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 Preparation: A Khutbah

Islam is a religion of responsibility, both towards ourselves and to others. This is part of our deeds as well as our religious literacy.

Recap on the meaning of taqwā. We can think of it as a set of reflexes – a self-defense system as per al-Tabrizi’s definition:

الإتقاء أن تجعل بينك و بين ما تخافه حاجزا يحفظك

“Taqwa is the idea that you [A] place something [C] between yourself and that which you fear could destroy you [B].”

و اتقوا يوما لا تجزي نفس عن نفس شيئا و لا يقبل منها شفاعة و لا يوخذ منها عدل و لا هم ينصرون

“Defend yourself against a day that will come where no soul shall be of assistance to another whatsoever – nor shall it put forth an intercessor in its place – no compensation will be taken from it – nor shall there be anyone to come to its aid.” [Qur’an: 2:47]

Responsibility: we must take ownership over our Islam as it pertains to our personal piety, development and how Islam is seen in the public eye. We can see this in the narration of the Prophet, صلى الله عليه وسلم:

عن ابن شيبان عن أبيه, قال قال رسول الله, صلى الله عليه و سلم من بات على ظهر بيت ليس له حجار فقد برئت منه الذمة

“Whoever spends the night on the roof of a house that has no stone balustrade, then by all means, Allah’s responsibility towards him has been absolved!”

عن مالك أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال بعثت لأتمم حسن الأخلاق

One of the primary areas we can all work on and take responsibility over is our character. We can see clearly that character was of paramount importance to the Messenger and to Islam as a whole. Related to us from Imam Mālik’s Muwatta’: Mālik heard the Messenger of Allah [s] state:

“I was sent for the perfection of character.”

عن علي بن حسين بن علي بن أبي طالب من حسن إسلام المرء تركه ما لا يعنيه

Related to us from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib in Imam Mālik’s Muwatta’:

“From the excellent qualities of a person’s Islam is that s/he leaves off that which does not concern him/her.”

Avoiding Disobedience

المعصية بالجوارح يوم تشهد عليهم ألسنتهم وأيديهم وأرجلهم بما كانوا يعملون

“On that day their tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they used to do.” [al-Nur, 24].

The limbs are the instrucments by which we committ acts of disobedience. Here are three to watch: the eyes, ears, and tongue. Each will testify either for or against us on the Day of Judgment, where they will speak of what we did:

قال عز و جل ما تقرب إلي المتقربون بمثل أداء ما افترضته عليهم و لا يزال العبد يتقرب إلي بالنوافل حتى أحبه فإذا أحببته كنت سمعه الذي يسمع به وبصره الذي يبصر به ولسانه الذي ينطق به ويده التي يبطش بها ورجله التي يمشي بها

Closing du’ah

يا حي يا قيوم برحمتك نسبغيث لا تكلنا إلى أنفسنا ولا إلى أحد من خلقك طرفة عين وأصلح لنا شؤوننا كلها

“O Ever-Living, O Self-Subsistent, by Your mercy we beseech Your help. Leave us not to ourselves nor to any of Your creation for even the blink of an eye. Set right for us all our affairs.”

Ramadan Preparation: A Khutbah by marcmanley

Man in the Age of Heedlessness

Dear respected brothers and sisters in Islam, I greet you today with the greeting of Paradise, “as-Salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu”.

First Khutbah – Main Points

اقترب للناس حسابهم و هم في ذلك غفلة معرضون

“The Reckoning is ever drawing closer to Mankind, yet they are woefully heedless of it, turning away.” [Q: 21: 1]

The times we live in are full of doubt, confusion and heedlessness.  Many people, having capitulated to the false demands of science, have decided to bury their heads in the sand.  Many varieties of philosophies abound about the nature of reality but none of them possess even the merest ability to launch out on this endeavor.  Science is not wholly equipped to look for God, though some of God’s Signs [آيات] are detectable by science.  One of the signs of this heedlessness is over the argument about the Hour, which for some has become either a joke or an unquantifiable determinacy.

One of the flaws that science has is that while it is capable of looking out, it cannot look in.  Even when applied in microscopic terms [which may seem like looking inward but in reality it is not], it is still looking out; a “horizontal” activity.  For Islam, the phenomenon of Revelation is a top-down one.  One may even say that Allah’s relationship with the creation is “vertical”, a top-down relationship.  Thus, for man, if he is to know his Lord, he must reflect, ponder, and use his heart and brain in tandem.  While this process does involve looking out to the cosmos or up at the heavens or at the wonders in creation, ultimately the human being must turn inward if s/he is to understand their role in relation to God.

For the Muslim, the primary means of coming to know about Allah is through His Book and the life of His Prophet [s] and one of the primary avenues of attaining these two is through a sound heart, for we all know the famous hadith in which the Prophet [s] relates to us:

إن في الجسد مضغة إذا صلحت صلح بها سائر الجسد – و إذا فسدت فسد بها سائر الجسد ألا و هي القلب

“There is a morsel of flesh in the body; when it is sound then the body moves to soundness by it – and when it is corrupt, then the body moves to corruption by it – it is nothing other than the heart”.

