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We continue our reading of M. A. Draz’s “The Moral World Of The Qur’an”, analyzing the authority of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا استَجيبوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسولِ إِذا دَعاكُم لِما يُحييكُم ۖ وَاعلَموا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحولُ بَينَ المَرءِ وَقَلبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيهِ تُحشَرونَ
“O you who believe! Respond to Allah and to the Messenger when He calls you to what will bring you to life! Know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that you will be gathered to Him.” — Qur’an 8: 24
عَنْ عَامِرِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ عَنْ أَبِيهِ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِنَّ أَعْظَمَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فِي الْمُسْلِمِينَ جُرْمًا مَنْ سَأَلَ عَنْ شَىْءٍ لَمْ يُحَرَّمْ عَلَى الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَحُرِّمَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ أَجْلِ مَسْأَلَتِهِ
Amir b. Sa’d reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “The greatest sinner amongst the Muslims is one who asked about a thing from Allah’s Apostle which had not been forbidden for the Muslims and it was forbidden for them because of his persistently asking about it.” — Sahih Muslim #2358
عَنْ مُوسَى بْنِ طَلْحَةَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ قَالَ مَرَرْتُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِقَوْمٍ عَلَى رُءُوسِ النَّخْلِ فَقَالَ مَا يَصْنَعُ هَؤُلاَءِ فَقَالُوا يُلَقِّحُونَهُ يَجْعَلُونَ الذَّكَرَ فِي الأُنْثَى فَيَلْقَحُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَا أَظُنُّ يُغْنِي ذَلِكَ شَيْئًا قَالَ فَأُخْبِرُوا بِذَلِكَ فَتَرَكُوهُ فَأُخْبِرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِذَلِكَ فَقَالَ إِنْ كَانَ يَنْفَعُهُمْ ذَلِكَ فَلْيَصْنَعُوهُ فَإِنِّي إِنَّمَا ظَنَنْتُ ظَنًّا فَلاَ تُؤَاخِذُونِي بِالظَّنِّ وَلَكِنْ إِذَا حَدَّثْتُكُمْ عَنِ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا فَخُذُوا بِهِ فَإِنِّي لَنْ أَكْذِبَ عَلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ
“Musa b. Talha reported, ‘I and Allah’s Messenger ﷺ happened to pass by people near the date-palm trees. He said, “What are these people doing?” They said, “They are grafting, to combine the male with the female trees to yield more fruit.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “I do not find it to be of any use.” The people were informed about it and they abandoned this practice. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ was later informed that the yield had dwindled, whereupon he said, “If there is any use of it, then they should do it, for it was just a personal opinion of mine, and do not go after my personal opinion. But when I say to you anything on behalf of Allah, then do accept it, for I do not attribute lie to Allah’.” — Sahih Muslim #2361
باب وُجُوبِ امْتِثَالِ مَا قَالَهُ شَرْعًا دُونَ مَا ذَكَرَهُ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْ مَعَايِشِ الدُّنْيَا
Literally titled, “The Chapter On The Obligation To Obey What He Says With Regard To Matters Of Religion, But Not What He Says With Regard To Worldly Matters”.
وَإِن كادوا لَيَفتِنونَكَ عَنِ الَّذي أَوحَينا إِلَيكَ لِتَفتَرِيَ عَلَينا غَيرَهُ ۖ وَإِذًا لَاتَّخَذوكَ خَليلًا
وَلَولا أَن ثَبَّتناكَ لَقَد كِدتَ تَركَنُ إِلَيهِم شَيئًا قَليلًا
“They were very near to enticing you away from some of what We have revealed to you, hoping that you would invent something against Us. Then they would have taken you as their intimate. If We had not made you firm, you would have leaned towards them a little.” – Qur’an 17: 73-74
In this episode, I foster an important conversation about the future of Islam in America, particularly as it relates to Blackamerica, with Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, assistant professor of Islamic law and Prophetic Tradition at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, and Malik Shaw, author of The Green School: A Natural Approach To Educating Children and the co-Founder and executive director of Midtown Mosque, in Memphis.
From Malik Shaw’s book, The Green School:
“As Jill Rigby states in her book Raising Disrespectful Children in a Disrespectful World, ‘As a result of this emphasis on self-esteem, twenty-somethings are returning home rather than facing the world on their own. College kids are flunking out because they don’t know how to manage their schedules. Kids are growing up without problem-solving skills because their parents think love means solving all their problems for them. Many adolescents have no respect for authority because their parents didn‘t command their respect. Instead, their parents gave too much and exposed them to too little. In our attempt to build self-esteem in children, we have reared a generation of young people who are failing at life, haven’t a clue who they are, and are struggling to find a reason for living. Their kids fall for the latest craze, healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are in the middle of it. They would rather die than give up their cell phones. And they feel that others have an obligation to serve them’.”
