Quran Journey series: Reflections on Quranic verses- VII

Jul 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Quran Journey Series

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In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

‘They made not a just estimate of Allah such as is due to Him.’ (39:67)

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The man whispered ‘God, speak to me!’ 

And a meadowlark sang. 
But the man did not hear. 
So the man yelled ‘God speak to me!’ 
And the thunder rolled across the sky. 
But the man did not listen. 
The man looked around and said ‘God let me see you’ 
And a star shone brightly. 
But the man did not notice. 
And the man shouted ‘God show me a miracle’ 
And a life was born. 
But the man did not know. 
So, the man cried out in despair.

‘Touch me God and let me know that you are here!’ 
Whereupon a butterfly brushed past him. 
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

This very often quoted anonymous piece of writing illustrates how man turns away from the ayat (signs) of Allah in the universe, is ungrateful for the innumerable blessings that encompass us, unmindful of the grace, bounty and glory of Allah that pervade and animate the universe.

The verse hits home hard- the Lord of the universe laments over how man has debased himself by not giving to his Creator what he owes Him: the exclusive devotion, adoration, self-surrender that was due only to Him, and through which man discovers and lives out his own true potential.

In surah Yasin in a similar vein Allah says,

‘Ya hasratan ilal ibaad!’ (Alas for mankind),

that they wronged themselves by refusing to acknowledge the One they owe their existence to, who calls to Sakeenah (restful Peace, Godliness) through His love; who calls to the Truth that sets us free from bondage to falsehood, deception and evil.

Man has been ennobled by Allah through the ‘Ruh’ He breathed into the human nafs from His own spirit. Humanity is a gift bestowed by Allah through the crowning glory of divinely inspired Ilm and the nobility of the ‘fitrah’ on which man has been created.

‘Verily, We have honoured the sons of Adam…’ (17:70) 

‘Verily, We did offer the trust to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up – verily, he has been prone to be most wicked, most foolish.’ (33:72)

Faith in God is a transforming force that makes one transcend above and beyond the confines of the here and now; it raises above the personal, selfish, temporal, material and physical that holds us down to an ephemeral level of existence, caged in the id, embroiled in the pursuit of short-term self-gratifying goals.

Faith makes selflessness possible. It makes forbearance, patience, forgiveness and undaunted courage possible. It makes a deep inner tranquility possible regardless of external circumstance. This inward peace enables the faithful individual to radiate peace around him. It enables one to

‘find the best in others. To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Faith makes possible deeds larger than life, motivated by that mysterious magical thing called love for God which has over millennia driven people to live meaningfully, act nobly and altruistically with an incredible spiritual largesse; which has over history made human beings capable of the most superhumanly heroic deeds for no selfish, worldly, material purpose. It has made faith-driven human beings live meaningful, beautiful lives that have left ‘footsteps in the sands of time…’

 
Lives of great men all remind us  
  We can make our lives sublime,  
And, departing, leave behind us  
  Footprints on the sands of time;  
  
Footprints, that perhaps another,  
  Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,  
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,  
  Seeing, shall take heart again.  
  
Let us, then, be up and doing,  
  With a heart for any fate;  
Still achieving, still pursuing,  
  Learn to labor and to wait. (Henry Longfellow)
 
 Faith in God has made immortality attainable to the mortal being of man; has made permanence possible through evanescence; it has healed and purged and elevated and delivered. Yet so many, as the verse says, have failed to recognize the sublime beauty and power of faith in God, recklessly turning away from it, bedazzled by the pomp and show of the transient life of this world.
Very broadly, there are two ways in which man fails to make a just estimate of faith in Allah. Man either carelessly disregards the meaning and value of the Divine in his life out of forgetfulness and the lure of the material world; or he distorts, abuses and exploits the faith he verbally professes in the most vile and heinous ways for his own ends.
Crime, war, racism, slavery, conquest, imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, capitalistic exploitation, environmental degradation have all been impelled by lust for worldly benefit, temporal power and material gain- all of which are corollaries of faithlessness and distancing from the Divine.Great crimes and injustices have also been committed in the Name of God, out of an odious sense of being holier than thou by the self-righteous who wittingly or unwittingly sin against God when they use His name for ignoble, unworthy ends. This is contemporary Islam’s greatest challenge. Khalid Abou El Fadl writes,‘the worst injustice, and the one most worthy of Muslim outrage, is that committed by Muslims in the name of Islam, because that is more deprecating to God than any supposed heresy or legal infraction.’ 

Man disparages the meaning of the Divine by his own heedlessness and misdeeds. He sells off his faith for paltry gains and sins against his Loving Maker from Whom he came and to Whom he is bound to return. But in so doing, the greatest harm comes to his own self, against his own God-given nafs… only that he does not recognize it. And the undimmed everlasting Glory of Allah abides and endures forevermore:

‘God will requite them for their mockery, and will leave them for a while in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro.’ (2:15)

‘They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.’ (61:8)

Maryam Sakeenah

About the author

Maryam Sakeenah teaches Sociology, Literature and Islamic Studies in Lahore, Pakistan. She authored a book documenting Islamic and Oriental responses to the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Maryam is also a social worker running an organization providing free virtual primary education for the poor.

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