Creative Power, Jealousy, Incessant Busyness

Issue 956 » July 21, 2017 - Shawwal 27, 1438

Living The Quran

Creative Power
Al-Baqarah (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 258

"Are you not aware of him who argued with Abraham regarding his Lord, because God had granted him kingship? Abraham said: 'My Lord is He who gives life and causes death.' He answered: 'I grant life and deal death.' Said Abraham: 'God causes the sun to rise from the East; cause it then to rise from the West.' Then the unbeliever was dumbfounded. God guides not the tyrants."

The debate between Abraham and the king sets out the distinction between earthly and divine power, and introduces the concept of zulm, which means wrong, but is particularly associated with wrong in the sense of tyranny and corruption. This argument with the king refers us back to the subject of leadership, the theme running through the preceding passages. Abraham makes a statement of belief: 'My Sustainer is He who grants life and deals death.' In response, the king makes a statement of fact: 'I too grant life and deal death.' What is the distinction here? Certainly, kings, emperors and governments command the power of life and death over people. They can empower society to flourish, or they can cause devastation through war. They can act according to law, even according to God's guidance, or they can bend the law, moral or human, to serve their will and ends. They can ensure that people get the resources they need to sustain life, or they can misappropriate or withhold these resources. But, however much power an earthly ruler has, it is not the creative power of the Almighty, the power to call the universe into existence, to cause the laws of nature to operate and to sustain them endlessly without effort, as explained in the verse of the Throne.

Ultimately, all earthly powers are subservient to and derivative from the creative power of the Almighty. And the point of understanding this distinction is that kings, emperors and governments are just as much in need of God consciousness, of abiding by the limits and balance of God's guidance, as any individual. Recognising the limits of their power, recognising humility before the creative, sustaining power of God and God's ultimate judgement over all human beings is as necessary to kings as to paupers. No accumulation of and command over earthly power, power over nations and their people, exonerates or relieves rulers from responsibility if they do wrong and are guilty of zulm.

It is not only rulers who have to use their judgement. Citizens too have the right to judge how rulers use their power, for everyone has a duty to oppose and seek to eradicate the misuse of power, the tyranny of oppression and persecution which is a demonstration of earthly power over life and death.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 184, 185

Understanding The Prophet's Life


Hasad is a kind of opposition or discontent with what Allah has decreed. After all, it is Allah who bestowed that bounty upon that other person. If a person dislikes what another person has received, then, in reality, he is showing his dislike for what Allah has decreed. He is practically declaring himself a better decision maker than Allah.

Hasad also entails a number of negative psychological effects upon the jealous or envious person. The jealous person may always be in a state of anger and discontent over the bounties that others receive. This is because there is no limit to the number of bounties that Allah bestows upon others.

When one realizes all of the negative aspects of hasad and how it is clearly a sign that there is something wrong in a person's heart, especially a person who claims to be a Muslim or a believer, it is not surprising to know that, in reality, hasad and iman cannot coexist in one heart. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "Iman and hasad do not gather together in the heart of a slave [of Allah]." [Al-Nasai]

Compiled From:
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo, pp. 1030, 1031


Incessant Busyness

There is an old story of a man riding very fast on a horse. As he rides past his friend standing on the side of the road, the friend yells, “Where are you going?” The rider turns toward his friend and yells, “I don’t know, ask the horse!”

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like that person riding that frantically galloping horse. Our daily incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and tick off items on our to-do list by each day’s end — seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us. But if we approach our days in a different way, we can consciously change this out-of-control pattern. It only requires the courage to do less. This may sound easy, but doing less can actually be very hard. Too often we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity. Instead, doing less helps us savor what we do accomplish. We learn to do less of what is extraneous, and engage in fewer self-defeating behaviors, so we craft a productive life that we truly feel good about.

Just doing less for its own sake can be simple, startling, and transformative. Imagine having a real and unhurried conversation in the midst of an unrelenting workday with someone you care about. Imagine completing one discrete task at a time and feeling calm and happy about it.

Every life has great meaning, but the meaning of our own can often be obscured by the fog of constant activity and plain bad habits. Recognize and change these, and we can again savor deeply the ways we contribute to the workplace, enjoy the sweetness of our lives, and share openly and generously with the ones we love. Less busyness leads to appreciating the sacredness of life. Doing less leads to more love, more effectiveness and internal calmness, and a greater ability to accomplish more of what matters most — to us, and by extension to others and the world.

Compiled From:
"Accomplishing More By Doing Less" - Marc Lesser