Fedwa Wazwaz

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian- American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. By profession, she is a senior data warehouse programmer with the University of Minnesota. Read more about Fedwa Wazwaz.

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Faith and Guidance 6f

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: January 5, 2014 - 11:03 AM

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
--Proverbs 9

This conversation is continuation to 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. We are coming to the end of the discussion on submission.  This will end the conversation on faith and guidance as well.  We will address any questions in the next blog, and then start a new series on God. 

The beginning parts of the conversation on self-knowledge or surrender are: 6a6b6c6d and 6e.  In this blog, I hope to address two issues that enable Islamophobia.  First, we cannot know another if we do not truly know ourselves.  Second, the importance of humility, which to me is best defined as fearing God.  If you authentically know yourself and your liimitations, you are ready to know the Divine as He is, not as you want Him to be to serve you.  He is Majestic and not vindictive.  He is the Lord of the Worlds, and not a personal god that cares only for a select elite.  Hence, fearing God is due to His Majesty, His reality and embedded in love, which nurtures us up the steep road of guidance and purification and enables us to repent everytime we stumble and fall.  This leads to wisdom that allow us to know the other, despite their differences.   The blog is quite detailed and long and requires some thought and reflection.  Again, the verses below are used in the discussion:

(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:  Let me bring your attention to the verses from the chapter Ta-Ha.  In previous blogs, we discussed the importance of purification in faith.  We had a discussion on Satan, the avid worshipper, who was near to God – praying all the time.  Yes, he could not acknowledge or know Prophet Adam, upon him peace, in truth.  The Angels asked God why Adam was chosen as representative on earth, but Satan just did not want to know.  What happened with him in reflection on these verses?

Shaykh Qays:  In the chapter Al-Baqara (The Cow), God reveals what happened. The scholarly commentary of the Qur’an tells us – that angels were sent to purge the earth from elements that caused corruption on it. Satan was a jinn, a spirit being, and he was of renowned devotion and ability, in the company of a group of angels who cleansed the earth of its corrupt elements. When that task was finished, Satan's heart swerved as a sense of accomplishment gave way to an astounding arrogance. God was, of course, aware of that swerving in his heart and at that moment said to the angels that He will put a representative on earth. Satan, in his arrogance, felt that that rank belonged to him after all that he had accomplished. He felt a sense of entitlement.

After Adam, the first human and representative of God on earth, was created that group of angels, along with Satan, was commanded to prostrate towards him as a sign of respect. All of them prostrated except Satan who, overcome by arrogance and envy couldn't bring himself to obey. Instead he refused and said he was better than Adam, he did not say he was better than God, but his rejection of the command was clear disbelief.  

Now he disbelieved despite his knowledge of the truth. He knew the truth and he had knowledge of God, but he refused to submit due to a false and haughty sense of self-worth and entitlement.

Wazwaz:  You said that Satan had knowledge of God.  For people who accept faith and worship God, what lesson can we learn from him and his downfall?  Can we assume we arrived simply because we worship God?

Shaykh Qays:  Well, his heart changed despite profuse worship.  From the time he was created, all that time he was worshipping, God knew his final outcome.  We have to be aware that the outward showcase of faith should not bring self-satisfaction and a sense of entitlement.  Satan worshiped and felt a sense of success, which allowed this self-deception to creep into his heart. Scholars of Muslim spirituality, known as Sufis, say that you either worship God with a gaze that is toward Him, or toward your ego.  So worship could be a journey in the spiritual or just an ego trip. In Satan's fall there is a clear message: that true worship entails seeing oneself as a servant of God, and grasping that things are only significant to the extent that they are connected to God. That is self-knowledge.

And that knowledge is important especially because it is not uncommon for religious people to end up worshipping the command, instead of God. They see virtue in the command itself, detached from God. This state represents a lack of self-knowledge which happens when there is little knowledge of God - little true faith.

Wazwaz: Given what we discussed, how would you compare acting on true faith and knowledge with rejection of faith?

Shaykh Qays: That question is of great significance for those who want to avoid deception, especially self-deception, in matters of faith. You hear the word kafir which is mistranslated as infidel. Insofar as the term connotes mere nonconformity it is inaccurate. A Kafir is someone who actively rejects truth, as opposed to someone who simply does not know.  Kuffar (the plural) are people who are antagonistic to truth. And there is quite a contrast between such a state and that of faith.

The world of faith is a world that is literate. A world that has knowledge. Literate in the sense of being able and willing to read and see the signs that point to the reality of God. That literacy was facilitated by the Prophets who taught it with their lives and blood: they made their claims, performed their miracles and they spoke the truth. They taught things to people and when people applied it in their lives, at all levels including the spiritual, they were found to be truthful.

According to Islamic teachings, Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, is the last Prophet. So his true followers live their lives grounded in that knowledge, reading the world with that literacy. They are literate in that sense, that they can look at themselves and things around them and interpret them properly - in truth. And when we say they interpret it properly and in truth we mean that they can see it all leads back to Allah and none else. So that is what the world of faith is about, it is grounded in knowledge that gives direction and purpose. It is a world of purpose. They know what they are upon, why they are in this world, and they act in accordance with that knowledge.

The world of rejection of faith is a world of dhun - conjecture, and ghafla - heedlessness. Where the world of faith is a world of knowledge that leads to awareness and purpose, the world of kufr is ignorance or convention, conjecture, and superstition - and this brings about heedlessness. If you ask why do you do this - or worship like this - they say - this is how we found our fathers or people around us worshipping or doing.

My father, may Allah preserve him, he would point that out to me - that before becoming Muslim, he, like so many others, would act on convention without what we call niyya or purposeful intent. Work, marriage all "mundane" matters were based on convention without the keen awareness that true faith demands.

That heedlessness is the basis of misguidance and regardless of what label one assumes whether Muslim, Christian or otherwise if the teachings of the prophets are not heeded then one consigns oneself to that state of misguidance in which one's opinions, and more often feelings, reign supreme. Whatever feels good, sounds good, increases wealth, and facilitates pleasure is good and only the vilest infractions are frowned upon in such a state. That is in stark contrast to the state of one who indeed has faith.

Wazwaz: So you would agree that surrender or submission in Islam is not about feeling inferior or being submissive, but about embracing knowledge of who we really are, about self-knowledge and this requires having fear of God that is embedded in love?  Many want to love God in a manner that denies His Authority, His Majesty – as though He needs our permission regarding His commands.  It is an abusive love that doesn’t care if He is angry or displeased, but merely exist to serve us and please us.

Shaykh Qays: Being inferior to what?

Wazwaz: Well for example, some people argue that people, who believe in God, are just not using their minds, not thinking or researching. The argument is made that such people just have an inferiority complex, or attached to being inferior or an attachment to feeling weak, an attachment to feeling sad or victimhood complex.  A case in point is people with a dependency disorder are attached to feeling helpless and in need of others, very clingy, and seek out people who dominate them.  

Shaykh Qays: Surrender does entail acknowledging one's inferiority whenever one is inferior such as before God and the people He has blessed. But that is just part of acknowledging the truth and being humble. But by no means does the religion encourage complexes which by their nature affect judgment. As regards dependency the Sufis will tell you that it is only to the extent that one submits to and depends on God alone that one can achieve true independence from everything besides him, including one's own desires and ego.

Now there may be people who externalize their complexes with religion as people do with many other things but Islam is about positive action and moral responsibility. The Quran is emphatic that only those who believe and work will prosper and that when misfortune strikes the believers blame none but themselves. There is no room for complexes.

Wazwaz: Can you expand on that?  We addressed submission from the angle of self-knowledge.  In summary of what we discussed, how would you now answer the question what is submission or surrender to God in Islam?

Shaykh Qays: Submission or surrender to God is based on the truth that is contained in revelation. That knowledge calls us to interact with ourselves as individuals and other creatures in a particular way. It causes us to strive to achieve purpose that is with God. If you take away the purpose - then everything is lost - it anchors everything. Questions of purpose are called the big questions: Why we are here and where are we going to? It simply flies in the face of reason, intuition, and lived experience to deny meaning and purpose. Submission, given what was just said, is accepting the knowledge of our purpose as contained in revelation. When we speak about submission, it is not about being blind or ignorant believers. The knowledge is present. Revelation demands believers seek knowledge. Prophets did not come to uphold systems of government and perpetuate worldly power structures. They came to empower people through knowledge of the truth. So seeking knowledge is an obligation as is arriving at faith through reflection and thought that leads to conviction. The nature of revelation is individual accountability, individual awareness, and not blindly following clergy or Caliph. That happens though. People, Muslim and non-Muslim, follow blindly a human being instead of learning and worshiping God, they start worshipping, as it were, that individual blindly. However when that happens Religion is absent regardless of how those who are in that condition identify themselves. We ask Allah for His protection.

Wazwaz: However, some Muslims do blindly follow. They do not know who they are, but just blindly follow to belong. There is no awareness of how they are being brainwashed, what emotional blackmail is or how mental abuse functions.

Shaykh Qays: As I had said knowledge is emphasized first and foremost. The first revelation that came down to Prophet Muhammad in the Qur'an is the verse "Read, in the name of your Lord...” It is not an academic thing. People try to reduce it to an academic thing because they have been taught that there can be that no thought outside of an institutional framework. The verse came down when there were no institutional frameworks in Arabia to a prophet who could neither read nor write. And it called people to think, to reflect.

Revelation criticized certain character traits that stunt intelligence such as arrogance and mockery or irreverence. But it never prohibited genuine enquiry because to do so would be to encourage blind convention which is not admissible in matters of faith. Unlike jurisprudence which is about law and expertise such that we have more need to defer to experts and conventions concerning the details, there is no room for convention in the fundamentals of faith or aqeedah. It is about conviction. And conviction doesn't happen merely as a result of what anyone else does or says. So the scholars of aqeedah say there is no taqleed(blind following) in aqeedah. And if someone says I am Muslim because my father is a Muslim and what he means by that is that he never thought about matters of faith for himself then he is sinful.

So surrender is about submitting to Allah and none besides with knowledge and purpose. And whoever fails to grasp that, whatever he may call himself, had failed to grasp the religion.

Training Cops to Fear Somalis and Muslims

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Society, Crime, Violence, Education and literacy, Government, Politics Updated: November 22, 2013 - 5:08 AM

On Thursday, November 21, 2013, a law enforcement training on terrorism was offered in Minnesota. This training was organized by former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher of the controversial new Center for Somali History Studies.  Yes, terrorism is a real threat to our nation and law enforcement needs to be educated about that threat.

As an educator and a concerned citizen wishing for the safety and well-being of every civilian, I support educational trainings.  Yet, I am concerned about this training.  Is the training meant to strengthen our law enforcement or is it meant to selectively create a circle within our nation that hardens our deep-seated prejudices and biases to keep the Muslim community marginalized and outside this circle?

American Muslim leaders and leading organizations have been very vocal and firm in unequivocally condemning terrorism and terrorist organizations, including Al Shabab.  Last month, Minnesota imams were the first to collectively condemn the horrific attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya. The Council on American Islamic Relations, a leading civil rights organization, has repeatedly stated that “any action that harms innocent civilians is reprehensible and deserves condemnation.”  Muslim organizations and scholars are quite vocal condemning terrorism whenever it happens, wherever it happens, and whoever commits it. 

So why am I concerned about this training?

As an educator, I focus on two important points: First, evaluate or question the source.  Second, evaluate or question the methodology - the research, processes, critical thinking, omissions and numbers.  I also immediately separate and remove any emotionally appealing statements.

Let us question the source.

Are the trainers experts on terrorism? 

Are their credentials and backgrounds sound or are they individuals who have no qualifications or have deep-seated prejudice against Muslims? 

Do any of these experts have the necessary qualifications or level of understanding to speak on terrorism or on the Muslim community?

Do any of these experts have a reputation for accuracy?

Do any of the experts have a motive for being inaccurate or overly biased?

Are there valid reasons for questioning the honesty or integrity of these presenters?

Let us begin with the organizer. Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher was referred to as “Ramsey County's most controversial cop.” His own police department alleged that he  "exaggerated or falsified" his investigation of domestic and international terrorism threats in the east metro.
SEE: Fletcher Defends Terror Probe (Star Tribune)

In an interview with the Twin Cities Daily Planet, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office stated that Fletcher's claims that Ramsey County residents were threatened by 22 domestic and 11 international terrorist groups "came from an active imagination" and that the Terrorism Information Briefs "never existed."

City Pages stated that "Fletcher's office apparently dreamed up the whole idea that his jurisdiction was under threat from dozens of domestic and international terrorism groups" and that "the research was done by staffers cruising the internet and watching CNN." It further states: "It's hardly the first time Fletcher and his office have been at the center of controversy. Some of his department's handiwork was employed in the run-up to the 2008 Republican National Convention, when he directed preemptive raids against Twin Cities activists who later became known as the RNC 8. Two years after they were arrested in the guns-drawn raid, the cases against them fizzled."

SEE: Meet Bob Fletcher: Ramsey County's Most Controversial Cop (City Pages)

Those 33 Terrorist Groups in Ramsey County? It Was "A Very Big Lie" (Twin Cities Daily Planet

Bob Fletcher, Former Ramsey County Sheriff, Fictionalized Terrorism Reports (City Pages)  

Along with Fletcher, the co-presenters for the training include: Omar Jamal, Abdirizak Bihi, Mohammed Farah, Michael Rozin, Jeff Weyers, and Gary Olding. 

Michael Rozin, "formally of the Israeli Defense Forces, trained at the Israeli Security Academy," was featured in an NPR story on racial and religious profiling at the Mall of America. 
SEE:  Shoppers Entangled In War On Terrorism (NPR) 

Omar Jamal, a convicted felon, has made unsubstantiated, hate-inspired statements, such as referring to Minneapolis as a "slaughterhouse for immigrants."
SEE: When Somalis are in the news so is Omar Jamal (MPR)

Similarly, the Pioneer Press reported that Bihi has had run-ins with the law, including a restraining order for "threatening and stalking" a woman and DWIs. In March 2011, there was an "active warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his probation."
SEE: Domestic terrorism hearing witness from Minneapolis has had a troubled past (Pioneer Press)

Is this how legitimate community leaders behave? Are these individuals best suited to train law enforcement?

Fletcher has organized controversial trainings for law enforcement in the past. Concerned community members felt the trainings did not distinguish between terrorists and mainstream Muslims and Somalis. The training flyer referred to the terrorist organization Al Shabaab as an "Islamic" organization. It included pictures of Somali men with AK-47s on it with the headline, "Understanding the People of Somalia."

In November 2011, more than 30 Twin Cities Somali and Muslim organizations challenged the credibility of the seminar in Minneapolis. Several police departments across the state declined to participate.
SEE: Muslim groups to Bob Fletcher: There's No "Islam" in Terrorism (Minnesota Public Radio)
Groups Object to St. Paul Somali Seminar, Call It Anti-Muslim (Pioneer Press)

The training claimed that there is "an alarming trend of radical imams recruiting and radicalizing American-raised Somalis to be suicide bombers for the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab." 

However, the FBI said it has no reason to believe the mosque was indoctrinating people:

"At this point, we have uncovered no evidence to show there was any effort of any mosque or mosque leadership or mosque imam to take part in any recruitment or radicalization of these young men," said Special Agent E.K .Wilson of the Minneapolis division of the FBI.

While investigators believe that some of the secret meetings happened in a mosque, it doesn't appear to be a case of a radical imam brainwashing his students. In most cases, Wilson said, it was likely friends influencing friends.

"It looks like the recruitment process of these men was on a very peer-to-peer type scale," Wilson said. "Some of the individuals were more culpable than others, but it was a very lateral chain of command when it came to who is responsible." 
SEE: Minnesota Muslim leaders skeptical and disappointed after radicalization hearing (MPR) 

In May 2012, Fletcher's training was canceled in Mankato after Somali leaders met with city leaders to discuss the controversial content of the seminar. As a result, all of the city organizers withdrew their support of the seminar.

In March 2013, Catholic Charities, who had agreed to host the training in Waite Park, apologized for the training's anti-Somali/anti-Muslim flyer. They also agreed to remove the anti-Muslim/anti-Somali content from the presentation slides.

The Executive Director of Catholic Charities publicly stated: “It used language that was wrong. It was a mistake on our part. No one should ever think of anyone from the Somali or Muslim community as affiliated with a terrorist organization."
SEE: Muslim Education Event Comes Under Fire (KNSI) 

We must support educational trainings on terrorism.  It is within our nation’s interest.  However, we must stand against trainings by fearmongers. It is against our nation’s interest. 

Fearmongering undermines our nation, in particular law enforcement’s ability to effectively protect our country.  It undermines peace officers’ relationships with the American Muslim community, leading to a rise in racial and religious profiling. Reports have highlighted law enforcement's use of biased experts and anti-Muslim training materials nationwide. The United States Congress has scrutinized these practices.
SEE: Congress Grills FBI Chief About Anti-Islam Trainings

Let us question the methodology. 

A sound methodology is a methodology that can be challenged openly and transparently.  It stands on arguments that are complete, critical thinking processes that are cold, sterile and devoid of emotional manipulation.  It is difficult to question the methodology of this training. 

On Thursday, November 21, CAIR-MN reported that a Muslim contacted the civil rights organization to report that he was barred from this controversial law enforcement training seminar on terrorism. The man reported that he approached the registration table, registered his name and email address, and was provided with a folder containing training materials and the agenda. However, he said that Bob Fletcher then approached him and asked him to leave. Fletcher allegedly told him that the training was by invitation only, mostly for law enforcement and for Fletcher’s Somali friends. Yet, this appears to be pretext. The event was publicized in public venues, including the main page of the organization’s website. The website includes an online registration page open to the community, along with a link to Paypal.

This raises a serious red flag:  Omission and suppression of alternative voices, hence the arguments are not complete or sound. 

Educational trainings for law enforcement should test for hidden bias.  Our ability to understand others can be obfuscated by our own hidden biases and stereotypes.  It is easy to argue we are not biased, but the reality is that bias is outside our sense of awareness.  Acknowledging hidden biases is the first step to an effective training.  Test Yourself for Hidden Bias

In addition, trainings on terrorism should involve terrorism experts that do not have a motive in the training.  Trainings that omit alternative voices and relevant evidence can appear to be stronger than they really are. 

As we work together to protect our country, we must be vigilant and firm in the face of arguments or expertise embedded with fear mongering and bias.  We must do the job well and right and rely on credible sources and factual information.  We must not readily accept whoever speaks on the matter without sound investigation. When sources and experts prove to be questionable, we must be accountable and responsible to seek out more reliable information, sources and experts.

A word of caution, it is extremely easy to manipulate people with numbers.  Hence, we must seek out experts on the fundamental principles of probability and statistics before believing statistical information offered to us in a manipulative manner. 

SEE: How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff, and Innumeracy:  Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos. 

When sources and experts are biased or have a self-interest, chances are numbers and arguments are being used to manipulate instead of educate the audience.  This is not within the interest of our nation.  We must stand against such trainings.  Profiling, misrepresenting and alienating an entire community does not help combat terrorism.

Source: CAIR-MN Action Alert

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Faith and Guidance 6e

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Society, Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: October 6, 2013 - 10:01 AM

"The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar, I have not known when his affections swayed more than his reason. But ’tis a common proof that lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, whereto the climber upward turns his face. But when he once attains the upmost round, he then unto the ladder turns his back, looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend." --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 
This conversation is continuation to 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. This blog will address the question asked in variant ways which can be summed up in “why Muslims are backwards”or“why aren’t there many Muslims who are great” or “why are there social ills within Muslim communities?”  In this conversation we are addressing surrender or submission from the angle of self-knowledge. We discussed the importance of embracing our vulnerability, mortality, self-deception, embedded knowledge and here we will discuss briefly the human condition.
 
The beginning parts of this conversation are: 6a, 6b, 6c and 6d. This conversation on surrender will focus in on a few verses of the Qur'an.  It is quite detailed and long and requires some thought and reflection.
 
(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: In this blog we will focus on understanding the human condition in our journey to self-knowledge.  For many, faith has become a journey or road to greatness, perfectionism or happiness.  What we have and how far up the ladder of success defines our self-worth or truth.  Going ahead or going up the ladder has become so important – that we resist in that journey to stop and ask where we are going.  We are so happy that we are moving ahead, that we lose sight of important dimensions of our humanity and unconsciously sacrifice our soul in the process.  In truth, we are here to experience life, to learn, understand and grow.  This is put best in words by Dr. Abdul Lateef Krauss Abdullah, a specialized counselor in social work and peace studies:

"….However, we are here to experience, and it is okay to fall down, it is okay to trip, it is okay to mess up (whatever ‘messing up’ means) and it is okay to get back up again. Get down. Get back up - a custom course work... Everything that is happening at every moment is the next lesson, like the next ‘flash card.’ Every person that walks in the door is the next flash card for you, your lessons. Everything that you feel is the next flash card for the next lesson. Everything that you see, everything that you taste, everything that you smell, everything that you hear and all of your realizations are part of the next lesson. Now ‘faith’ is starting to become something real and personally engaging.”

As we continue the discussion further, I want to stop and switch gear a bit and focus on Ibn 'Ata Allah al-Iskandari teachings.

"If you were only to reach Him after all your misdeeds had been eliminated and your pretensions all obliterated you would never reach Him.  But rather, when He wants to make you reach Him, He conceals your nature with His nature and your attribute with His attribute and makes you reach Him with what is from Him to you, not from what is from you to Him."

In some books that mock Islam and Muslims, their evidence is they go around people of faith, and they collect faults, shortcomings, and social ills.  So a person of faith doing wrong or violating their values is an argument against faith. Some examples they cite is this priest molested a child, or this imam beat his wife. They cannot reconcile reality as we discussed in the blog on Salman al Farisi, who had to deal with a priest violating the laws of the Divine.  God is not asking the believer to be perfect and faith is not about projecting an image of this perfect human, intellectual and great faithful being.  Shaykh Qays, how would comment on the above wisdom from this great scholar?

Shaykh Qays: Some people see the call to virtue as a denial of the reality of the human being or the human condition that is why they are running around exposing people. That is why the media and entertainment industry often thrive on invasive and intrusive programing. The argument is exposing people's faults is seen as an argument against God. Some feel obsessively unveiling the faults and shortcomings of people it will somehow show that there is nothing sacred and thus no God. However, true faith is not about denial of the reality of the human condition.

Faith is, in part, about establishing and protecting the Divinely-bestowed honor of human beings despite the weaknesses and failings that are part of our condition. Faith therefore, to a great extent, entails not only the pursuit of virtue, but the covering of human faults as long as doing so doesn’t itself result in harm. Given that, some people say that religion lacks accountability. There is an interesting gulf of understanding there.

The fact is that sound religion demands individual accountability: the Day of Judgment is real and is about absolute accountability. Yet those who deny that day try to make every day the Day of Judgment while denying people room to grow, to repent to purify themselves. That is not real accountability based on the pursuit of virtue.

Faults are part of the human condition, and they are part of what brings about the perfection of the human being to the extent that the individual realizes his vulnerability and deficiency - to that extent, he will achieve self-knowledge and knowledge of the truth. Prying, and trying to expose people isn’t helpful in that process.

Revelation calls on man to constantly further that process of knowledge by cultivating God-consciousness - evaluating his motives and acts in order to get closer to God. So we are to know the details of our inner selves and not concern ourselves with inner faults and shortcomings of others. This is how we are able to receive His guidance and live as noble creatures.

Thus human nobility is a gift from Allah, despite his own flawed and indigent condition and humble, created origin. A noble person, a believer in what we have mentioned, is familiar with his own deficiency and that very deficiency, in part, causes him to turn to Allah. He is not afraid of embracing his condition, but at the same time he is not complacent about his failings and faults. He identifies them and through repentance and making amends he uses them as means to turn to God. So human deficiency has a purpose.

When he thus turns to God and he looks at other creatures he sees the nobility that God has bestowed on them. And to the extent that he is aware of his own faults he sees others as better them himself and he deals with them accordingly. When he deals with himself - he calls himself to account daily and cries in the night to God for help with his faults.  That is how it works.

Wazwaz: Let me though point out something that concerns me regarding this understanding.  At times when people are exposed, they respond by saying, I am not perfect. They don't internally recognize that realization though, since they avoid accountability.  In a seminar once with some high profile people – the speaker was promoting civil speech.  However, civil speech and eloquence became a cover to avoid accountability.  The speaker was discussing the mistake in going to war against Iraq, since Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.  But it stopped there.  There was no remorse over the harm committed.  When I raised my hand to explain the concept of restorative justice and the importance of repairing the harm and feeling remorse – the speaker looked visibly upset and avoided me.

Another case in point is relationships between men and women – many high profile and famous people in this country were caught cheating and betraying their spouses.  People rush to seek counseling to save their face and feel good, and ABORT any feelings of remorse for the harm they did.  They just want to FEEL good again instead of repairing the harm or the relationship they destroyed.  They fear sadness or remorse and avoid it at all costs.

Shaykh Qays: That is a good point. There is a need for balance and public accountability when there is public harm involved. It seems to me that when people are exposed it is conservatives who draw the most media attention. Here is this person who is promoting “family values” caught having an affair. So people who criticize religion seize on such cases. But it’s not only the critics. Religious people also, often keen to avoid their faith being dragged into the dirt as a result, are often judgmental and defensive in such situations and a lynch mob quickly emerges against the offender.

And once a lynch mob takes over meaning and wisdom get lost in the frenzy. When an individual’s private wrongdoings are exposed there are many beneficial lessons to be learned and reminders to be heeded. Among them is the reminder that humans are weak. But with that we see that private sins can become public if God wills and that repentance and turning away from sin without delay is wise and prudent in this world even before the next. It means also that chastity is a weighty matter. It does not mean that chastity is impractical or naive any more than high murder rates indicate that peaceful coexistence is impractical or naive. Precautions have to be taken. It means the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad are true. It means repentance is due, and whose faults and sins were not exposed should thank Allah, concealing them by repenting from their own sins.

Wazwaz: Thank you for your comments.  Let us return to the verses in Al-Waqia and Ta-ha and perhaps reflect on how believers and disbelievers are described in the Qur'an and how they are guided.  Both believers and disbelievers are reminded with death.  The warning or reminder is sterner for believers.  Can you expand on that?

Shaykh Qays: Al-Waqia - To be clear disbelief (kufr in Arabic) entails rejection of all or part of what the prophets (peace be upon them) brought. According to Islamic tradition, belief in the existence of God, and in the Day of Judgment are denied either actually or effectively (partially by, for example accepting some prophets and rejecting others). The main reason that people abandon signs, the intellect, and miracles and reject all or part of God’s command is worldliness - the tendency to give worldly interests precedence over next-worldly interests and realities.

That tendency causes us to forget the next world, and the ultimate purpose behind our existence, God. So the worldly must forget and proceed to live based on mere conjecture or outright lies in the absence of real knowledge concerning our ultimate purpose and the meaning (beyond the mechanics) behind our existence. Human life is thus reduced to conjecture and convention based on what can be observed of the mechanics of this world.

Revelation offers guidance - interrupting the cycle of worldly thought and convention by calling people, and in Sura Al-Waqia disbelievers in particular, to ponder on death. That call takes the form, in this instance, of a threat. When God threatens the believers or disbelievers, it is a sign of His mercy. His Pure mercy proceeds from absolute knowledge of all reality and the human condition. God does not have a score to settle with anyone, even those that reject and insult Him for neither the praise nor denigration of human beings affects Him in the least. No one can harm God.

