Exercise in Islamization – Should(n’t) Islam Equal Good Design (?)

The following is an exercise in “Islamization”. Islamization may feel too large or charged a term but it is precisely the word I plan to use with a group of MSA students this weekend at our retreat. The idea behind Islamization is that one looks to one’s environment and is able to see, infuse or somehow impose or appropriate purpose upon that thing in such away it reminds oneself of God, of the Messenger صلى لله عليه وسلم or some other “Islamic” principle by which we can enrich our lives as Muslims.

All too often I see Muslims (particularly young Muslims) laboring underneath a cloud of inferiority, insecurity and just plain doubt as to what they can (or most likely) can’t do as Muslims. Part of this ailment hails from a lack of intellectual authority over their lives as Muslims. Simply put, they are not literate as Muslims, despite the fact that many are highly educated. So when I came across a documentary this weekend on Netflix entitled Objectified,  I was struck by Japanese designer, Naoto Fukasawa, when he expressed what he felt “good design” was:

“Design dissolving in behavior. Design needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.” – Naoto Fukasawa, industrial designer, former head of IDEO.

Immediately, my mind went to not design, but to Islam. For was not Islam something that should be and come natural to the human being? So I played a little experiment that I shall continue this weekend, but substituting the keyword of “design” with a variety of “Islamic” vocabulary in order to appropriate an idea/ideal, whose origin was not “Islamic” per se, but nonetheless, resonated well, exceptionally well in my opinion, in that it showcased the ghaayah or goal that Islam has with the human being and thus provided some clues as to how one must just go about “dissolving [it] in [one’s] behavior”:

Islam dissolving in behavior. Islam needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Qur’an dissolving in behavior. Qur’an needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Sunnah dissolving in behavior. Sunnah needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Taqwa dissolving in behavior. Taqwa needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Ihsan dissolving in behavior. Ihsan needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Adab dissolving in behavior. Adab needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Akhlaq dissolving in behavior. Akhlaq needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Shari’ah dissolving in behavior. Shari’ah needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.

Ramadan Lecture: The Importance of Adab

Delivered at United Muslim Masjid, Philadelphia

الله سبحانه و تعالى المسؤول المرجوُّ الإجابة أن يتولاكم في الدنيا و الآخرة و أن يسبغ عليكم نعمه ظاهرة و باطنة (ألم تروا أن الله سخر لكم ما في السماوات وما في الأرض وأسبغ عليكم نعمه ظاهرة و باطنة – سورة لقمان 20) و أن يجعلكم ممن إذا أنعم الله عليه شكر و إذا ابتُلِيَ صبر و إذا أذنب استغفر فإن هذه الأمور الثلاثة هي عنوان سعادة العبد وعلامة فلاحه في دنياه و أخراه ولا يَنفَكُّ عبدٌ عنها أبدا فإن العبد دائما يتقلب بين هذه الأطباق الثلاث

“Perfect is God the Exalted, the one we implore—and whose answer we await—to watch over you in this world and the next, to shower you with God’s grace, outwardly and inwardly, and to make you among those who, when blessed, give thanks; when tried, persevere and endure; and when sinful, seek forgiveness. For these three conditions are the supports of the servant’s happiness, and the signs of his success in this world and the next. No servant is without them, but is always shifting from one to the other.” [Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah – al-Wābil as-Ṣayyib].

نُعِمَ من الله تعالى تترادف عليه فقيدها الشكر و هو مبني على ثلاثة أركان الاعتراف بها باطنا والتحدث بها ظاهرا وتصريفها في مرضاة وليها و مسديها و معطيها فإذا فعل ذلك فقد شكرها مع تقصيره في شكرها (ومن كان يرجوا لقاء ربه فليعمل عملا صالحا سورة الكهف 110)

“The first condition is the blessings which come to the servant from God the Exalted, one after another. What secures them is gratitude, based on three supports: inward recognition of the blessing; outward mention and thanks for it; and its use in a way that pleases the One to whom it truly belongs and who truly bestows it. Acting in accordance with this, the servant shows his gratitude for the blessing—however small it may be.” [Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah – al-Wābil as-Ṣayyib]

عن عمر رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قال حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل أن تحاسبوا وزنوا أعمالكم قبل أن توزن عليكم

“’Abd Allah Ibn ‘Abbas reports that the Prophet said: take stock of your selves before you are judged; weigh your deeds before they are weighed for you.” [Arba’īn al-Wad’āniyyah].

