Custodian of Souls, Service to Other, Human Solution

Issue 900 » June 24, 2016 - Ramadan 19, 1437

Living The Quran

Custodian of Souls
Al-Sajdah (The Prostration) - Chapter 32: Verse 11

Tell them: "The angel of death who has been charged with your souls shall gather you, and then you shall be brought back to your Lord."

The Quran tells the unbelievers that the true essence of their existence will not be lost in the earth. When the appointed time comes, the angel of death will seize a person's essence in its fullness, allowing no part of it to be lost. The whole of it will be taken by the angel of death and he will subsequently place it before his Lord.

This verse throws light on a number of truths that merit serious consideration:

i. The verse clarifies that death is not a mechanical process; it is not like a watch that automatically comes to a standstill because its machine needs rewinding. On the contrary, God has appointed a special angel who seizes every person's soul at an appointed time in the manner an official takes something into his custody on behalf of the state.

ii. It also clarifies that death does not lead to man's extinction. After being extracted from a person's body, the soul continues to exist. The verse clearly indicates that people's souls will continue to exist, for obviously a non-existent thing cannot be placed in someone's charge. The statement also implies that what has been taken charge of will remain intact with its custodian, the angel of death.

iii. It also indicates that what the angel of death seizes at the time of a man's death is his "ego" rather than his biological being. Man's ego lies at the core of his being. His ego is extracted intact, without subjecting it to any addition or diminution in respect of its essential features. Thereafter, it is this ego that is brought back to the Lord. It will be restored to a new body when man is resurrected on the Day of Judgement and will face God's reckoning and receive reward or punishment

Compiled From:
"Towards Understanding the Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, Vol. 8, pp.167-168

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Service to Other

Ibn Abbas reports that, while he was once in retreat (itikaf) to the mosque in the Masjid al-Nabi (The Messenger’s mosque) a certain man came to him, greeted him and sat down. Ibn Abbas said to him, “I see that you seem sad and troubled.” The man replied, “Yes. O son of the uncle of the Messenger, I am indeed troubled in that I have an obligation to fulfill towards someone. I swear by the holiness of the inmate of the grave of this honoured resting place that I am not able to fulfill this obligation.” Ibn Abbas inquired, “Shall I intercede with that person on your behalf?” The man replied, “By all means, if you so wish.” Ibn Abbas put on his shoes and proceeded out from the mosque. The man, seeing this, said, “Have you forgotten that you are in retreat to the mosque?” Tears filling his eyes, Ibn Abbas replied, “No, but the occasion is still fresh in my mind when I heard the esteemed inmate of this tomb say, ‘Whoever sets forth in the way of settling a necessary affair on behalf of his brother, that service shall be better for him than to perform retreat to the mosque for ten years; and whosoever performs retreat to the mosque for a day, God will spread three trenches between him and hellfire, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between heaven and earth.” [Baihaqi]

In the above tradition we are told that performing a service for one’s brother brings a reward greater than ten years of retreat to a mosque. For this reason Ibn Abbas broke off his retreat to the mosque. It was of course possible for him to continue it afterwards. The Sufis say that God has such sympathy for very few things as He has for a broken heart. It is for this reason that we have been so much warned of the appeals to God of that person whose heart has been hurt through any unjust treatment or persecution. Whenever the Messenger appointed anyone as a governor, in addition to advising him, he would also warn him to beware of the invocation (to God) of the persecuted.

Compiled From:
Ramadan: Motivating Believers To Action, "Retreat to a Mosque" - Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi


Human Solution

With the proclamation of zakah, Islam began to take on the contours of a social movement. It no longer functioned only as a religion. Zakah only took on its true weight with the formation of the Medinan political community. A certain indication of this character of zakah is the fact that it is mentioned in the Quran eight times in the Mekkan suras, and twenty-two times in the Medinan suras.

Zakah is a response to a phenomenon which by itself is not one-sided. Misery is not only a social issue. Its cause is not only the privation but also the evil in human souls. Deprivation is its external side, and sin is its internal side. How else can we explain the existence of misery in affluent societies? In the second half of the twentieth century, one-third of mankind is chronically under nourished. Is that owing to a lack of goods or to a lack of feelings? Every solution to the problem of misery must include the confession of guilt and, in addition, must serve as a penitence. Every social solution must include a human solution. It should not only change economic relations but also the relations between man and man. It should bring about the just distribution of goods as well as proper upbringing, love, and sympathy.

Poverty is a problem, but it is also a sin. It is not solved only through a shift of the ownership of goods but also through personal striving, aim, and good will. Nothing would be done in the true sense of the word if the ownership of this world's goods changed, but hatred, exploitation, and subjugation remain in man's soul. Man needs a religion which is politics and politics which are ethics, or charity which can become a social obligation, a tax. Thus we come to the definition of zakah.

People are mirrored in zakah. It depends on them whether it will be a tax or a voluntary giving from man to man. Zakah demands money chests and hearts to be opened. Zakah is a great river of goods flowing from heart to heart, from man to man. Zakah eliminates poverty among the poor and indifference among the rich. It reduces material differences between people and brings them closer to each other.

Compiled From:
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, pp. 205-207