Rather, the divine threat comes in revelation to awaken hearts that are asleep. That is what is happening in this Sura and indeed all of the Quran. Allah reminds them about death, about trauma and vulnerability in order to guide them to reality. Not for any gain or benefit that may return to Him.

Wazwaz: Can you comment on the question - bring back the soul if you are true in your claim of independence?

Shaykh Qays: It is a rhetorical challenge meant to reinforce something that they and we all know. It is a reminder that strikes at the soul. We are not independent, we are all, believers and disbelievers alike, vulnerable.

Wazwaz:  The desire for greatness is a ladder that humans throughout history sought.  In the chapter at-Takwir, there is a beautiful question that is raised to humans who went blindly in search for greatness.  “where then are you going?”  The reminder of death is meant to help us reflect on our final destination and answer this question to help us walk humbly on the earth, grounded in reality, open to accountability and repentance. 

Throughout the Qur'an – we read God addressing the Prophet, “It was not you who threw. . “ or “It was not you who brought their hearts together. . .”  The believer embraces their vulnerability, their true selves, and their capabilities. We see this hatred of vulnerability in Pharaoh, and also in the group addressed in Al-Waqia - the huff puff argument is embedded in self-denial to their vulnerability and an embedded desire for greatness. Would you agree with that?

Shaykh Qays: Yes, I would agree to that. I would add that often that vulnerability is masked with mockery. Mockery is often countered by the Divine threat I spoke of earlier. It does seem as though mockery and ridicule (istihzah in Arabic) are common traits of those engaged in active rejection of the Truth. The mockery is a mask somewhat like a small animal’s defense mechanism to make it look bigger than it is. I suspect that some of those who have nothing to say about life’s purpose and meaning actually engage in mockery of things sacred in order to assure themselves (at a level that rational arguments cannot) that there is no Divine otherwise they would long have been struck down for their flying in His face so to speak.

In some way they are testing their own conjecture about the existence of God. But Allah, Most High, is not taunted into revealing Himself to the arrogant. He does though respond to all concerned parties in revelation. God speaks to the reality of their, our (human) condition, with which He, Most High, is better acquainted than we ourselves. In Sura al-Waqia it is as though the disbelievers are being asked “How can you make light of something so tremendous when your reality is so fragile, so vulnerable and you know that?”  That is the rhetorical question that is being asked.

Wazwaz: In light of our discussion and the passages in the Quran, what does God see that we are not aware of?

Shaykh Qays: Allah sees their vulnerability even though they are hiding it. But God knows their internal state and vulnerability. And it is as though they are being told “Look at how you are talking now, but what about when death is close, and you are helpless?” Thus those mockers and whoever else reads those verses are reminded of the meaning behind death of the account on the Day of Judgment and of meaning of human vulnerability and accountability, i.e. the greatness of God above all. So it is as if God is telling them that they, and indeed we all, should remember our own vulnerability and not be arrogant rejecters so that we can ultimately appreciate the truth that leads to God who is greater than this world and all it contains.

Wazwaz: Based on your understanding, do you agree that there is no obsession to make a non-believer believe, but out of a genuine concern, we invite. How do you respond to the over powering arguments or obsession to make those that believe - disbelieve?  For example, Richard Dawkins does not even understand Islam or read the Qur’an, yet he believes he is qualified to criticize it and attack Muslims.  In his recent attack, he mocks Muslims’ lack great achievements.  Also, in regards to those who attack Islam today.  Instead of obsessively acting on faith X which they believe is true, they spend their lives obsessively proving Islam is false.  How would you comment?

Shaykh Qays: I am firmly convinced that the so-called new atheist movement represents the onset of the death throes of modern materialism as a philosophy or worldview which, despite trying to ride on the back as it were of dazzling scientific achievements for quite some time now, has not been able to dislodge “organized religion” as the fundamental worldview of the vast majority of mankind in as quick a manner as some of its devotees had anticipated.

People like Dawkins would have people believe that by figuring out the mechanics of as many things as possible the meaning of all things, if there is such a thing, will emerge. There is, of course, no scientific basis for that religious and philosophical posture (and there couldn’t be it being the case that it is religion and philosophy that shape science and not the other way round). Yet despite such imaginings and assumptions people need to know the meaning of life now while they are still alive and can do something with it. And science or more precisely materialist pseudo-religion, of the type people like Dawkins offers only a promise, a proposition of arriving as the ultimate truth at some undetermined point in the not too foreseeable future.

Of course that is not a feasible proposition for those in search of meaning, who are confronted by life’s ultimate questions. That proposition inherently assumes that there is no ultimate purpose (at least no urgent one) which defeats the purpose of waiting for its discovery or confirmation of its nonexistence. So materialists have resorted to making a religion out of attacking religion as a way to destroy opposition to their religious and philosophical assumptions which are impotent regarding life’s big questions. The kind of claim about the lack of greatness and power on the part of Muslims is consistent with such an approach. That sort of tactic is self-defeating, is perhaps a further indication of the death throes I mentioned earlier, and stands in stark contrast to the genuine appeals to man’s spirituality and rational faculties that one finds in all ancient religious traditions, and which inform the Muslim concept of Da’wah or invitation to the truth.

Wazwaz:  Thank you.  For further reflection listen to:

(To Be Continued)

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Faith and Guidance 6d

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: May 13, 2013 - 6:32 AM

“The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea; And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.”  --Khalil Gibran

 
 
This conversation is continuation to 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. It is in response to the mocking question, freedom or submission, that is prevalent.  In this conversation we are addressing surrender or submission from the angle of self-knowledge. We discussed the importance of embracing our vulnerability, mortality, self-deception and here we will discuss briefly the embedded knowledge in the heart.
 
