Separated Letter, Non-instruction, Drill and Upbringing

Issue 915 » October 7, 2016 - Muharram 6, 1438

Living The Quran

Separated Letter
Qaf (Qaf) - Chapter 50: Verse 1

"Qaf. By the Glorious Quran."

The letter qaf is among the separated letters (al-muqattaat) that are found at the beginning of twenty-nine surahs and whose meaning is considered by most commentators to be known only to God. Qaf is understood by many as a proper name for an emerald mountain whose reality encompasses the earth. This is not a literal physical mountain, but a cosmic mountain that represents the created order as such. Others say that Qaf is one of the Names of God or that it represents the Divine Names that begin with the letter qaf, such as "the Powerful"(al-Qadir), "the Paramount" (al-Qahhar), and "the Holy"(al-Quddus). Still others say that Qaf is one of the names of the Quran. A few commentators say that Qaf is the name of a mountain in Hell.

This is one of two verses in which the revelation is referred to as a glorious Quran, which means the utmost in nobility, magnanimity, grace, and glory.

Compiled From:
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Understanding The Prophet's Life


[continued from issue 914]

10. Non-instruction (tajarrud an al-irshad)

It is not concerned with legislation, religiosity, the education of souls, and the sound management of the social order of the community. It rather concerns those actions emanating from innate human nature (jibillah) or the requirements of material life. This is something that cannot be mistaken, for God's Messenger performed actions in relation to his family affairs and the earning of a living, which were not intended as legislation nor as an example to be emulated. Moreover, it is established in the discipline of usul al-fiqh that the Muslim community is not required to emulate those actions of God's Messenger flowing from his innate nature as a human being, but rather each individual should follow the course that suits his condition. Such deeds include the way in which he ate, wore his clothes, lay down, walked, mounted his beast, and so on. This is so regardless of whether these things are unrelated to the Shariah prescriptions, such as walking in the street or riding a beast on a journey, or are related to them, such as riding a she-camel when performing the pilgrimage, and placing the hands on the prayermat before the knees when prostrating in prayer, according to those who - like Abu Hanifah - maintain that God's Messenger did so when he was old and quite stout.

A similar example of actions stemming from this capacity is the report concerning lying down on the right side after performing the Dawn prayer (Fajr) [Muslim]. Similarly, it is mentioned in the report about the battle of Badr that God's Messenger reached the water before the Quraysh. He went to where the water was closer to Badr and camped there with the army. Al Hubab ibn Mundhir asked him: "O Messenger of God, this place where we are now - has God revealed it to you, that we should neither advance nor retreat from it, or is it a matter of opinion and war strategy?" He said: "It is a matter of opinion and war strategy." Thereupon al-Hubab said: "This is not the place to halt, but take us, O Messenger of God, to one of the large wells which is nearest the enemy, whose abundance which I know is full. Then, we fill the other wells with earth, so that we can have access to water, whereas they cannot." God's Messenger said: "Indeed, it is good advice that you have given." [Ibn Hisham]

Compiled From:
"Treatise on Maqasid Al-Shariah" - Ibn Ashur, pp. 47-49


Drill and Upbringing

The most striking and wonderful things that old books can offer us are the stories about conversion and moral revival. The worst sinners and tyrants turned overnight into humble martyrs and defenders of justice. It is always a spontaneous event; there is no process of reforming or influencing. The question is one of a move in the depths of the soul, of an experience existing together with an energy of a completely inward nature which by its own force completely changes a man. This transformation belongs to man and that is why there is no process, casualty, conditionality, causes, and consequences, or even a rational explanation. The essence of this drama is freedom and creativity.

Good and evil are within man. There are no drills, laws, forces, or any outside influences by which a man can be "improved." It is only his behavior that can be changed. Revival and conversion are spontaneous. They are a result of the soul's being moved. From the religious point of view, every outside influence to remove evil is fruitless.

Also, this is why drill has no influence on the moral attitude of man . You can drill a soldier to be tough, skillful, and strong, but you cannot drill him to be honest, dignified, enthusiastic, and brave. Those are spiritual qualities. It is impossible to impose a belief by means of decree, terror, pressure, violence, or force.

Every pedagogue can give a number of examples of how children resist persistent guidance in one direction and how they can consequently develop an interest in completely opposite behavior. This is due to the "human quality" of man. Man cannot be drilled like an animal. The inefficiency of drill and the uncertainty of education are the "palpable" proof that man is an animal endowed with a soul - that is, with freedom. This is why every true upbringing is essentially self-upbringing and a negation of drill. The aim of true upbringing is not to change a man directly (because, strictly speaking, that is not possible) but to incite an inner stream of experiences and to cause an inner decision to the benefit of good by means of example, advice, sight, or the like. Beyond that, man cannot be changed; only his behavior may be changed, and that could be feigned or temporary. Behavior which does not engage our deepest will is not an upbringing but rather a drill. Upbringing includes our participation, our effort. This is why the result of upbringing is always different and cannot be foreseen.

Compiled From:
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, pp. 113-115