Major Appointments, Born Into Bounties, Exercising Judgment

Issue 521 » March 20, 2009 - Rabi Al-Awwal 23, 1430

Living The Quran

Al-Anam (The Cattle)
Chapter 6: Verse 2

Two Major Appointments
"He created you out of clay and decreed a fixed term in this world and another one known only to Him. Yet you are still in doubt."

Every human being has two major appointments to keep, one sooner than the other. Following a limited span of life, man dies. The second appointment comes with the Resurrection.

The frequent references to the Day of Resurrection in the Quran are not meant, as understood by some ignorant people, as a threat to human civilization or to thwart human progress. Rather, they are aimed at breaking man's false pride and egotistic ambitions.

The need to remind humans of the Day of Judgment never ceases to exist. Such admonition helps control man's desires and moderate his arrogance. The normal human being, with enough common sense, and with a certain belief in the Resurrection, would never forfeit a life of eternal bliss or opt for short-term enjoyment in exchange for the rich rewards of the hereafter!

Compiled From:
"Thematic Commentary on the Quran" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, pp. 623, 624

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Born Into Bounties

Free time is among the important bounties that Allah gives to mankind. It is during a person's free time that he can truly dedicate himself to studying, memorizing the Quran, helping the poor and all sorts of good deeds. The proper use of one's free time is a very important means of gaining Allah's pleasure in the Hereafter.

Unfortunately, much of modern civilization is dedicated to entertainment, enjoyment, pleasure and sensual gratification, as can be seen by the dominance and place of movies, sports, music, art, alcohol and so forth. A Muslim must be careful not to allow this civilization, with all of its supposed fun and glitter, to affect him negatively and allow him to waste his precious time. It is very easy, for example, for one hour of benefit-less television watching to turn into two hours, then three hours and so forth. It is very easy to be taken by the things of this world and to spend all of one's time enjoying and seeking the goods of this world. One should keep in mind the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

"The worst of my Nation are those who are born into bounties and nurtured in them. Their most important concern is the types of food and the types of clothing, while they are boastful in speech."
[Ibn Al-Mubaarak in al-Zuhd]

Compiled From:
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, p. 1555, 1556


Exercising Judgment

That an act of physical purification can help the seeker along the path of spiritual purification is a lesson contained in the conversion story of Umar ib al-Khattab. Initially one of the staunchest enemies of Islam among the Meccans, Umar was enraged when he discovered that his sister Fatima had become a Muslim. After a violent argument with her, Umar asked to see the parchment from which she was reading a passage of the Quran. Fatima replied, "My brother, you are impure in your polytheism and only the purified may touch it." After Umar rose and washed himself, his sister gave him the page on which was written Sura Ta Ha (20). Reading the words, Umar declared, "How fine and noble is this speech!" Then Umar went to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and declared his conversion to Islam.

One notable aspect of this story is that Fatima exercised her judgment in what is often reduced by many Muslims to a simple Islamic legal issue, viz., whether it is permissible to touch the mushaf - or a portion of it - without having performed ritual purification. In strict legal terms, it is impossible for a non-Muslim to complete ritual purification, since a condition of this act of worship, like all other acts of worship, is that one forms the explicit intention (niyya) to perform this act in Obedience to God in accordance with the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad. If no other relevant factors are taken into account, the logical conclusion is that no non-Muslim should be permitted to handle the mushaf. However, sound Islamic legal reasoning entails consideration of many factors involved in a case - including assessment of the harms and benefits (al-darr wa'l-nafa), the common good (al-maslaha al-'amma), and the broad goals of the Law (al-maqasid).

Thus, through the centuries, Muslim scholars, like this early Muslim woman Fatima, exercised their judgment in determining when and how it might be permissible to give or sell a mushaf to a non-Muslim. At the same time, it is probably accurate to say that the strictly legal requirement of purity for touching the mushaf is less of an issue to most Muslims than the concern that the mushaf will be treated in a disrespectful fashion. It is this same concern that led many scholars to discourage or forbid young children from handling the mushaf, since their inability to truly understand the sacrality of the text could lead them to handle it inappropriately.

Compiled From:
"The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, p. 155, 156