I have selected the following paragraphs from a series of Qur’anic reflections which I kept discussing via the e-Communication network with a group of my students at Jeel At-Tarjeeh Academy and several young men who wanted to join us during Ramadan. The idea of this topic was essentially based on enjoining one another to reflect on the Qur’anic verses which theimam (prayer leader) recites during the Taraweeh (Night Prayers). Each night I would pick one of the verses recited by theimam with the purpose of trying to come up with new thoughts and meanings that were not emphasized, addressed or approached by the Qur’an commentators from the same angle as viewed by me. The participants would start to post and add their comments so as to evaluate the topic while making use of the information they obtain from different Qur’an commentaries and any topic-related ideas that may strike their minds. When I reviewed what I wrote on the topic, I came to realize that much of it goes in line with the message of the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE). Therefore, I picked some material which I thought would be suitable for my first article to be published on the Center’s website. Each topic was given a title which highlighted the message of ethics upon which Islam was built and for which the Center was established.
Revelation, Reason, Iron, and Justice
Almighty God says [what translates]: “Indeed, We have sent Our messengers with clear signs, and sent down with them the Scripture and the Balance that people may administer in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great strength and benefits for mankind, that God may distinguish those who support Him, though unseen, and His messengers. Indeed, God is All-Powerful and Exalted, Almighty.” [Chapter al-Hadid: 25)
The above Qur’anic verse portrays a wonderful way of life wherein God shows how people lead their lives on this earth. God (Glory be to Him) did not leave humankind go unguided after having appointed them as His vicegerents on earth. Rather, He sent to them messengers who lived among them and who addressed them using a wide diversity of clear-cut and conclusive arguments. God endowed them with two yardsticks with which they are able to remain guided after the messengers pass away. One yardstick is represented in the heavenly scriptures, the last of which was the Noble Qur’an which God had vowed to preserve. The other yardstick is the Balance which includes each and every tool – reason coming on top – through which true facts are reached and appropriate systems are discovered. These systems are in perfect harmony with the natural and social laws with which God had kept the universe in an orderly fashion. God then makes it clear – using the Arabic letter “lam” indicating objective – that the ultimate goal and wisdom behind this [i.e., sending messengers, divine books, and the Balance] is to uphold justice amongst people. The above verse plainly indicates that a society where any form of oppression prevails or where any of its individuals is treated unfairly is in fact standing far away from the guidance of the Qur’an and the Balance of Reason even though it may claim to be following that guidance. The context of the verse denotes that justice cannot be not administered on earth by merely revealing and clarifying the truth to the people, particularly in view of the fact that the majority of them are ungrateful to God. On the contrary, justice stands in need of a mighty power that preserves and protects it. The symbol of such power is iron which has not been created on earth as has been affirmed by modern science. Rather, God sent it down from heaven like He sent down the heavenly books. The context of the verse also shows that administration of justice is achieved by fulfilling the needs of the people and providing them with benefits, most of which are acquired through the better use of iron. The same applies to the different walks of human life. This wonderful divine directive is followed by a portrayal of the message directed to those who believe in God’s heavenly scriptures and messengers. God informs those believers that they must not pay lip service to their faith in unseen matters. Rather, they must continue to struggle in order to support God through making maximum use of iron in times of war and peace. The goal is to contribute to the making of the renaissance of humanity and safeguard it in accordance with the one and only message brought by all prophets, which culminated in the message brought by Prophet Muhammad (May God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him). Whosoever acts accordingly will bring benefit to his own self as well as the milieu in which he lives. This is because God is All-Powerful and Exalted in Might.
