisonment (though, historically, they were far from the only ones). They are seen as too “religious” to be recognized as having early drawn a distinction between the two authorities, divine and human, doing so not only as Muslim scholars but also as legal philosophers, according to the categories of the Western social sciences.

Muslims must reconcile themselves with this aspect of their history; they must study it anew instead of either ignoring their own past and their own being, or seeing themselves through the prism of the West’s reductive view of Islam, its values and its multiplicity of tradition. It is time to rediscover how the two powers—the divine and the human—are articulated, but also to relearn the ways of relating to knowledge, and to the independence of rationality and science.

Compiled From:
"Islam and the Arab Awakening" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 79-83

From Issue: 879 [Read original issue]