The Sculptor, Caution, Critical Exchange
Issue 1055 » June 14, 2019 - Shawwal 11, 1440
Al-Waqiah (The Inevitable Event) Sura 56: Verses 58-59
In this noble verse of the eternal, beginningless speech, the Presence of the Real makes manifest His power of creation over the world's folk so that they will know that the artisan without cause is He, the enactor without tool is He, the all-subjugating without cause is He, the all-forgiving without delay is He, the all-curtaining of every slip is He.
He is the Lord who created a subtle form from frail water and showed firm artisanry to a feeble sperm-drop. He set up many diverse paintings with "Be!", so it comes to be [2:117]: mutually similar limbs, opposites like unto each other, every limb adorned with one sort of beauty, not more than its limit, not less than its measure. To each He gave an attribute, and in each He placed a strength: senses in the brain, splendor on the forehead, beauty in the nose, sorcery in the eye, sauciness in the lips, comeliness in the cheek, perfect loveliness in the hair, envy in the liver, rancor in the spleen, appetite in the veins, faith in the heart, love in the secret core, recognition in the spirit. It is not apparent whether the artisanries in the natures are more beautiful, or if the governance of the form-giving is sweeter. What is this sculpture doing between subtle water and gross dust?! Since the Sculptor is one, how is it that there is this lowliness in individuals? So many marvels and wonders from a drop of water! The intelligent man gazes on His artisanry, but the heedless man is asleep.
"Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-Abrar" - Rashid al-Din Maybudi, p. 492
Jabir ibn Abdullah reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Secure your doors, tie up your waterskins, turn over your vessels, cover up your dishes, and put off your lights. Satan does not open a secured door, untie a knot, or uncover a dish. However, a mouse could set a house on fire'. [Bukhari, Tirmidhi]
This hadith provides very useful instructions which remain valid for most people. The first instruction is to secure our doors before going to sleep. Today, in most places, this goes without saying because burglary is very common. But it need not be so. There are places in many parts of the world where people are safe from burglars, either because they live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else, or where social conditions provide enough security. Yet one may not be safe from other creatures finding their way into homes causing people some harm when they are asleep. Hence, securing our doors provides the necessary standard of safety.
Today, people have water supplied into their homes by pipes and tanks, where it is safe from ordinary contamination. However, in times past, people had to make sure that they had sufficient water for their drinking and home use. Hence, they stored it in containers, some types of which were made of hide or some other material. It is such containers, and indeed any other type, that the Prophet wanted to make sure were tightened so as to prevent any harmful object or insect from falling into them. The same applies to any plate, pot or saucepan where food is kept. While today we leave much of our food in fridges, there remains around the house much food that may be left exposed. The important thing in this hadith is not to leave food exposed overnight. Some insect might get into it or dust and harmful particles might drop on it, making it a cause of harm instead of a source of nourishment.
Putting off the light is the next injunction in this hadith, particularly when we talk about oil lamps and similar lights. Such a lamp may be blown over by wind, or by a cat, and it could then cause a fire. This is what the Prophet warns against when he mentions that a mouse could set a house on fire. What attracts a mouse is the wick of a lamp, and it could pull it and cause the lamp to fall over, spilling its oil and causing a fire. Hence, the Prophet repeatedly warned against leaving lamps on at night, or in a position where a mouse could pull at it.
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi
Often teachers want to ignore emotional feeling in the classroom because they fear the conflict that may arise. Much as everyone likes to imagine that the college campus is a place without censorship, where free speech prevails and students are encouraged to engage in debate and dialectical exchange, the opposite reality is a more accurate portrait of what takes place in college classrooms. More often than not students are afraid to talk for fear they will alienate teachers and students. They are usually terrified of disagreeing if they think it will lead to conflict. Even though none of us would ever imagine that we could have a romantic relationship with someone where there is never any conflict, students and sometimes teachers, especially in the diverse classroom, tend to see the presence of conflict as threatening to the continuance of critical exchange and as an indication that community is not possible when there is difference.
Many of us have not witnessed critical exchanges in our families of origin where different viewpoints are expressed and conflicts resolved constructively. Instead, we bring to classroom settings our unresolved fears and anxieties. The loving classroom is one in which students are taught, both by the presence and practice of the teacher, that critical exchange can take place without diminishing anyone's spirit, that conflict can be resolved constructively. This will not necessarily be a simple process.
"Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope" - Bell Hooks, pp. 134, 135