Careful Measure, Ultimate Prize, Faith-Based Assumptions

Issue 1032 » January 4, 2019 - Rabi al-Thani 28, 1440

Living The Quran

Careful Measure
Al-Qasas (The Story) Sura 28: Verses 71-73

Say: "Have you considered if God were to make the night perpetual over you, without break, till the Day of Resurrection, is there any deity other than God that could bring you light? Will you not, then, listen?' Say: 'Have you considered if God were to make the day perpetual over you, without break, till the Day of Resurrection, is there any deity other than God that could bring you a night in which to rest? Will you not, then, see?' It is out of His grace that He has made for you the night and the day, so that you might have rest and seek to obtain some of His bounty, and that you may have cause to be grateful.

These verses alert unbelievers to two great universal signs, the night and the day, and the secrets they involve of what God chooses for His servants. Because of their long familiarity with the succession of night and day, which are sometimes called in Arabic, "the two new ones", people forget their ever-renewing status. Rarely do they admire the sunrise or sunset, and only rarely do they reflect thoughtfully on the spreading of the day or the darkening that ushers in the night. They do not reflect on the act of grace that brings their succession with all that it involves of mercy and life renewal. The Quran alerts them from the long familiarity that blunts their senses and invites them to reflect on these great universal scenes. It presents them with the possibility of either the night or the day lasting forever, and the terrible consequences of either eventuality. It is a fact that people seldom appreciate things until they lose them or fear that possibility.

People miss the light of day when the winter nights become a little longer, and cannot wait for the bright sun when it disappears for a few hours behind clouds. What will they do then if they lose its light completely, with the night stretching perpetually over their world? This question supposes that they will remain alive in such an eventuality, when all life is in peril unless daylight is forthcoming.

People look for the shade when the hours of day stretch and become very hot, and they look forward to the coming of the night when the days stretch longer in the summer. They enjoy their repose and rest in the night. All creatures need the night when they can renew the energy they spend during the day. What would happen to them then, should they remain alive, if the day were endlessly perpetuated until the Day of Judgement? Indeed, all life could perish in a day that never ends.

Everything in this universe is determined according to a careful measure, and every little detail is planned. The night is for rest and repose, and the day for work and activity. It is all part of God's grace. Indeed everything people have is by the grace of God, so that "you may have cause to be grateful," for the blessings and kindness He has granted you. One of these blessings is the succession of night and day. So also are all laws of nature which God has chosen to set in operation, reflecting His knowledge and wisdom.

We should note that the verse speaking of the night being perpetuated forever ended with 'Will you not listen?', while the verse speaking of the other possibility of an endless day, concluded with 'Will you not see?' Both are suitable qualities, because hearing is the important faculty at night, while during the day the primary faculty is sight. This is just an example of how the Quranic style makes extensive use of harmony.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 13, pp. 207-209

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Ultimate Prize

Anas reports that the Prophet said: 'Whoever brings up two girls until they attain puberty, will enter heaven with me like these two, (pointing with his index and middle fingers)'. [Bukhari]

When the Prophet began to receive God's message, he was living in a society that was extremely unfair to women. The birth of a girl was greeted with gloom to the extent that her father would hide away for days on end in order not to show his face in public. Fathers buried their daughters alive, either for fear of poverty or fear of shame. The Prophet set out to change this attitude so that women would be treated equally with men. In all Islamic teachings women are addressed on an equal footing as men. They are assigned the same religious duties and they receive the same reward. Thus, the two sexes are perfectly equal.

Moreover, the Prophet wanted a daughter to receive all the love and compassion that is given to her brother. Hence, the Prophet encouraged his followers to be very kind to their daughters as is clearly apparent in this hadith.

To a Muslim, the great prize that he or she wants to have in the Hereafter is to be admitted into heaven. However, to be with the Prophet in heaven is the ultimate prize, because the highest position there is reserved for him. So, if something can guarantee that prize, Muslims are definitely keen to do it. Here, the Prophet says that what guarantees this ultimate prize is kindness to one's daughters.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi


Faith-Based Assumptions

Faith-based assumptions are always the most challenging and the most dangerous. By nature they are not accessible or sufficiently accountable to others. Faith-based assumptions are like saying, "I love God", "God is most merciful", or "God loves all people." Such statements must be believed and felt to mean anything. They could be engaged and debated, and one can attempt to refute them, but fundamentally, they rely on a collateral relationship with God. If, for example, I believe that God cannot and will not command anything that is immoral or ugly, there is no doubt that this will affect all my interpretive activities and legal determinations. I am not arguing that it is inappropriate or futile to argue about faith-based matters — far from it. Faith-based assumptions are influenced by a variety of human experiences including textual evidence, sociological experience, human temper, and individual dialectics, but they are not determined by any of them. As such, faith-based assumptions do run the very high risk of becoming authoritarian. We witness this particularly in sectarian debates. Historically, Sunni scholars have rejected the determinations of Shia narrators of hadith and vice versa. In addition, ahl al-hadith dismissed the transmissions of the Mutazilah, Khawarij, and Shia as palpably false. Yet, faith-based assumptions are a matter of conscience and conviction, and so they cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.

The question becomes: what does a special agent do with faith-based assumptions? At a minimum, they must be honestly disclosed so that common agents may decide whether they share these assumptions or not. Moreover, it is important to remember that faith-based assumptions have a rather limited scope. If something is established in an interpretive community through rational analysis, factual determination, or methodological choices, in most circumstances, it is impeachable on the same grounds. Since faith-based assumptions are always at risk of being whimsical, they should be utilized sparingly. As will be recalled, the reliance on whimsical beliefs or determinations is treated in the Quran as an abomination and a sin. Therefore, a cautious and wise agent will not hastily claim a faith-based determination, but will first pause and then honestly, diligently, comprehensively, reasonably, and humbly scrutinize the evidence before deciding to reach an opinion. If the evidence reasonably supports his or her claim, then there is no issue, but if it does not, the agent may be forced to revise his or her beliefs or decide to become a conscientious objector.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl