Words and Deeds, Hopeful Optimism, Sara and Hagar

Issue 1010 » August 3, 2018 - Dhul-Qida 21, 1439

Living The Quran

Words and Deeds
Fatir (The Originator) - Chapter 35: Verse 10

"Whosoever desires might— to God belongs might altogether. Unto Him ascends the good word, and He uplifts the righteous deed. As for those who plot evil deeds, theirs shall be a severe punishment, and their plotting shall come to ruin."

Whosoever desires might means whoever desires honour, power, and glory in this world and the next. To God belongs might altogether reminds one to be obedient toward God, as all such qualities come from God; it is thus understood as a command not to seek such might from idols or other gods or from disbelievers. It is also understood to mean that any who seek true honour, power, and glory and are sincere in their desire, so that they seek with humility and poverty before God, will find these qualities with God and they will be unveiled to them.

The good word may refer to the remembrance and invocation of God, the recitation of the Quran, and supplicatory prayer or to the declaration of God's Oneness. This sentence can be understood to mean that all good words and righteous deeds ascend to God and that one is thus rewarded for them, or that God uplifts the righteous deed over the good word because the deed constitutes the verification of the word, since it is putting faith into action. The subtle phrasing of this verse also allows for it to be read, "Unto Him ascends the good word and the righteous deed uplifts it," meaning the deed uplifts the word, as in a saying attributed to Ibn Abbas: "The good word is the remembrance of God, which is taken up to God, and the righteous deed is the performance of obligatory duties. Whosoever remembers God while performing an obligatory duty, his deed carries his remembrance of God and takes it up to God. Whosoever remembers God and does not perform the obligatory duties, his words will be rejected, as will his deed".

But it must also be recognized that the good word is a good deed in and of itself. The phrase could also be understood to mean, "Unto Him ascends the good word, and as for the righteous deed, it uplifts it", meaning that the good word uplifts the righteous deed in the sense that no good deed is accepted by God unless there is a sincere declaration of faith that precedes or accompanies it. He uplifts it is thus understood to mean that God makes it reach Him due to the presence of sincerity toward God within it.

Those who plot evil deeds is understood as a reference to people of duplicity and hypocrisy who perform "righteous deeds" only to deceive others into thinking that they obey God and whose deeds do not ascend. Their plotting shall come to ruin, because God knows that they perform such deeds only to be seen of others and not because of belief in God.

Compiled From:
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Hopeful Optimism

Anas reports that the Prophet said: 'Do not cause disease transmission, nor entertain bad omens. I like hopeful optimism based on good words'. [Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi]

This hadith prohibits the intentional transmission of disease. This is perhaps concerned with the individual level, when someone tries to infect a healthy person with the disease he is already suffering from. The hadith makes clear that this is forbidden in Islam. As for spreading a disease among the population of a large area, as in germ warfare, this is a crime against humanity.

The other thing the Prophet refers to in this hadith is about feeling optimistic when hearing a good word or a piece of good news. Words that speak of a good thing happening to us soon are bound to have a good effect on us. We note here that such words may be without foundation, but the fact that they give us a sense of optimism is beneficial, provided that we attribute all future events to God's will. To give an example, a mother says to her daughter on the morning she is taking her exams, 'I feel in my heart that you will do well'. The daughter feels optimistic and approaches her exam in good spirits. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the daughter does not attribute her fine results to her mother's words or feelings.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi


Sara and Hagar

Sara and Hagar — so different in origin, position and role in the patriarchal system represented by Abraham — are equal between themselves and before God: They are the Women of Promise. Their motherhood has a universal purpose. They transcended through their children Isaac and Ishmael and their children gave rise to nations where God revealed a message through Prophets Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad. Without them, it is not possible to comply with the Divine plan. In this regard, they canalize a sacred purpose, bringing to humankind what is needed for its development and enlightenment.

Sara and Hagar are mythical characters for us. They lived in a world very different from ours, but we constantly recreate them when we compete against or are unfair with ourselves or with other women. When we are silent about abuse, when we use our privileges to cause pain or take advantage of other women, or when we judge other women's reality assuming ours is perfect and universal, for example. What we learn from Sarah and Hagar is that oppression of women is not foreign to women and makes us suffer.

To end this dynamic, it is not enough to change the relationships between women and men in terms of production — reproduction, public and private institutions, laws to prevent violence, etc. These things are relevant, but the real revolution is the profound transformation of each woman and women together, because we women are not only victims of oppression, we are creatures whose vital task is the daily recreation of the patriarchal world.

Compiled From:
Jesus, Muhammad and the Goddess, "The Wounded Goddess: The History of Sarah and Hagar From a Feminist Outlook" - Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente Hendren, pp. 194-210