Beauty, Stray Camels, Born to Trust

Issue 856 » August 21, 2015 - Zul-Qadah 6, 1436

Living The Quran

Al-Araf (The Heights) - Chapter 7: Verse 180 (partial)

"The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on Him by them."

The overly restrictive view many Islamic religious scholars and others are inclined to take of music, art, and entertainment needs to be moderated as it is not only unrealistic but also not quite in line with Islam's vision of itself as a comprehensive religion. For Islam pays attention to all aspects of human existence: physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional, and seeks ways and means to fulfill them within the limits of moderation. If physical exercise and movement stimulate the body, if worship nourishes the soul, and knowledge nourishes the intellect, then music, art, and entertainment nourish and moderate emotions. Art and music that elevate but not degrade the spirit bring beauty, which is an important part of Islam. This is because Jameel (beautiful) is one of the Most Beautiful Names (al-asma al-husna) of God—He loves beauty and desires it so that everyone tries to bring it out in oneself and one's outside environment and living conditions.

For beginners, much of the Quran appears to be a catalog of different divine names, which they simply tend to overlook. Yet these are a central theme of Islamic theology and spirituality. Indeed, the very goal of human existence is portrayed in the Quran, in repeated accounts of Adam's creation and his inspired “knowledge of the names,” as the gradual discovery and manifestation of the full range of attributes expressed in the divine names. The school of earthly existence, with its constant presentation of spiritual and ethical choices, culminates in the active realization of what the Quran terms “the Most Beautiful Names”.

Muslim theologians have divided the ninety-nine Names of God into the three categories of Jalal, Kamal, and Jamal (majesty, perfection, and beauty), but it is significant that God Most High has Himself chosen beauty above them all, hence the collective Quranic reference to all of them by the word al-husna (most beautiful). If art is all about beauty and positively contributes to emotional health, then that is what Islam also desires in its followers. Islam's view of beauty, rhythm, and psychologically penetrating language is an integral part of what is known as imitability (ijaz) of the Quran. Quran psalmody (tilawah) in musical rhythm and incantation in human voice by renowned Quran readers, and the rhythmical call to prayer (adhan), penetrate the senses and help establish a closer identity with the Quranic language and message. The modes of chanting the Quran tend to express different rhythmic motions of the spirit.

Islam promotes beauty—and art manifests it in ways that words often fall short of doing. God is the source of beauty, which is why the highest art in Islam, as in Christianity, is related to the Word of God. The writing of the Word of God, that is, calligraphy, and the chanting of it, that is Quranic psalmody, stand at the top of the hierarchy of arts in Islam.

Compiled From:
"The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur'anic Principle of Wasatiyyah" - Hashim Kamali, pp. 181, 182

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Stray Camels

The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) were pioneers of the method of investigating the surrounding conditions of hadiths, and of the reasons that constitute their context. They abandoned acting on the outward sense of certain Hadiths when it was clear to them that these Hadiths were attached to the condition fixed in the era of Prophethood, and subsequently that condition had changed.

An example of that is the Prophet's (peace be upon him) attitude to stray camels. When he was asked about them, he forbade rounding them up, and said to the questioner: "What is it [to do] with you and with them? You can leave them be. For indeed they have their 'shoes' and their 'waterskins'. They will find water, they will eat [from] the shrubs - until their master finds them." [Bukhari, Muslim]

During the time of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq and Umar ibn al-Khattab, the stray camel was left alone in whatever condition it was and, following the command of the Messenger, no one took possession of it - for as long as it was capable of defending itself, and capable of tracking water to drink and shrubs to eat - until its owner found it.

Then came the time of Uthman ibn Affan. Malik narrates in the Muwatta that he heard Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri say: "Uthman ibn Affan ordered the identification of them (stray camels) then selling [of them]. Then when the owner of them came he was given the price [obtained] for them." After Uthman, conditions changed a little. Ali ibn Abi Talib agreed in permitting the rounding up of the camels and keeping them safe for their owners. However, he took the view that at times there might be some harm in selling them and rendering their price to their owners - because the price did not have the same use for the owners as the camels themselves. Later on he held that rounding up of strays and the expenditure on them should be from the public treasure - until such time as their owner came and they would be given back to him.

In what Uthman and Ali did, there is no opposition to the words of the Prophet. Rather, they looked to his purpose, and to how the character of people had changed -not honouring rights had crept into their ways, and some of them were stretching their hands to the forbidden. The strays from the camels and cattle were left to get lost by themselves, and their being abandoned was not a care upon their owners. The Prophet did not intend this at all when he forbade rounding them up. Rather, it was to avert this particular harm.

Compiled From:
"Approaching the Sunnah" - Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pp. 130-132


Born to Trust

Trust brings out the best in people and literally changes the dynamics of interaction. While it is true that a few abuse this trust, the vast, vast majority of people do not abuse it, but respond amazingly well to it. And when they do, they are inspired. They run with the trust they were extended. They want to live up to it. They want to give back.

No matter who we are, we have countless opportunities to extend and inspire trust in others. And in so doing, we make an amazing difference—not only in their individual lives, but also in the lives of all who are touched by what they do.

We also make a huge difference in our own lives. Trust is reciprocal—in other words, the more you trust others, the more you, yourself, are trusted in return.

We were born with a propensity to trust. As children, most of us were naive, innocent, vulnerable, and gullible. Through, life experience, many of us have become less trusting—sometimes with good reason.

But, whatever our situation, the reality is that we can choose to retain or restore our propensity to trust. The key is in our ability to forgive, and also in our ability to balance our propensity to trust with analysis, giving us the judgement to extend the smart trust that maximizes the dividends and minimizes the risk.

Compiled From:
"The Speed of Trust" - Stephen M. R. Covey, pp. 319-321