The Humble I

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Archive for the tag “Islam and the monoculture”

Footprints on the Sands of Time 7

We moderns have been persuaded that we each have ‘a right to think for ourselves,’ and we imagine that we exercise such a right freely and autonomously. But we are unwilling to acknowledge, despite the plethora of evidences and examples around us, that our every thought is (and continues to be) shaped by cultural influences and media soundbites; and that our opinions are being made to fit into a limiting pattern of thinking which serves to perpetuate the continued and totalising dominance of the monoculture. These reflection (previous Footprints can be read here) form part of an on-going conversation about Islam and modern Muslimness, and the urgent need to be heretics to the monoculture; learning to critically think anew.

On the loss of all losses: It is better to lose some worldly thing for the sake of God than to lose God for the sake of some worldly thing.

Wisdom behind creation of evil: God does create things He dislikes or hates, but only for the sake of a wise purpose He loves and is pleased with.

Be moderate or to moderate; that’s the question: Political leaders seem to be tripping over themselves in their bid to be champions of ‘moderate’ Islam. But do they seek moderate Islam or to moderate Islam?

On women, mosques, and today’s all-male mosque committees: When seeking women’s rights that are related to the mosque, advice must be given to the committee in good faith. Rights should be sought with the desire to venerate Allah’s laws and uphold the ways of the Lord, in contrast to cherrypicking what religious obligation to accept and thereby play fast and loose with the shari‘ah. Of course, women being part of mosques committees (not for the sake of some quota, or to tick the gender equality boxes; but from a conviction that they will add value, piety and professionalism to the currently dull, dim and lowbrow all-male mosque committees that have for too long tribally ruled the roost) is to be welcomed and encouraged. Perhaps then we might even see more Islamically enlightened activities, or some fairness and inclusiveness from most of our local mosques. I suspect that most Muslims in 21st century Britain, especially those born and raised here, are not interested in mosques that offer some belongingness primarily on the basis of a pride of Panjabis, a brethren of Bengalis, or a gang of Gujratis.

On responding to the outrages of socio-political fortune: The believer is to withstand the injustices and political outrages of time, not with indifference or apathy, but with guarded perseverance, dignified response, and a sense of righteous anger that doesn’t burst at the seams or explode into uncontrolled rage.

It’s about God, all else is a footnote: Purification of the soul is unlikely to come as long as we are seeking it. It will come when we are seeking Him.

On love, through the Law: The shari’ah is there to instruct us which of our freely-chosen acts are pleasing to Allah and which displease Him; which win us His love and which His anger.

On the theology of divine love: If our theology doesn’t help stoke the fire of intimacy with God in our hearts, then we are likely going about religion in the wrong way.

On signs of real sincerity: True sincerity (ikhlas) isn’t just to single-out Allah for worship and to do things for His sake; it is to do so while not being moved by the sweetness of a compliment or the pain of criticism.

On manufacturing an Islam that is all things, to all people: The rightly acting ‘ulema have long been concerned about pseudo-scholars, charlatans or the weak-spirited not turning Islam into as many things as modernity wants Religion to be. In that the Islamic texts are twisted and tortured so as to make them compliant with whatever “ism” that happens to be modernity’s prevailing mood or zeitgeist: be it humanism, secularism, materialism, or nationalism; and more recently: liberalism, feminism, or transgenderism. Their concerns, as it turned out, were wholly justified!

Greater than unconditional love: Higher than giving our children our unconditional love which, of course, we must do, is to pray we can love them for God’s sake for the faith and the righteousness they hopefully live by.

On the place of the divine rigour and beauty: Whoever claims we can be beholden to the Divine Beauty, before being disciplined by the Divine Rigour, is an imposter – all except the majdhub!

On being true to the trust of teaching: Let the scholar or caller examine himself or herself on two accounts: [i] Am I fulfilling or betraying the trust of teaching; and [ii] Do I practice what I preach?

On living a contented life: In Islam, the good and happy life entails: being God-centred, not self-centred; quick in fulfilling the rights of others; prudent in speech; thankful for what one has, not greedy for what one does not; doing righteous works; and not being satiated in eating.

On timeless teachings and contemporary times: Being rooted in the old and deducing the new makes for a good scholar. 

Muslim activism stuck in a spider’s web: Some ‘ulema were quick to realise that whatever political or religious spectrum Muslims advocate, most Muslim activism and movements that sought change, throughout the twentieth century till today, are locked in the logic of modernity, and only operate within its limiting, hegemonic parameters; its spider’s web. Islam, however, premised on the Adamic fitrah and the prophetic Sunnah, lies outside the monoculture’s plethora of philosophies, and so cannot be made subordinate to it. This is why Islam is, and continues to be, the great global dissent from the totalising ideology of liberal modernity.

