November 27, 2020 | Rabiʻ II 11, 1442
Al-Shams (The Sun)
Chapter 91: Verses 7-10
By the soul in the body (al-nafs) and what has balanced it (given it form) and inspired [both] its licentiousness and its intimate sense of God (its piety). He who purifies it will certainly be happy and he who corrupts it will certainly be lost (crushed).
Muslim spirituality is the work the consciousness of the believer does on the self in order to be liberated from all forms of worship of things other than the Transcendent and to find the way to the original breath (fitra) and its purity. This way toward the One is difficult and demanding, because human nature also tends to be drawn to the contingent realities of the world. Caught between longing for the Most High and the attraction of the world, the believer's first experience of awareness is of facing an internal conflict. The choice is between liberating one's self or losing one's self and drowning in the varieties of life.
Islamic teaching has given us concrete tools to help us succeed in this work on ourselves and to arrive at a balance. The daily requirements of Muslim practice give us the direction and the first steps along the way to this freedom. Awareness of the Presence and of the closeness of the Very Near One moves toward the centre, the heart of the same community of faith, through the five daily meetings in prayer, the weekly gathering of that community of faith, the purifying tax on one's possessions (zakat), the fasting for a full month of the year, and the making of the pilgrimage once in a lifetime (if one has the means). By meditating on these requirements, we discover that they really are demanding and operate on several levels: the memory (for people are so inclined to forget); on the management of time (the daily rhythm of prayers and other practices throughout the year); on the individual and communal aspects of being before God (communal prayer, giving zakat, and so on); and on the division of efforts among the various elements that constitute the human being (heart, spirit, body, possessions).
"Western Muslims and The Future of Islam" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 119-121
From Issue: 477 [Read original issue]
Wealth and Prestige
Two hungry wolves sent against a sheep will not do more damage to it than a man's eagerness for wealth and prestige does to his or her religion. [Ahmad, Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was explaining that the damage done to a person's religion (deen) by his eagerness for accumulating wealth and attaining prestige is no less than the damage done by two hungry wolves to a flock of sheep. This is quite obvious, for if a human's faith is sound, he will not have an eagerness or anxiety over these secondary things. Once the heart has tasted the sweetness of true servitude to Allah and love for Him, nothing else will be dearer to him than that and nothing else will take priority over Allah in one's life.
How many times do we find ourselves having to choose between obedience to Allah and doing that which we know to be right or following our desires in pleasing others or self-gratification by means that are prohibited? Surely the two choices are not equal and a person of character is content with the former in all circumstances.
Let us remember this hadith the next time we 'sacrifice' some duty of Islam for some worldly gain, the next time we are 'prevented' from praying due to our 'busy schedule' or embarrassment amongst people, the next time we are so 'blinded' by our devotion to our career, academic or leisure pursuits that we forget our responsibilities towards our families, communities, and most fundamentally, our own preparations for the akhirah (hereafter).
What good is all that if one was to lose his or her connection with Allah and closeness to Him and hence any hope of inner peace or spiritual contentment?
"Al Ubudiyyah" - Ibn Taymiyyah
From Issue: 676 [Read original issue]
It is true, as the old adage says, that charity begins at home. The family is a school of compassion because it is here that we learn to live with other people. Family life involves self-sacrifice, because daily we have to put ourselves to one side in order to accommodate the needs of other family members; nearly every day there is something to forgive. Instead of seeing this as an irritant, we should see these tensions as opportunities for growth and transformation.
Ask yourself what you really feel about your family. What makes you proud and happy about them? Make a list of the ways in which your family nourishes you. Perhaps you could write a letter to them outlining your history as a family, and your hopes and fears for each person in it. Does your family have a black sheep, and how has this situation come about? Can it be rectified? How do you conduct arguments and disagreements? What are your particular strengths in family life? Is there anything more you could do? What would make each member of the family feel supremely valued? How can you make your family a school for compassion, where children learn the value of treating all others with respect? What would life be like if all family members made a serious attempt to treat one another "all day and every day" as they would wish to be treated themselves? How would life be improved, for example, if everybody made a consistent effort to avoid speaking too hastily?
We know that people brought up in dysfunctional families find it difficult to make good relationships in later life; they can have psychological problems that cause them to increase the sum of pain in the world. Creating a compassionate family life is one of the ways in which we can all make a constructive contribution to a more empathetic society in the future.
"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" - Karen Armstrong, pp. 69-71
From Issue: 762 [Read original issue]