Returning after a hiatus, I discusses some finer points from this past week’s khutbah, “Contentment With The World Is The Enemy Of Success”, delivered at Middle Ground on June 16th, 2017.
اقترب للناس حسابهم و هم في غفلة معرضون (۱) ما ياتيهم من ذكر من ربهم محدث إلا استمعوه و هم يلعبون (۲) لاهية قلوبهم و أسرو النجوى الذين ظلموا هل هذآ إلا بشر مثلكم أفتاتون السحر و أنتم تبصرون (٣) قال ربى يعلم القول في السماء و الأرض و هو السميع العليم (٤)
Mankind’s Reckoning has drawn very close to them, yet they heedlessly turn away (1). No fresh reminder comes to them from their Lord without their listening to it as if it was a game (2). Their hearts are distracted. Those who do wrong confer together secretly, saying, ‘Is this man anything but a human being like yourselves? Do you succumb to magic with your eyes wide open?’ (3). Say: ‘My Lord knows what is said in heaven and earth. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.’ (4). [Qur’an: 21: 1-5]
ألهاكم التكاثر حتى زرتم المقابر كلا سوف سيعلمون ثم كلا سيعلمون
You are distracted in excessive accumulation! So much so, that you visit graves. No!, you will come to know. No indeed!, you will come to know! [Qur’an: 102: 1-4]
Time in the Dunya is a serious affair. Serious in a way in which we know this life “isn’t it”. We should never have the opinion of just “killing time” or just being distracted with nonsense, so much so, that in the tafsir of these verses, that you either do so all your life until you “visit the grave” or that you take competition/bragging/مفاخرة to such an extent, you have to go and visit the graves of your dead as did Banu Sahm and Banu ‘Abd al-Manaf. We must be careful with what we do with our time. We will be held accountable.
الله نور السماوات و الأرض مثل نوره كمشكاة فيها مصباح المصباح في زجاجة الزجاجة كأنها كوكب درّى يوقد من شجرة مبركة زيتونة لا شرقية و لا غربية يكاد زيتها يضيء و لو لم تمسسه نار نور على نور يهدى الله لنوره من يشاء و يضرب الله الأمثال للناس و الله بكل شيء عليم (٣٥) في بيوت أذن الله أن ترفع و يدكر فيها امسه يسبح له فيها بالغدو و الأصال (٣٦) رجال لا تلهيهم تجارة و لا بيع عن ذكر الله و إقام الصلوة و إيتاء الزكوة يخافون يوما تتقلب فيه القلوب و الأبصار (٣٧) ليجزيهم الله أحسن ما عملوا و يزيدهم من فضله و الله يرزق من يشاء بغير حساب (٣٨)
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, the glass like a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, its oil all but giving off light even if no fire touches it. Light upon Light. God guides to His Light whoever He wills and Allah makes metaphors for mankind and God has knowledge of all things (35). In houses which God has permitted to be built and in which His name is remembered, there are men who proclaim His glory morning and evening (36), not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of God and the establishment of salah and the payment of zakah; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil (37) — so that God can reward them for the best of what they did and give them more from His unbounded favor. God provides for anyone He wills without reckoning (38). [Qur’an: 24: 35-38]
Food for thought: This was very timely, even though it was written in 1934. Just substitute “Muslim” for “art” in relation to our approach to Qur’an, Sunnah, fiqh, etc.:
“When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement.”
— John Dewey, from Art As Experience. Again, the analogy that can be drawn between Islamic law/studies and what Dewey calls “art” here is intriguing.
“Knowledge of the truth about the world of empirical things can indeed be achieved and increased through inquiry made by generations of mankind. But true knowledge has an immediate bearing on the individual man as it pertains to his identity and destiny, and he cannot afford to suspend his judgment concerning its truth, as it is not meant to be something that can be discovered eventually by future generations.”
— Islam, Secularism and the Philosophy of the Future by Syed Muhammad Naqib al-Attas.
We must strive to be observant for time can pass and actions can be made to seem good to us, even though in reality, they may not be pleasing to God!
تالله لقدَ اَرسلنا إلى أُمَمٍ من قبلك فزين لهم الشيطان أعمالهم فهو وليهم اليومَ و لهم عذاب اَليم
By God!, We sent Messengers to communities before your time, but Shaytan made their actions seem good to them. Therefore today he is their protector. They will have a painful punishment. [Qur’an: 16: 63 ]
و إذا مس الإنسان الضر دعانا لجنبه أو قاعدا و قائما – فلما كشفنا عنه ضره مر كأن لّم يدعنا إلى ضر مسه – كذالك زين للمسرفين ما كانوا يعملون
And when calamity touches mankind, he calls out to Us, on his side, sitting down, or standing. Yet when We remove his affliction, he passes along as if he never cried out to us when the harm touched him. In this way the deeds of the musrifun are made to seem fair and pleasing to them. [Qur’an: 10: 12]
Note: God did not say ما كانوا يفعلون but said ما كانوا يعملون. The significance here is deeds, not simply actions. In otherwords, worship.A musrif is someone who squanders, who wastes, who is immoderate.
Make good use of your time!
و لا يحسبن الذين كفروا أنما نملى لهم خيرٌ لأنفسهم – إنما نملى لهم ليزدادوا إثما – و لهم عذاب مهين
Those who are kafir should not imagine that the extra time We grant to them is good for them. We only allow them more time so they will increase in evildoing. They will have a humiliating punishment. [Qur’an: 3: 178]
The Purpose of Time
و جعلنا اليل و النهار ءايتين – فمحونا ءاية اليل و جعلنا ءاية النهار مبصرة لتبتغوا فضلا من ربكم ولتعلموا عدد السنين و الحساب – و كلَ شىء فصلناه تفصيلا
We made the night and day two Signs. We blotted out the Sign of the night and made the Sign of the day a time for seeing so that you can seek favor from your Lord and will know the number of years and the reckoning of time. We have made all things very clear. [Qur’an: 17: 12]
أمن هو قانت – انآء الليلِ ساجدا و قائما يحذر الاخرةَ و يرجوا رحمة ربه
What of him who spends the night hours in prayer, prostrating and standing up, mindful of the Next World, hoping for the mercy of his Lord? [Qur’an: 39: 9]
Be cognizant of time, as Shaytan will whisper to you to make time for this and that useless thing. It is an illusion that we have time, especially because we think we are young. Manage the time and space of your affairs!
Imam al-Ghazzali, may God have mercy on him, left us with this excellent advice:
اجتهد أن لا يراك حيث نهاك و لا يفقدك حيث أمرك قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال عز و جل ما تقرب إلي المتقربون بمثل أداء ما افترضته
Managing time and affairs. Strive to not be seen where God has forbidden you to be and likewise, strive to not be found absent where God has commanded you to be. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings upon him, said: “God the Almighty has declared: ‘no one draws closer to Me, from those who draw close, than by maintaining what I have made obligatory on him.’”