The search for a living Islam

Assalamu alaikum, peace to all!

It’s been way too long since I last posted. I’ve missed sharing as I do via this medium. I am stuck in the middle of moving house and as anyone who has done this knows, it is not pleasant nor does it leave much room for other pursuits. That and family issues that I would like to ask for your prayers for. So inshaAllah I will get back to regular posts once things settle down. In the meantime I wanted to share this excellent article a dear friend and mentor shared on her FB site. Anyone who spends even a little time in contemplation, can realize the globe is going through a period of intense change and that the Muslim nation if not all of humanity is being challenged to self-examine and self-correct…

May the below be fruitful reading!

An article published by emel.com discussed the issue of how we have become “informed yet ignoramus”. Written by Sheik Abu Muntaser, the Chief Executive of JIMAS.org, “The search for a living Islam” provides an account about how life has an orientation and moves towards a certain end. In the midst of that, we tend to forget about the Day of Judgment.

The Messenger of God (peace & blessings of God be upon him) said, “I have been sent in order to perfect moral virtues (in you).” As I slip into my waning years of life and look back at all the adventures and misadventures I have been privileged to savour, I realize just how centrally important this narration is to appreciate our short sojourn on this sweet and verdant earth.

As Muslims we are meant to be an example for people on how to live well by teaching them how to measure their days. We understand life has an orientation and everything is moving towards a certain end. After a few numbered days followed by the mysterious existence in an afterlife waiting for the great resurrection there is a grand Day of Judgment. We are all then separated into those who have succeeded and those who have not. What we bury in our hearts is thus important. To bury something does not mean it is dead. Hate, grudge, envy, jealousy, anger, greed, lust and pride in our hearts consume us from within and the devoured soul will have very little to be saved on that portentous day. These destructive elements always spring to life through the stimulants of negative experiences unless we have learnt to kill and wipe them out of our hearts.

Look behind the cause of sins in our lives and we are sure to find one or more of these characteristics of hate, grudge, envy, jealousy, anger, greed, lust and pride. When such peculiarities fester we are in reality enslaved to our desires. It is then that our lives are taken over by them and we overlook what our scholars summarized: the way we treat the servants of God, we will be treated by God the same way.

The blessing of pure monotheism in our hearts produces mercy towards creation. As the Quran reminds us, “Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion.” (90:16)

Forgetting this simple principle of Islam is at the root of our delusion that we are champions and defenders of faith while yet beholden to the vain desires. We talk about various deceptions; deceptions of glamour, of nuclear energy, of power or even of global capitalism, but hardly any of us care to mention deceptions of the self. Self-deception is about keeping secret from ourselves the truth we cannot face. Make no mistake: the media advertises something in between the commercials. How are we then affected considering we are always so focused on correcting others but ourselves?

“And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that.” (17: 36) Our rich heritage of exegetical material makes it clear that this verse forbids passing judgments without knowledge, false accusation, bearing false witness and speaking based on conjecture.

We become busy for Islam and her people while in reality we do not see how we merely scramble to achieve an enviable image to display to others. Busyness acts to repress our inner fears and personal anxieties but worryingly, propaganda replaces intelligent thought and time becomes opportunities to avoid responsibilities, whether of learning, teaching or performing actions that build and benefit. We rhapsodize about the joy of sacrifice and striving but do not see how we become the first ones least obliged towards such. We become mired in moral laziness because we do not understand the work of the heart.

As the saying goes, “Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.” This is something to note so that we do not become the ‘informed ignoramus’ among us who speak about Islam without due knowledge.

Learning what to feel is one of the hardest aspects of moral education. One can know a fact and know how to act, but to know what to do; it has to come from the right motivation, whose seat is the heart – it is a feeling. When the heart does not distinguish between good and bad, there is loss of total faith. Knowing what to feel is thus the essence of educating the emotions and virtue is learnt by that.

Truthfulness, which is a necessary prerequisite, is no more than a condition of the heart. It should be there when we speak and act. How does the heart feel at such time? Do we sense serenity and feel calmness in our hearts?

Do we perhaps confuse reactions with truthful action? Motivation and sincerity are not the issues. The real issue is whether we spend adequate time in serious, purposeful, peaceful and deep study, instead of simply reacting. By reacting in the name of Islam we only live to learn later through regret and shame, the harms and pain we thus either cause or never manage to remove, despite the best of intentions.

