“In their hearts is a disease; and God has increased their disease: And grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves).”
This conversation is part of a series of conversations toward understanding Islam and Muslims. It is not a debating piece, but a reflective one. It is meant to clarify some of the confusion on Islamic beliefs. In this conversation we are addressing surrender or submission from the angle of self-knowledge. We discussed the importance of embracing our vulnerability, mortality, our spirituality and here we focus briefly on the human tendency to engage in self-deception.
Surrendering to God is about being awake and aware that you cannot trick or deceive God, as He knows the deep secrets of our souls, hearts and minds. As humans, we may deceive others while our souls bear witness to the truth. We may also engage in self-deception - but God is aware of what lurks in our hearts and minds. We must ask ourselves how can we receive the Higher Truth when we are false to ourselves? Surrender is about self-accountability at a very deep level.
The beginning of this conversation is here and continued here. This conversation on surrender will focus in on a few verses of the Qur'an. The conversation is quite detailed and long and requires some thought and reflection. I will address civil questions at the end. The previous blogs on the Queen of Sheeba are here: 5a and 5b.
(Qur’an al-Waqia: 80-86)
“A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. Is it such a Message that ye would hold in light esteem? And have ye made it your livelihood that ye should declare it false? Then why do ye not (intervene) when (the soul of the dying man) reaches the throat,- And ye the while (sit) looking on,- But We are nearer to him than ye, and yet see not,- Then why do ye not,- If you are exempt from (future) account,- Call back the soul, if ye are true (in the claim of independence)?”
(Qur’an Ta-Ha: 14-16)
"Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise.”Verily the Hour is coming - My design is to keep it hidden - for every soul to receive its reward by the measure of its Endeavour. "Therefore let not such as believe not therein but follow their own lusts, divert thee therefrom, lest thou perish!"
Wazwaz: There is an issue that I want us to reflect on between the Queen of Sheeba and the group of people mentioned in Al Waqia. The similarity I see is that both the Queen of Sheeba and the Meccans were born into a world of no faith. She received a letter worthy of respect and her response is interesting given her negative experience with kings. On the other hand, the Meccans received the message from a Prophet who lived amongst them and whom they gave the title Al-Amin, or the trustworthy one. Despite her negative experience with kings, she investigates and seeks advice from her court and goes to meet Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace. In contrast, despite their witnessing the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, the group addressed in these verses – became arrogant. They do not investigate or seek advice but attacked him.
Another difference that I see is where the Queen compliments the letter they attack faith him ferociously without reflection or investigation.
Shaykh Qays: The verses in Al-Waqia are addressing the group of Meccans who are deluded with their wealth and power. Guidance ultimately comes from God and it has to do with the condition of people’s hearts. In the words of the Queen, we see a heart that is humble and connected to the reality of her circumstance. The Meccans – we see the normal type of reaction. What I mean is the Queen did not respond like normally those in power respond. Her reaction is atypical as she saw that Solomon, upon him be peace, was not writing to increase his power or reign, but out of principle.
The letter was strange – but she recognized it was an atypical invitation. The letter was addressed, “In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.” She saw the dignified and respectful nature in the letter. The Meccans – also received the same strange atypical invitation. They also found it strange that Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, would address them, “In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.” They never referred to God, as Ar-Rahman or Ar-Raheem (The Most Compassionate; The Most Merciful). That was foreign and strange to them.
It appealed to some Arabs except those with vested interests. The Queen also had vested interests, but her heart was fertile and she sought advice, as she was willing to rise above herself and her interests. The matter returns to God’s grace. God’s grace makes all the difference.
The Queen is one person and we know her outcome at the end. With the Meccans, some of those that fought Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in the end became Muslim. The verse is a wakeup call, that these people know what it is like to be at the deathbed and God reminds them of that.
During the revelation of the Qur’an, the companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, would at times feel overcome with fear, awe, or anxiety due to the weightiness of the Quran’s moral teachings. Sometimes the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, would explain the enormity of things like wrongfully taking from the spoils of war, and the companions would ask questions about things they did in order to know whether what they did was wrong. At time they would be devastated by what the moral warnings in verses of the Quran. Yet, they accepted the Quran’s weighty moral force and were purified by these verses. So there are many personalities, it is not just the Queen on one hand versus the Pharaoh on the other. There are many shades in between as well. There are many people who do wrong and accept the warnings and the call to purification and faith.