A khutbah I delivered on January 4th, 2019.
Discussing an important difference in how we approach our worship, our life, and our Islam.
Process vs. Results
One of the most common and detrimental mistakes I see people make when it comes to religion is having a results-based versus process-based approach to worshiping and living as a believer.
The fallout of having a results-based religious practice and lifestyle, particularly when the expected results are a certain set of emotions (happy, elated, euphoric, etc.) is that (1) if we happen to be granted such a state then our tendency is to fetishize whatever we used to get to that “state”: dhikr beads, a particular wird or litany, a certain place of worship, or quite often a particular teacher, living or dead.
Of course the more obvious negative complications can result in a downturn in faith, being frustrated, and even the loss of faith when I particular fetish fails to deliver “its promise”.
As I mentioned, results based-practices inevitably will require some kind of fetish. By fetish I do not mean the popular notion of a curious or even deviant obsession (quite often sexual in the modern context) with a particular thing or object. Instead, I am referring to an older and more original notion of an item having magical or mysterious properties. In many cultures, especially shamanistic cultures, a priest might believe a particular object may even hold a deity. It was also understood in the Middle Ages to imply the use of sorcery (for instance, the Portuguese term, “feiticeria”, meaning “sorcery” or “witchcraft”).
In the end, results based-religious practices are always guaranteed to fail, letting us down because they are ill-suited to the needs of actual human beings who, throughout their lifetime, will experience a wide spectrum of emotions, all the way from joy to grieve and many others in between. Results-based practices often give off the glow of spirituality but lack the depth and substance to deliver on their promises.
Process based practices, however, require no fetishes and no artifacts. Then really require the heart, mind, and soul of a believer. Consider even the statement of the Prophet when he said, “the entirety of the Earth has been made a place of worship”.
أُعْطِيتُ خَمْسًا لَمْ يُعْطَهُنَّ أَحَدٌ قَبْلِي نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ مَسِيرَةَ شَهْرٍ، وَجُعِلَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ مَسْجِدًا وَطَهُورًا، فَأَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَدْرَكَتْهُ الصَّلاَةُ فَلْيُصَلِّ، وَأُحِلَّتْ لِيَ الْمَغَانِمُ وَلَمْ تَحِلَّ لأَحَدٍ قَبْلِي، وَأُعْطِيتُ الشَّفَاعَةَ، وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً، وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ عَامَّةً
“I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me. (1) Allah made me victorious by awe, for a distance of one month’s journey. (2) The earth has been made for me a place for praying and a thing to perform dry ablution (wudu), therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. (3) The booty has been made lawful for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me. (4) I have been given the right of intercession on the Day of Resurrection. (5) Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.” al-Bukhari, #335
They also allow for the believer to worship and live — as a believer — regardless (or even in spite of one’s emotional state!). This process-based mode of living and worshipping is complete and holistic. We can see the way the Qur’an pushes man to this completed and sincere form of worship when we read passages such as,
وَأَقيموا وُجوهَكُم عِندَ كُلِّ مَسجِدٍ وَادعوهُ مُخلِصينَ لَهُ الدّينَ ۚ كَما بَدَأَكُم تَعودونَ
“Stand and face Him in every place of worship and call on Him, making your worship and religion sincerely for His sake alone.” Qur’an 7: 29
So what does this really mean? Are we to worship a live as believers even when “our hearts just aren’t in it?” Yes. Absolutely! In fact, living and worshipping as a believer when we’re sad and grief-stricken, and not just when we’re happy, is the beginning of wisdom and the first of many important steps towards being sincere and obedient with God. Wisdom is more than the application of knowledge; it is the ability to make correct judgments independent of emotional hegemony. It is likewise an important step toward taking full responsibility for ourselves; our Islam. In doing so we not only wind up praying and fasting and tithing when we’re tired, hungry, and broke, but we can finally reach a true state of belief, one where, as the Qur’an says,
قُل إِنَّ صَلاتي وَنُسُكي وَمَحيايَ وَمَماتي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ العالَمينَ
“Say: ‘My prayer, and my rites of worship, my living and my dying, are for God alone, the Lord of all the worlds’.” Qur’an 6: 162