Much of our actions are needlessly debatable when there are many safer and surer options available to face the challenges that face us. Maybe we are too impatient and impulsively thrust forward with the irrational excuse that doing something is better than doing nothing because we really only want to follow our desires.

We are fools to repress our hearts into hardness through reactions of whim and temper when we have a serious duty to bring about peacefulness through truthful action. Just as truthful behavior is tranquility in the heart, so is goodness or good behavior.

For the heart to open the treasure chest of wisdom, it must address knowledge with humility. Ali had once said, “Do not recognize the truth through men, but recognize the truth and thereby recognize its partisans.” When knowledge of Islam is received with humility it opens doors to recognizing the truth, then to understand one’s own inadequacies and requirements for care and appreciation of the sacred duty to absorb and grow in that knowledge.

The Messenger of God said, “Every religion has a certain ethos of its own and the ethos of Islam is al-Haya (modesty).” We know that Adam was not taken out of Paradise in order for it to be given to others besides human beings. When Adam found his way back to God what was it due to? Was it due to his glory since the angels bowed to him? Was it due to his honor since he was taught the names of all things? Was it because of his dignity since God fashioned him with His own hands? Was it due to his pride since God breathed into him his spirit? He got back to God simply due to humility! The Quran reminds us that they said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (7:23)

Fire outside the fireplace is dangerous; a fireplace without fire is useless. Islam has a form and content. The fire is action and the fireplace is the framework of Islam’s obligations and limits. The form and content of the faith work in harmony and fortify each other. The noble behavior of the Messenger was the pure form; the fire. The revelation constitutes the sublime content, the fireplace.

Islam offers the watching world its best when the outward and the inward, the form and the content, the action and God’s revelation embrace. Islam is a choice for people. When we offer a better and more humane society-the form; with a content that does not lack in any room for the spirit to soar towards God, we are then sincerely on the road to success.

The Messenger of God said, “The parable of the believer is that of a bee; what it eats is good, and what it produces is good.” Our true care for the ‘Lived Islam’ leaves us no time for an ‘Imagined Islam’. To people who live Islam, God is never a source of validation for their wicked ways but a Lord for their moral elevation.

As mentioned by His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra): Reckoning approaches man to the extent that he will come across it in every moment that draws him nearer to death, for death signifies transition from the realm of deeds, this world, to the realm of reckoning, the Hereafter, as Imam Ali (a.s.) put it down in his famous saying: “Today is the time of deeds and not reckoning, and tomorrow (in the Hereafter) is the time for reckoning and not for deeds.” The Quran has notified man on many occasions about what is awaiting him after death, as in Allah’s saying: “And return to your Lord time after time and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment, then you shall not be helped.And follow the best that has been revealed to you from your Lord before there comes to you the punishment all of a sudden while you do not even perceive.” (39:54-55). The Quran expresses death by punishment, noting that punishment is the fate of the extravagant sinners who did not repent to Allah before their death.

Thus, reckoning approaches people as they get closer to the Hereafter without determining its exact time; is it right after death as some narrations talked about punishment in the grave or is it on the day of resurrection; the day people resurrect before Allah. The main issue is to bring up the concept of reckoning in their hearts and minds, “yet they heed not and they turn away”, for they experienced heedlessness to the fullest by avoiding the truth obstructed by many barriers; thus, they would turn away from every call for the right, for they are not aware of and open to it.

Some wonder about the reason for joining between heedlessness that suggests inattentiveness and turning away that represents a voluntary (aware) negative stand. The answer is that turning away signifies a realistic negative state that could be aware of the stand or heedless, for it represents the actual negligence of the movement of responsibility in his life, and Allah knows best.

Allah also says: “There comes not to them a new reminder from their Lord but they hear it while they play,” meaning that they do not shoulder their responsibilities seriously; but rather, they face them playfully, as if messing up with their fate and neglecting the negative repercussions awaiting them. This is was the prevalent state at the time the prophets brought the messages of their Lord to guide them to the straight path, grant them success and make them feel the spiritual ascension that brings them closer to Allah; thus, clarifying many realistic problems they face in the intellectual, political and emotional issues. They used to listen to the prophets frivolously not wanting to engage their minds in what they were listening to or nurture their souls on it or experience the suffering through it. All they wanted was to respond to their feelings and fill their leisure time, not caring about what they hear, but just listening to the echoes caused by the words, away from their connotations, and creating sarcastic ambiences through the opposing stand they make.

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