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Today's Reminder

August 16, 2022 | Muharram 18, 1444

Living The Quran

Proper Response
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2 : Verse 216 (partial)

"... It may be that you dislike something, though it is good for you. And it may be that you love something, though it is bad for you. And God knows, and you do not know."

There are four possible states in which the human being can live. A person is either receiving blessings (nima) or tribulations (bala) from God; or is either living in obedience (taa) or in disobedience (masiya). Each condition invites a response. What comes to a person in his or her life may help a person move closer to God when the response is right:

1. When God gives a person blessings, the response is gratitude in all of its manifestations. Gratitude is expressed first by performing what is obligatory then going beyond that by performing virtuous, recommended acts.

2. The response to tribulation is patience, as well as steadfastness and resolve. This is what God demands from people in times of trial - a beautiful patience.

3. As for obedience, one must recognize that obedience is a blessing from God. If a religious person starts to believe that he is better than other people - even if these "other" people are in the state of disobedience - he invites haughtiness.

4. When it comes to disobedience, the response is repentance to God (tawba), seeking His forgiveness, pardon, and mercy, feeling remorse for the past, and having the resolve never to sink into disobedience again.

Compiled From:
"Purification of The Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 69-71

From Issue: 740 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

The Quest

The Prophet's (peace be upon him) first words on arriving at Quba (on his emigration from the city of Makkah to Madinah) informed the Muslims of their basic responsibilities: "Spread peace [salam], feed the hungry, honour kinship ties, pray while people sleep, you shall enter paradise in peace [bisalam]." [Ibn Hisham]

The two references to peace, at the beginning and at the end of his address, point to how the Prophet wished his Companions to understand their settlement in their new city. Caring for the poor and honouring the kinship ties appear as reminders of the ethical basis of the Muslim presence, which each believer must pledge to permanently respect. Night prayer - "while people sleep" - provides the heart with the strength and serenity in faith that make it possible to fulfill the requirements of respecting ethics and of spreading peace. This quest for inner peace (alone, but in the warm light of one's family's love) is the path the believer must follow to be able to spread peace in the world and serve the poorest people.

Compiled From:
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 87, 88

From Issue: 602 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Awakening Conscience

To attack innocents, diplomats and to kill indiscriminately is anti-Islamic by its very nature; Muslims cannot respond to insults to their religion in this way. On this principle there can be no compromise.

In the light of the contemporary Muslim conscience, while deploring and regretting the emotive reactions of the populations of the Muslim-majority societies of the Global South we must take into account their social and historical reality. Economically and culturally disadvantaged, their political and cultural sensitivities are sorely tried by deliberate insults to the sacred symbols that give meaning to their perseverance and their livesóthe very symbols invoked by leaders or Islamist tendencies to nurture resentment and to give voice to anger. This reality in no way justifies violence, but helps us to understand its source and seek out possible solutions. It is the task of the elites, the leaders, of Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals to play a leading role in order to head off explosions of anger and mob violence. They bear three kinds of responsibility.

1. First, they must turn their attention to education, and work toward a deeper understanding of Islam, one that focuses on meaning and ultimate goals, and not simply on rituals and prohibitions. The task at hand is enormous, and requires the full participation of all schools of thought.

2. Second, Islam’s extraordinary diversity must be accepted and celebrated. Islam is one, but its interpretations are many. The existence of literalist, traditionalist, reformist, mystic, rationalist and other currents is a fact, a reality that must be treated positively and qualitatively, for each of them has its own legitimacy and should (must!) contribute a multifaceted debate among Muslims. Whenever considerations of belonging threaten to replace principles, religious scholars, intellectuals and leaders must return to shared principles, must find common ground between these considerations, in full respect of legitimate diversity.

3. Third, scholars and intellectuals must have the courage to expose themselves further. Instead of encouraging popular feelings, or to use those feelings to further their own religious identity (Sunni, Shi’a, Salafi, reformist, Sufi, etc.) or their political ideology they must face the issue squarely, dare to be self-critical, commit themselves to dialogue andómore often than notótell Muslims what they may not like to hear about their own failings, their lack of coherence, their propensity to play the victim, failure to understand and to accept responsibility. Far from the feverish rhetoric of the populists, they must put their credibility on the line to awaken consciences in an attempt to counter emotionalism and mass blindness. The educated elites, students, intellectuals and professionals also have a major responsibility. The way they follow their leaders, as does their status as intermediaries makes their active and critical presence imperative: holding the scholars and the leaders accountable, simplifying and participating in grassroots dynamics is an absolute imperative. The passivity of the educated elites, looking down upon inflamed and uncontrolled populations far below them, is a grievous fault.

Ultimately we end up with the leadersóand the peoplesówe deserve. Without committed and determined religious scholars, intellectuals and business people aware of the critical nature of the issues, there can be little doubt that we will be heading for an upsurge of religious populism among the leadership, and the emotional blindness of the masses. The words and the commitment of the leaders must set the highest standards: beginning with knowledge, understanding, coherence and self-criticism. They must abandon the notion of victimization by appealing to responsibility, by freeing themselves from the illusion that opposition to the “other” can lead to reconciliation with one’s self. Make no mistake: the violent reactions to the insults uttered against the Prophet have driven many Muslims to behaviors far removed from the principles of Islam. We become ourselves not in opposition to someone else, but in accord and at peace with our conscience, our principles and our aspirations. In the serene mastery of ourselves, and not in the aggressive rejection of the Other.

Compiled From:
"An appeal to contemporary Muslim conscience" - Tariq Ramadan

From Issue: 704 [Read original issue]