Today's Reminder

May 22, 2024 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 14, 1445

Living The Quran

Swelling Foam
Al-Rad (The Thunder) Sura 13: Verse 17

"He sends down water from the sky, so that riverbeds flow according to their measure, and the torrent bears a swelling foam. Likewise, from what people smelt in the fire to make ornaments or utensils rises similar foam. Thus does God illustrate truth and falsehood. The scum is cast away, while that which is of benefit to mankind abides on earth. Thus does God set forth His parables."

The pouring down of water from the sky to make riverbeds flow and swell testifies to the great power of God, the Almighty. The fact that each river flows according to a measure that fits its capacity and needs also testifies to God's elaborate planning that includes everything God creates. That is one of the main themes of the surah. However, this is only a framework for the parable God sets for people, drawn from their practical environment which they see at all times, but rarely contemplate.

When water pours from the sky causing the riverbeds to flow, it gathers along the way a swelling foam that floats on the surface as scum which at times is so thick that it forms a screen covering the water. This foam continues to rise and swell, but it is no more than scum. The water flows underneath, tranquil and peaceful, but it is the water that brings life and benefit. The same is seen with metals that are melted in order to make jewellery, as with gold and silver, or to make useful tools or utensils, as with iron or lead. The scum may float on top covering the metal itself, but it is merely scum that brings no benefit to anyone. It soon disappears to leave the pure and useful metal in place.

This is what truth and falsehood are like in this life. Falsehood may rise and swell so as to look in full control, but it is no more than foam or scum. It is soon ignored or cast away as it has no substance. The truth remains quiet and tranquil, to the extent that some people may think that it has disappeared, or died or has been lost, but it is the one which stays firm, like the water bringing life, or the pure metal that is full of benefit. And thus God determines the eventual outcome of beliefs, advocacy efforts, actions and verbal statements. He is the One who has power over all things, and who determines what happens in the universe and the destiny of all life. He knows what is apparent and what is hidden, truth and falsehood, what remains firm and what vanishes without trace.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 10, p. 145

From Issue: 971 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Trading with Allah

"And everyone goes out in the morning and sells himself, either freeing or destroying himself." [Muslim]

Every day humans are faced with new situations. Every morning we get up to do something. Every day we are either going to obey Allah or we are going to disobey Allah. In essence, every day we are going to be setting ourselves free from the Hell-fire or leading ourselves to the Hell-fire and our own destruction. Even those who sit and seemingly do absolutely nothing are, in reality, actually leading themselves to some result.

The one who is successful is the one who sells himself to Allah or buys his freedom from Allah. Trading with Satan on the other hand can never bring about anything beneficial because, in reality, he has nothing to offer. All he can offer are delusions and promises that end up to be punishment in the Hereafter.

People sell themselves for money, power, lusts and so forth. Many times, they are willing to give up on their dignity for these things. In reality, they are simply selling themselves in exchange for the Hell-fire.

“Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi” - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, p. 894-897

From Issue: 483 [Read original issue]


Doubt and Dissent

A critical task of leadership is to protect space for the expression of people's doubts. The act of surfacing doubts and dissent does not deflect the communal intention to create something new. What is critical, and hard to live with, is that leaders do not have to respond to each person's doubts. None of us do. Authentic dissent is complete simply in its expression. When we think we have to answer people's doubts and defend ourselves, then the space of dissent closes down. When people have doubts, and we attempt to answer them, we are colluding with their reluctance to be accountable for their own future. All we have to do with the doubts of others is get interested in them. We do not have to take them on or let them resonate with our own doubts. We just get interested.

One place where this is least understood is in the relationship between police and citizens. Few civil servants put themselves at such risk or are more vulnerable than the police. No civil servants are literally more physically present in a community than police. Police are constantly in community conversations talking about public safety.

Police get into a problem when they think they are responsible for public safety. They are not. Citizens are responsible for public safety; citizens commit crimes, prevent crimes, and create conditions where crime is high or low. As long as police take responsibility for safety, they are going to stay in a defensive stance, which moves nothing forward. Police are responsible for enforcing the law, apprehending the criminals, and mediating or stopping violence. Police are not suppliers of safety to a passive citizenry. Safety is not a product purchased from the police. When citizens want to place responsibility for safety on the police, and police defend themselves, they collude with citizen unwillingness to claim their sidewalks and community as their own.

Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves. Listening, understanding at a deeper level than is being expressed, is the action that creates a restorative community. This does not mean that police, in this case, do not need to change or be involved in later problem solving; of course they do, as do the rest of us. It does mean that instead of answering every question, defending their actions, they can ask questions to find out more about the concerns, doubts, and even the lives of citizens.

Compiled From:
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp.131, 132

From Issue: 823 [Read original issue]