Sanctity of Culture, Endurance and Perseverance, Body and Soul

Issue 954 » July 7, 2017 - Shawwal 13, 1438

Living The Quran

Sanctity of Culture
Al-Araf (The Heights) Sura 7: Verse 199

"Accept [from people] what comes naturally [for them]. Command what is customarily [good]. And turn away from the ignorant [without responding in kind]."

The Quran enjoined the Prophet Muhammad to adhere to people's sound customs and usages and take them as a fundamental reference in legislation. Ibn Atiyya, a renowned early Andalusian jurist and Quranic commentator, asserted that the verse not only upheld the sanctity of indigenous culture but granted sweeping validity to everything the human heart regards as sound and beneficial, as long as it is not clearly repudiated in the revealed law. For classical Islamic jurists in general, the verse was often cited as a major proof-text for the affirmation of sound cultural usage, and it was noted that what people generally deem as proper tends to be compatible with their nature and environment, serving essential needs and valid aspirations.

Much of what became the Prophet's sunna (Prophetic model) was made up of acceptable pre-Islamic Arab cultural norms, and the principle of tolerating and accommodating such practices—among Arabs and non-Arabs alike in all their diversity—may be termed a supreme, overriding Prophetic sunna. In this vein, the noted early jurist, Abu Yusuf understood the recognition of good, local cultural norms as falling under the rubric of the sunna. The fifteenth-century Granadan jurisprudent Ibn al-Mawaq articulated a similar outlook and stressed, for example, that it was not the purpose of Prophetic dress codes to impinge upon the cultural integrity of non-Arab Muslims, who were at liberty to develop or maintain their own distinctive dress within the broad parameters of the sacred law.

Compiled From:
"Islam and the Cultural Imperative" - Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Endurance and Perseverance

The Prophet (peace be upon him) worked hard to instil complete trust in God in his followers. He believed that as God's servants, Muslims must place all their trust in God, regardless of what may happen to them. Khabbab ibn al-Aratt was a Muslim whose lowly status in Makkah placed him in a most vulnerable position. He suffered immense torture. He reports:

We complained to God's Messenger as he was reclining on a sheet close to the Kabah. We said: "Will you not pray to God to help us? Will you not pray for us?" He said: "In days before your time, a believer might be taken away and a hole in the ground would be dug and he would be placed in it. A saw would be placed over his head and then he would be cut in half. Or else, he would be tortured with combs of iron tearing his flesh and baring his bones. None of this would make him turn away from his faith. By God, He will bring this matter of ours to full victory so that a single traveller would go from Sanaa to Hadramout, fearing no one other than God, and that a wolf may kill his sheep. You only precipitate matters." (Related by al-Bukhari, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Nasai and others.)

We know from the wealth of accounts that speak about the Prophet and his character that he felt for everyone of his Companions. Whenever they encountered a difficulty, he shared their feelings. When they suffered persecution, his pain was not less than theirs. This hadith, however, tells us that a few of those who suffered most at the hands of the Quraysh, who resorted to all methods of torture, complained to the Prophet about what they had to endure and requested him to pray for them. He met their request very calmly and told them that there was nothing unusual about what they had to endure. The forces of evil will always try to suppress the voice of the truth. He wanted them to place their trust in God and be reassured that Islam would triumph.

We err, however, if we think that by placing our trust in God we will be spared all adversity, physical or otherwise. The Prophet suggested that Khabbab and those who were complaining should endure the torture and persecution while placing their trust in God. He confirmed that although the ultimate result would be the triumph of the truth of the Divine faith, endurance of hardship and perseverance in adversity were always necessary.

The requirements of submission to, and reliance on God, do not mean that a Muslim leaves everything up to God to take care of. On the contrary, reliance on God requires that a Muslim should take every measure possible in order to face any situation. When this has been done, the servant of God then trusts God to bring about the best outcome. This was clear in the Prophet's behaviour throughout his life, and this is an example that we must follow.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Body and Soul

This world is a stage or market-place passed by pilgrims on their way to the next. It is here that they are to provide themselves with provisions for the way; or, to put it plainly, man acquires here, by the use of his bodily senses, some knowledge of the works of God, and, through them, of God Himself, the sight of whom will constitute his future beatitude. It is for the acquirement of this knowledge that the spirit of man has descended into this world of water and clay. As long as his senses remain with him he is said to be "in this world"; when they depart, and only his essential attributes remain, he is said to have gone to "the next world."

While man is in this world, two things are necessary for him: first, the protection and nurture of his soul; secondly, the care and nurture of his body. The proper nourishment of the soul is the knowledge and love of God, and to be absorbed in the love of anything but God is the ruin of the soul. The body, so to speak, is simply the riding animal of the soul and perishes while the soul endures. The soul should take care of the body, just as a pilgrim on his way to Mecca takes care of his camel; but if the pilgrim spends his whole time in feeding and adorning his camel, the caravan will leave him behind; and he will perish in the desert.

Compiled From:
"Alchemy of Happiness" - Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali