Quest for the Truth, Amending Wrongs, The Family
Issue 610 » December 3, 2010 - Dhul-Hijja 27, 1431
Quest for the Truth
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Chapter 2: Verse 266 (partial)
"Thus does God expound for you the signs that you may think."
On numerous occasions the Quran invites people to investigate and explore the world around them, and to draw rational conclusions, not in the manner of blind imitators who follow and accept what others have said, but through intelligent analysis and judgement. While commenting on this and other similar passages in the Quran, Abu Zahrah observes that the Quran encourages rational enquiry into the world around us, and that 'this would not be possible without the freedom to express one's opinion and thought'. To this we may add the rider, that the Quran values rational endeavour accompanied by sincerity in the quest for truth and justice.
No intellectual enquiry may begin on the premise of denying the fundamental truth of monotheism (tawhid) and of the clear guidance which is enunciated in the divine revelation. Provided that these values are observed, rational enquiry and the quest for truth must be maintained even in the face of hostility from the masses. For these people may be uninformed, and may themselves be in need of enlightenment.
"Freedom of Expression in Islam" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, p. 64
"Fasting on the day of Arafat amends the sins of two years, and [fasting] on the day of Ashura amends [the sins of] one year." [Muslim]
About this, some have asked, 'If someone always fasted on the day of Arafat and the day of Ashura, then how could three years of sins be amended every year?' To this others have responded, 'Whatever is added beyond amending his sins, raises him in rank.'
Would that it were true! If only one could make amends like this for all of one's wrongs, from first to last. But making amends is bound to certain conditions and depends on the removal of certain obstacles both within and without the action itself. If the servant could be certain that he had met every condition and eliminated every obstacle, then [certainly] such an act would atone for the sin.
But what about an action which is [itself] entirely or mostly enveloped in negligence, lacking in the sincerity which is its core and spirit, and performed without respect for its requirements or value? What can this action amend? In fact, there are countless things which invalidate or spoil devotional practice. It is not so much the action itself as the effort to keep it pure of the things that spoil and annul it.
He could hope for atonement if in undertaking a devotional act the servant were sure of its outward and inward requirements had been fulfilled; that there were no obstacles to the act's atoning quality; and that he himself did not annul it with feelings of self-importance, ostentation, or the expectation of something in return [from people].
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, p. 8
The family remains the constitutive point of reference for everyone. Equally, the modern epoch is characterised by the will for independence, freedom and individualism. One must make oneself on one's own, fly with one's own wings as soon as possible, and in this sense the familial space becomes something of a prison. Yet, to listen to any mother or father, we are persuaded that what everyone wants as best for their children is a balanced, open and serene familial environment. Daily life today, however, makes things increasingly difficult: couples are separating, break-ups are multiplying and imbalances increasing. No one is pleased at this state of affairs, any reading of divorce, and single-parent family statistics can only be accompanied by bitterness and anxiety.
The Islamic point of references is, in the most clearest of fashions, opposed to this splintering process. If modernity can only be obtained at this price, then we understand why the Quran and the Sunna reject the actualisation of such modernisation. Similarly, if the whole world is caught in the rising of this vogue, being ashamed to refer to the family, then the Muslim, wherever he is, should remind others of its importance, its meaning and its finality. The family makes the human being. To ask man to be without family is tantamount to asking an orphan to give birth to his own parents. How can man do it?
Islam does not depart from the sense of this priority. It is an obligation for all Muslim societies not to spare anything in their effort to preserve those structures which allow for respect of family life. This includes work, education, taxes and allowances and even policies of urbanisation which we know today can have a huge impact on the private lives of city dwellers.
"Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 36, 37