Single Heart, Individuals, Critical-Thinking

Issue 533 » June 12, 2009 - Jumada al-Thani 19, 1430

Living The Quran

Al-Ahzab (The Confederate Tribes)
Chapter 33: Verse 4 (partial)

Single Heart
"Never has God put two hearts in one man's body"

Man cannot have one source for his manners and morality, another for his laws and legislation, a third for his social and economic values, and a fourth for his art and philosophy. Such a mixture does not produce a man with a sound heart: it only produces a confused medley that lacks solid form or basis. A person with faith cannot truly hold to his faith and abandon its values and requirements in any situation in life, serious or not. He cannot say a word, take an action, formulate a concept, make a decision unless he remains within the limits established by his faith, which must always be a reality in his life. This is because God has not given him more than one heart, one law and one standard of values. A person of faith cannot say of anything he does: 'I am doing this in my personal capacity and I am doing this in my Islamic capacity', as we frequently hear politicians, businessmen, academics and others say. Since he is one person with one heart, he has one faith and one standard that govern all that he does and says in any and every situation. With this one heart he lives as an individual, a family man, a member of the community, a citizen of the state and the world; he lives in public and private, employer or employee, ruler or ruled, in situations of comfort or distress; having the same values and standards at all times.

In short, we have a single system outlined by the same revelations and submitting to the One God. A single heart cannot worship two deities, serve two masters and move in two directions. Otherwise, it will be pulled apart and will have different motives and considerations. It could easily fall into the trap of hypocrisy.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade Of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Volume 14, pp. 13, 14

Understanding The Prophet's Life

The Individual

Broadly speaking, Islam pursues its social objectives through reforming the individual in the first place. The individual is thus seen as a morally autonomous agent who plays a distinctive role in shaping the community's sense of direction and purpose. The individual is admittedly required to obey the government but he obeys the ruler on condition that the latter obeys the Shariah. This is reflected in a renowned hadith that

there is no obedience in sin, obedience is only in righteousness. [Tabrizi]

We may also quote here two other hadiths that substantiate the moral autonomy of the individual. In one of these Abu Dhar al-Ghifari reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered him to

tell the truth even if it is unpleasant. [Ahmad]

and in the other he declared that

the best form of jihad is to tell a word of truth to an oppressive ruler. [Ibn Majah]

The dignity and welfare of the individual is of central concern to Islamic law. The five essential values of Shariah on which the ulama are in agreement, namely faith, life, intellect, property and lineage are all premised on the dignity of the individual, which must be protected as a matter of priority.

Compiled From:
"Shari'ah Law - An Introduction" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 61, 62


Acquiescence Vs. Critical-Thinking

Many Muslim parents in North America grew up in areas where colonizing rulers maintained schools for acquiescence. That is, pupils were taught to repeat exactly what the teacher told them. If the test question asked for 3 reasons why it is good to brush your teeth, the answer had to be the exact three reasons that the teacher had told them in class. The pupil is not supposed to think; he is supposed to accept everything without questioning. This is too often the way we teach our children about Islam. Do this action because Islam says you have to. Do this exactly the way I say because every other way is haram. Our children need to learn that there are two kinds of knowledge, that which is revealed and that which is humanly acquired. Knowledge revealed in the Quran and hadiths is unchanging and unarguable. Knowledge that is derived from our five senses and our own thinking is subject to error and can and should be questioned.

North American schools, including good Islamic schools, stress critical thinking. For children who grow up here, it is not sufficient to say you have to do this because I say so. You can expect your children to honour and obey you because Islam requires obedience to parents, but you must also explain and discuss why you are asking for their obedience. Your youth should be required to pray, because Allah says for them to pray, but you must also be open and willing to discuss why Allah would ask us to do that. What are the possible benefits of praying, what should you do if you feel like the prayer is empty of meaning to you, and so on. These questions don't mean your youth are turning away from Islam; they mean that your youth are thinking seriously about their religion. One of the most wonderful things about Islam is that because it is the truth, it can stand up to the most critical of questions.

Parents must also learn to acknowledge that they make mistakes, and they are ignorant of certain answers. Your child does not have the right to expect you to be able to explain every Islamic injunction. He/she does have the right to expect you to give an honest and open response to their questions. When you tell your youth, "That's an important question. I don't know the answer. Let's see if we can find out what the Quran says about it." then you have created an open, honest exchange of thoughts with your youth.

Discuss Islam with your children from the time they are young, stressing the positive, and encouraging them to speak frankly and freely to you. Be an Islamic role model for them. By the time they have emerged from their troubling, questioning adolescence, you will have children who have actively embraced Islam, and who want to be Muslim because they know that it will make their life better in this world, and in the hereafter, in sha Allah (Allah willing).

Compiled From:
"Teaching Your Child About Islam" - Freda Shamma