Terrible Predicament, Firm Request, Procrastination
Issue 1000 » May 25, 2018 - Ramadan 10, 1439
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verses 190-193
"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression: God loves not the aggressors. Slay them wherever you may come upon them, and expel them from where they had expelled you; for oppression (persecution) is worse than slaughter; but fight them not near the Sacred Mosque, unless they fight you therein; but if they fight you therein, slay them. Such is the reward of unbelievers. But if they desist, then God is All-forgiving, Compassionate to each. Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for God. But if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, except against those who wilfully do wrong."
In this passage, the Quran is speaking to ordinary flawed human beings in a terrible predicament. It is a predicament that humanity has been all too capable of recreating down through history, so the specifics directed to one time and place have relevance far beyond the particular circumstances. In these circumstances the Quran does not expect people to be perfect and follow a counsel of perfection; and yet, simultaneously, it raises their souls and minds to the path of perfectability. It limits the permission to resist, while giving guidance on how to strive to do better, how to limit the damage human beings can cause to themselves, other people and the world in which they live. It offers limits and restraints that lead towards bettering the human condition; it points to ways of learning how to make peace. The Quran is consistent in being a manual for reform, not a one-off leap to the ideal, but a process, an ongoing task, an effort that must continually be made by mind and soul, a course to be returned to time and time again.
Let us start by looking at the context in which these verses were revealed. The tiny Muslim community, numbering no more than a few hundred people, is under siege. There is open hostility between Muslims and various Arabian tribes, particularly the Quraysh of Mecca. Having failed to suppress Islam in Mecca, and knowing that Muslims have found refuge in Medina and are gaining strength, the Quraysh have taken up the sword to annihilate the Muslims once and for all.
So what options do the Muslims have? In these ultimate circumstances, permission is given to the Muslim community, who up to this point had refrained from fighting, to fight in self-defence. The verses were revealed in situ when hostilities were in progress and the very survival of the Muslims as a community was at stake.
And yet, in these circumstances, Muslims are told not to 'transgress limits'—by which is meant commit atrocities, kill women, children or non-combatants, or burn down property or destroy cattle and fields, or respond disproportionately to aggression—for transgression could lead to self-destruction. And if the enemy ceases fighting, Muslims must lay down their arms; only hostility is to be met with hostility. Thus, the fight is resistance not to exterminate the enemy but only to persuade them to cease hostilities.
Oppression, persecution, we are told, are worse than 'slaughter'. As history shows, oppression can lead to unspeakable atrocities, the ongoing denigration and humiliation of human dignity by denying people their freedom and right to flourish and prosper. Oppression and persecution demean both the oppressor and the oppressed. They fuel continual hatreds and generate new conflicts by denying the rightful liberties and opportunities to thrive that should be enjoyed by all people. They are the living death of the spirit inflicted on the innocent. It was to prevent just such an occurrence that the Quran permits the Muslims of Medina to stand up and fight against the oppressors of Mecca who are torturing and abusing those Muslims who did not migrate from the city with the Prophet, as they abused and preyed upon Muslims before the migration.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, p. 135 - 138
According to the Traditions, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in regard to supplication, "Whenever anyone of you invokes God for something, be firm in asking. You should not say, 'If You wish, give me...' for none can compel God to do something against His Will" (Bukhari, vol. 9, hadith no. 556).
He also said in another Tradition, "None of you should say, 'O God! Forgive me if You wish,' or 'Bestow Your Mercy upon me, if You wish,' or 'Provide me with means of subsistence if You wish,' but you should be firm in your request for God does what He will and nobody can force Him (to do anything)" (Bukhari, vol. 9, hadith no. 569).
Ramadan: Motivating Believers To Action, "Remembrance of God" - Munir Abu Salman
"Postponing good deeds until you have free time is an indication of an immature soul." - Ibn Ataillah
Sometimes we postpone the good that we have the intention to do and say: I will do that tomorrow, next week, next month, or next Ramadan. I will do that when I get married, when I get a promotion, when the children grow older, or when the weather gets better! Ibn Ata describes this attitude as an indication of an "immature soul."
In fact, doing good deeds is not a matter of having time. It is a matter of priorities. One leaves home every morning for a specific number of hours, and achieves a certain number of tasks every day. People normally do what is most important first, then what is less important, and so on.
The consideration of priorities, however, should not be an excuse to always postpone good work in the way of God. Procrastination is unacceptable and is eventually regrettable. Every believer should seize time and make the best out of the time he has in this life.
And there is enough time to do almost everything one wishes to do. God will bless our time and work if we seize time and organise it. Time management is not only important for organising worldly affairs, but also for managing affairs with God. If you are in the habit of reciting a portion of the Quran or some dhikr (remembrance of God) every morning, and you have to leave early to work one day, seize the time while riding in the car, or while on the bus, or train, to recite the Quran, listen to it, or to simply reflect and mention God.
"A Journey to God: Reflections on the Hikam of Ibn Ataillah" - Jasser Auda