November 17, 2019 | RabiÊ» I 19, 1441
Al Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 154
There is of course the physical suffering in martyrdom, and all sorrow and suffering claim our sympathy, the dearest, purest, most outflowing sympathy that we can give. But there is a greater suffering than physical suffering. That is when a valiant soul seems to stand against the world; when the noblest motives are reviled and mocked; when truth seems to suffer an eclipse. It may even seem that the martyr has but to say a word of compliance, do a little deed of non-resistance; and much sorrow and suffering would be saved; and the insidious whisper comes: "Truth after all can never die." That is perfectly true. Abstract truth can never die. It is independent of man's cognition. But the whole battle is for man's keeping hold of truth and righteousness. And that can only be done by the highest examples of man's conduct – spiritual striving and suffering enduring firmness of faith and purpose, patience and courage where ordinary mortals would give in or be cowed down, the sacrifice of ordinary motives to supreme truth in scorn of consequence. The martyr bears witness, and the witness redeems what would otherwise be called failure. It so happened with Husain on the 10th of Muharram, may Allah be pleased with him. For all were touched by the story of his martyrdom, and it gave the deathblow to the politics of Damascus and all it stood for.
All human history shows that the human spirit strives in many directions, deriving strength and sustenance from many sources. Our bodies, our physical powers, have developed or evolved from earlier forms, after many struggles and defeats. Our intellect has had its martyrs, and our great explorers have often gone forth with the martyrs' spirit. All honour to them. But the highest honour must still lie with the great explorers of spiritual territory, those who faced fearful odds and refused to surrender to evil. Rather than allow a stigma to attach to sacred things, they paid with their own lives the penalty of resistance.
The word 'death' as well as its general concept has a depressing effect. People have therefore been instructed not to refer to martyrs who laid down their lives for God as 'dead', since this might lead to the overindulgance of the spirit which enables people to struggle and make sacrifices in God's cause. Instead, people have been instructed to bear in mind that anyone who lay down his or her life for God has in fact attained immortality. As well as being a statement of fact this also helps to arouse and sustain courage.
From Issue: 661 [Read original issue]
Abu Dawud and Nasai both related from Anas [ibn Malik] that he was sitting with the Prophet, peace be upon him, when a man, after offering his prayers, said in supplication: 'O God, verily, I ask You because Yours is all praise. There is no deity but You, the One who sends blessings, the Originator of the heavens and the earth. O You who are endowed with might and generosity. You who are the Living, the Vigilant.' The Prophet remarked, '[This man] has supplicated God through His supreme name: when God is called upon by it, He answers; when asked for something through it, He gives [what is asked].'
In this way, the Prophet is telling us that a supplication is answered when it is preceded by praise and remembrance, that this praise and remembrance are the Supreme name of God and that this is the most effective way for the servant to ask for his needs.
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, p. 121
From Issue: 729 [Read original issue]
The Meaning of Citizenship
The conventional definition of citizenship is concerned with the act of voting and taking a vow to uphold the constitution and laws of a country. This is narrow and limiting. Too many organizations that are committed to sustaining democracy in the world and at home have this constrained view of citizenship. Citizenship is not about voting, or even about having a vote.
The idea of what it means to be a citizen is too important and needs to be taken back to its more profound value. Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care. A citizen is one who is willing to do the following:
- Hold oneself accountable for the well-being of the larger collective of which we are a part.
- Choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others.
- Enter into a collective possibility that gives hospitable and restorative community its own sense of being.
- Acknowledge that community grows out of the possibility of citizens. Community is built not by specialized expertise, or great leadership, or improved services; it is built by great citizens.
- Attend to the gifts and capacities of all others, and act to bring the gifts of those on the margin into the centre.
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 64-65
From Issue: 487 [Read original issue]