Woe to Those Who Give Less in Weight and Measure Unless They Maintain Justice
Almighty God says [what translates]: “Woe to those who give less in weight and measure! Those who, when receiving measure from people, exact in full; but when they give measure or weight, they give less than due. Do they not think that they will be resurrected for a mighty Day? The Day when mankind will stand before Lord of all creation.” [Chapter Al-Mutaffifin: 1-6]
The above Qur’anic verses speak of a common unlawful practice which people deem to be trivial though it is most serious in the sight of God. It was because of this unlawful practice that God annihilated a whole nation. The meaning of the above verse is not confined to material cheating in trading as some may think. Rather, it extends to include both material and immaterial cheating that spoils all aspects of people’s life. This practice becomes the root of an array of evil manners which we notice at all levels of our daily life. These include egotism, cheating, oppression, aggression, evil plotting, slanderous accusation, miserliness, betrayal, deception, and other such evil manners which diminish man’s resolve and degenerates his status. If we would want to paint a picture of a trade cheater in our minds, there would appear before our eyes the image of a swindler whose heart ailments are clearly noticed on his face. If he were to acquire an amount of wealth by working as a merchant or a politician or by being appointed in any social position, he would rush headlong to get it like a hungry wild boar which carelessly ravages everything around it. He would not allow his desire to go ungratified even if this would endanger the lives of those around him. If someone else were to get something from that swindler, he would cheat him, defraud him of his property, and strive hard to drain him of his wealth. He would seize all his property or at least the largest possible amount thereof by employing all means of betrayal, deception and lying. He may seek the aid of wicked people of his sort who would bear false witness against others out of grudge or in anticipation of gaining some benefit from that swindler. Due to the fact that people underestimate this abhorrent practice [referred to in the verse], God has used the word “woe” that echoes hard in their ears so that He may draw their attention to the seriousness of the matter. Then God used the “interrogative” formula indicating the magnitude of what is thought to be insignificant. God reminds those swindlers that their act of cheating in this life will be severely punished on the Day of Resurrection when people will be gathered naked and uncircumcised and will be bridled in sweat up to their ears. God will show mercy to others whom He will shelter in His shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His. O God! Have mercy upon us.
The Message of Life
Almighty God says [what translates]: “Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He has power over all things. Who created death and life that He may test you, which of you is best in deeds. He is the Almighty, the All-Forgiving.”[Chapter Al-Mulk: 1-2]
The above verse speaks about the essence of man’s existence and the reason why God gave him life after he was lifeless and that He will cause him to die and then gives him life again. While man tries to provide his sustenance, he is not required to make this life his ultimate concern. God is the creator and owner of this life and the only one capable of running its smallest and greatest affairs. Therefore, man must be aware that he will not be able to gain more than what has been given to him by God, the Most High and the Lord of Infinite Bounty. Man will remain under the test of watching over himself ever since he comes to this life and until he passes away. Therefore, he must do only good deeds so that he may attain felicity after death. If he does his best in doing so, he should not be worried about those minor mistakes which he commits from time to time. The reason is that his cautiousness to do only righteous deeds is a sign that his nature is more prone to good than to evil. The Ever-Watching and Irresistible God will forgive him those minor mistakes because He alone knows about his good will and sincere intentions.
Dear fellow Muslim! I hope that you might have noticed that the above Qur’anic verse lays more emphasis on the quality of deeds than on their quantity. It speaks of a righteous deed that no other deed would seem better, more beautiful, more perfect, more beneficial, more lasting, or greater in effect than it. So the verse encourages man to do good deeds followed by better deeds and so on. O God! Let the purpose of our creation be our ultimate concern, bestow Your grace upon us, and grant us Your pardon. You are the Omnipotent, the Almighty and the All-Forgiving.
Following One’s Desires Leads to Misguidance
Almighty God says [what translates]: “O David! We have made you a successor on the earth, so judge among the people with justice and follow not your desires lest they mislead you from the Way of God. Surely those who go astray from the Way of God shall have a severe torment because they forgot the Day of Judgment.” [Chapter Sad: 26]
Whenever we come across this Qur’anic verse, our minds start to think of those issues relating to power and appointment of successors. Here we notice that God is delivering a strong-worded message to rulers even if they happen to be prophets. They are commanded to judge among people with justice and weigh matters with an even balance and adhere to the truth while doing so. They are also commanded not to allow their souls to drag them into following their whims or succumbing to the temptations of power which may take hold of the ruler. This will lead such ruler to believe that he will remain seated on the throne of power and forget the fact that God has appointed him as a successor on His dominion which He bestows on whomever He wills and takes away from whomever He wills. Anyway, I would like to reflect on a deeper and more comprehensive issue that can be deduced from the above verse, namely, the issue of being misled from the Way of God and ignoring the truth as a result of the heart being obsessed with desires. Indeed, the greatest favor which God bestows on His believing servants is to guide them to realize and discern the facts and realities of matters. That is why the Messenger of God (May God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) used to invoke God with His Most Noble Attributes that He may guide him by His permission to the truth regarding disputed matters. This he would do during his most beloved times when he would stand up in prayer at night according to a Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim. This verse clarifies an issue of great importance in the sight of God (Glorified and Exalted is He) and one of equal importance to people as well. It explains the reason for being misled from the straight path of God by using the Arabic “faa as-sababiyyah” which indicates presentation, rapidity of action and relatedness “and follow not your desires lest they mislead you from the Way of God”. This means that a person is hindered from knowing the way leading to abiding by the laws of God and attaining His pleasure when they obey their self and succumb to its desires, temptations and devilish thoughts which cause them to forget about their fate in the Hereafter and taste the torment of the Hellfire. May God protect us from this!