The beginning of this conversation is 6a, 6b and 6c. This conversation on surrender will focus in on a few verses of the Qur'an.  It 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 Sheba 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:   In previous blogs, I started the discussion on faith and guidance by following the journey of Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace. It can be read here. He, upon him be peace, came to the junction point that he did not know.  Before he was guided, he was made to understand himself and his limited capabilities.  He used his mind, but God exposes his internal reality behind those questions:  “to satisfy the murmur in my heart.” 
 
There was an embedded question in the depths of his heart. He was searching for truth, for conviction, for certainty within the deep depths of his heart, not the deep depths of the world out there to prove someone is lying, to prove something he does not want to investigate is false.  In summary, he was using his mind, and not letting his mind use him to conjecture theories about a world beyond him guessing at the unknown.
 
Faith values reason and asks us to use our intelligence, aql.  The aql, or intelligence, is a gift from God.  However, faith asks people to be truth seekers, as what you seek and strive for internally influences what you receive and perceive in the world.  We must value science, but it is a means to discovering the world around us and not an end within itself.  It must also reconcile and be in harmony with the embedded knowledge of the heart. Each time a layer of darkness is removed from the heart, the knowledge embedded within is revealed to the eyes. 
 
According to Islamic tradition, one of the evidences that God will use to judge each and everyone one of us, is our hearts. No one will be dealt with unjustly.
 
“And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest. That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day?” (Qur'an 100:10-11)
 
Shaykh Qays:  The story of Abraham, peace be upon him, is different from the story of the Queen of Sheba.  Like the Queen, Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, is coming from a similar background, a world of idolatry.  However, he was a prophet. Prophets are protected from certain things prior to being chosen by God being manifested.  They are possessed of special intellects that are connected to their essential human nature (called fitra) and are illuminated by God’s special favor and grace. So Prophet Abraham knew to himself that worshipping things that people make in shops is wrong.  He knew that was morally reprehensible.
 
According to Islamic teachings, shirk or polytheism is about self-worship. Gnostics have said that monotheism (tawhid) is distinguishing the Eternal (God) from the transient (creation). When creation worships anything other than God, it is a form of self-worship - the transient worshiping the transient. It is manifested in Pharaoh (whose story with Moses is the most oft-repeated in the Quran) when he declared he was God to people. Again, what you see is the denial of truth embedded in a desire for self-worship.
 
Pharaoh ordered his minister to build a massive structure (called a sarh) into the sky, so he can reach the depth of the heavens to discover how things work and to go to this God that Moses worships, because he thought Moses was lying. So he was telling people he was God, Most High, yet he wanted to unlock the secrets of the Universe to see if Moses was lying.
 
So we see this happening today particularly in the likes of Scientism’s high priests such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, the latter being both a genius and a testimony to the miracle of technology, and in undertakings like the CERN particle accelerator. Hawking, who is treated like a Shaykh or even a Prophet, now claims to know, with certainty, that the Universe created itself. The establishment that made Hawking into what he is - is building a massive sarh of their own to uncover the causes, to unlock the secrets of the Universe.
 
Like Pharaoh many are obsessed with figuring out how everything works, and also like Pharaoh they do not think that what the prophets said is true. They are full of doubt and conjecture concerning the certainties of life. And they propagate doubt and uncertainty as if it were truth because they can build wondrous things “that work”.
 
Delusion is very much present. Inventing the wheel doesn’t necessarily make you fit to determine its ethical usage; it just makes you a great inventor. But many people don’t see things that way, and after arriving at the conclusion that what the prophets said was wrong they then labor under the assumption that by striving to figure out how everything works, they can figure out what everything means.
 
With that Pharaoh-like mindset it is easy to proclaim one’s self one’s God. “I play by my own rules”, “I can determine what’s right and wrong for myself” - those are the types of slogans you hear from rejecters of revelation. In a sense while Pharaoh’s was a monotheist self-worship - everyone worships him.  This approach is polytheistic - be your own goal, your own master, and your own god.
 
When such thinking becomes acceptable people start looking at submission in a particularly negative light. They see it as relegating oneself to insignificance, being humiliated and downtrodden.  Submission or surrender, in reality is not about insignificance. It is about harmony with the truth, the way things really are. It is an attitude that says: I am significant because of what I indicate and what I indicate is infinitely more significant than anything else that exists, which is Allah.
 
When people stop short of that, the result is, I am significant in and of myself and I am the center of the universe and everything is indicating me - “I play by my own rules” - like Pharaoh. Others come to the conclusion that I am insignificant and I indicate nothing.  They both agree on a common understanding, that there is no meaning to the existence of the human being.  Some people say the meaning is unclear.  Some say it is unknown.  Some say meanings themselves are byproducts of mechanical processes in the brain. When seen in the light of revelation it is all conjecture.
 
 
Wazwaz:  Does this impact Muslims though?  
 
Shaykh Qays: People are being affected by this conjecture. You have people, even religious people or Muslims, who see no real meaning in their life beyond material pursuits. They fall into depression or try to kill themselves.  In all the noise of conjecture they think God is there to help them become happy by ensuring that they are healthy, wealthy, and free in this world. They think material success what gives life substance and God is the means to get it, rather than seeing that God is the substance in life.
 
To get back to the main thought here, self-knowledge – is to see reality, to see meaning in existence, not merely to look for facts and causes then deny meaning. For example, man has this theory for the earth, and hundreds years later, another theory that refutes it.  There is a truth that is higher.  This is what faith is associated with.  The Queen saw something of huge consequence in Solomon’s letter, and she responded in kind. In contrast the people in Mecca made it clear that they took it lightly by jesting and mocking.
 
