From Issue: 465 [Read full issue]

Living the Quran

Al-Insan (The Humans)
Chapter 76: Verse 2

The Gifts
"Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: so We gave him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight."

We are not like the trees and animals that the object of our creation be fulfilled on the earth itself, and we should die and perish here after we have played our appointed role over a period of time according to the law of nature. This world is neither a place of punishment for us, as the monks think, nor a place of rewards as the believers of the law of transmigration think, nor a place of entertainment and enjoyment, as the materialists think, nor a battlefield, as the followers of Darwin and Marx think, but in fact it is a place of test and trial for us. That which we regard as our age, is in fact the time given to us for the test. Whatever powers and capabilities we have been given in the world, the things that have been placed under our control and authority, the various positions and capacities in which we function, and the relationships that we enjoy with others, all these are the countless papers of the test and this test continues till the last breath of our lives.

The result is not to be announced in this world but in the Hereafter when all our answer-books will be assessed, decision will be given whether we have come out successful or failed. And our success or failure wholly depends on what we thought of ourselves while we functioned here and how we answered the papers that were given to us here.

The word sami (hearing) and basir (seeing) in the original actually imply being "sensible and intelligent". These words of the Arabic language are never used with respect to the animal although it also hears-and sees. Thus, hearing and seeing here do not imply only the powers of hearing and seeing which have been given to the animals too, but those means through which we obtain knowledge and then draw conclusions from it. Besides, since hearing and seeing are among the most important means of knowledge for us, only these two have been mentioned briefly; otherwise it actually implies giving us all those senses of the body by which we gather information.

Then the senses given to man are quite different in their nature from those given to animals, for at the back of every sense he has a thinking brain, which collects information gained through the senses; arranges it, draws conclusions from it, forms opinions, and then takes some decisions which become the basis of his attitude and conduct in life. Hence, after saying, "We created man in order to try him," to say, "therefore, We made him capable of hearing and seeing" actually contains the meaning that Allah gave us the faculties of knowledge and reason to enable us to take the test. Obviously, if this were not the meaning and the meaning of making man hearing and seeing just implied the one who could hear and see, then a blind and deaf person would stand exempted from the test, whereas unless a person is utterly devoid of knowledge and reason, there can be no question of his being exempted from the test.

"Towards Understanding The Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi

Understanding the Prophet's Life

Restraining Fatwa

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, when he was informed that a wounded man was given a fatwa that he must wash the whole of his body before performing ablution and salah which resulted in his death: "They caused his death, may Allah cause their death [as well] Should not they have asked if they were not sure. . .?"

It was indeed shocking to discover that there are people who, even though totally unqualified, are only too ready to give fatwa on the most serious and complex issues: fatwa which may contradict those of both earlier and contemporary scholars. Such people may never hesitate to dismiss as wrong the fatwa of other scholars whom they accuse of ignorance, claiming that the gates of ijtihad are not exclusive to a special few but are open to all. This is true, but itjihad requires certain requisites of which such people possess none. Our predecessors have criticized even some of the learned who hastened to give fatwa without careful consideration and knowledge of the matter saying: "Some people hastily give fatwa on matters which, if referred to Umar ibn al Khattab, would have caused him to consult all the people [who took part in the battle] of Badr," and also, "The most daring among you in giving fatwa is the most daring [to commit sins which will cause them] to [be sent to] the Fire."

Despite the profound depth of knowledge of the Rightly­Guided Caliphs, they used to consult and be consulted by their learned companions when confronted with critical issues. Out of the body of fatwa which were made collectively emerged the ijma (consensus) in the first Islamic era. When consulted, some companions refrained from making any comment, and others simply used to say that they did not know. Utbah ibn Muslim reported that he was once Ibn Umar's companion for a period of thirty-four months. During that time, Ibn Umar was asked about various important issues and he often replied that he did not know. Ibn Abu Layla related the following about companions of the Prophet, most of whom were from among the Ansar:

When one of them was consulted on a certain issue, he would refer the questioner to another, who in turn would refer him to another and so on until the questioner finally returns to the first person whom he had approached first. They wished to be spared the reporting of a hadith or giving a fatwa in answer to a question.

"Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism" - Yusuf al-Qaradawi


To Be With God

To foster humility in oneself and to keep one's ethical awareness alive naturally means being attentive to human relations, even in their smallest details. This life, led with the constant intention to be in dialogue with God and with oneself, should lead us to learn to listen and to be in dialogue with others. The calls to brotherhood, solidarity, and companionship are all facets of the spirituality of daily life. We have to be spiritually responsible, active, and intelligent in learning to make the fundamental distinction between judging an action and judging an individual, between condemning a gesture and condemning a heart. We must have the clarity to engage in the first but resist the temptation of the second. This way of being among people can be achieved only by working at allowing spiritual and ethical teaching to radiate into all our areas of activity. This would naturally reform the kinds of relations that we too often see at work within Muslim communities - relations based on judgment and rejection of the Other, competition, and power struggles.

Muslim spirituality radiates out from the axis of tawhid and calls human beings, in addition to their religious practice and meditation, to allow the light of the sense of His Presence and His moral precepts to shine on all their areas of activity. This spirituality inspires awareness at the heart of life and society and offers itself as an everyday mysticism, an applied Sufism, which leads individuals to learn to manage the direction and content of their actions rather than simply to be acted upon.

Muslim spirituality teaches us fragility, effort, and service: to be with God is to recognize one's limitations, know them, and serve people, among people.

"Western Muslims and The Future of Islam" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 124, 125