Truthfulness Leads to Steadfastness
Almighty God says [what translates]: “From among the believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with God. Some of them have been martyred and others still wait, but they never changed their determination in the least. That God may reward the truthful for their truthfulness and punish the hypocrites if He wills or turn to them in mercy. Indeed, God is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Chapter Al-Ahzab: 23-24]
In the above Qur’anic verse God praises a type of believing men who are characterized by truthfulness and steadfastness. Their being steadfast is because they are essentially truthful. Had they been untruthful, they would not have remained steadfast. That is why God makes truthfulness a justification for the great reward which He grants to the truthful ones in this life and the life to come. This is emphasized by the fact that the word “truthfulness” has been repeated three times in a single verse (using different derivatives of the word). The occasion on which the above verse was revealed shows that a person is not to blame if they fail to do a certain good deed so long as their intentions were true and sincere. There will come a time, no matter how far it may seem, when the truthfulness of that truthful person will be established. The case of Anas ibn An-Nadr is a good example to give in this respect. Though he did not participate in the Battle of Badr, he made a promise to God that he would perform a remarkable feat during the following battle. Because he proved to have been true to the covenant he made with God, God (Glory be to Him) rewarded him by granting him martyrdom and immortalizing his mention in the Qur’an. There are many other people, including men and women, who fell martyrs after they had fulfilled their promise to God. The great memories of some of them are engraved in our minds and our hearts are constantly longing for seeing them. There are others whom we do not know, yet they are well known to God. There are still amongst us many people of their sort who continue to remain steadfast on the path of inviting people to Islam, exalting the Word of God, and serving the common interest of the Muslim community. They never changed or altered their determination because they made a truthful choice from the very beginning. They did not allow the trials of “good and evil” to spoil their determination. Rather, they keep waiting faithfully for the fulfillment of God’s promise. As for those whom God will punish if He so wills, their punishment is not due to a physical feebleness for which they avoided confronting the Confederates but because they had hidden intentions and concealed ambitions other than those flimsy excuses which they gave to the people. Some of them would collaborate secretly with the wicked Jews and polytheists. However, God’s mercy is so all-encompassing that it would guide those hypocrites to becoming faithful to their promises when they restore a lost relationship with the righteous ones. Indeed, God is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Speaking the Truth Blesses One’s Deeds
Almighty God says [what translates]: “O believers! Fear God and speak the truth that He will bless your deeds and forgive your sins. And whosoever obeys God and His Messenger, has indeed achieved great success.” [Chapter Al-Ahzab: 71]
The above two verses have stimulated my mind to reflect and ponder on their meanings so as to come up with new interpretations which I believe I have not noticed or read before. These two verses fall among the concluding verses of the chapter Al-Ahzab which speak of some important events that took place during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. The main theme of the verses revolves around the foul words spoken by hypocrites, hinderers, rumormongers and those whose hearts are diseased. These two verses serve as a prelude to an important verse with which the chapter is concluded, namely, man’s burden of the great trust which the heavens and the earth refused to assume. This Qur’anic chapter paints a picture of the great suffering, serious harm, and violent unrest caused by the evil tongues found amongst the Muslim community during the state of war against the Confederates and the state of peace in Medina as well as the different social affairs that have been underlined throughout the chapter. These events might have kept the believers away from completing the basic mission of assuming the trust of vicegerency on earth and setting aright the conditions of life. It was feared that the believers would join the ranks of the rumormongers or at least be wrapped up in the rumors that circulated round Medina. In order to prepare the Muslim community to burden the trust they are tasked with, God has set up for them an integrated system whereby they can achieve success in this life and the life to come. This system is based on fearing God, standing in awe of Him, and guarding against His wrath and punishment. The generality of God’s command to fear Him has been specified by another important command, namely, to be mindful of one’s tongue regarding all affairs. The goal is to guard the tongue against telling lies, slandering, spreading false rumors about others, or hindering the performance of any righteous deed. Therefore, the verses encourage the Muslim to use the right words in the right place and to employ those words in a way that produces positive results rather than negative ones and in a manner that leads to unity rather than disunity. The Muslim must speak a word of truth with the intention of attaining the pleasure of God, a word of truth that is not meant to flatter an oppressor or to guard against a tyrant. Those who