Strength in diversity

Recently at a family function, I was involved in a discussion where the lack of co-operation between various Islamic institutes in the UK was a point of criticism. Some of those involved in the discussion went as far as to suggest that some institutes compete with each other whilst others were driven to make money, to the detriment of our society. I found this to be an example of how perception and reality are two very distinct constructs; yet can very easily become conflated.

Firstly, I don’t think such a criticism is correct nor a reflection of what actually takes place on the ground. Nobody disagrees that there should be some sort of collaboration between various institutes at some level; that there should be sharing of good ideas, practices, teaching techniques and so on across the institutes. That’s a given. But to expect all of them to be the exactly same and share everything with everyone else isn’t realistic and nor is it an efficient way of working. Every institute has its own ethos, culture and way of doing things. They possess a certain distinctness that colours them with their own character. It is worth bearing in mind that we have a rich the tapestry within our tradition that needs to be maintained. We need to move away from this mentality of making everything monolithic. Yes, those institutes that are able to push the boundaries can in many ways act as role models and inspire others, something that would be much more difficult if everything was standardised.

The claims about Islamic institutes competing with one another needs to be backed up by evidence. I haven’t really seen any overt form of competition at the very least. In any case, it really depends on what you mean by competition. If they are competing then do we take this to mean that they are competing with one another in serving our communities effectively whilst raising the level of aspirations of our youth? If that is the case, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise, what is then the problem? As individuals, we should be competing with one another for the fruits of the Hereafter, and that is what our institutions are striving for.

Rather than having a negative view, let us focus on our strengths and the positives. I can see much goodness coming from the work people are doing out there. If you don’t have any concern for the future trajectory of our Ummah and aren’t doing anything meaningful out there, then in my view, your have forfeited your right to present an opinion. Remember, it takes a lot of persistence, patience, hard work and sincerity to serve society.

Such are the qualities required for us as individuals to serve society.

Every tribulation is a blessing

trib

For every tribulation, illness and fear in this world there are matters for which the intelligent should rejoice and give thanks.

How is that so? How can I rejoice and be grateful for a tribulation?

Firstly, remember for every misfortune and disease there is one that is even worse. It could be worse than it is for you right now. A lot worse. So be thankful that there are not greater misfortunes in store for you in this world. Haven’t you considered the millions (if not billions) of people who have less or no wealth, no access to health care, education and even basic necessities? Be thankful you are not one of them.

Second, your misfortune could be in your religion. A man said to Sahl [al-Tustari] (may God be pleased with him), ‘A thief entered my house and took my furniture’. Sahl replied, ‘Be thankful to God (Exalted is He). Had Satan entered your heart, he would have corrupted your belief in the unity of God. What would you have done then?’

Therefore, if every person who suffers a tribulation reflects carefully on the truth regarding his bad conduct, both open and concealed, in relation to his Lord, surely he would see that he deserves more than what befalls him, both now and the future. He who has the right to give you one hundred lashes and lessens the punishment by then deserves thanks.

Thirdly, have you not considered that it is possible for every punishment to be delayed until the hereafter? That is a lot more painful than anything here. The mere fact that it has been hastened in this world requires thankfulness; why are you then not thankful to God (Exalted is He) for this?

He whose punishment is hastened in this world is not punished a second time. As the messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Truly, if the servant commits a sin and distress and tribulation befall him in this world, God is more generous than to punish him a second time.’

Fourthly, a misfortune or trial was preordained (maktūb) in the preserved tablet (Umm al-Kitāb) for there is surely no escape from it. When the trial arrives and it is over and you have found relief from it, then this is also a blessing.

The fifth aspect is that the reward [for misfortune] is greater than the tribulation. For the misfortunes of this world are roads to the Hereafter in two ways.

The first way is similar to the blessing of a bitter medicine for the sick man. For the wisdom of God is vast and He knows even more than us what is good for His servants. We will one day thank Him for the tribulations, when we see God’s reward for tribulations.

The second way [in which misfortunes of this world are roads to the Hereafter] is that all sins leading to perdition are to be found in the love of this world, while all the means of deliverance are to be found in turning the heart away from the abode of vanities. If we were given blessings according to our desires without having to go through any tribulation and misfortune, our hearts would find itself at home in this world until it considers it to be Paradise. Our pain at death would be great because of the separation from this world. On the contrary, if we were to find misfortunes in this world a constant reality then our hearts would be disturbed by this world, we would not be at peace with it, we would not ‘feel at home’ in it, and it would become a prison for us.

Our deliverance from this world would be the utmost delight, just like being released form prison. For this, the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘This world is the prison of the believer and the Paradise of the non-believer’.

Thank God, it could be worse.

For every tribulation, illness and fear in this world there are matters for which the intelligent should rejoice and give thanks.

How is that so? How can I rejoice and be grateful for a tribulation?

Firstly, remember for every misfortune and disease there is one that is even worse. It could be worse than it is for you right now. A lot worse. So be thankful that there are not greater misfortunes in this world. Haven’t you considered the millions (if not billions) of people who have less or no wealth, no access to health care, education and even basic necessities? Be thankful you are not one of them.

Second, your misfortune could be in your religion. A man said to Sahl [al-Tustari] (may God be pleased with him), ‘A thief entered my house and took my furniture’. Sahl replied, ‘Be thankful to God (Exalted is He). Had Satan entered your heart, he would have corrupted your belief in the unity of God. What would you have done then?’

Therefore, if every person who suffers a tribulation reflects carefully on the truth regarding his bad conduct, both open and concealed, in relation to his Lord, surely he would see that he deserves more than what befalls him, both now and the future. He who has the right to give you one hundred lashes and lessens the punishment by then deserves thanks.

We ask God (Exalted is He) to adorn us with patience and thankfulness.

Crookedness? I don’t see it?

The Quran categorically states that there is no ‘crookedness’ in it. The crookedness lies in the veiling of our eyes and the dilution of our hearts. Hearts that are distilled, serene and are in communion with its Creator rejoice in a presence that words can only fail to describe.

Book Review: “Faith Versus Materialism” by Shaykh Abul Hasan ‘Ali an-Nadwi

at-Tahawi

This book is a translation of the Arabic book As Sar’a bain al – Iman wal Maddiyah, which was later rendered in the Urdu Language and finally into English. Although not a commentary per se of Suratul Kahf of the Noble Quran, it is a profound exposition and exegesis of the message of the Surah.

The book attempts to explain two concepts diametrically opposed to each other: one is materialism denoting the primary and objective existence of the external material world; and the other asserts the existence of realities which lay beyond the range of human perceptions, for example, the existence of [good].

The book further explains the meaning and the purpose of Faith and warns against the denial of God and His authority. Four chapters in this book form the central theme, viz.

1. The story of the Companions of the Cave.

2. Parable of the owner of…

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