This statement is not a medical examination – not a cardiovascular assessment of the heart.  For in Islam, the heart does not simply pump blood but it is a sensory organ.  And when it is sound then the actions that the limbs commit will be sound – likewise, if the heart is corrupt, so shall the deeds committed be vile.  It all depends on the state of the heart.

I have spoken before on the connection between responsibility and Reality – on the responsibility each soul will have on the Day of Judgment and the need to get in touch with The Reality [for one of God’s 99 Beautiful Names is al-Haqq, the root of which is a derivative for ‘reality’].  We can see the Wisdom of Allah’s early Revelation in which, through poetic metaphor, He alludes to another reality, His Reality, where the old misconceptions of the world have to be broken up and dispelled.  The world as mankind came to know it was not based on Truth or Reality.  We live in similar times today.

إذا السماء انشقت و أذنت لربها و حقت
إذا السماء انفطرت و إذا الكوكب انتثرت
إذا الشمس كورت و إذا النجوم انكدرت

“When the sky has split itself open, for it has heard its Lord and must make it so!…”
“When the sky is cleft asunder and the stars are scattered…”
“When the sun folds in on itself, and when the stars fall…”

These verses seek to show man that the world he thinks he knows is not the whole story – that there is another greater reality, one in which the life of this world will end, for Allah has ordained it.

Instead, mankind focuses on that which has little benefit for him in this life and none in the next.  Muslims are guilty of this as well, squabbling over matters that are of small importance will ignoring the bounty and opportunities that Allah has given us.  In the words of Ibn ‘Ata Allah [ra]:

اجتهادك فيما ضمن لك و تقصير فيما طلب منك دليل على انطماس البصيرة منك

“Striving for what has been provided [also read ‘not concerning you’] for you while falling short in that which is demanded of you, is proof of the incomprehensibleness of your ability to perceive.”

We spend so much of our time dedicated to things that are of little benefit to our character – that put little weight on our scales.  This is a type of ghaflah [غفلة], or heedlessness that the Qur’ān warns us about. Let us turn to some of the Qur’ān’s commentary on ghaflah:

و لقد ذرأنا لجهنم كثيرا من الجن و الانس – لهم قلوب لا يفقهون بها – و لهم أعين لا يبصرون بها – و لهم ءاذان لا يسمعون بها – ألئك كالأنعم بل هم أضل – ألئك هم الغفلون

“Leave no doubt we created many from amongst the Jinn and Mankind for the Hell-fire.  They have hearts but they use them not to comprehend with – and they have eyes but they use them not to see with – and they have ears but they use them not to listen with.  They are like cattle, no! They are even further astray than that.  They are completely heedless.” [Q: 7:179]

Dear brothers and sisters, the Paradise is real – the Fire is real – the Hour is coming, let there be no doubt about it.  And Allah will surely raise whoever is in the grave.

Let us now turn to Allah, ask His forgiveness, His protection from misguidance and from heedlessness, for He is Oft-Forgiving, the Loving.

الحمد لله, و الصلوات و السلام رسول الله و بعد

Second Khutbah – Main Points

We have to be the teachers of one another and of mankind.  We have to show that there is not simply another reality, but there is only one Reality and it is through conformity to this realization we can bring about a change that will benefit this life and the next.  Make no mistake about the next life where Allah says in suwrah Qāf:

و جاءت سكرة الموت بالحق – ذلك ما كنت منه تحيد
و نفخ في الصور – ذلك يوم الوحيد
و جاءت كل نفس معها سائق و شهيد
لقد كنت في غفلة من هذا فكشفنا عنك غطائك فبصرك اليوم حديد

“And the agony of death will descend upon you in truth – for it is that which you seek to evade!
And the Trumpet has been sounded – that is the Promised Day!
And every soul will attend – with it shall be a driver and a witness,
For surely you have been unmindful in this – therefore we have removed your blindfold – your vision today will be most keen!” [Q: 50:19-22]

Modern man strives to cheat or defeat death but there is not hope for this.  Therefore, instead, let us inform ourselves and the rest of mankind of the life to come, to use the time in this life to prepare ourselves to the journey we all must take.  For when we look at the above example, we can see there will be no excuse on the Promised Day – and all feigned excuses will fall aside, and our sight will bear true that which we wish might be concealed.

Let us play the role we were sent to do – deliver the Message and live lives in accordance with the responsibility and cognizance of “No god but God”, in accordance of “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, in accordance with the adab and akhlaq of the Prophet [s], seeking Allah’s protection from Shaytan and from heedlessness.

We close now with a du’ah from the Prophet Muhammad [s] regarding the condition of the world we live in, asking Allah to protect us from its fitnah, so our souls may have salvation on the Day of Judgment:

اللهم إني أعوذ بك من قلب لا يخشع
و دعاء لا يسمع
و من نفس لا يشبع
و من علم لا ينفع
اللهم  إني أعوذ بك من هؤلاء الأربع

“O’ Allah! I seek protection in you from a heart that has no humility,
And from a supplication that is not heard,
And from a soul that cannot be satiated,
And from knowledge that has no benefit.
O’ Allah!, I seek refuge in you from all four of these!

Amin.