من ظن أنه بدون الجهد يصل فهو متمن ومن ظن أنه ببذل الجهد يصل فهو مستغن

“He who thinks he will attain his goal without effort is a fool and he who thinks he will achieve his goal purely by effort is presumptuous and arrogant.” [‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib].

ألعلم بلا عمل جنون والعمل بغير علم لا يكون

“Knowledge without action or deeds is madness and action without knowledge is void/useless.” [Imam al-Ghazali]

فاستحي من مولاك حق الحياء واجتهد أن لا يراك حيث نهاك ولا يفقدك حيث أمرك واعبده كأنك تراه فإن لم يكن تراه فإنه يراك

“Have modesty before your Lord as you should; make sure that He never sees you in a situation which He has forbidden you, and never misses you where He has commanded you to be; worship God as if you see God, for even though you can’t see God, know that God sees you.” [Imam al-Haddad]

ينبغي أن توزِّع أوقاتك وترتِّبَ أورادك

“You should structure your time and arrange your regular devotions.” [Imam al-Haddad]

قال لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له له الملك وهو الحمد وهو على كل شيء قدير في يومٍ مائةَ مرة ، كانت له عدلَ عشْرِ رقاب ، وكتب له مائةُ حسنة ، ومحيت عنه مائة سيئة ، وكانت له حرزا من الشيطان يومَه ذلك حتى يُمْسِيَ ، ولم يأت أحد بأفضل مما جاء به إلا رجل عمل أكثر منه

“Whoever says: “La ilaha illal-lah …,” one hundred times will get the same reward as given for freeing ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts, and it (his saying) will be a shield for him from Satan on that day till night, and nobody will be able to do a better deed except the one who does more than he.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

أكثر من السجود فإنه ليس من مسلم يسجد لله تعالى سجدة إلا رفعه بها الله درجة في الجنة وحط عنه بها خطيئة

“Prostrate much because there is no Muslim that prostrates to God except that God raises him one degree in Paradise by it and forgives for him a sin.” [Ahmad]

Endeavor to restrain your souls, and the Ultimate reward will be yours:

وأما من خاف مقام ربه ونهى النفس عن الهوى فإن الجنة هى المأوى

For the one who fears the Station of his Lord and denies the appetites of the lower self, the Garden will be his refuge.” [al-Nāzi’at 79: 40-1]

Listen to and download the lecture here.

I Have Nothing To Give But Paradise

يقول الله تعالى : ما لعبدي المؤمن عندي جزاء ، إذا قبضت صفيه من أهل الدنيا ثم احتسبه ، إلا الجنة

Abu Hurayra relates that Allah’s Messenger [s] said, “Allah says, ‘I have nothing to give but Paradise as a reward to my believer slave, who, if I cause his dear friend (or relative) to die, remains patient (and hopes for Allah’s Reward)’.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

Our hearts go out to those in Pakistan who have lost loved ones, and to anywhere else in the world, who have been tested by God to bear such burdens with patience and dignity.

Fallacy of the Self-Made Man

In light of the hero culture we are bred in here in America, I fould Ibn Aṭa’ Allah’s words [may God have mercy on him] to be most inciteful on the fallacy of this myth:

من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

“One of the signs of relying on one’s own agency [vs. relying on God] is the loss of hope in the presence of a tribulation.”

You can read/download an Arabic/English copy of al-Hikam here.