December 05, 2019 | Rabiʻ II 7, 1441
Harvest of Taqwa
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 185 (partial)
This blessed month was selected for fasting, we are told, for it was in this month that the revelation of the Quran, the book of guidance for humankind, began. It not only guides to the straight path and directs human reason but it also contains clear, strong and conclusive arguments that distinguish truth from falsehood — arguments and proofs that are valid and true for all time and place.
The Quran is not merely a collection of instructions — what to do and what to avoid — but is an inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and truth. As such it is more than enough for the guidance of human reason till the Last Hour. This great blessing deserves special thanksgiving on our part. For this act, Allah chose the month in which the Quran was revealed as the month of fasting. In this month we express our gratitude for the Quran, strive to overcome our desires, caprices and base temptations and seek closeness to Him. In this month we are to declare in words and actions, openly and secretly, that for us there is nothing greater or more important in this world than the commandment of our Sustainer and its fulfilment.
We can, upon reflection, easily understand that human reason is the greatest single gift of Allah to human beings. But the Quran is even a greater blessing than human reason, for it is through it alone that human reason can receive right guidance. Without its light, human reason despite all the scientific gadgets, telescopes and microscopes at its disposal, can only grope in the dark. It is only fitting and proper therefore that the month in which humankind received this special gift and blessing should be celebrated as a special month of thanksgiving to Allah, for extolling His greatness and glory for all times to come. For this thanksgiving and glorification of Allah, fasting is prescribed to foster in the human being the quality of taqwa — piety or God-consciousness — on which rests the entire fabric of din and Shariah. The Quran describes this taqwa as the primary condition for benefiting from it. The people who will truly benefit from it are those who are endowed with the true quality of taqwa or piety. Fasting is the special worship that encourages, produces and infuses the spirit of taqwa. The Quran is a message of hope and light and the month of Ramadan is the season in which the rich harvest of taqwa, the harvest of God-consciousness and piety, is reaped.
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah " - Amin Ahsan Islahi
From Issue: 999 [Read original issue]
Remembrance gives to the one who practices invocation such strength that he is able to do what he does not have the strength to do without it.
Ibn Taymiyya narrated, 'When the angels were commanded to bear the Throne [of God], they said: "Our Lord, how can we bear Your Throne when upon it is Your greatness and might?" He said, "Say: lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh (There is neither power nor strength save in God.)" Upon pronouncing this, they carried the Throne.'
These words have the striking effect of helping one to accomplish difficult work, bear fatigue, visit kings and endure fear or dreadful experience. They also have the striking effect of warding off poverty. For according to a hadith related by Ibn Abi l-Dunya, the Messenger of God said, 'For whoever says "There is neither strength nor power save in God" one hundred times, no day shall be afflicted by poverty.'
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 99, 100
From Issue: 567 [Read original issue]
The Pleasure of the Heart
"Verily, pleasure and felicity for the son of Adam lie in knowing Allah, glorified and exalted is He. Know that the felicity of everything, its pleasure and its comfort, is according to its nature, and the nature of everything is that which it was created for. Hence the pleasure of the eye is in beautiful forms, and the pleasure of the ear is in wholesome sounds, and so are the pleasures of the rest of the limbs according to this quality. And the exclusive pleasure of the heart is knowing Allah, glorified and exalted is He, for it is created for that." - Imam Ghazali
Philosophers and theologians differed for millennia over the meaning of felicity, and they came up with interesting definitions, from being the ultimate purpose in life for Aristotle to the modern American pursuit of happiness, where it is measured against material tangible gains. Sometimes happiness is used loosely to indicate that one is having fun or a good time. This is reductionist at best!
In general, associating happiness with pleasure, wealth and status is wrong. While one does need real things to survive, they cannot be the criterion of happiness. It is even worse when happiness is constructed as organically rooted in consumerism. This leads people to continuously buy and consume things in order to be happy, and this has its own toll on the human psyche. It may even become a source of misery.
Here, Imam al-Ghazali provides an interesting narrative about pleasure and happiness, where each organ finds its own 'happiness' in a life that fits its nature. The eye finds pleasure in beautiful forms and the ear in beautiful sounds. As for the heart, its source of happiness is knowing Allah. Elsewhere in the Ihya, al-Ghazali stated that the heart has only been created to know Allah. This knowledge necessitates an intimate knowledge of the Quran, Allah's message to humanity at large.
It follows that there is no happiness without knowing Allah. It does not matter whom and what you know apart from Allah. One may know the names of football players or actors or musicians, as is the case with many people today, but ultimately this knowledge does not help in the godly pursuit of happiness. Many of these stars lead unhappy lives that are the epitome of misery: gambling, drug addiction, alcoholism and, sadly, suicide. In the Greek and modern western worldviews, happiness is here and now. In Islam, happiness encompasses two realms, life on earth and in the Hereafter. The real happy and felicitous person is the one who makes it to Paradise.
"A Treasury of Ghazali" - Mustafa Abu Sway
From Issue: 1021 [Read original issue]