Enthusiasm for Life, God-given Abilities, Awakening Conscience
Issue 704 » September 21, 2012 - Dhul-Qida 5, 1433
Enthusiasm for Life
Saba (Sheba) Chapter 34: Verses 10-11
"On David We bestowed Our favour. 'O mountains, and you birds, echo his songs of praise [to God].' We made iron pliant to him. [And We said], 'Make coats of mail armour, and do what is right. Verily I am watching over what you do."
The parable of David belies the ignorant belief of some religious people that backwardness is the way to success in the life to come. This is a gross misconception. The route to religious faith is through the mastery of useful knowledge rather than sloth and indolence. David was able to combine two achievements in his life-time: to use his elegant voice - which even the birds appreciated and admired - to venerate, praise, and worship God; and to apply industrial skill to make military as well as civilian tools and utensils for everyday use.
In order to appreciate and comprehend the life to come, one has to understand and fully experience life here and now. Muslims have only become a liability to Islam and an easy target for their enemies since they lost their enthusiasm for life and their ardor for success and achievement.
"A Thematic Commentary on the Quran" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, p. 465
A person is in need of Allah to bring about what is good for her in both this life as well as the Hereafter. In addition, Allah's help is also needed concerning what occurs after one's death in this life, both in the grave and on the Day of Judgment.
This concept of asking Allah and seeking Allah's help does not mean that a person puts forth no effort on her own part. Instead, the person should use all of her God-given abilities to meet her goal. She should ask Allah to help her in using those abilities and then ask Allah and seek help in Allah for her needs that are beyond what she has the capability to perform. This is the correct approach as implied by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) when he said,
"A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than a weak believer - however, there is good in every [believer]. Be eager for [and strive after] what benefits you and seek help in Allah. And do not be too weak or lazy to do so." [Muslim]
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo, pp 758, 759
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 lives—the 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 and—more often than not—tell 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 leaders—and the peoples—we 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.
"An appeal to contemporary Muslim conscience" - Tariq Ramadan