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Today's Reminder

June 25, 2021 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 15, 1442

Living The Quran

Human Struggle
Al-Maarij (The Stairs of Ascent) Sura 70: Verse 19

"Surely human has been created with a restless, impatient disposition."

Each person has two aspects: one angelic, pure, and spiritual; and the other one turned to the elements, plants, and animals. All people are "children of the world." We have been equipped with lust, and anger, and intellect. By nature, we are fallible, forgetful, neglectful, fond of disputing, obstinate, selfish, jealous, and much more. Since our free will distinguishes us from other conscious beings, such as angels, these powers, faculties, and negative-seeming feelings are not restricted. However, to attain individual and collective happiness in both worlds, and to rise to higher ranks of humanity, we should restrict these powers according to certain precepts and channel them into virtues. For example, impatience and restlessness can be channelled into the virtue of alertness to danger, or the pre-emptive preparation against it; or into the virtue of promptness and impulsiveness towards what is best, when there is the occasion or opportunity to do good things.

Our human nature is no more than our struggle against the negative and/or negative-seeming aspects of our character, restricting or channelling these into virtues, and acquiring distinction with good qualities so that we may become good, worshipful servants of God and useful members of society.

Compiled From:
"The Quran: Annotated Interpretation in Modern English" - Ali Unal, p. 1172

From Issue: 580 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Action and Participation

To be Muslim is to act according to the teachings of Islam, no matter what the surrounding environment, and there is nothing is Islam that commands a Muslim to withdraw from society in order to be close to God. It is actually quite the opposite, and, in the Quran, believing is often, and almost essentially, linked with behaving well and doing good. The Prophet, peace be upon him, never stopped drawing attention to this dimension of Muslim identity, and its authentic flowering entails the possibilities one has of acting according to what one is and according to what one believes.

This "acting," in whatever country or environment, is based on four important aspects of human life: developing and protecting spiritual life in society, disseminating religious as well as secular education, acting for justice in every sphere of social, economic, and political life, and finally, promoting solidarity with all groups of needy people who are forgotten or culpably neglected or marginalized. In the North as well as in the South, in the West as well as in the East, a Muslim is a Muslim when he or she understands this fundamental dimension of his or her presence on earth: to be with God is to be with human beings, not only with Muslims but, as the Prophet said, "with people," that is, the whole of humankind: "The best among you is the one who behaves best toward people." [Al-Bayhaqi]

Compiled From:
"Western Muslims and The Future of Islam" - Tariq Ramadan, p. 82

From Issue: 582 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Complementarity

Only a few of the most arrogant Muslim men would openly express their underlying belief that men are and must remain superior to women. Instead, it is more common to contribute to the victimization of women and other men by the ambiguity of double-talk. In the end, it is also intended to impress upon the woman that if she is truly Muslim, she must remain satisfied with her rightful status - even if actually second-class. The use of the word "equal" in accordance with a definition that keeps men superior simultaneously confirms male superiority and silences analysis and opposition.

"Islam" among neo-traditionalists, neo-conservatives, extremists, and some Islamists is selective use of primary sources and the Muslim intellectual legacy for the purpose of exclusion. Islamist discussion of the vertical rhetoric of equality extensively employs the word complementarity. Each person, male or female, plays significant yet gender-specific roles. All roles are necessary and good; however, their distinctions must remain beneficial to each other only within the stasis of particular determinations of "natural complementarity." This is tantamount to saying that women's roles complement men's nature. This is not only harmonious and organic, such thinking asserts, it is divine. But such complementarity has an unequal power dimension. A woman can complement a man like a tie complements a suit. The relative value of men's roles and women's roles in this fixed system says nothing about values attributed to those roles in the larger context of gender relations in family, community, and ultimately in geo-politics. It rhetorically and actually constructs an unequal relationship which, if disrupted, destroys something inherent to "Islam." Thus complementarity discourse is a direct by-product of double-talk. While positively stressing relationships, it keeps their inequality central, by evaluating each player on a separate and unequal standard, leaving the relative power and privilege to men and male roles. It further concludes with the consequence and significance of the relationship as a whole by establishing it as fundamental to family bonds and community continuity. Particular roles played by members in the family are unevaluated, especially women's morally voluntary contributions as nurturers and caretakers. Women continue with the double burden of supporting men's autonomy as a means for honour in the patriarchal family.

As an ethical term, tawhid relates to relationships and developments within the social and political realm, emphasizing the unity of all human creatures beneath one Creator. If experienced as a reality in everyday Islamic terms, humanity would be a single global community without distinction for reasons of race, class, gender, religious tradition, national origin, sexual orientation or other arbitrary, voluntary, and involuntary aspects of human distinction. Their only distinction would be on the basis of taqwa. Taqwa is moral consciousness, not accessible to external human judgment.

Compiled From:
"Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Amina Wadud, pp. 27-29

From Issue: 1050 [Read original issue]