Marked by God, Patiently Striving, Elevating the Quran
Issue 701 » August 31, 2012 - Shawwal 13, 1433
Marked by God
Al-Dhariyat (The Scattering Winds) Chapter 51: Verses 33-34
These stones of clay, marked or made ready by God for those who transgress the bounds, like Lot's people who transgressed the bounds of human nature, truth and religion, may well be stones from a volcanic eruption brought out from deep inside the earth. In this respect, they are 'from your Lord,' aimed, in accordance with His will and the laws He sets in operation, against any transgressors He has marked. Thus, they are determined in time and place according to His absolute knowledge and His will. There is nothing to prevent their being aimed, within the framework of His will and laws, by angels.
Do we know the exact nature of God's angels? Do we know the nature of their relation to the universe and its inhabitants? Do we truly know the nature of the universal powers to which we give names according to what we may see of their characteristics? Why should we then question the news given to us by God, saying that He sent some of these forces at a certain point of time, to aim some powers in a particular form, against certain people, at a certain place? How can we question such news when all our knowledge consists of some theories and supposed interpretations concerning what appears to us of these powers and forces? Their reality remains far removed from us. Let these stones be volcanic resulting from an eruption nearby, or some other such stones. What difference does it make? Both are the same in His hand, as He has made both and the secret is known to Him. He may reveal the secret when and if He so wishes.
"In the Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol 16, pp. 160, 161
Al-Bukhari narrated it with his sanad to Al-Zubayr Adi. He said: "We came to Anas ibn Malik and we expressed to him our misgivings about what we met from al-Hajjaj. Then he said: 'Be patient!' For indeed there will not come upon you a time except that what is after it is worse than it - until you meet your Lord. I heard it from your Prophet.'"
Some people have taken this hadith to justify sitting back from taking action, from striving to reform, change and deliverance. They have argued that the hadith demonstrates that human affairs are in decline continually, in a permanent falling off, a successive decaying, from one level to another level lower than it; it is not carried from bad except to worse, nor from worse except to what is worse than that, until the Hour stands over the evil ones of the people and all people meet their Lord.
It is our duty to say that the predecessors among our scholars held back from this hadith, regarding its 'generality' as dubious. According to Ibn Hajar: "the referent of the times mentioned is the time of the Companions, on the basis that it is they who were addressed by that [hadith]. Then as for those after them: they were not intended in the report mentioned."
As for the particular claim that the hadith implies an appeal to silence before injustice, patience with abuse of power and tyranny, and contentment with wrongdoing and disorder, and that it supports negativism in the face of the arrogance of the tyrants in the earth - it is rebutted by a number of arguments:
First: that the speaker of "Be patient!" was Anas. He inferred what he understood from the Prophet, peace be upon him. And a Muslim is free to adopt or leave the discourse of every individual except the one who was free of sin.
Second: Anas indeed did not command people to be content before injustice and disorder, but only commanded them to be patient - and the difference between the two is great. Contentment before unbelief is itself unbelief, and before wrongdoing wrongdoing. As for patience, it is all but indispensable; one is patient with a thing that one is averse to, while endeavouring to change it.
Third: One who does not have the capacity for resistance to injustice and tyranny, has no way other than to seek refuge in patience and long suffering. At the same time he must strive to make preparations for appropriate action, for change, and to seize means and occasions, to take help from all who share his burden of concern.
Fourth: patience does not forbid one from speaking the word of truth, and enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong before tyrants acting as gods. Yet there is no obligation to do so upon one who fears for himself or his family or those around him.
Thus it is not proper to understand the instruction to be patient as meaning an absolute surrender to injustice and arrogance. Rather: it means waiting and watching attentively until God gives his judgment, and He is the best of judges.
"Approaching the Sunnah: Comprehension & Controversy" - Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pp. 84-89
Elevating The Quran
Where they are inscribed on buildings or hung on walls, Quranic verses are generally elevated, in keeping with the superiority of God's Word over the words of humans. The idea that ontological superiority is implied by physical elevation, while dishonor can be signified by literally lowering a thing or placing it under one's feet, may be universal. This accords with an anthropocentric perspective, for as a human develops in strength and maturity, he or she rises from the floor to become tall and erect. It is also the experience of sages of many traditions that sacred insight can best be found on the mountaintops. The Quran was first revealed to Muhammad in a cave on a mountain, Moses spoke to God, on Mount Sinai, the transfiguration of Jesus took place on a mountain (peace be upon them).
Apart from its symbolic implications, it is obvious that physically elevating precious objects can protect them from being trampled upon, knocked over, and dirted. It is understandable, therefore, that Muslims are keen to ensure that physical copies of the Quranic mushaf - the record of God's exact words revealed to humanity - should be treated with respect. In most Muslim cultures, this means that the Quran is never placed on the floor, is usually stored on a high shelf, and even when stacked with other books, the Quran is usually repositioned on top of the pile.
Among Muslims, the elevation of the Quran should inspire a feeling of reverence, humility, and submission. Many Muslims express this deep feeling of love for the word of God by wrapping their Quran in fine fabric or kissing it after taking it off the shelf. Modernized Muslims might be uncomfortable with such gestures, considering such reverence for the text of the Quran "superstitious" and potentially distracting from the awareness of the absolute transcendence of God. Such exaggerated fear of a slippery slope towards idolatry has perhaps left some of these Muslims with rather dry approach to faith. Traditional Muslim societies seem to allow more room for emotional expressions of faith, and a close connection between the body and the spirit. Certainly there can be excesses in this direction as well: however, one cannot help but feel that the traditional approach yields a richer spiritual culture in which the sacred words of God infuse one's surroundings and have a deep visceral effect on the individual.
"The Story of The Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, pp. 150-153