exert maximum efforts to watch over their tongues will manage to steer clear of the atmosphere of turmoil, unrest, and confusion which obstructs the performance of beneficial deeds. They will bring themselves into an atmosphere of tranquility of soul, alertness of mind, clarity of thought, and soundness of heart. In this atmosphere, they will be able to summon up those physical powers which assist them to achieve success. This interprets the meaning of God’s promise to bless the deeds of the believers as stated in the verses above. The meaning of the verse, thus, applies to the case of a straightforward man whose great good deeds are not affected by his small misdeeds. He is able to recognize his shortcomings easily and does his best to set them aright so as to receive the forgiveness of God, the Creator and Judge. He devotes his whole life to obeying God and abiding by the Sunnah of His Prophet (May God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him). He achieves success in this life by getting involved only in important matters and assuming the trust which the heavens and the earth refused to burden out of fearfulness. He will continue to make successive achievements until he meets with God Who will be well-pleased with him and Who will grant him the great success. God will admit him to His gardens where he will join the company of the elect, Muhammad and his companions. Speaking the truth is the only way to the attainment of success. Nothing is more injurious to the soul than a malicious tongue. That is why Prophet Muhammad said: “Is there anything that topples people on their noses into the Hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues.” This noble Hadith has been recorded by At-Tirmidhi.
How Weak Are the Relationships of Convenience!
In last night’s Taraweeh Prayer, the imam recited the following passage from chapter Al-‘Ankabut: “The similitude of those who take protectors other than God is that of a spider which builds itself a house. And surely the flimsiest of all houses is the house of a spider, if they but knew.” [Verse: 44]
Word Meaning: The Arabic word “awliya” is the plural form of “wali” which refers to a person who loves you, a friend of yours, or a supporter (Refer to Al-Qamus al-Muheet (The Complete Dictionary)). The Arabic word “bayt” refers to one’s place of residence and is used figuratively to refer to a person’s wife and children (See: Al-Mu’jam al-Wasit (The Intermediate Dictionary)).
When commenting on the meaning of the above verse, early Qur’an commentators always stress the abasement and lowliness of those people who take protectors other than God. They support those protectors, love them and ask them to grant them sovereignty and establish them in the land. The commentators liken their condition to that of the house of a spider. The point of comparison is the state of weakness and failure to resist the blows struck against both. Moreover, modern science has attracted the attention of those who reflect on the Qur’an towards another type of weakness in the social structure of a spider’s house: The nation of spiders is the flimsiest of all nations in terms of relatedness and unitedness. Relationships between its members are based only on safeguarding mutual interests. This is clearly manifested by the fact that the female spider meets with the male only during the mating season. When the mating is over, some species of female spiders start to attack the male to kill it. While some species wait the baby spiders to hatch out before they kill the males, others kill their mothers. The same is the case with those relationships which are not established on the principles which God loves and is pleased with. Such relationships are lost the very moment the interests are met and may develop into a painful and unbearable conflict. May God protect us from this!
When Creativeness Forces the Heart to Surrender
Almighty God says [what translates]: “Then she was told: “Enter the palace.” When she saw it, she thought it was a pool of water, so she bared her leg. Solomon said: “Indeed, it is a palace paved with slabs of glass.” She said: “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul. And I submit myself along with Solomon to God, the Lord of all creation.”[Chapter An-Naml: 44]
In the chapter An-Naml, the Noble Qur’an relates the story of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba and how she came to embrace Islam following the dialogue she had with Prophet Solomon (Peace be upon him). The dialogue depended on manifestation of power and superiority with the purpose of impressing and convincing the other party. The scientific power with which Solomon was gifted reached its peak when he set up a palace paved with slabs of glass to the powerful queen beneath which water flowed. She could not notice the glass barrier and, therefore, bared her leg so that her clothes may not get wet. When Solomon told her the truth about the palace, she was filled with great amazement. At that point, the invitation to believe in God extended by Solomon to the queen touched her heart and caused her to submit herself along with Solomon to God, the Lord of all creation. The point that needs to be stressed here is that scientific achievements, artistic innovativeness as well as academic superiority constitute one of the best means of calling people to believe in God. When the invitees are filled with amazement, their minds hasten to accept the invitation even before their hearts do. They hold genuine faith in God and start to submit themselves to Him along with the inviting person. They do not submit themselves to the inviting person while being heedless of God: And I submit myself along with Solomon to God, the Lord of all creation.