Do this experiment.  Go to YouTube and find videos by militant atheists and listen to 3-4 minutes and you will see the same pattern, this mocking, jesting. They, like stand-up comics, make witty, often irreverent, statements and people laugh - it’s a trend.  It’s about using mockery to cover meaning.
 
In contrast, Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, looked for the truth and looked for meaning.  In every soul – is embedded the knowledge, “Am I Not your Lord?”  This is knowledge that finds expression as an innate disposition in people that God is there and we are His.   So when signs are placed before us that bring us to that part of ourselves – some of us respond to it, like the Queen of Sheba, and some of us mock it, deny it or pretend we have better things to do.
 
 
Wazwaz:  One of the criticisms that you see from – as you call them, militant atheists – is how religious people revere the Prophets, yet they revere Stephen Hawking in a similar manner.  They use double standards toward Prophets of the Sacred Law versus people like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking or even Sam Harris.  
 
Shaykh Qays:  I really can’t comment about any man individually.  I know very little about Hawking as a person.  However, there is a book called “Science Set free” written by Rupert Sheldrake, a scientist. He is apparently quite an accomplished scientist with years of published, peer reviewed work to his credit. In his book he exposes the shocking level of institutional dogma in the scientific establishment. He speaks about how the establishment has become like a religious institution with things you do not question, and taboos.
 
I had earlier mentioned the tendency in some quarters to joke and mock everything that Religion deems sacred - some associate that irreverence with intelligence. But even that is a mask. Humans beings were created to believe with conviction and revere based on that conviction. I believe that is why once people deem the scientific method the gateway to all truth; they begin to revere figures like Hawking in the manner you described.
Rather than genuinely seeking the truth like Abraham, the truth is left aside for people who can enable their desire for self-reverence. May God, Most High, guide us and show us the way.
 
 
Wazwaz: Can you expand on the verses in Ta-Ha more, especially "for every soul to receive its reward by the measure of its Endeavour?" I heard Habib Hussein al-Saggaf say in one of his lessons that people find what they seek and strive for.  So if someone wants and seeks greatness - he will find that.  But being great is different than being on truth.
 
Shaykh Qays: The believer is one who has read the signs of God and heeded them. He strives to live in accordance with the illuminating teachings of revelation - to worship God, the Eternal, alone without partners which lead to self-discovery, fulfillment and eventual eternal bliss, not self-worship. In the absence of those teachings man’s entire scope becomes limited to the material world that is just like him and his significant God-given potential is confined to it. So his pursuits will seldom leave the realm of self-gratification and it will never extend to eternity for he believes only in the finite and thus doesn’t seek a relationship with anything beyond it. The matter is therefore as you have related from Habib al-Saggaf - the one who works only for the finite will receive that which he strove for. Yet I would like to draw attention to two aspects of this.
 
Firstly the matter of one’s eternal fate pertains to belief and disbelief or and not to group association. That is why I made it a point to speak of believers striving to live in accordance with revelation as opposed to just people for whom religion is a matter merely of identity.
 
The other important aspect is that turning away from belief in God and from the guidance of revelation is certain lead one down the road of self-aggrandizement and arrogance whereby one imagines oneself to be the center of the universe and proceeds to live that perception out resulting in doing things that are actually wrong and harmful to oneself and one’s eternal fate. One such evil lies in the pursuit of power and influence which can make people selfish and ruthless and Pharaoh-like. So when the verse in Sura Taha speaks about people getting that which they strove for it indicates that those who strove for good will find it and those who strove for evil likewise. That is with the understanding that doing good is only through faith and that evil is necessary a result of a lack of faith.
 
Elsewhere in the Quran, in chapter 47, verse 19 God says, “Have knowledge that there is no deity but God and seek forgiveness for your sin...” Scholars have explained that that command to “have knowledge” entails two things: learning and accepting the truth contained in revelation about the oneness of God and the ultimate good (in the next world) that is the result of that knowledge and acceptance, and seeking rectification and purification of one’s character and spirit through heeding the Divine command, being accountable to the command, and holding fast to repentance.
 
So those who act on the knowledge of revelation with acceptance seek a level moral of purification, if you will, that is based on absolute accountability beyond this world. The fruits of that purification should be apparent in this world and it is not to be found in intellectual exercises and philosophical discourse, but rather in traits like humility and submission to the Divine, and a keen awareness of one’s condition physical, mental, and spiritual in light of the standard of revelation.
 
That kind of awareness is not easy to attain, it requires seeking knowledge, practicing ritual worship with discipline and consistency, measuring one’s conduct by the standard of the prophets and saintly people, and turning to God constantly for help and forgiveness when, not if, one falls short. When someone rejects faith and revelation they reject that type of life in favor of one where they live by their own rules and within the confines of whatever they personally accept as knowledge.
 
So though that rejection may be cloaked in logical and intellectual arguments, the final result is still the same: an avoidance of the truth of the human being’s ultimate responsibility to actually be moral and be in accordance with the truth by a standard that is well beyond worldly interests and into the realm of eternal interests, accountability, and well-being. So in chapter 2, verse 282 we find “...fear God and God will teach you...” meaning that those one who submit to the limits in revelation will be taught by God and granted “light” a special type of knowledge that is based on the firm evidences and arguments of revelation - through which one will be able to distinguish truth from falsehood. And that we ask of God, the Mighty, the Able.
 
(To Be Continued...)

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Faith and Guidance 6c

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: March 17, 2013 - 8:25 AM

“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).”
(Quran 2:10)

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...)

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