God's Grace, First Cause, Islam & Culture
Issue 949 » June 2, 2017 - Ramadan 7, 1438
Al Fatir (The Originator) Sura 35: Verse 2
When this aspect is instilled in a person's heart and mind, he undergoes a complete transformation in his concepts, feelings, values, standards and life generally. It invalidates any thought of any other power having any control over the heavens and earth, and puts him in touch with God's own power. It makes him abandon any thought of receiving grace from anyone else and links all to God's grace. It closes before him every door and way in the universe yet opens for him the door and the way leading to God.
God's grace can be reflected in countless aspects. Indeed man cannot even begin to record these. They are within him and the way he is created; the position of honour he is given; the blessings that are all around him from every side and from above and beneath him. It is also to be found in the favours showered on him.
God's grace is reflected in what man has been denied just as much as it is reflected in what he has been granted. When God opens it up to anyone, that person finds it in every situation, thing, condition and place. He even finds it within himself, his feelings, all around him, wherever and however he happens to be, even though he may be deprived of everything people consider to be important. Conversely, should God withhold His grace from anyone, that person will miss it in every thing, situation, place and condition, even though he may have at his disposal everything people associate with wealth and happiness.
Whatever favour a person is granted becomes a hardship if it is associated with the withholding of God's grace; and whatever hardship or trial he undergoes becomes a favour once it is coupled with His grace. A man may lie on a bed of thorns, but, with God's grace, he finds it very comfortable; while silk mattresses and cushions feel like hard nails if that grace is denied to him. With divine grace the most difficult problem becomes easy and danger becomes safety, but without it, what is normally easy becomes insoluble and safe roads and ways lead to ruin.
Should you be granted God's grace, you will not feel miserable even though you may be in solitary confinement, enduring torture or facing danger; while misery will be your lot if it is withheld, even though you are in the most luxurious and splendid of surroundings. It is from deep inside that happiness, contentment and reassurance flow by God's grace, and deep inside you feel misery, worry and affliction when it is denied.
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 14, pp. 148-150
The First Cause
Followers of all five schools of Law have narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that "Prayer is the armament of the believer." [Hakim] The Prophet also said, "Call upon God and you can be confident that it will be answered." [Tirmidhi]
If one prays and at the same time is pessimistic or doubtful about its outcome, then it shows that the prayer is just a formality, the supplicant has no real intention of asking for it. And the traditions forbid asking for a thing which one is sure will not come about.
Supplication must be purely for God. This does not negate the positive causes which God has created as instrumental links between the things and their needs. But these instruments are not independent causes. The Independent Cause is only God. The human being has an inner feeling of this fact. He or she feels by his or her nature that there is a Perfect Cause who fulfills his or her needs and who can never fail in bringing about the desired effect. On the other hand, he or she knows that all the apparent causes which are expected to produce an effect, sometimes fail to do so. Thus he or she knows that the First Cause, Who is the Source and Origin of everything and upon whom every need relies and depends for its fulfillment, is other than these apparent causes. Once he or she realizes it, he or she will never entirely rely on these causes, forgetting the Real Cause. The human being may appreciate this fact after just a little thinking.
"Tafsir al-Mizan" - Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i
Islam & Culture
While Islam is a universal and timeless religion, it is expressed and practiced by people who are products of their environments, and who are very much of this world. As a result the practice of Islam has taken on many different cultural expressions of the universal elements it contains. For example, modesty is a universal value that has a minimum defined by Islamic law (shariah), but modesty is expressed differently in the cultural norms of different societies. For another example, customs related to hospitality may differ in different Muslim cultures. Within the boundaries dictated by Islamic law, many such variations can exist; they are a sign of the complexity and intricacy of God's creation.
It has been said that Islam itself is like a clean and pure stream of water. It runs over bright rocks of different colors—the cultures of the Muslims. The purity of the water allows the color to still be seen. It is not opaque; it does not prevent or obstruct the expression of the culture. Instead, it refines and enhances it. Mosques (masjids) in sub-Saharan Africa are African in architecture and different than mosques in Asia. Islam encourages us to be ourselves, removing the cultural customs that contradict the teachings of Islam and enhancing the ones that don't.
Many cultures have had Muslim influences for generations, and as a result, Islam has become nearly inseparable from their cultural customs. This does not mean that each of their cultural customs is an accurate expression of Islamic principles, although some may assume so. But such cultures, where many customs are indeed founded in Islamic principles, are fortunate in that people can subtly absorb the teachings of Islam without needing to learn them explicitly.
No Muslim should be made to feel as if their native culture as a whole is antithetical to Islam. Some elements within it will no doubt be so, while others will be in perfect synchrony with the religion. Your criterion in these issues should be Islamic law, which will guide you in finding your place of comfort in your culture as a person, and in your faith as a believer. The production of cultural norms that are both genuinely native and genuinely Islamic takes time, sometimes generations, and if your native culture is not predominantly Muslim, you should proudly contribute to this process.
"Being Muslim: A Practical Guide" - Asad Tarsin, pp. 213, 214