The Effulgence of the Merciful, Humanity’s Suffering and the Compassion of the Quran

(Fayd al-Rahman wa A’dhab al-Insan wa Rahmat al-Quran)

Sawt Al-Umma, Issue 92
September 2nd, 2002

The orb of the sun pierced the veil of the sea as it made its way to sleep on the bed of a sea nymph after a scorching hot day which had turned its countenance a fiery red and overwhelmed it with a consuming desire to reach the coldness.

As it touched the water and merged with it, the universe burst into subtle, transparent and wondrous color. At that distinctive and humbling moment between day and night, I sat alone, enraptured by the magical display in the evening sky freely given without need of recompense. I felt my mind opened, my heart purified, the blood in my veins renewed and the impurities removed. At that moment I felt a sense of oneness between myself and everything around me such as I had never felt before. I don’t know how long I stayed there, how many thoughts ran through my mind or how many devils from among the jin and human creatures had been taken prisoners. All I know is many difficult questions had been asked.

Why do Muslims today find themselves embroiled in so much conflict and discord? Why have mutual accusations of heresy sinfulness and deviation become so widespread among us it seems as if we are all doomed to everlasting damnation? Why have so many prohibitions been put on so many aspects of our lives and caused the wells of mercy and compassion to dry up? Why do they put aside so many of the important issues – fascism, dictatorship, selfishness, illiteracy, financial corruption and issues of succession – to busy themselves with prohibitions on electronic shavers? The religion of Islam was sent to warmongering and backward bedouin tribesmen who bought and sold slaves, worshipped stone idols and buried alive their newborn baby girls. How is it they were able to embrace Islam, while we have so clearly failed to do so despite our so called culture and civilization and our ability to build bridges of communication?  What caused compassion to turn into such harshness? How can such seemingly civilized outer shells conceal so much ignorance? The desert tribesmen embraced Islam which is proof Islam is easy. What made it so difficult and complicated for us? What turned the ball of wool into such a hopeless tangle?

I think one answer on which all could agree is that the basic principles and pillars of religion have been forgotten. The foundations of the building have been ignored as arguments heat up about the color and specification of the walls. We busy ourselves with the leaves forgetting about the roots from which the tree grew and which give it life. When basic principles are missing so too is a common language. And when a common language is missing, bridges of understanding between people are destroyed and so too are relationships. In one sense, today’s global conflicts are conflicts of language. Muslims speak about acts of ‘martyrdom’ in the occupied Palestinian territories while the west calls them acts of ‘terrorism’. While we describe our relations with the United States as ‘friendly’ the United States looks upon us as obedient followers. If we pick a flower, smell its fragrance and offer it to the one we love, we tell ourselves we’re being romantic but the flower looks upon us as executioners who take away its right to life and sentence it to death.

When we say the Arabic word qirsh [a unit of currency] to a banker there is no misunderstanding. If we say the same word to a fisherman he will understand its other meaning – a shark – while a drug dealer will understand its third meaning which is a measure of hashish. It’s when we don’t explain exactly what we mean – which meaning of qirsh we are alluding to – that misunderstandings arise. When we don’t agree upon the meaning of words and when we leave each other to determine their meaning it’s like leaving someone to determine the width of a railway track as he wishes. Sometimes it will be too wide and other times too narrow. In either case the train won’t run along the track

We will never reach an understanding with other people without a common language. Muslims will never reach an understanding among themselves without a shared language of religion in which the basic principles are clear and the meanings and definitions of words are precise. The reason why Muslims have failed to reach a common understanding among themselves is that the bridge of language has been destroyed. The language of religion has been broken into a thousand pieces. Different religious groups say whatever they want to say and issue fatwas off the top of their heads accusing others of heresy and causing abject oppression and misery The language of religion has become narrow and as a result so too has religion. Islam is bigger than the garb in which it has been dressed. While Muslims should be wearing the clothes which Islam has tailored for them, they have dressed Islam in the clothes they have designed and tailored.

Musicians share a common language with which to discuss musical composition. Doctors share a common language to determine proper diagnosis and treatment. Even football players share a common language to help decide if ‘fouls’ are committed. And yet there is no common language among Muslims scholars to properly determine the validity of fatwas. The result, like much of everything else in modern life, is chaos and confusion. The Muslim clerics and preachers are lost and have led their followers into an empty wilderness, hopelessly scattered and dispersed.

Allah created us as ‘peoples and tribes’ so we would come together in the knowledge that the best among us is the one who is most devout

يَآ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ
لِتَعَارَفُواْ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللهِ أَتْقَاكُم
(الحجرات :13)

This Verse can be translated as: ‘Oh you people, We created you from a male and female and We made you peoples and tribes so you would come together in the knowledge that the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who is most devout  [Al-Hujurat:13]

It is narrated that Allah’s Messenger [s.a.a’.w.s.] was once asked by Sayedna Omar Ibn Abi Salamah [r.a.a’], one of his companions, if kissing one’s wife was permitted when a person was fasting. Allah’s Messenger told him to ask Om Salamah. She told him that Allah’s Messenger used to do that. Sayedna Omar Ibn Abi Salamah returned and said ‘ O Messenger of Allah ! Allah has forgiven whatever you might have done in the past and whatever you might do in the future to which Allah’s Messenger replied: ‘By Allah, I am the most devout one among you and the one who fears Him most’ [Muslim, vol. II, pp779, 74, No.1108]

Sayeda Aisha [r.a.a’] said she had heard the prophet [s.a.a’.w.s.] say: ‘Souls are soldiers that have been recruited. Those of them that come to a common knowledge are drawn to each other. Those of them that reject that knowledge are in discord [Sahih Bukhari, II, pp 452,No. 3336]

Knowledge is the common language. When that common language is absent the truth of the following Allah’s words become evident:

الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُواْ دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعاً كُلُّ حِزْبِ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ

سورة الروم :32

“…..those who divide their religion and become followers of sects
each party happy and proud with what it has’
[al-Rum: 32]

The basic principles of Islam are to be found in the Quran as a totality. The details are to be found in the sunna which are the teachings and example of the prophet [s.a.a.w.s.]. The absence of a common language has allowed every person to follow his own whims and work hard to persuade others to follow him in the belief he is correct. This is the reason for division. It is the reason for religious extremism and fanaticism and perhaps the state of backwardness in which we find ourselves. It is the reason that has induced and encouraged the occupation of Muslim lands and the division of Muslim peoples by the superpowers. It is a condition in which Muslims occupy themselves with the minutest details thinking them to be important – how to shake hands, the length of their beards, how to enter the bathroom, whether electric shavers are permitted, whether cake is an innovation and whether or not whoever eats cake will be eternally damned!

If the principles of religion were properly understood in the way the musical scale or the rules of football are understood, the pretenders would disappear and so would ignorance or the pretence of knowledge or fahlawa which is the most endemic psychological and social disease in our society. People would be able to get along with themselves and each other. Just as absence of principles in medicine makes a nurse a doctor or the absence of principles in engineering makes a construction worker an architect, the absence of principles in religion has enabled the ignorant to pass themselves off as religious authorities.

This is the reason for the chaos we suffer as a result of the fatwas, the accusations of heresy
and the confusion between what defines us as human beings and what rightfully belongs to Allah. All of us as human beings stand accused in the dock of life waiting to hear sentence on the Day of Judgment. Yet, our insanity has reached such extremes we pass judgment on each other while we stand together in the dock. We pronounce someone innocent and promise him heaven and pronounce another guilty and condemn him to hell. How did we manage to convince ourselves that we can judge others when we ourselves stand accused? All of us face a day on which there will be only one judge. He will forgive if He wills and He will punish if He wills and He has Absolute Power over all things.

