Virtuous Knowledge, Respecting Animals, Continual Sacrifices

Issue 687 » May 25, 2012 - Rajab 4, 1433

Living The Quran

Virtuous Knowledge
Al-Jathiya (The Kneeling One) - Chapter 45: Verse 16-17

"And so it was that We granted the Children of Israel the Book (of scripture), the power to act, and the gift of prophethood. We also provided them with wholesome (food) and favoured them above all others in the universe. We also gave them clear directions in all their affairs, but it was only after they received such knowledge that they fell into competing groups, due to arrogant jealousy among themselves. Their Lord will judge between them concerning these points of difference on the Day of Judgment."

Besides the sciences of philosophy and physics there are traditional and religious sciences, all of which are required to lead mankind to happiness and prosperity. In many instances, however, this has not been the case. The study of physical sciences has not always been put to good use; man has conquered space and is now almost fully able to see creation in action, as in the case of conception and the growth of human fetuses and embryos, but many people continue to deny God and insist that there is no creator.

This is a salient feature of modern civilization in the East as well as in the West, and this anomaly we see with respect to empirical sciences can also be found among students of religious sciences. Becoming rigid and fossilized, they have lost their appeal and ability to influence human thought and world events. Religious books have become hollow volumes and most of the regression and corruption we witness in the world can be blamed on institutionalized religion and religious leaders and their followers.

As a result of their corruption, the elders of Israel could be said to have been the first to belie Socrates' assertion that 'virtue is knowledge' because, as the verse points out, they abused and misrepresented the knowledge they had been given.

So long as religious knowledge does not lead to purity, honesty, and justice, it is of little use or value. Today, there are men of religion as well as men of secular sciences who are totally corrupt but who might otherwise have served humanity very well indeed.

Compiled From:
"The Holy Quran: Guidance for Life" - Yahiya Emerick, p. 360
"A Thematic Commentary on the Quran" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, pp. 552, 553

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Respecting Animals

The Prophet, peace be upon him, kept drawing his Companion's attention to the necessity of respecting all animal species. He once told them the following story: "A man was walking along a road, in very hot weather. He saw a well and went down to quench his thirst. When he climbed up again, he saw a dog panting with thirst and said to himself: 'This dog is as thirsty as I was.' He then went down the well again, filled his shoe with water and climbed up, holding it between his teeth. He gave the dog to drink and God rewarded him and forgave his sins." The Prophet was then asked: "O Prophet, are we rewarded for treating animals well?" And the Prophet answered: "Any good towards a living creature gets its reward." [Bukhari, Muslim]

Through such traditions and his own examples the Messenger pointed out that respecting animals was part of the most essential Islamic teaching. He used all opportunities to stress this dimension.

Compiled From:
"Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 235, 236


Continual Sacrifices

Some great sacrifices are such as are made once in life, like that of life. Some are very minor but must be made continuously. Their continuing nature makes them important because of many intangible aspects:

Firstly, they require you to be ever-alert and watchful lest opportunities come and find you napping, indifferent, unmindful or unable to recognize them.

Secondly, they require a steady and constant will, which requires a greater effort to maintain it.

Thirdly, they are too small to qualify as acts of heroism. But they are no less effective for character-building, social organization and success. Even a drop of water falling steadily and persistently may make a hole in a rock.

Fourthly, they are not called forth in moments of crisis; rather they must be made in the ordinary run of daily living. Despite being minor in nature, this makes them harder to offer. For faced with a great challenge, under an acute crisis, looking forward to an immense reward, it is always easier to summon all your inner resources, to summon the greatest will, to offer the best. Such is human nature.

In a way we are required to make small, very small, sacrifices every moment in life. For at every step and every moment we are faced with a choice - however small - to go one way or to go the other way. Every choice made to please Allah means taking a decision to sacrifice something. Even, as you choose to offer Fajr (morning) Prayer, you sacrifice your sleep and the warmth of your bed.

There are sacrifices to be made in regular day to day living - in home, in work place, in market, in social contact, in organizational work, even in privacy - which are likely to be missed. They are more difficult to make simply because they are not even recognized as suitable stuff for sacrifice.

Compiled From:
"Sacrifice: The Making of a Muslim" - Khurram Murad, pp. 27, 28