Bounds of God, Evil Whisperings, Doubt and Dissent

Issue 823 » January 2, 2015 - Rabi Al-Awwal 11, 1436

Living The Quran

Bounds of God
Al-Talaq (The Divorce) - Chapter 65: Verse 1 (partial)

"These are the bounds of God, and whoso transgresses the bounds of God has wronged himself."

In the Quran, the rules of human conduct in society as established by God and imposed upon men, are called 'the bounds of God' (hudud Allah.)

God's Will is unfathomably deep, and it is not for the human mind to probe it to its depths and to understand how and why it works as it does. So it comes about very frequently that the reason for a particular 'bound' remains an unsolvable mystery to men. A 'bound' is there simply because God has so decreed. Such is, for instance, the case with the Forbidden Tree in the Garden (Quran 2: 35).

There are, however, many cases in which the setting of a 'bound' is understandable in terms of the social welfare; this occurs when the particular 'bound' is clearly calculated to produce some direct benefit to the life of people in a community. Thus God decrees in the Quran that there should be no usury, and He designates usury by the name of zulm (wrongdoing, oppression). The rules concerning divorce, which the above verse refers to, may be taken as another example.

Compiled From:
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 167, 168

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Evil Whisperings

The Prophet (peace be upon him) often prayed for protection from Satan and his evil promptings: "O God, I seek refuge in You from Satan the accursed, from his promptings, inspirations." [Muslim]

One of the signs of the End of Time is that the minds of people will become full of whisperings. People today are constantly fed messages that ask them to do something, whether to buy a product or revel in the beat of a song or agree to its message. Music, television, Internet, cellular phones (with Internet access), and films are so ubiquitous, one has to forcibly alienate one's self from popular culture to find solace.

Evil whisperings and suggestions can come in a variety of forms, visual and audible. They go to the heart, especially when people are not circumspect as to what they permit into their souls. Over time suggestions build up to the point one can no longer discern what is real or a fraud, what is beneficial or ruinous. Hearts are destroyed this way. Seemingly innocent facets of our lives can exhaust a person's time with trivial matters. The whole culture of sports enthusiasm can lead to an incredible loss of time by passively watching the competition. When one wastes time, the heart becomes complacent and lazy.

Once we realize that we are accountable for our entire life, then every minute becomes vital. Time is a gift God has given us. And what we do with it is the most important challenge that faces us. This is not to suggest that recreation is at odds with iman. People who fail to take some form of recreation will impair both their physical and mental health. But the warning here is about something different: it is about the way things are today, in which millions of people live to be entertained, as if this is the purpose of their lives. People who are serious about their spiritual health (about being a successful human being) need to wean themselves from the culture of fun.

Compiled From:
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 173, 174


Doubt and Dissent

A critical task of leadership is to protect space for the expression of people's doubts. The act of surfacing doubts and dissent does not deflect the communal intention to create something new. What is critical, and hard to live with, is that leaders do not have to respond to each person's doubts. None of us do. Authentic dissent is complete simply in its expression. When we think we have to answer people's doubts and defend ourselves, then the space of dissent closes down. When people have doubts, and we attempt to answer them, we are colluding with their reluctance to be accountable for their own future. All we have to do with the doubts of others is get interested in them. We do not have to take them on or let them resonate with our own doubts. We just get interested.

One place where this is least understood is in the relationship between police and citizens. Few civil servants put themselves at such risk or are more vulnerable than the police. No civil servants are literally more physically present in a community than police. Police are constantly in community conversations talking about public safety.

Police get into a problem when they think they are responsible for public safety. They are not. Citizens are responsible for public safety; citizens commit crimes, prevent crimes, and create conditions where crime is high or low. As long as police take responsibility for safety, they are going to stay in a defensive stance, which moves nothing forward. Police are responsible for enforcing the law, apprehending the criminals, and mediating or stopping violence. Police are not suppliers of safety to a passive citizenry. Safety is not a product purchased from the police. When citizens want to place responsibility for safety on the police, and police defend themselves, they collude with citizen unwillingness to claim their sidewalks and community as their own.

Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves. Listening, understanding at a deeper level than is being expressed, is the action that creates a restorative community. This does not mean that police, in this case, do not need to change or be involved in later problem solving; of course they do, as do the rest of us. It does mean that instead of answering every question, defending their actions, they can ask questions to find out more about the concerns, doubts, and even the lives of citizens.

Compiled From:
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp.131, 132