Unique Beauty, Essence of God, Ethical Counterpowers

Issue 728 » March 8, 2013 - Rabi Al-Thani 26, 1434

Living The Quran

Unique Beauty
Surah Al-Hijr (The Rocky Tract) Chapter 15: Verses 16-18

"We have indeed set up in the heavens constellations, and endowed them with beauty for all to behold, and We have guarded them from every cursed devil, so that anyone who tries to eavesdrop is pursued by a flame clear to see. ."

The 'constellations' may refer to the stars and planets themselves with their huge entities, or it may refer to their positions which define their orbits.

The reference here to the beauty of the universe, particularly the type seen in the sky, suggests that beauty is an intended purpose behind such creation. It is not merely size or accuracy that are intended, but also beauty which is clearly seen in all its aspects. A quick glance at the sky in a dark moonless night, with so many stars and planets sending their faint light our way, gives us a sense of that unique beauty. The same feeling will be aroused by a similar look at the sky in a night with a full moon, moving along in a romantic air, with the rest of the universe holding its breath so that it does not disturb a happy dreamer. One glance like that is sufficient to indicate the depth of the beauty in the creation of the universe.

With the beauty comes preservation, pure and intact. None can spoil this purity by trying to spread evil in it. Satan is allowed to do his evil work only on earth, to tempt human beings to follow his wicked designs. The sky, which is a symbol for what is exalted and sublime, is beyond his reach. He may attempt to do so, but every attempt he makes is foiled.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 10, pp. 316, 317

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Essence of God

According to a Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the believers to 'ponder upon the creation of God, but not on God. For you will never be able to do Him justice.' [Suyuti, al Jami al Saghir]

The restriction is obviously based on the premise that the human mind is not endowed with the capacity to define its Creator, although it may explore and explain His attributes in relation to those aspects of His creation which are known or can be known by it. In this way, our knowledge of God is directly related to our knowledge of His creation. The Quran, on numerous occasions, invites attention to the signs of the creation of God, which testify to His omniscience and omnipresence. We are, thus, encouraged to investigate the world around us, to acquire knowledge of the mysteries of creation, and through it also to increase our understanding of the attributes and Exalted Names of God.

Since human knowledge of the universe is incomplete, knowledge of the Creator of the universe must also be an on-going process, and one which is unlikely to attain perfection. Attempting to 'investigate' the Essence of God is an idle and dangerous exercise which seeks to fathom the unfathomable, something beyond human capacity. It is dangerous as it leads to error in belief. To attempt to specify the Essence of God is to try to limit the limitless, which is, in turn, tantamount to an attempt at reducing God Most High.

Compiled From:
"Freedom of Expression in Islam" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 150, 151


Ethical Counterpowers

Ethical counterpowers must emerge at the heart of civil societies as minds struggle against propaganda, lies, and disinformation. We must reconcile these factors with complex, in-depth debates and serious reading. This turn of mind must be allied to national and international actions that fight for the dignity of women and men, of citizens, foreigners, and immigrants; for the right to welfare, health, education, freedom, justice, and solidarity; and more broadly for the rule of law, independence, and pluralism. We must be ambitious without illusion and humble without naivete; the road will be very long. This is because the ambition to resist must be combined with humility about projects undertaken and results achieved.

This is in keeping with fundamental spiritual teachings: the imperative requirement of resisting with one's heart, conscience, and skills; determined patience and active perseverance to go on; confidence in the name of meaning, regardless of results. This is how Muslim spirituality, echoing all the spiritualities in the world, teaches the meaning of dignity. We should never turn into dreamers or idealists finding legitimacy in aspirations to a hereafter. We must look squarely at humans, hypocrisies, and lies; we must simplify nothing. Nothing will be changed, for instance, by denouncing wars and promoting wide-eyed, improbable pacifism. Lucidity requires us to denounce all aspects of the business of war and promote a profound, uncompromising ethics of peace. Victims have this right over our intelligence and commitments. What spirituality and meaning first and foremost require are competence, realism, consistency, and earnestness.

Compiled From:
"Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 291, 292