Impossibility, Belonging to God, Relationship Bank Account

Issue 469 » March 21, 2008 - Rabi-al-Awwal 13, 1429

Living The Quran

Chapter 11: Verse 63

Intrinsic Impossibility
He (Salih) replied, "O my people! do ye see? if I have a Clear (Sign) from my Lord and He hath sent Mercy unto me from Himself, who then can help me against Allah if I were to disobey Him? What then would ye add to my (portion) but perdition?"

Although this dialogue is related in the context of the story of Salih (peace be upon him) and the leaders of the Thamud, its implications have - as is always the case with Quranic stories and parables - a universal, timeless import. The stress here is on the intrinsic impossibility of reconciling belief in the One God with an attribution of divine or semi-divine qualities and functions to anyone or anything else. The subtly-veiled suggestion of the Thamud and its rejection by Salih has a bearing on all religious attitudes based on a desire to "bring God closer to man" through the interpretation of alleged "mediators" between Him and man.

In primitive religion, this interposition led to the deification of various forces of nature and, subsequently, to the invention of imaginary deities which were thought to act against the background of an undefined, dimly-perceived Supreme Power (for instance, the Moira of the ancient Greeks). In higher religious concepts, this need for mediation assumes the form of personified manifestations of God through subordinate deities (as is the case, in Hindus, with personification of the Absolute Brahma of the Upanishads and the Vedanta in the forms of Vishnu or Shiva), or in His supposed incarnation in human form (as represented in the Christian idea of Jesus as "God's son" and the Second Person of the Trinity). And, lastly, God is supposedly "brought closer to man" by interposition of hierarchy of saints, living or dead, whose intercession is sought even by people who consider themselves to be "monotheists" - and this includes many misguided Muslims who do not realize that their belief in saints as "mediators" between man and God conflicts with the very essence of Islam.

The ever-recurring Quranic stess on the oneness and uniqueness of God, and the categorical denial of the idea that anyone or anything - whether it be a concrete being or an abstract force - could have the least share in God's qualities or the least influence on the manner in which He governs the universe aims at freeing man from the self-imposed servitude to an imaginary hierarchy of "mediating power", and at making him realize that "wherever you turn, there is God's countenance", and that God is "always near to the call of whosoever calls unto Him."

"The Message of the Quran" - Muhammad Asad

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Belonging to God

Muhammad, peace be upon him, was able to express love and spread it around him. His wives were gratified by his presence, tenderness, and affection, and his Companions loved him with an intense, profound, and extraordinarily generous love. He gave and offered his presence, his smiles, his being, and if a slave happened to address him or wanted to take him to the other end of the city, he went, he listened, he loved. Belonging to God, he was nobody's possession; he simply offered his love to all. When he gave someone his hand, he was never the first to draw it back, and he knew what light and peace can surge in the heart of a being who is offered a tender word, an affectionate name, comfort. Freed from his own self, he neglected nobody's self. His presence was a refuge; he was the Messenger.

He loved, he forgave. Every day he begged God to forgive his own failings and oversights, when a woman or a man came to him burdened with a mistake, however serious, he received that soul and showed her or him the way to forgiveness, solace, dialogue with God, and the Most Gentle's protection. He covered other people's mistakes from the sight of others, while teaching everyone the need for personal rigour and discipline. When laziness moved anyone to ask him for minimal practice, he always answered positively and invited them to use their intelligence and their qualities to understand, improve, and free themselves from their own contradictions while accepting their own fragility. He taught responsibility without guilt and adherence to ethics as the conditions for freedom.

"In The Footsteps of the Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, p. 212


The Relationship Bank Account

Growing up, what pushed my mom's hot button was when I'd forget to take out the garbage. Too often, on Friday mornings, I'd hear Mom screaming: "Sean, get your rear end out of bed! I can hear the garbage truck coming and you forgot the garbage - again!" Eventually, she resorted to posting reminder notes on everything - the door, the fridge, the vanity, my pillow. "SEAN. DO THE GARBAGE OR DIE!"

I also learned ways to get on Mom's good side. Mom just loved it when I'd get good grades. She'd stick my report card up on the walls for all her friends to see and would brag, brag, brag. She also loved it when I'd help do the dishes or carry the groceries in. That's how I made up for all those missed garbage runs and kept our relationship in the plus column.

The amount of trust you have in a relationship is like a checking account at a bank. I call it the Relationship Bank Account or RBA. If you make lots of small deposits by being thoughtful, loyal, and other such things, you'll develop high trust, or high RBA. When it comes to your parents, how's your RBA? If $1,000 represents a strong relationship with your parents, how much have you deposited? Is there really $1,000 in the bank or is it more like $500? Perhaps you're down around $0 or are overdrawn at -$1,000. Whatever your situation, the formula is the same: You build a relationship a deposit at a time.

Here are five deposits that seem to work well with parents. Of course, with every deposit, there's an opposing withdrawal.

Deposits Withdrawals
Understand what's important to them Assume you know
Tell the truth Lie and cover up
Sense the need and do it Wait until you're told
Remember the little things Forget the little things
Open up Close yourself off
Use the most important words Avoid the most important words

"The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make" - Sean Covey, pp. 130-131