Chosen Woman, Danger of Praise, Fixed Laws

Issue 980 » January 5, 2018 - Rabi-al-Thani 18, 1439

Living The Quran

Chosen Woman
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verses 42-43

"Behold! The angels said: 'O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you, and raised you above all the women of the world. O Mary! Prostrate yourself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.'"

Istifa, the word used in the text for choosing and selecting, in Quranic terminology refers to the selection of someone by Allah for a specific purpose. Allah chose Maryam for the manifestation of one of His great signs, which was also a great trust she was going to bear. Moreover, it was also a great trial. This required that Allah would specially prepare and train her to bear this trust successfully and to cope with any hardships involved. It is this preparation and training that has been referred to here as tahhir for purifying her. The verse also clarifies that her istifa or selection had a special significance. She was specially selected and chosen above all other women of the world. As in the present verse, when the particle ala is used after istifa it also gives a sense of preference or superiority. She was chosen out of all other women for this special purpose. It is a unique honour and she has no rival in this field.

To prepare her for this onerous burden, the heavenly voice advised her: Uqnuti li-rabbiki - worship your Sustainer devoutly. The word qunut means to incline towards Allah out of extreme humility and a sense of subservience. Salah or Prayer is the best expression of this humility and subservience.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Danger of Praise

While journeying to God we will be put to many tests. One of those tests pertains to people's praise for what they assume about us. People's praise is a serious danger. A man praised another greatly before the Prophet. The Prophet said, "Woe to you! You have cut the neck of your friend." The Prophet repeated this sentence many times and said: "If you have to praise someone, then you should say, 'I think that he is so-and-so,' if he really thinks that he is such. God is the One who will take his accounts, as He knows his reality and no one can sanctify anyone before God." [Bukhari]

In another tradition, the Prophet said: "When you see those who shower praise upon others, throw dust upon their faces."[Muslim]

People's praise may change one's intentions from pleasing God to pleasing people, earning their praise, or avoiding their criticism. It also discourages one from doing additional good deeds, if he really believes that he is perfect and has done great actions. Another negative aspect of praise is that it makes one overlook his flaws and, instead, look at his merits.

People praise based on assumptions and what they know from the external things they see. But we know ourselves and our flaws better than others do. When you are highly praised by people, you should turn within and hold yourself accountable for the flaws you know. This will make you pray to God to forgive your sins and help you mend your flaws.

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


Fixed Laws

Allah, Blessed and Elevated be His Name, has created highly fixed laws for the development and growth or weakening and decaying for all sorts of plants, animals and even non-living things. Nothing will flourish and develop without specific reasons that precede this, or decay and perish without causes that lead to this. These are the general laws of cause and effect that Allah has set to run our universe. They are confirmed by our everyday observations. These are unchanging laws that govern the life of animals and plants and the existence of inanimate things. For example, we will never see a well-built structure that suddenly collapses without observing agents that cause its walls to develop fissures and cracks or seeing persons who deliberately use tools to tear it down. Similarly, we cannot expect an oil lamp to abruptly be extinguished if all the essential constituents for its continued illumination are at hand. If it has a good wick and the correct amount of oil that does not flood it with abundance nor cause it to burst into flames due to its shortage, it must continue to give light unless someone extinguishes it by pouring water over the burning wick or it is extinguished by a sudden gust of air.

Likewise, the life of a healthy person is not expected to suddenly be terminated without an observable external or internal agent that causes its death. This, of course, does not exclude disease and the gradual decline caused by old age that naturally leads to demise. In using the analogy of the oil lamp, the wick stands for the human body, the oil for its nourishment, and the lamp with its light to life itself. The agents that extinguish the light of the wick are like the adverse surroundings that are being subjected to very high or very cold temperatures, beating, punching, knocking, wounding, or similar hazardous accidents. Accordingly, if the person leads a safe life that precludes such precarious incidents, consumes good nourishing food and drink, and takes part in other relevant activities that enhance his health, there would be no reason for him to accept any negative thoughts with regards to his sudden demise in the same way that no one should expect the light of an oil lamp to be extinguished, if there is no external agent that interferes to put out its flame. Such thoughts would no doubt be helpful to the one obsessed in counteracting negative self-talk concerning his health and supposed imminent death.

Compiled From:
"Abu Zayd al-Balkhi's Sustenance of the Soul: the Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician" - Malik Badri, pp. 63, 64