Life is a thing, when you learn you grow: The narrow minded alway see certainties in fiqh issues. But the learned know that fiqh issues are never as ironclad as the narrow minded imagine.

On embracing the ways of wisdom: To know that one never gives walnuts to the toothless, or earrings to the earless, is part of true wisdom. 

Let pride be born of the Spirit, not of the ego: In principle, we are proud to be Muslims; pride born, not of the ego’s arrogance (kibr), rather of gratitude for God’s guidance: We would not have been guided had God not guided us. [Q.7:43] For we can rightfully be proud if it’s without the ego; if it is godly and not worldly. In practice, it is rare for such pride to be without ego – even when it relates to pride in Islam’s revealed truths. Al-Ghazali once said: ‘How much blood has been spilt to promote the causes of the masters of the law schools!’ So whilst truth and the details of ritual correctness are indeed important, it must not be driven by sectarian pride, nor come at the cost of one’s own salvation: ‘Whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise’ [Muslim, no.147] Hence if you know someone has opposed the Book, Sunnah, or ijma‘, ensure your state is one of gratitude to Allah for your guidance. Or better still, let us pray as Imam Ahmad would pray: ‘O Allah, whosoever from this community is upon other than the truth, believing himself to be upon the truth, return him to the truth, that he may be from the People of the Truth.’

On doing things well and with excellence: The archer intends, not merely to hit the target, but rather to hit the actual bullseye. So in all things, let us heed the Prophet’s words ﷺ: saddidu wa qaribu – that is, ‘aim as well as you can;’ for once the arrow leaves the bow, the outcome is out of our hands. 

On the signs of real knowledge: Truly beneficial knowledge should nurture four traits in a person: piety (taqwa) towards God, humility (tawadu’) towards others, detachment (zuhd) from worldliness, and spiritual striving (mujahadah) against one’s ego.

Footprints on the Sands of Time

578130_339016602866746_654870614_nHere is a collection of musings, reminders and recollections I penned over the course of the last two years. Most can be found on my Facebook page (here), where they were first written. They cover a variety of themes and areas, with no particular structure or arrangement. As for the title of the post, I culled it from a line in a poem written by the American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (d.1882) – widely held to be the best-loved American poet of his age – called A Psalm of Life:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

On true worship: It has been said that the worship of the eye is weeping, the worship of the ear is listening, the worship of the tongue is voicing thanks and praise, the worship of the hand is giving, the worship of the body is striving, the worship of the heart is love, fear and hope, and the worship of the spirit is surrender and satisfaction in God.

On true knowledge: Beneficial knowledge is that which increases us in knowledge of God; acquaints us with the divine commands and prohibitions; leads us to detaching ourselves from the world and becoming desirous of the Hereafter; and brings home to us the flaws and defects in our own actions.

The pains of separation: Every joy has its cost in the loss that must inevitably follow, for nothing survives its hour. Such is the affliction common to man. So, as one hadith says, ‘Live as long as you want, but you will die; love whoever you want, but you will taste [the pain of] separation; and do whatever you want, for you will be recompensed accordingly.’ [Al-Quda‘i, Musnad, no.746]

On our addiction to the lower, material world: “Crack-consumerism” is the substance abuse that we as a nation now collectively partake in.

On a successful marriage: If religion is internalised and becomes a matter of the heart (and not just externally observed), then we become possessed of those qualities which are going to make a successful marriage and will transform someone into a loving and delightful spouse. For marriage requires spiritual virtues like patience, contentment, preferring others over oneself, and forbearance. Such virtues are likely to be far more natural, and hence be present in times of hardships rather than at times of ease or convenience, if one has made some progress in the path of inward purification. Thus one looks for a spouse with some depth of spiritual character.

Seeking beauty in balance: Be well-mannered without ceremony, easy-going without negligence, valiant without conceit, serious-minded without pretension and cheerful without fuss.

On a believer’s core convictions: There are, according to Islam, six “articles of faith” which make-up the core convictions of the faith, and which every believer is required to affirm and maintain belief in: God; angels; revealed books; prophets; afterlife; and divine decree.

When theologians began the enterprise of systemising beliefs and doctrine, these six articles, or “pillars of belief”, were divided into three broad areas: tawhid (affirming the oneness of God), nabuwwah (prophethood) and ma‘ad (belief in resurrection and the afterlife).

Tawhid concerns itself with the nature of God and divinity, and how creation relates to God.

Nabuwwah, or prophethood, explains who the prophets were, their function, and the significance of the divinely-revealed messages they were given.

Ma‘ad, which literally means “return”, deals with the End of Days and what awaits each human being after death.

