01 Mar The Challenge to Be Knowledgeably Sincere
Time to write something serious I’m afraid, but hopefully not too dull or heavy. As a Muslim teacher I am urged to write a few words that are of a religious nature. I write this as a small gesture of thanks to all the beautiful people who attend my talks and listen to my lectures and learn something about Islam from me. I do so now because I am going away for a little while and would like to leave behind something from my heart especially for that short period, so that some would read, reflect and pray for me. Those who do not believe in God and revelation or those who are not Muslims may find this interesting but very likely irrelevant.
Every crisis in the world is a challenge to Muslim scholars. Do you disagree?
Prosperity seems to be hinged on a way of life that is ecologically unsustainable, and the gap between the rich and the poor, already obscenely huge, grows wider. Can you disagree? These two are crises in themselves. Now think how that joined with the issue of security and escalating violence has made us lose more and more the true understanding of God. So we also have a spirituality crisis knocking on our doors. This is something very close to home. By spirituality I mean belief and devotion with the noble characteristics of faith as part of our lived nature.
We may not be able to do much at all about all sorts of crises, but the spirituality crisis is something that each of us must take into account. It is no doubt what our scholars and teachers must and will deal with as their immediate concern.
When we are sincere we are necessarily open. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was a very open man.
Power is needed. Sincere believers are given power and authority through their patient striving with the truth. It is up to God to choose when and to whom to grant power. Thus sincere believers do not seek power in the worldly manner because power necessarily involves manipulation. Manipulation goes against openness and thus against sincerity.
If we are sincerely meeting the challenges of life then why do we continue to find dominating understandings of God? Why don’t we let that fade and give way to a more intimate understanding of God? Who as a Muslim can disagree that it is always God’s grace that has the last word?
Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts, in all humility, should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth that has been revealed (to them) and that they should not become like those to whom revelation was given before? But long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard. For many of them are rebellious transgressors. [Surah Al-Hadid (57) Ayah 16]
God defines the relationship first. We are His slaves and accountable to Him. This is constant, whether someone is the greatest Prophet or the vilest human being. So God described for us a life lived according to that relationship. For that purpose He sent us the Messenger Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). As our personality unfolds and our understanding develops through knowing God, we know with our heart and soul that God loves justice, kindness, reconciliation, and peace.
We know God by learning what was taught by the Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and how he lived his life. We know what God loves from what is clearly mentioned in revelation. When we are sincere, we openly and honestly say and do what is plainly loved by God.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Be, all of you, as fellow brothers and worshippers of Allah – koonu ‘ibaadAllahi ikhwaana” [Bukhhari & Muslim]
The Italian-American author and educator Angelo Patri (1876–1965) once wrote “Education consists in being afraid of the right things.” Preserving and improving our relationship with God is the right thing. Preserving and improving our brotherhood based on the purity of our faith and conduct is the right thing. If our Islamic education is right, it must teach us to be afraid of spoiling or violating either of them.
One can merely drill others on the points of the Muslim’s Creed. However, it is quite a separate matter altogether to train another person, as well as to create an environment, where spirituality is fully and deeply embedded in the heart and mind.
It seems that sometimes the ‘weak’ is chosen despite the presence of the ‘strong’; sometimes the ‘foolish’ is chosen despite the presence of the ‘wise’; sometimes the ‘low’ is chosen despite the presence of the ‘noble’ and so on. That is how it appears to us with our faulty perceptions and desires. However, everything happens by the wisdom and decree of God. At least this ensures that none of us may boast as God watches all the time.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Whoever boasts of his deeds to others, Allah will humiliate him in front of His creation, and dishonour and defame him.” [“At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb”]
Yes, God indeed uses people whom we may consider unqualified in some way, to touch the lives of others with His love and justice. Let there be no jealousy and envy. Consider though, if we are not sincere about our love and we are not sincere about justice, how have we feared the time when we shall each stand bare and alone before God for the judgement for eternity?
So the challenge for each of us is always to check our sincerity with respect to our relationship with God and then with regards to the sincerity of the purity and fairness of what we do in life with one another.
Allah knows best.