Wazwaz: You said there are many people who do wrong yet they accept the warnings and the call to purification and faith. In other words, "their souls were convinced." However, instead of fighting the truth, they rose and submitted to it like the Queen of Sheeba. Can you expand on your comment in light of this verse in the Qur’an which addresses another mask people wear?
“And they rejected those Signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof: so see what was the end of those who acted corruptly!” (Qur’an 27:14)
Shaykh Qays: What it tells us is true faith requires integrity. I hinted at such in the conversation on the Queen of Sheeba when I spoke of seeing the writing on the wall. Here is a lady who had knowledge and was properly advised by her advisors concerning a decision that would impact her realm, her prestige, her family, all her interests. She had this great realm but she also had personal integrity and that is why her heart is a fertile place for faith, not because she was weak or afraid. She had advisors who were given to vehement warfare. She had a formidable army or force and could possibly win. She went with that knowledge and Solomon wanted to see if she would behave the way normally rulers normally behaved. She proved to be a person of integrity.
Reflecting on Tasawwuf or self-knowledge, a corrupt person in a situation like that - while going on the journey - would likely say to themselves, “this King is probably a liar like all the other kings, he is probably an impostor”. A corrupt person may thus prepare themselves for confrontation or they may, with their false assumptions about the other party, contemplate bribery or some other form of corruption to get rid of their opponent. In their heart, there is only self-interest, corruption, and tyranny. We seek refuge from God from this state. Yet, the Queen of Sheba reaches Solomon, upon him peace, and finds he is sincere. She sees the writing on the wall and acts on it. This is integrity. This is enabling grace from God.
Still there are people who may not be happy with the writing on the wall but they will work on themselves against their oppositional feelings - and open their hearts to faith. Jihad-an-Nafs or struggle against the ego is about that kind of work, the purification of the soul. The people of such struggle acknowledge that their internal state is lacking and fight themselves so to speak. This too is faith. In the case of the Queen - her heart was sincere, an enabling grace from God. But even if a heart was not fertile in the beginning, still to recognize the truth, and recognize your heart has problems, and to work on it, that is also faith.
We see cases where people are convinced based on certain knowledge that they had, yet they opposed it to the end due to self-interest. That is Kufr or disbelief. They will oppose strongly and fight the writing on the wall because it is not in their interest. So conviction is not enough. You can be convinced of the truth, reject it and thus be a disbeliever.
Submission and acceptance of the truth based on evidence, that is belief or faith.
Wazwaz: Furthermore, in the same chapter we are given a deeper reflection on a group of people who attack Islam without comprehension. So their fear is really a reflection of their blind attachment to whatever they believe, but are not in reality convinced of. If they were convinced of something else, they would invite to it out of a sense of generosity. However, they shut the doors to anyone understanding anything that is not similar to their blind attachment. Their internal reality is described well in this verse:
“Nor canst thou be a guide to the blind, (to prevent them) from straying: only those wilt thou get to listen who believe in Our Signs, and they will bow in Islam. (81) ...Until, when they come (before the Judgment-seat), (God) will say: ‘Did ye falsify My Signs, though ye comprehended them not in knowledge, or what was it ye did?’” (84)
Shaykh Qays: People are accountable to the extent of their abilities and the truth that reaches them. Both of these groups of people have the ability to recognize the truth. The act of Kufr (disbelief) is taktheeb (to falsify). So the verse is saying you cried lies to My Signs - you have the ability to recognize the signs, yet, you turned away.
This falsifying varies slightly between the groups. A heart that is absorbed in itself will only glorify it's like in nature, or only pursue a means to its own glorification. Externally, deniers may claim to have come to a reasoned rationale to deny God. But deep down in their souls they are denying the signs for selfish purposes - yet, if they used their mind they would see the writing on the wall.
Everyone is accountable and taktheeb is in the heart. People of taktheeb prefer it to seeing the truth. We seek refuge from God from that. They fall into a state of heedlessness because they choose to run away, to escape and avoid the steep road to understanding - not because they do not have the capacity to understand - but because they chose to turn away or cover up the truth.
Some people remain in that state of rejection, whereas others come around to faith and submission through the Enabling Grace of God which we are all in need of.
(To Be Continued...)