God's Help, Humbleness, Social Diversity

Issue 965 » September 22, 2017 - Muharram 2, 1439

Living The Quran

God's Help
Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) Sura 22: Verse 15

"Whosoever thinks that God will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to Heaven. Then let him sever it and see if his scheming removes that which enrages."

Although this verse may be general in import, many commentators believe that him in not help him refers to the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is also thought that this verse could refer to a group of believers who were so full of anger at the idolaters that they found the promised victory against them to be slow in coming; some believe it refers to the tribes of Asad and Ghatafan, who thought that the Prophet would not ultimately achieve victory; it can also refer to the Prophet's enemies in general, who did not believe he would overcome them.

According to one interpretation, this verse alludes to individuals who are driven to hang themselves and are asked to see if this will cure their rage; the word translated Heaven (sama), which also means "sky," can also refer to the ceiling of a house. According to this interpretation, the absence of hope that God's Help will come is a manifestation of the deep despair characteristic of those whose faith is upon a brink, and the victims of this despair and lack of hope are asked to meditate upon whether hanging themselves will change anything — the implied answer being that God's relationship with the Prophet, and by extension the believers, will remain the same in this world and the Hereafter.

According to another interpretation of the imagery of this verse, the doubting or hostile ones are here being invited, since they believe that God is preparing to sever the victory He promised the Prophet, to seek some rope, or "means" (sabab), to Heaven, to try to sever it themselves, and then to see if their scheme (i.e., the scheme to sever that help to the Prophet) will assuage their anger and impatience. In another interpretation it is the very revelation from God that these persons are invited to try to sever, and some say the imagery is meant to imply that no matter how far one goes or what bounds one passes, nothing can come between God's Help and the Prophet.

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

Understanding The Prophet's Life


Some people behave humbly with others, but at the same time, they think and feel that they are superior to them! This is arrogance and has nothing to do with humbleness. Humbleness should come from the heart. A person who is humble with others thinks that he is indeed inferior to them.

The question is, how does one reach that feeling of humbleness? By considering faith. Perhaps someone is clearly inferior in terms of position or wealth, however, if faith is a criterion for status, perhaps he is much closer to God than others, or his belief is much stronger. Perhaps he is afflicted with real trials in this life and he is enduring them patiently and wisely for the sake of God. He could very well be better than others in the sight of God.

Sahl al-Saidi narrated that: A man passed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Prophet asked his Companions: "What do you say about this man?" They replied: "If he asks for a woman's hand, he ought to be given her in marriage; and if he intercedes for someone, his intercession should be accepted; and if he speaks, he should be listened to." The Prophet kept silent, and then a man from among the poor Muslims passed by, and the Prophet asked them: "What do you say about this man?" They replied: "If he asks for a woman's hand in marriage he does not deserve to be married; and if he intercedes for someone, his intercession should not be accepted; and if he speaks, he should not be listened to." The Prophet said, "This poor man is better than the earth's fill of the first man." [Muslim]

The first evaluation given by the Companions was based on material standards. The real evaluation considers the criterion of faith alone, and this what the Prophet applied. The second man, in terms of faith, is better than billions of the likes of the first man.

Real humbleness is to see yourself as inferior to others because piety is the criterion for status and nobility and this criterion is known only to God. God knows best as to who is pious. A humble person is not the one who thinks that he is above his act of humbleness. A humble person is the one who thinks he is below his act of humbleness.

Compiled From:
"A Journey to God: Reflections on the Hikam of Ibn Ataillah" - Jasser Auda


Social Diversity

Diversity is not only about bringing different perspectives to the table. Simply adding social diversity to a group makes people believe that differences of perspective might exist among them and that belief makes people change their behaviour.

Members of a homogeneous group rest somewhat assured that they will agree with one another; that they will understand one another's perspectives and beliefs; that they will be able to easily come to a consensus.

But when members of a group notice that they are socially different from one another, they change their expectations. They anticipate differences of opinion and perspective. They assume they will need to work harder to come to a consensus. This logic helps to explain both the upside and the downside of social diversity: People work harder in diverse environments both cognitively and socially. They might not like it, but the hard work can lead to better outcomes.

In a 2006 study of jury decision-making, social psychologist Samuel Sommers of Tufts University found that racially diverse groups exchanged a wider range of information during deliberation about a sexual assault case than all-white groups did. The diverse juries were better at considering case facts, made fewer errors recalling relevant information, and displayed a greater openness to discussing the role of race in the case.

These improvements did not necessarily happen because the black jurors brought new information to the group—they happened because white jurors changed their behaviour in the presence of the black jurors. In the presence of diversity, they were more diligent and open-minded.

This is how diversity works: by promoting hard work and creativity; by encouraging the consideration of alternatives even before any interpersonal interaction takes place. The pain associated with diversity can be thought of as the pain of exercise. You have to push yourself to grow your muscles. The pain, as the old saw goes, produces the gain. In just the same way, we need diversity—in teams, organizations, and society as a whole—if we are to change, grow, and innovate.

Compiled From:
"How Diversity Makes Us Smarter" - Katherin W. Phillips