It is narrated that Sayedna Mua’az [r.a.a.], one of the prophet’s companions, said he was once riding behind the prophet on a donkey called A’fir  The prophet [s.a.a’.w.s.] said  ‘Mua’az: do you know what right Allah has over His servants and what right His servants have ?’ Sayedna Mua’az replied ‘Allah and His Messenger know best! ’The prophet said: ‘The right of Allah over His servants is that they should worship Him and not associate anything with Him The right of His servants is that Allah will not torment those who do not associate anything with Him’ Sayedna Mua’az said ‘ O Messenger of Allah should I tell people the good news? The prophet said ‘Don’t tell them the good news in case they place too much reliance on it [Bukhari, Vol II- pp 320,No.2856]

It is also narrated the prophet [s.a.a.w.s] said ‘Allah gave to a man that came before you great wealth. When the man was dying he said to his sons ‘What kind of a father was I ? They said: ‘The best of fathers’ He said ‘ I never did anything good. When I die, burn my body and reduce it to ashes and then scatter the ashes to the wind’. And this is what they did. Allah collected the ashes together and said to the man;’ What made you do that?’ He replied ‘Fear of you !’ Then Allah accepted him with His Mercy [Sahih Bukhari, Vol II- pp 499, No. 3478]

Nobody has that authority to pass judgment on others no matter how many university degrees he has or how many mosques he attends. Who has the right to decide this one is going to hell and this one to paradise? And if someone were certain he was on his way to hell why should he repent and try to do good deeds f? Why would someone promised heaven continue to behave well ? Those who distribute ‘deeds of forgiveness’ and pass judgment about associating others with Allah, heresy, sinfulness and deviation are giving themselves the attribute of Allah………..I ask Allah for forgiveness

Sayedna Abu Hurayrah [r.a.a’], one of the prophet’s companions, narrated that he was present when a Bedouin Arab came to Allah’s Messenger [s.a.a’.w.s] to ask him for charity. Allah’s Messenger gave him something and then asked him ‘Have I done well by you?’ The bedouin Arab replied ‘No, you didn’t give me enough’. Some of the Muslims who were present became angry and were about to stand up to confront him. The prophet signaled them to desist He then stood up and invited the Bedouin Arab to come with him to his home where he said to him: ‘You came to us and you asked us for something We gave to you and you said what you said’ Allah’s Messenger then gave him something in addition and again asked him ‘Have I done well by you? The Bedouin Arab said: ‘Yes. May Allah reward you, your family and your tribe’. The prophet then said to him: ‘You came to us and you asked us for something. We gave to you and you said what you said. My companions have something against you If you come with me to them again and repeat what you said to me the bad feeling will be removed from their hearts The man said: ‘Yes’
Sayedna Abu Hurayrah continued to narrate that when the Bedouin Arab returned Allah’s Messenger said: ‘Your friend came to us to ask from us and we gave to him and he said what he said. I invited him to my house and I gave him something in addition. He claimed he was satisfied. Isn’t that so?’ The bedouin Arab said: ‘Yes. May Allah reward you, your family and your tribe’.
The prophet then said to those present ‘I and that bedouin Arab are like a man whose camel had bolted. Some of the people chased after the camel and tried to catch it which only made the camel more nervous. The owner of the camel asked them to let him deal with his camel. He told them he knew the camel better than anyone else He was able to entice it back with some fodder and mounted it. If I had obeyed you when he said what he said he would have gone into hellfire [Lifting of the Veils, Vol III- pp 159-160, No. 2476]

If we are required to let the camel owner deal with his own camel and by inference to let the prophet himself deal with the Bedouin Arab, should we not then also refrain from interfering in matters that are solely the business of Allah and His servants ? Whoever sets himself up as a judge should have the power to carry out the sentence. If someone sentences you to hell he should have the power to send you there and if he promises you heaven he should also be able to send you there. Such people have taken off the garb of slaves and put on the robes of the master. Those awaiting sentence have set themselves up as the judges

