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Today's Reminder

September 26, 2020 | Safar 8, 1442

Living The Quran

Shadows
Al-Furqan (The Criterion) - Chapter 25 : Verse 45

"Have you not seen how your Lord does cause the shadow to stretch [towards the sunset], while had He willed, He could have made it stand still! We have made it connected with the sun in indication."

We become so used to the various natural phenomena that we do not appreciate the marvellous intactness of the universal laws and the order behind them, the coordination of these natural phenomena and laws in their correlation, and the human benefits of any phenomenon. The occurrence of the shadow, with its different lengths during the day, is a daily phenomenon connected with the sun. Thus the sun and the shadow each becomes an indicator of the other. In a hot land, like Arabia, the shade is of great benefit for the human being. Its change of length according to what appears to be the movement of the sun on the horizon, but which is really a result of the rotation of the earth around itself in front of the sun, is part of the cosmic dynamism. In the past, people tried to know the passing of time during the day by measuring the shadow of any particular object, and the times of noon and afternoon prayers were appointed in this way. The sundial was brought out to show the time of day by the shadow of a gnomon a pointer on a surface, usually horizontal. The position or length of the shadow of this object on the surface would serve as an indicator of the time especially the hour of the day. The change of the length of the shadows also calls to mind the succession of day and night, and how the human beings benefit from both.

Even after all modern scientific discoveries changes in the length of the shadow points to the wonderful plan of creation, and the Omnipotent Planner behind it.

Compiled From:
"Concepts of the Quran" - Fathi Osman, pp. 38, 39

From Issue: 737 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Hell's Fodder

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a group of women when he addressed them. The Prophet proclaimed, "O women! Increase your prayers, and then give more alms for I have seen that women are the majority of the inhabitants of Hell." A wise woman asked, "Why are we [women] the majority of the inhabitants of Hell, O Prophet of God?" The Prophet responded, "Because you frequently slander and curse, and you are ungrateful to your companions. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intellect and religion, who is able to prevail (mislead) the wise, than you." So, they (the women) asked, "And, what is [our] deficiency in intellect and religion?" The Prophet said, "[Your] deficiency in intellect is in the fact that the testimony of a man is worth [the testimony] of two women, and your deficiency in religion is that you spend days without fasting or praying (because of the menstrual cycle)." [Muslim]

This hadith arise from singular transmission, and reflect troubled social context. For instance, a careful reading of this deficient intellect and religion tradition would leave one with the distinct suspicion that this report had been redacted and constructed in stages, probably in response to socio-political dynamics. The first part of the tradition consists of a clear and unambiguous blanket condemnation of women. Interestingly, however, the second part of the tradition attempts to neutralize or rehabilitate the first - the deficiency is not substantive; it is merely technical. It is the law that creates this deficiency - the deficiency is born out of legal technicalities, and not out of anything inherent to womanhood. But if that is true and women are not morally responsible for the technicalities that the law imposes on them, why are they going to make up most of Hell's fodder?

The incongruence between the first part and the second part of the tradition have led some commentators to adopt the rather implausible position that the Prophet was teasing or joking with the women present in the incident, and that the expression "deficient in intellect and religion" was intended as a pun. [Ibn Hajar, Ibn Qayyim] The attempts to rehabilitate the first part with a redacted second part, or to orient the tradition into a narrow technicality, or perhaps make it all a joke, point to the fact that the authorial enterprise behind this report, and the others, was complex and multi-layered.

It is likely that the new ideological revolution in Arabia, caused by the Islamic message, energized various segments and factions in society who explored and bargained for new positions, roles, and functions. As often happens in situations of rapid or revolutionary change, social structures, mores, and bonds are reconstructed and redrawn pursuant to a dynamic negotiative process. Various segments try to reposition and redefine themselves according to the newly emerging set of affiliations and symbolisms. There is no reason to believe that women, or various sub-groups of women, were an exception to this dynamic.

After the Prophet died, energized by the sweeping social changes taking place, women played a major role in attempting to define and construct the Islamic tradition. Therefore, we find that roughly a third of the early transmissions or legal opinions are by women or attributed to women. We also observe Aisha's venture into the world of politics and armed rebellion, both during the reign of Uthman and Ali, and the indisputable shock waves this had created in early Islamic society.

It is reasonable to think that this legacy was bound to generate opposition, and that the opposition would take the form of traditions warning against a public role for women and speaking of crooked ribs, prostrating to husbands, bad omens, and deficient intellects. These traditions and their counter-traditions are indicative of the vibrant negotiative process that took place in early Islam - a process that most certainly included the re-definition of gender relations.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl

From Issue: 1026 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Distress

At the core of all harmful emotional symptoms lies distress or anxiety, al-gham. It is like the root with the rest, its branches. It is the starting point of all symptoms and their augmenter. For example, before he experiences rage and anger, a person first feels anxiety and distress concerning the situation that triggers the anger. Similarly, it is distress or anxiety over a fearful situation that precedes the symptom of fear and terror.

The opposite state of this distress is happiness and joyfulness which is also the root cause of all the positive emotional states that a person experiences such as tranquility, pleasure and delight. Thus anxiety, distress and happiness are the opposite poles of the root causes of all pleasing and tormenting symptoms. Therefore distress and anxiety are the most powerful causes of the psychological illness of the soul and joy and happiness are the main basis of its health. Thus, if one is keen concerning the sustenance of one's soul, then one should do one's best to shield it from distress and to lead it to joyfulness in the same manner that one who is keen with regards to his physical health will avoid those things that would lead to disease and take those that would enhance one's health.

Compiled From:
"Abu Zayd al-Balkhi's Sustenance of the Soul: the Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician " - Malik Badri, pp. 35, 36

From Issue: 974 [Read original issue]