Human Deeds, Month of Allah, Moral Ambivalence

Issue 1015 » September 7, 2018 - Dhul-Hijja 27, 1439

Living The Quran

Human Deeds
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) - Chapter 3: Verse 195 (partial)

"... a reward from the presence of Allah and from His presence is the best of rewards."

The word thaba, yathubu, thawban originally means to return and to come back and one of its derivatives is thawab that signifies the fruit or the result of one's work or efforts, good or bad depending on the nature and quality of one's action. However, it is mostly used in a good sense, as something good gained in consequence of a good deed.

By describing the enduring rewards and gifts to be granted by Allah to His servants for their small and insignificant deeds as thawab, our Sustainer Most Gracious has immensely enhanced the importance of human deeds. Otherwise, there is hardly any comparison between the abiding reward in the hereafter and trifling human deeds in this worldly life, just as it is impossible to compare a miniscule speck of dust to the mighty Himalayas. It is this wide gap between the deeds of humans and their enduring reward from Allah that the words "from the presence of Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards" seek so beautifully to bridge. It is like saying in fact that though this is a reward for your efforts and works, it is from Allah Who has infinite treasures of the best of rewards. He is Most Generous and He blesses whomsoever He wishes with whatever and howsoever He wills.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Month of Allah

Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer." [Muslim, 1163]

This refers to general voluntary fasts according to Imam Ibn Rajab (Allah have mercy on him): These are best in the month of Muharram, just as the best general voluntary prayer is night prayer. The virtue and honour of this month can be attested to by the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called it, "the Month of Allah" (Shahr Allah).

It is mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of Ashura [10th of Muharram]. He said, "I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day," [meaning the Day of Ashura]. [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)].

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to fast this day even in Mecca, though he had not yet ordered others to do so. [Bukhari (2002), Muslim (1125)] When he migrated to Medina, and found the People of the Book fasting this day and venerating it, he ordered the Muslims to fast it, and encouraged it so much that even the children would fast it. [Bukhari (2004) and Muslim (1130)]

At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) made the determination not to fast this day alone, but with another day [either before or after it], in order to be different from the People of the Book. It is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him), from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Fast the Day of Ashura and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it."

It is a day in which Allah forgave an entire people. Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, "If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others who repent." [Tirmidhi (841)]

Compiled From:
"Lataif al-Maarif" - Ibn Rajab


Moral Ambivalence

Unfortunately, an inordinate number of Muslim men, and also women, fail to recognize the many ways that patriarchy is an offence against morality and Islam. Too many Muslims and non-Muslims are not sufficiently sensitized to the fact that patriarchy is despotism and that it is a morally offensive condition. As an institution, patriarchy feeds on the eradication of women's moral agency; it erases and marginalizes women; and, most significantly, it negates the possibility of true surrender to God. Likewise, an inordinate number of Muslims fail to reflect upon the extent to which patriarchy exploits the instruments of religious authority but ends up displacing God's authority altogether.

Often erasure is purposeful and sinister, as when it is the result of willful animosity to women, but what is more challenging and also endemic is when erasure is subtle, inconspicuous, and nearly imperceptible because it is the outcome of moral ambivalence, or a well-theorized and well-fortified act of self-deception. After all, what could be more potent and dangerous than the seemingly endless ability of human beings to deceive themselves into believing that those who are erased are actually being affirmed, that the oppressed are actually in the process of being liberated, that the marginalized are well sheltered and protected, and that, ultimately, they like it this way?

Centuries ago the Quran warned human beings against the psychology of ambivalence - the dealing with moral failures through escapist strategies of displacement and projection. The Quran warned that the psychology of ambivalence creates people who are oblivious to the true nature of their conduct - such people corrupt the earth while insisting that they are doers of good. Corrupting the earth is a Quranic expression that refers to conduct that fundamentally undermines and tears apart the fabric of God's creation. However, the quintessential act of corruption is, whether intentionally or obliviously, to perpetuate conditions that rob humans of their agency and thus their ability to partake in God's covenant in any meaningful way. A part of this corruption is to attempt to erase the Divine presence, to replace God's role by usurping and claiming the authority of the Divine as one's own, to arrogantly and pretentiously stand ready to issue judgments about God's will without due diligence, critical moral reflection, or conscientious pursuit of learning. It is the psychology of ambivalence that is responsible for the virtual flood in self-designated so-called experts indulging in ijtihad-talk and simultaneously spewing a plethora of ill-informed fatwas.

Speaking one's mind is an exercise in autonomy and agency, but the practice of ijtihad has its own equally compelling ethics, the most essential and basic of which is well embodied by the meaning of the word itself, which is: to exert and exhaust oneself in the pursuit of thought and knowledge in search of the Divine will. Without question, Muslims ought to be free to speak their minds and voice their opinions, but it is a different thing altogether to pretend to speak the mind of the Divine and, instead of humbly voicing one's opinions, presumptuously endowing oneself with the voice of God.

Compiled From:
Foreward to "Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Khaled Abou El Fadl