Today's Reminder

November 27, 2020 | RabiÊ» II 11, 1442

Living The Quran

Elaborate Planning
Al-Nur (Light) - Chapter 24: Verse 45

"God has created every animal from water; and among them are such as creep on their bellies, and such as walk on two legs, and others yet on four. God creates what He wills. Surely God has power over all things."

Here the Quran states in a very simple way a great fact that confirms that the origin of all creatures is water. This could mean that water is the basic component of all living species. It could also mean what contemporary scientists have been trying to prove, namely that life started in the sea, making water its first origin. Later, numerous species came into existence.

We, however, do not like to link any fact stated in the Quran with scientific theory, because such theories admit change, modification, or abrogation. Hence, we take this statement at its face value, confirming its truth which makes clear that God has created all living things from water. This means that having the same origin, they present, as we clearly see with our eyes, a wide and rich variety: crawlers creep on their bellies, while man and birds walk on two legs, but most animals use all four limbs when they walk. All this takes place in accordance with the laws of nature God has set in operation. Nothing occurs by chance or coincidence. “God creates what He wills,” unrestricted by form or shape. The laws that operate in the universe have been established by God’s will: “Surely God has power over all things.”

With the great variety that we see in all creatures, an almost endless range of shapes, sizes, colours and characteristics is set before us. Yet they all originate from the same source. This suggests that it is all intended as such, reflecting the elaborate planning in the universe at large. It portrays as false the notion that life started by mere coincidence. What coincidence could give birth to such planning or such great variety? It is all the work of God who, in His wisdom, has given every living soul its shape and form and guided it to what suits it best in this life.

Compiled From:
"In the Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 12, pp. 336, 337

From Issue: 824 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Insubstantial Differences

Dissension (ikhtilaf) over the details of formal worship, including variations in the forms of the call to and 'setting up' of the canonical prayer (adhan, and iqamah); the Id prayer; prayer at times of fear for one's safety; and other such rituals which vary in form but are the same in essence are, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, a type of ikhtilaf al-tanawwu, that is, an insubstantial difference of opinion. As opposed to ikhtilaf al-tadadd (a substantial difference of opinion amounting to contradiction), ikhtilaf al-tanawwu consists of preference of one of two or more equally valid views, over the others, which should be presented and evaluated as such. The essence of preference lies in the recognition of the basic validity of multiple views, one of which may be recommended, while the others are neither denounced nor rejected as false.

Abdullah ibn Masud narrates: "I heard a man reciting a verse of the Quran which I had heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) recite differently. So I took him by the hand and led him to the Prophet and mentioned the matter to him. Then I noticed (a look of) displeasure appear on the Prophet's face and he said: 'Both of you are right (kilakuma muhsin) [so] do not disagree [over this]. For those who came before you disagreed [over trivialities] and consequently perished.'" [Mishkat]

Ibn Taymiyyah explains this hadith by saying that the Prophet forbade disagreement which consists of juhd, that is, denial of the truth and veracity of the opinion or conduct of the other party. This was the case in the foregoing Hadith, where the Prophet drew attention of the parties to the fact that disagreement over insubstantial matters is basically destructive. The parties were both reciting the Quran but with different dialectical variants, which was why the Prophet declared them both to be muhsin (doing something good and proper), but corrected them for questioning the validity of their different opinions on something non-essential - the variant readings.

Compiled From:
"Freedom of Expression in Islam" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 144, 145

From Issue: 822 [Read original issue]


Power With

The power paradigm wedded with the moral bankruptcy of gross individualism in the form of greed and desire that results from the madness of consumerism is a term that is most often used to reflect "power over," the will and action to exert control over others as utilities to achieve one's aims. Valantasis juxtaposed that understanding to consideration of the "power to." When gender activists and theorists assert the need for women's empowerment, those most accustomed to the term "power" in its "power over" dimension do not wish to have women's power asserted over them, reducing them to a utility for the benefits of others and dismissing their moral agency. Oddly enough, this is exactly what has been done with women's agency, the utilization of them and their empowerment or agency only as a utility to fulfill human care without recognition and more than mere lip service to the virtues of such an application. These discussions do disempower men, although they, as a class, have exerted their power over and dominated and destroyed the ecological environment and global economics for their own selfish utility, in the name of "civilization."

To empower women, or rather to fully acknowledge women's empowerment, whether in care work, public service, political authority, or spiritual leadership, as well as any number of acts of agency, is to acknowledge not only their "power to," but also how it is integral to a third level of power discourse emphasized in feminist ethics, that of "power with." There is a reciprocal relationship between acknowledging women's power and the enhancement of the social-cultural roles they have contributed to benefit humanity. A lesson that can be learned by any who seek to fully apply the Quranic mandate of agency would result from accepting that women's power has made an essential contribution to human well-being which is not limited to biology. As such, power with others is a universal goal certainly commensurate with the dominion Allah has given to humans over the rest of creation (22:65) and to fulfilling the ontology of agency Allah has assigned as intrinsic to all humankind.

Compiled From:
"Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Amina Wadud, pp. 53, 54

From Issue: 1048 [Read original issue]