Redefining “Ultimate Justice”

In reading through a bit of tafsir, I came across a statement from Hasan al-Basri in which he stated, in relation to this passage, some food for thought on justice:

وَكُلَّ إِنسانٍ أَلزَمناهُ طائِرَهُ في عُنُقِهِ ۖ وَنُخرِجُ لَهُ يَومَ القِيامَةِ كِتابًا يَلقاهُ مَنشورًا

“We’ve tied the bird man used for fortune telling around his neck and on the Day of Judgment We’re going to bring out a record that he’ll see laid out in the open!” — Qur’an 17: 13

عدل والله فيك من جعلك حسيب نفسك

“I swear by God He has done ultimate justice by making you give testimony of your own deeds.”Tafsir Ibn Kathir

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.