Allah’s mercy precedes His anger. The prophet [s.a.a’.w.s.] called on Muslims to make things easy, not to make them difficult. He called on us to give hope to others not to frighten them away. ‘Whoever makes things easy will find things easy. Whoever makes things difficult will find only difficulty.’ The prophet [s.a.a’.w.s.] is the highest example for all Muslims. Why, then, do we look to others? The nature and characteristics of Islam are those of the prophet – justice, forgiveness, simplicity, mercy and generosity. The prophet was described as the Quran walking among men. So why do we try to separate what he joined together ? Why do we prohibit what he permitted? Why are we so harsh toward those whom the prophet was so compassionate? [‘If you had created them you would have been compassionate toward them’] The prophet [s.a.a’.w.s.] said: “Surely Allah accepts the servant’s repentance unless he’s gargling [Ibn Hanbal, Vol 10 pp 300, No. 6160]. In other words repentance may be accepted provided it’s not  made in a person’s last dying breath

Allah may forgive anything except associating others with Him. The Arabic word  shirk means to associate others with Allah in what are His alone. It is the greatest sin so how can anybody accuse others of shirk? Religion belongs to Allah It is not the ‘opinion’ of Allah’s servants We are obsessed with the minutest details even though the truth is as clear as daylight. We all know the meaning of ‘money’ so why do we continue to argue about whether or not the Dollar or the Turkish Lira constitutes money? Is gold money? Why do we insist on debating whether beans smoked salmon or cake are food?  If we return to the basic principles of religion there will be no need to busy ourselves with the details which are the cause of so many futile arguments. Problems don’t arise from things that have a basis. The basis of religion is the relationship between Allah and His servants

Some arguments arise for no other reason than shortsightedness. For example, there is a verse in the Quran that may be translated as: ‘Remember the Name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with complete devotion’ [Al Muz-zamil:8] The ‘Name of your Lord’ referred to in this verse is ‘Allah’. This verse says we should ‘remember’ His Name. Some say what is meant by the Arabic word dhikr translated here as ‘remembrance’ is the act of prayer and quote a verse in the Quran which may be translated as ‘….in houses which Allah permitted to be raised up and in which His Name is remembered” [al-Nur: 36] and this is correct Others insist what is meant by dhikr is the recitation of the Quran and cite a verse which may be translated as ‘We sent down the remembrance and We will protect it [Hejr : 9]. This is also correct Others argue it refers to the pilgrimage because of the verse which may be translated as  ‘…and if you complete the rites of pilgrimage remember Allah’ [al Baqara: 200]. This is also correct  Others say what is meant is the Friday prayer quoting the verse which may be translated as  ‘O you who believe, when you have prayed the Friday prayer then disperse to remembrance of Allah and leave your buying and selling’ [Al Juma’a: 9]. While prayer, recitation of the Quran, pilgrimage and all forms of worship can be said to be a kind of dhikr or ‘remembrance’ dhikr itself is independent of them just as water is independent of food even though it is the major constituent of all food. Dhikr means the invocation and repetition of the Name ‘Allah’ without asking for benefit or protection such as we might ask for when we pray. The verse in question may therefore be more accurately translated as “Repeatedly invoke the Name of your Lord”

If people continue to insist on their own interpretation of dhikr the arguments will only continue and we will abstain from dhikr. If we close our minds to knowledge we will lose what we should have known. This is a call to conciliation with wisdom and friendly persuasion between the human being and his Lord and between human beings and others. It does not repudiate anyone’s opinion, put down other peoples’ ideas or attack any scholars.

There is much else that Allah has decreed for us that deserves to be spoken about and discussed and called for with wisdom and friendly persuasion ‘Had you been severe or harsh hearted they would have broken away from you so pass over [their faults] and ask [Allah’s] forgiveness for them and consult them in affairs [of moment] Then when you have taken a decision put your trust in Allah [Al Imran:159]

‘Call to the way or your Lord with wisdom and friendly persuasion and present them with a better argument’ [Al Nahl:125]

‘……….he who harbored enmity toward you will become as if he were an intimate friend’ [Fus-silat:34]

Only Allah preserves from error and gives strength to do right.