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Today's Reminder

February 29, 2024 | Shaʻban 19, 1445

Living The Quran

Caprice
Al-Jathiyah (Kneeling Down) Sura 45: Verse 23 (partial)

"Hast thou considered one who takes his caprice as his god, God having led him astray knowingly, and sealed his hearing and his heart and placed a cover upon his sight?"

The caprice that people are said to take as their god is defined as the inclination of the soul to passion and lust (shahwah). The verb from which caprice derives, hawa/yahwi, means both "to blow" and "to fall or tumble," and when combined with the preposition bi means "to overthrow." Caprice can thus be said to be something that blows the soul one way and another and overthrows the soul through the calamities of this world, making it tumble into an abyss in the Hereafter. The word hawa, meaning vacant, from the same root, is also used to describe the vacuity of the hearts of disbelievers on the Day of Judgment. In this vein, the Prophet is reported to have said, "The intelligent person is one who takes his soul to account and works for that which follows death. The inept person is one who allows his soul to follow his caprice, yet hopes for God" (Ahmad ibn Ajibah). References to God's misleading or causing to go astray can be understood in light of 2: 26, And He misleads none but the iniquitous, to mean that going astray is a result of one's own iniquities and not the outcome of arbitrary predestination. Those who are led astray are thus those whose hearts, according to several verses, are "veiled," "covered," or "sealed" so as to prevent spiritual comprehension.

Compiled From:
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

From Issue: 969 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Cleansing the Hearts of Tarnish

Bayhaqi cited a hadith on the authority of Abd Allah ibn Umar, quoted directly from the Prophet, peace be upon him, where he says, 'Everything has its polish, and the polish of hearts is the remembrance of Almighty God. And there's nothing that better delivers from God's punishment than His remembrance.' And when they asked, 'Not even combat [jihad] for his sake?' he answered, 'Not even if someone smites with his sword until it breaks in two.'

Doubtless, a heart grows tarnished like brass or silver, and its polish is by remembrance, which may make it shine like a crystal mirror. So when one neglects the remembrance it tarnishes, and when he returns it shines. Since the heart is tarnished by two things - heedlessness and sin - it is polished by two things: remembrance and asking forgiveness.

Compiled From:
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 46, 47

From Issue: 547 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Humans

Humanism and humanity are both derived from the word man and have a higher moral connotation. This double meaning of ideas connected to man's name is a result of man's double nature, one of them originating from the earth and the other from heaven. The materialists always directed our attention to the external aspects of things. "The hand is not only an organ of work," writes Engels, "but also a product of it. Only through work ... the human hand attained that high degree of perfection in which it could produce Raffaello's paintings, Thorvaldsen's statues and Paganini's music."

What Engels is talking about is the continuation of biological and not spiritual development. Painting, however, is a spiritual, not a technical act. Raphael created his paintings not with his hands but with his spirit. Beethoven wrote his best compositions when he was already deaf. Biological development alone, even if stretched out indefinitely, could never have given us Raphael's paintings nor even the crude prehistoric cave pictures. Here we are faced with two separate aspects of man's existence.

A human being is not the sum of his different biological functions, just like a painting cannot be reduced to the quantity of the paint used or a poem to its syntax. It is true that a mosque is built from a given number of stone blocks of definite form and in definite order, from a certain quantity of mortar, wooden beams, and so forth: however, this is not the whole truth about the mosque. After all, there is a difference between a mosque and military barracks. It is possible to write a perfect grammatical and linguistic analysis of a poem by Goethe without coming anywhere near its essence. The same goes for the difference between a dictionary and a poem in the same language. A dictionary is exact but has no plot; a poem has a meaning and an unattainable essence. Fossils, morphology, and psychology describe only man's external, mechanical, and meaning-less side. Man is like a painting, a mosque, or a poem rather than the quantity or quality of the material of which he is made. Man is more than all the sciences together can say about him.

Compiled From:
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, pp. 8, 9

From Issue: 902 [Read original issue]