Blessings, Different Capacities, Empty Room

Issue 909 » August 26, 2016 - Dhul Qida 23, 1437

Living The Quran

Al-Nahl (The Bee) - Chapter 16: Verse 53 (partial)

"Whatever blessing you have, it is from God ..."

The blessings that come to us, night and day, are beyond numeration, as the Quran reminds. These blessings come in all forms—what we can see and touch (by way of material goods: food, clothing, shelter, wealth, and the like), as well as what we cannot see (like safety, friendship, love, health, and protection from harm and calamity).

The Quran begins with the phrase translated as, In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving. Some scholars have said that "Merciful" (Rahman) implies the giver of the major blessings, while "Mercy-Giving" (Rahim) implies the giver of subtle blessings that are not perceived until they are removed.

We blink, for example, thousands of times a day without thought. There are people, however, who require artificial lubrication because their tear glands do not function. There are countless blessings related to the eye, let alone other aspects of our lives, like our ability to walk in balance without needing to consciously stimulate dozens of muscles required to take one step. Our thumbs permit us to do with our hands what most creatures cannot attempt. God has made food delicious instead of bland. And He has given us dignity in our nutrition, which is a tremendous blessing, especially when one considers the way carnivores devour their prey.

While we cannot count our blessings, we are charged to be grateful for having them. The fact that the Quran has been revealed to tell us to reflect on these blessings is in itself a great blessing, for the human being cannot on his or her own figure out how to live with guidance. To deny God's blessings can lead to outright disbelief and denial of God the Exalted.

Compiled From:
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Different Capacities

God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had qualities and was in different positions which required him to act in specific ways or make specific statements. It is, therefore, our duty to be aware of the situation and take it into account when seeking enlightenment to help us solve the multitude of problems that have always troubled many people and caused much confusion. The Companions used to make a clear distinction between the commands of God’s Messenger that ensued from his position as legislator (maqam al-tashri) and those that did not. When they were not sure about a certain matter, they sought clarification about it.

It is related in an authentic tradition that Barirah was the wife of Mughith, a slave, at the time when her masters freed her. When she became mistress of her own destiny by manumission (itq), she divorced her husband because she loathed him. Yet, Mughith, who loved her very much, approached the Messenger of God about this divorce. When the Prophet spoke to her about returning to her divorced husband, Barirah said: “O God’s Apostle! Do you order me to do so?” He said, “No, I only intercede for him.” She said, “I am not in need of him” [Bukhari]. She thus refused to return to her husband, and neither God’s Messenger nor the Companions criticized her for that.

There are twelve different capacities in respect of which statements or actions would ensue from God’s Messenger. They include legislation (tashri), issuing edicts (fatwa), adjudication (qada), political leadership of the state (imarah), guidance (hady), conciliation (sulh), advice to those seeking his opinion (isharah), counselling (nasihah), spiritual uplifting of people (takmil al-nufus), teaching high and lofty truths (talim al-haqaiq al-aliyah), disciplining (tadib) and noninstructive ordinary statements (tajarrud an al-irshad):

1. Legislation (tashri).

The capacity as legislator is the predominant and most distinctive characteristic of God’s Messenger, for that is why God sent him, as indicated in the Qur’an: “And Muhammad is only an Apostle” (3:144). Evidence that the Prophet was invested with the power of legislation is abundant and manifest. One instance of this is his sermon at the farewell pilgrimage (Hajjat al-wada), during which he appointed certain people to repeat what he said so that others could hear his words [Muslim]. Another indication is his statement: “Learn your rituals from me [by seeing me performing them], for I do not know whether I will be performing Hajj after this Hajj of mine,” [Muslim, Abu Dawud] and his saying after concluding the same sermon: “Let those present inform those who are absent.” [Bukhari, Muwatta, Muslim]

..... [to be continued]

Compiled From:
"Treatise on Maqasid Al-Shariah" - Ibn Ashur, pp. 33-35


Empty Room

An enormous courtyard and in the centre, a hollow cube. Nothing more! You suddenly tremble! Wonder, amazement! An empty room, that is all. Is the qiblah of our faith, our love, our formal prayer, our life and our death just this? A pile of dark, rough stones, placed upon each other, spaces unevenly and inexperiencedly filled between with mortar, nothing more!

Suddenly a doubt runs through you. Where is this? Where have I come? I understand a palace or the beauty of an artistic architecture or a temple. I understand a sacred magnificence and spiritual silence under high, grand, elegant, artistic ceilings. I understand a tomb - the burial place of a great person, a heroic genius, Prophet, Leader!

But this? No architecture, no art, no beauty, no inscription, no tile, no plaster-moulding, not even the burial place of a Prophet, an Imam or a grave of an eminent person to whom I can pilgrimage to recall the person that I had come to see so that I can feel a point, a visage, a reality, an object. There is nothing here. There is no one here.

Suddenly you understand how good it is that no one is here! Suddenly you feel the Kabah is a roof, a roof from which to ascend, to suddenly leave the Kabah behind and open your wings in space. Then you feel absoluteness! You sense eternity. That which you never sensed in your divided life, that which you do not find in your world of relativities, that which you cannot feel, you can only philosophize about, can be seen here: absoluteness, eternity, non direction. He!

How good that there is no one here. How good it is that the Kabah is empty. You gradually realize you did not come to visit a shrine. You have made the Hajj. This is not your final destination.

The Kabah is a sign so the way is not lost. It is only a sign, an arrow. It only shows you direction. You have made the Hajj. You have made the resolution, resolved upon the absolute, moving towards eternity, eternal motion, towards Him.

Compiled From:
"Hajj: Reflection on its Rituals" - Ali Shariati