Epiphany of the Self-minded Soul

The following is an article that I wrote back in 2007 that I shelved for one reason or another. Having recenlty updated my web site as well as having consolidated the Manrilla Blog into the main fold, I thought I would share these thoughts. They apply as well in 2011 as they did four years ago.

It is not my customary approach to be preachy. On the whole, I despise self-aggrandizing rhetoric but I feel compelled to share the thoughts that came over me this morning. I had an experience today while going to take my final. Not exactly an epiphany but something significant none the less.

To give a little background, I have been re-reading Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr over again lately as well as some biographical material on the Prophet, sallahu alayhi wa sallam, as well as my general Qur’ānic readings for memorization. And as I was striding up to Temple to hand in my final paper, I lamented about having to drop a course this term. My initial reaction was, “Damn. One more class I gotta make up.” And as my mind started to crunch the data as to how far that might set me back a little light went off in my head…

It is so often that we humans think of things in both linear fashions as well as leaning towards individualistic tendencies. It’s normal, I suppose, though that should be no excuse to not combat those innate characteristics of our being that are less desirable. So to begin to bring this together, the Qur’ānic verse went off in my head [translation mine]: “Lā yukallifu Allahu nafsan illā wus’uhā”

لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها

God does not place a burden on a soul greater than it can bear.  [Qur’ān, The Cow: 2:286]

For the first time in my fifteen years (now nineteen as of this article’s date!) as a Muslim, I reexamined this verse (a trend I seem to be doing more as of late). What did it mean? Was it straightforward as it seemed or could there be something further, something more subtle or even more expansive. As this thought was bouncing around in my head another verse went off, from the sūrah I’m currently memorizing, Yunus [Jonah]: “Wa idhā massa al-Insāna ad-durru da’ānā li janbihi aw qā’idan aw qā’iman. Fa lammā kashafnā ‘anhu durrahu marra ka ‘in lam yada’unā ilā durrin massa, kadhālika zuyyina lilmusrifiyna mā kanuw ya’ lamuwn”

و إذا مس الإنسن الضر دعانا لجنبه أو قائدا أو قائمافلما كشفنا عنه ضره مر كإن لم يدعنا إلا ضر مسه كذلك زين للمسرفين ما كانوا يعملون

And when a calamity touches Mankind, he calls upon Us, laying on his side, sitting, or standing), “. [Qur’ān, Jonah: 10:12]

To complete the triumvant, the next two verses also chimed in, “Inna al-Insaana lirbbihi lakanuwd, wa innahu ‘alaa dthaalika lashahiyd”

إن الإنسن لربه لكنود و إنه على ذلك لشهيد

Without a doubt, Mankind is ungrateful to his Lord and He is a witness to it. [Qur’ān, The Steeds: 100:6-7]

Ingratitude? Arrogance? All in face of God’s bounty? That’s what started to piece together. It is so often that Man [and I lump myself in here] sees his calamity from his own perspective, judging it from his/mine/our limited scope or viewpoint. But God sees everything from all stances. Was it lamentable that I had to drop a course or could that in itself be the burden I was unable to bear? Sadly, at the time of dropping my course, not once did I give thought that this may be a rahmah [a mercy]. Ibn Kathīr points out two valid opinions on interpreting, “wa innahu ‘alaa dthaalika lashahiyd”? [and He (or he) is a witness to it], meaning that God is most certainly aware of Mankind’s ungracious attitude. But the second opinion is that Man himself is aware of this. Perhaps now, in hindsight, I have become aware of my ingratitude.

Again, I hope this will not be taken as grandstanding but as one brother who just wants to share some thoughts – God knows best.

10 Replies to “Epiphany of the Self-minded Soul”

  1. Salaams Brother. Thank you for your post. I didn’t find it preachy at all. I thought it was a nice reminder for us all to be grateful and mindful that Allah is the best of planners,always.

    We humans do tend to put our human slant / paradigm towards spiritual complexities. As you said, what looks to us from our vantage point as a burden or problem could very well be a blessing, Allah knows best. I have had experiences in my life where something happens that looks like it is a problem. Sooner (or later ) I see the beautiful way that Allah ‘s perfect plan unfolds into good stemming from what I’d thought was a problem in the first place. Like the time a guy from the electric company knocked on my door saying that he was sorry but that they would need to turn off the power in my house for the entire day. It was winter. I had a small child. It would mean that I could not cook or even have heat and would have to leave. I did protest, implore, that they change the plan to give me more notice but they were adamant saying that there was a problem , a line was down in the area. I went into my studio to gather some things to prepare to spend the day at the library. I noticed that the iron was left on and had fallen face down on to the carpet. Had the electric company not come when they had the iron most likely would have caused a terrible fire. Was this mysterious inconvenience really divine intervention? I don’t know. But since then one of my goals is to not complain, ever! Still working on that.Lol! Thanks again. I appreciated what you shared…

  2. Salaams, and thanks, Safiyah. It reminded me of one of the themes that Dr. Sherman Jackson talked about last year at the Seerah talk that he give at NYU and that Revelation is a top-down phenomenon and so is Allah’s bounty. It is not to say that a person cannot do good and therefore influence Allah’s deliverance of His bounty but as in the following saying, it is ultimately up to Him and beyond our control and/or perspective: “good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people”.

  3. Salaams, Marc.You bring in that slice of the spiritual pie that seems to serve as ‘our just desserts’ conversation ! It is so hard to answer people when they ask me questions about things like why bad things happen to good people when the person asking doesn’t really dwell in the zone of non-logical, unseen , non- linear way of experiencing things. If I speak on this subject it can easily go to that place of sounding preachy or me pushing
    my ‘ beliefs’ on them. I feel the below quotes to be my spiritual answer but that brings in the sins, heaven , hell, typical diving board that non – Muslims expect me to jump from. I’d so rather offer something refreshingly unexpected that invites them to think outside the ‘typical religous fanatic’ box …

    The Prophet (peace be upon him)said:

    “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”

    “When Allah desires good for someone, Allah tries him with hardships.”

  4. Wow. Sometimes you come across something that feels like it was written only for you. Left speechless and humbled and in tears. May Allah always listen to your pleas as he listened to mine – and may you never be as forgetful asIi have been.

  5. It is a relief when you can find a perspective that God always knows all; that it is our comfort.
    We may know limited, but there are grains of knowledge to let us know that the rest of what we do not know is all playing into God’s vision. Let our shortcomings be our successes and our victories be our admonitions – for God’s message is for those who hear.

    I have no scripture to quote, but I have a saying that keeps me in perspective:
    “All who know do not say, all who say do not know; But everything known could be wrong – so there is faith.”

    Good to see the blog up Marqas!

  6. Will! Thanks for stopping in. No need for quoting verses verbatim. I get you! Just a funny observation on how we are often the determining factor, “forgetting our place”. Hope all’s well.


  7. I came across this post by searching the web for a good translation of “لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها” …
    Your article states every ounce of the thought that was floating inside my… soul and made me look upon that translation. Beautiful.


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