Two Oceans, False Narration, Humanizing The Divine

Issue 1039 » February 22, 2019 - Jumada al-Thani 17, 1440

Living The Quran

Two Oceans
Al-Fatir (The Originator) Sura 35: Verse 12 (partial)

"Not equal are the two oceans, this one sweet, satisfying, delicious to drink, that one salty, bitter."

This verse alludes to two states: turning toward God and turning away from God. Those who turn toward God are occupied with obeying Him and recognizing Him. Those who turn away from Him are shut off from worshiping Him and protest against His apportioning and decree. The former is the cause of union, and the latter the cause of deprivation and separation.

These are two different oceans, one delicious and the other bitter, standing between the servant and God. One is the ocean of destruction, the other the ocean of salvation.

Five ships are traveling in the ocean of destruction: avarice, eye-service, persistence in acts of disobedience, heedlessness, and despair. Whoever sits in the ship of avarice will reach the shore of love for this world. Whoever sits in the ship of eye-service will reach the shore of hypocrisy. Whoever sits in the ship of persistence in acts of disobedience will reach the shore of wretchedness. Whoever sits in the ship of heedlessness will reach the shore of remorse. Whoever sits in the ship of despair will reach the shore of unbelief.

As for the ocean of salvation, five ships are traveling on it: fear, hope, renunciation, recognition, and tawhid. Whoever sits in the ship of fear will reach the shore of security. Whoever sits in the ship of hope will reach the shore of bestowal. Whoever sits in the ship of renunciation will reach the shore of proximity. Whoever sits in the ship of recognition will reach the shore of intimacy. Whoever sits in the ship of tawhid will reach the shore of contemplation.

Compiled From:
"Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-Abrar" - Rashid al-Din Maybudi. p. 407

Understanding The Prophet's Life

False Narration

Usayd's mother said: 'I said to Abu Qatadah: "Why do you not narrate the Prophet's hadiths as other people do?" He said: "I heard God's Messenger (peace be upon him) say: 'Whoever attributes something false to me prepares for himself a position in hell to recline upon'. As the Prophet said this, he smoothed the ground with his hand".' [Bukhari]

This hadith states why many of the Prophet's companions were especially reluctant to quote him, fearing that they might replace a word here or there, or misquote him in some other way. If they were to attribute it to the Prophet and state that he said this, they feared that it might be counted as a lie. This would, then, put them in the position the Prophet warned against. Needless to say, God knows that they intended no such a thing, and if they erred, it would have been a genuine mistake. We know that God would not punish anyone for a genuine mistake, as the Prophet himself made clear. Nevertheless, these companions remained reluctant to quote the Prophet for fear of making a mistake. Some of them would quote him only very sparingly, as in the case of Abu Qatadah, who would have reported several times as many hadiths as are related through him. Others would qualify any quotation they made from the Prophet by adding the phrase, 'or he might have said something similar to this'.

It is often the case that the Prophet's companions might say a hadith which they heard the Prophet say, but without attributing it to him. This means that the hadith would be reported as if it was said by the companion reporting it, but scholars of Hadith would know that no one of the Prophet's companions would ever have said anything relevant to the religion of Islam unless he had heard it from the Prophet. This is one of the reasons why Hadith scholars include such reports, calling them athar, particularly when a report involves a prohibition. No one would dare describe anything as forbidden without clear evidence from the Quran or the Sunnah, because the authority to forbid anything belongs only to God.

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


Humanizing The Divine

Even those contemporary Jews, Christians, and Muslims who strive so hard to profess theologically "correct" beliefs about a sole, singular God who is incorporeal or infallible, ever-present or all-knowing, seem compelled to envision God in human form and to speak of God in human terms. Studies performed by a range of psychologists and cognitive scientists have shown that the most devout believers, when forced to communicate their thoughts about God, overwhelmingly treat God as though they were talking about some person they might have met on the street.

Think about the way believers so often describe God as good or loving, cruel or jealous, forgiving or kind. These are, of course, human attributes. Yet this insistence on using human emotions to describe something that is—whatever else it is—utterly nonhuman only further demonstrates our existential need to project our humanity onto God, to bestow upon God not just all that is worthy in human nature—our capacity for boundless love, our empathy and eagerness to show compassion, our thirst for justice—but all that is vile in it: our aggression and greed, our bias and bigotry, our penchant for extreme acts of violence.

There are, as one can imagine, certain consequences to this natural impulse to humanize the divine. For when we endow God with human attributes, we essentially divinize those attributes, so that everything good or bad about our religions is merely a reflection of everything that is good or bad about us. Our desires become God's desires, but without boundaries. Our actions become God's actions, but without consequence. We create a superhuman being endowed with human traits, but without human limitations. We fashion our religions and cultures, our societies and governments, according to our own human urges, all the while convincing ourselves that those urges are God's.

That, more than anything else, explains why, throughout human history, religion has been a force both for boundless good and for unspeakable evil; why the same faith in the same God inspires love and compassion in one believer, hatred and violence in another; why two people can approach the same scripture at the same time and come away with two radically opposing interpretations of it. Indeed, most of the religious conflicts that continue to roil our world arise from our innate, unconscious desire to make ourselves the apotheosis of what God is and what God wants, whom God loves and whom God hates.

Compiled From:
"God" - Reza Aslan