On the Monoculture’s manufacturing of mass anxiety: Because today’s Monoculture offers Man everything save the essential, it leaves him feeling distracted, bored, empty and lost. Man, amidst all the extraordinary achievements of science and technology, still fails to find the happiness and contentment he so desperately seeks. Those who are gifted with some degree of reflectiveness are growing more and more conscious that human fulfilment will not be found on the material plane alone; that man’s angst and ennui cannot be healed by anything worldly. The Spirit must be nourished and be made to recall and reconnect with the Source of all life and goodness: God. Only then can meaninglessness and despair be driven away. The Qur’an informs us: Indeed, in the remembrance of God do hearts find tranquillity. [Qur’an 13:28]

On true intelligence: The first sign of intelligence is to affirm the Oneness (tawhid) of God. The next sign of intelligence is to fulfil its demands. The next is to be lenient with people in those matters which are not clear-cut sins.

Let lovers invoke: The true lover never forgets to invoke salawat, or blessings of peace (or praise) upon the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Among the many fruits of invoking abundant salawat on him is that it nurtures a loving and a longing for him, and is a connection via which lordly assistance flows profoundly and profusely to the invoker: Allahumma salli ‘ala sayyidina muhammadin wa alihi wa sahbihi wa sallim.

Aim well then entrust the outcomes to God: We are each responsible for controlling our efforts, but not their outcomes. Upon us is to aim well and intend to get as close as possible to the mark. But once the arrow has left the bow, the matter is no longer in our hands.

On living a dignified life: True nobility is to live wisely with oneself, to live patiently with others, and to live in the love of God.

On choosing friends: Not everyone understands the importance of choosing friends wisely. Many people tend to get involved with whosoever is in their space, and quite often those choices can become a huge source of difficulties for them. Many people could significantly improve the quality of their life just by changing who they spend time with. One hadith teaches us: ‘A person follows the way of life of his friend, so be careful who you choose as a friend.’ [Abu Dawud, no.4833]

On degrees and distinctions: Men and women are equal in Islam in terms of all their works of faith to God: Whoever does good works, be they male or female, and is a believer, such will enter the Garden. [Qur’an 4:124] But men have a degree above women because they are bread-winners and spend on women: And women have rights like those of men, in kindness; and men are a degree above them. [Qur’an: 2:228] And: Men are maintainers and protectors of women, because of what [strength] God has given the one more than the other. [Qur’an 4:34]

Husbands and wives are equal in Islam in respect to their spiritual paths to God. But mothers have degrees above fathers because of the burdens of labour they bear: And We have commended man to [be dutiful to] his parents; his mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning was in two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents. To Me is the journey’s end. [Qur’an 31:14] And: O Messenger of God, of all people, who deserves my kindest treatment? He replied: ‘Your mother.’ Who next? ‘Your mother.’ Who next? ‘Your mother’ Who next? ‘Your father.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5971]

On not misreading the signs: The beauty of the night sky, or of the starry heavens, are important signs to the origins and ultimate fulfilment of our soul’s deepest yearning. But if we mistake the signs for what they actually point to – if we mistake the signpost for what is signposted – we shall end up attaching our hopes and longings to lesser things which cannot quench our thirst for meaning.

On Monotheism’s demand for courage and critical thought: Monotheism, no doubt, urges compassion, but it demands courage too. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. For as its vision of the world inspires us to partake in the healing of society’s many wounds, it insists that we be critical iconoclasts too: questioning society’s conventional wisdoms, challenging the secular orthodoxies of the age, speaking truth to power, calling into question whether universal human rights are universal, and interrogating liberalism to find out if it is just an elaborate veneer for a new type of totalitarianism which is unable to accept any true or meaningful diversity and unwilling to accommodate any significant voices of dissent.

On distorting the prophetic guidance: If the Sunnah does not heal us or help us come to terms with life’s ordeals; if it doesn’t bathe us in sakinah, tranquility; if it makes us cold, harsh, hostile, intolerant and vengeful, then we are undoubtedly reading it with the wrong dictionary.

On training the inner eye to see the cup half-full: The affliction that turns you to God is better than the blessing that distracts you from Him. The enemy that brings you to God is better than the friend who cuts you off from Him.

On discarding lopsided methodologies: ‘Aqidah by itself will tie your heart in knots. Fiqh by itself will veil you from understanding. Tasawwuf by itself will pull the wool over your eyes. Combining all three … that is the only sound Islam.

On praying not to be too clingy: Pray not for a life of ease or comfort. Pray instead to be a stronger person: stronger in conviction, perseverance and worldly detachment: O you who believe! What is it with you that when you are asked to go forth in the cause of God you cling heavily to the earth? Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life as compared with the Hereafter. [Qur’an 9:38]

On being enveloped in God’s special love: The affair is not just that we love, but that we be loved: ‘My servant does not draw closer to Me with anything more loved by Me than the obligatory duties I have enjoined on him; and My servant continues to draw closer to Me through the optional deeds until I love him.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.6502]

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