Am I Not Your Lord?Oct 8th, 2013 | By Ahmed Javed | Category: Featured, Latest, Religion
“Apart from what theologians have taught you what do you know of God yourself?” asked a new found friend. I reflected on the question and thought some more, during the early morning showers, the long drives to work, a lunch completed in solitude, the gratitude and the atmosphere of reflection that is born in the silence of a house that moments ago was alive in the laughter of children and the bliss still hanging in the air. The contrast of one’s own abundance becomes the very quest for a prosperity that must be beyond material, inherent differences in ability and free of predisposition. I began to formulate an answer.
In the outstretched hands and sunburnt faces I would see my father disappear till the homemade food to be distributed on a Friday evening would run out. There was never enough for everyone and in the rabid capitalism of our times, there never will be. A sense of relief at seeing him return to the car unhurt would give way to a twinge of guilt at asking for a simple treat, a bottle of Pepsi or an ice-cream, the contrast all too fresh in our minds. I must have found Him there or thereabout, perhaps even in half-eaten sweets my sister had packed away taking literally the teaching of sharing with the less fortunate what you like for yourself. As an adult I am obligated to spend two and a half percent of what I save in charity but I learned long ago that I am a mere custodian of the rest. It was not until years later in an atmosphere of my identity being hijacked that I would actually learn:
“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,-. (Saying),”We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.” (Quran 76:8-9)
Yet what was being taught in the Friday sermons resonated with an inherent truth. I don’t recall a distinct conversation about who God is or an encounter with a “theologian.” There was perhaps no need, for God was never a mystery. He revealed Himself in the stories told by my parents at the end of a 12 hour work day; Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Jonah, Jesus and Mohammed (Peace Be upon them) – all stories much similar but different in significant ways than the scriptures before the Quran. Again, it was much later that I would learn:
Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).” Quran (3:84)
Surely, He is not the author of confusion for He fit the simple mental construct of a fifth grader. Promises of being good and praying regularly made with devotion as one went in to collect the annual examination results – convinced of a God that can erase and redo answers to algebra and fill in the ones you left blank. Looking back I could have sworn He did just that.
Of course, come summer vacations, the promises would quickly be forgotten in the fun and games with siblings and cousins. Until, one would find in a second hand bookstore the “Choose your own Adventure” series. In space or undersea one would find dilemmas like choosing to fight aliens or futuristic pirates versus the alternative of making a run for it. The book was written, but could end many different ways depending on the choices that we made. I struggle to find a better analogy for life. I learned about predestination much before I discovered it as an article of faith. I must have by then heard the story of our parents, Adam and Eve, the free-will which is the singular feature that distinguishes humanity from the rest of creation, a gift that makes us capable of much evil but when submitted totally to the One Creator can make us stand alone against the mockery of our times like Noah, be willing to sacrifice that most beloved to us like Abraham, find patience rewarded with reunion like Jacob, go from wells to thrones like Joseph, thank Him endlessly in suffering like Job, find the courage to stand against a mighty Pharaoh like Moses, find the wisdom of Jesus and the strength to deliver a complete code of life in a little over two decades despite incredible odds like Mohammed (Peace be upon them all). I must have learned by then the story of original forgiveness by a God that gives you the very words to ask for it, even though it would till decades later that I would read:
Then Adam received from his Lord Words. And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful. (Quran 2:37)
Salvation must lie in faith in an All Forgiving God, despite Whose Mercy, we could never find it for the Prophet (PBUH) himself taught
Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying,
“The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise.” (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet’s companions) said, ‘Not even you, O Allah’s Apostle?’ He said, “Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His favor and mercy on me.” So be moderate in your religious deeds and do the deeds that are within your ability: and none of you should wish for death, for if he is a good doer, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to Allah.”
I can’t recall ever being explained that in our quest to return to our original abode, Heaven, we must pay heed to our deeds as much as rely on The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful. It seemed to be a truth we were born with the knowledge of, a logical conclusion given the one gift that sets us apart – the free will, for which the universe was fashioned to perfection so that we may reflect and know Him through his attributes.
Blessed be He in Whose hands is Dominion; and He over all things hath Power;-
He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving ;- He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?(Quran 67: 1-4)
Sadly, what was as clear as the starlit night, a fringe benefit of sleeping on the roof during a power outage, got lost in the illusion that love, wealth, career needed to be “pursued.” The stars disappeared behind the clouds and the very romance of existence got corrupted and still does for surely we are creatures of much error as the Prophet (PBUH) taught us:
“All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Hakim]
The events of the last over a decade provide an opportunity to relearn the known. Not only returning to the Quran and Sunnah to reclaim our identity but to learn about our history and most importantly being thankful for the questions asked of us; both by the deviants claiming to speak in our name and those who fail to understand the futility of freedom of speech without a right to be heard. Ultimately, to learn about my Creator comes naturally, for all of beauty and knowledge has already passed through and all Prophets came to remind us of the straight path that we have known before the beginning of time:
When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: “Yea! We do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never mindful (Quran 7:172)