September 21, 2023 | Rabiʻ I 6, 1445
Al-Najm (The Star) Chapter 53: Verses 38-39
Islam holds that man is created innocent, and plays out the drama, as it were, after his birth, not before. No matter who his parents were, who his uncles and ancestors, his brothers and sisters, his neighbours or his society were, man is born innocent. This repudiates every notion of original sin, of hereditary guilt, of vicarious responsibility, of tribal, national or international involvement of the person in past events before his birth. Every man is born with a clean slate, it asserts, basing its stand on the absolute autonomy and individuality of the human person. No soul, the Quran declares, will bear any but its own burden. To it belongs all that it has itself personally earned, whether merit or demerit. None will receive judgement for the deed of another, and none may intercede on behalf of another.
Islam defines man's responsibility exclusively in terms of his own deeds and defines a deed as the act in which man, the sane adult person, enters into bodily, consciously, and voluntarily, and in which he produces some disturbance of the flow of space-time. Guilt and responsibility are ethical categories and are incurred only where a free and conscious deed is committed.
"Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life" - Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi, pp. 68, 69
From Issue: 700 [Read original issue]
"Fasting on the day of Arafat amends the sins of two years, and [fasting] on the day of Ashura amends [the sins of] one year." [Muslim]
About this, some have asked, 'If someone always fasted on the day of Arafat and the day of Ashura, then how could three years of sins be amended every year?' To this others have responded, 'Whatever is added beyond amending his sins, raises him in rank.'
Would that it were true! If only one could make amends like this for all of one's wrongs, from first to last. But making amends is bound to certain conditions and depends on the removal of certain obstacles both within and without the action itself. If the servant could be certain that he had met every condition and eliminated every obstacle, then [certainly] such an act would atone for the sin.
But what about an action which is [itself] entirely or mostly enveloped in negligence, lacking in the sincerity which is its core and spirit, and performed without respect for its requirements or value? What can this action amend? In fact, there are countless things which invalidate or spoil devotional practice. It is not so much the action itself as the effort to keep it pure of the things that spoil and annul it.
He could hope for atonement if in undertaking a devotional act the servant were sure of its outward and inward requirements had been fulfilled; that there were no obstacles to the act's atoning quality; and that he himself did not annul it with feelings of self-importance, ostentation, or the expectation of something in return [from people].
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, p. 8
From Issue: 610 [Read original issue]
We now understand basic religious terms differently and in a way that has made faith problematic. "Belief" no longer means "trust, commitment, and engagement" but has become an intellectual assent to a somewhat dubious proposition. Religious leaders often spend more time enforcing doctrinal conformity than devising spiritual exercises that will make these official "beliefs" a living reality in the daily lives of the faithful. Instead of using scriptures to help people to move forward and embrace new attitudes, people quote ancient scriptural texts to prevent any such progress. This neatly demonstrates our modern understanding of religion as something that we think rather than something that we do.
"The Case for God" - Karen Armstrong, pp. 325, 326
From Issue: 776 [Read original issue]