The Humble "I"

Muslims, Musings, Modernity

Revering the Symbols of God

Kaaba-7The Qur’an says: Whoever reveres the symbols of God, that is from piety of hearts. [22:32] Symbols (sha‘a’ir) refers to signs, marks or emblems by which something is known to belong to some particular body or group of people. Flags, for instance, are sha‘a’ir; as are those religious rites and practices which are emblematic of, or specific to, certain religious communities.

Here, the symbols of God being spoken of in the above verse refer to those well-known, external commands and prohibitions emblematic of Islam: the prayer, adhan, fasting, pilgrimage rites, the prohibition of pork or of drinking intoxicants, etc. Revering and venerating God’s symbols shows veneration for the One who sent them; which is from piety of hearts.

The signs that one reveres God’s sha‘a’ir are: fulfilling their demands; keeping to their limits; being attentive to accomplishing them correctly; hastening to them when they are due; and to be sad, disappointed or contrite if having missed any of their benefits. Another sign of veneration is to feel anger when God’s symbols are mocked or reviled, and sadness when they are disobeyed.1 Such anger, I must add, isn’t the uncontrolled, egotistical kind that causes faces to be twisted or contorted beyond recognition, and mouths to froth with frenzied rage and pathetic political imbecility. God forbid that the dignity of a believer should be so degradingly compromised.

Revering the symbols of God, and the Sacred Law of God, becomes ever more difficult when one lives in an Age of Irreverence, as we do. For treating someone or something, not just with courtesy, but with deep respect – for that’s what reverence calls for – can be an uphill task. The ego is ever eager to demean the sacred and drag things down to the lowest common doleful denominator. The pursuit of its own diktats, cravings and impulsive desires is what the ego is about; not the pursuit of virtues, or the growth of the Spirit. Whatever good is inherent in any liberal democracy, is being demonstrably erased by the unstoppable entrenchment of an ego culture. Affluenza is what British psychologist Oliver James has named it. For embedded in the philosophy of political liberalism, and consumerism, is the principle of pandering to the ego, and a reverence for irreverence.

As today’s liberal prescriptions become ever more intolerant; and ever more eager to suppress, stigmatise and demonise any significant dissenting voices, honouring God’s symbols (especially in respect to morality and gender relations) becomes much more difficult. Even so, we mustn’t be bullied into failing to state the correct Islamic rulings in such matters, nor be browbeaten into silence: And whoever reveres the sacraments of God, that is better for him with his Lord. [22:30].

1. Cf. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, al-Wabil al-Sayyib (Damascus: Maktabah Dar al-Bayan, 2006), 32, 39.

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8 thoughts on “Revering the Symbols of God

  1. charlotten2 on said:

    The signs are always there it is just a matter of overcoming perceived insanity..is it real..or is it not?………I believe…it is real!!x

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    • Indeed. ‘Spiritual growth is the intensification of perception’, as has been said. Though we don’t see God, we can sense His effects and discern His signs. ‘Read!’ is the religious imperative.

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  2. How are the external symbols to be revered, such as the Quran? Some say kissing the Quran shows our reverence, respect and love, others froth at the mouth and shout bid’ah (no prizes as to which group the latter applies to).

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    • Extrenal forms of reverence include: the obligation of being in a state of ablution (wudhu) in order to touch the mushaf; it being highly offensive (makruh) to stretch one’s feet towards the Qur’an; and the permissibility of kissing it. Imam al-Nawawi’s Tibyan (for which there is a superb English translation called, Ettiquettes with the Qur’an) is probably the most definitive text on the subject.

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  3. Aisha on said:

    Jazak Allah khayr Shaykh,

    Ridiculing the sacred is most definitely the nations past time. Sadly our children (especially those in secondary school), have to face this head on.
    Allah make it easy for us all.

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  4. Thank you for the insightful reminder. Indeed this age is of irreverence. It is heartbreaking to see people’s sacrilegious attitude.

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