Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Lead Jumu'a

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Can Jumu‘a be held before noon?
s the first call [adhan] for Jumu‘a a bid‘a?

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Friday, January 29, 2010

If God exists why is there evil in the world: The Problem of Evil According to Islam

In response to the question, “If God exists why is there evil in the world?” I would respond by saying there is no problem of evil at all. Things undesirable to humans (not necessarily evil) do exist or occur in the world, but that is not contradictory to God existing or God’s power or attributes. Rather, when viewed in the light of Islamic Theology, God made this world purposely with room for apparently evil happenings and all is going as planned. This is easy to understand when we keep in mind four issues:

  1. 1. God’s attributes
  2. 2. The Insignificance of this world and the primacy of the eternal Hereafter
  3. 3. God’s Purpose for creating this world as a test
  4. 4. God’s Wisdom and our limited knowledge

4. God’s Wisdom and our limited knowledge

All though any of the points below could interchangeable go under any of these headings, I will try to separately address each of these interchangeable and linked issues.

Before discussing these four issues, the Preliminary note will address whether the assumptions which underlie the “problem of evil argument” are even present in Islamic Theology.

Preliminary Note

The “Problem of Evil” has traditionally been brought as an objection against Christianity. The argument typically consists of the following assumptions:

  1. 1. God is All-Knowing
  2. 2. God is All-Powerful
  3. 3. God is All-Good (or All-Loving, or All-Merciful)
  4. 4. Evil exists in the world
  5. 5. Therefore either God does not exist or he is not All-Knowing, All-Powerful, or All-Good because he cannot simultaneously be those three and allow evil to exist

The solution to this argument is really quite simple. It really arises from both a misunderstanding of what it means for God to be loving, merciful, or good and a misunderstanding of what evil is. This problem is really nonexistent when you apply the Islamic definition of “good/loving/merciful” and the Islamic definition of evil. With the proper definition of “good” and “evil,” premises 1-4 are no longer contradictory.

Good is a subjective concept and that is why the “Problem of Evil” argument is fallacious. Each person has a different understanding of what good is and what evil is. A person may say it is good to kill all black people and it is evil to let women live and God does not eliminate all black people and he allows women to live thus God does not exist or is not good. It is easy to see how such an argument is ridiculous.

Likewise because of our limited knowledge we may think particular things in life are good or evil when they may or may not be. We may see a young child get killed and think that was evil, not knowing that the child would have been a mass murderer had he grown up. So whenever a person tries to argue that God does not exist because he does not do a particular good thing or he does something we see as evil we must understand that our understanding of what is good or evil is completely limited and may in fact be completely wrong.

This is because we have a very limited and narrow view of the world. What is good for one person may be evil for another and what is evil for one person may be good for another God alone knows the ultimate outcome of any action and thus he alone is fit to judge what is good or not. Otherwise, good, as judged by the standards of humans is subjective. Thus because good and evil are completely subjective the “Problem of Evil” is no problem at all and is a fallacious and week argument that can only be taken seriously by those that have never studied logic.

The only one who can judge what is “good” and what is “evil” is the unlimited creator of all who knows all. In Islamic Theology, whatever God decides or does is by definition “Good.” Good is ‘whatever the ultimate power, the creator, the master, the king, the owner deems right.” Thus “God does good” is a tautology. So anything God does by definition is good, because good simply means ‘whatever god does or approves of.’ Good is not “whatever you or I due to our limited understanding approve of.” So with the Islamic concept of Good, there is no problem with premises one through four.

Likewise, we do not have a proper understanding of what “evil” is. When something we perceive as bad happens we consider it an absolute evil, only because we do not know the full picture. Hence the example that the death of a child-would-be-mass-murderer is not evil. Islam does not teach that there is a separate force which is counter to God and is Evil. Islam teaches that things people may consider “evil” are things that either contain a hidden wisdom or are a sin which will the wrongdoer will be accountable for and the wronged person will be recompensed for. God does permit people to sin, but holds them accountable for their actions. Other people’s sin, such as theft or murder may cause harm to others. But that harm cannot be termed “evil” as we do not know the wisdom behind the loss suffered. Natural disasters may also cause people loss or suffering, but that too is not an absolute “evil” because we do not know the effect of such a disaster not happening. Further those “good” people who lost their lives will get the reward of paradise and thus suffered no loss at all.

Thus the “Problem of Evil” does not work in Islamic Theology because the assumptions regarding the world are different.

  1. 1. God is All-Knowing
  2. 2. God is All-Powerful
  3. 3. God does whatever he wants. As his servants we accept that anything God does, even if we cant understand it, is what is “good.” We are in no position to judge if God is Loving, Good, or Merciful. Because our definition of those terms may not be correct. God alone poses the authority to define and judge.
  4. 4. Things which humans do not like happen in this world.
  5. 5. Humans do not know what is best. God alone knows that.
  6. 6. Wrong doers will receive their punishment. The Oppressed will receive full compensation.

These are the Islamic Assumptions of God and there is nothing contradictory about them.

God’s Attributes

First and foremost, God is the Owner, the Absolute Ruler, the Creator. When keeping these and his other attributes in mind (, it is easy to understand why “He cannot be questioned for His acts, but they will be questioned (for theirs).”

Quite simply, if I, through my own effort and with my own time, energy, and resources, decide to draw some stick figures, no one can question me if I decide to erase them, burn them, rip them etc. I am their owner. If I decide to throw out or burn all my law school textbooks, no one can say I cannot do that, because after all they are my property.

Likewise if a King with complete sovereignty decides to exonerate or execute one of his servants, none of his other servants has a right to question him. They may or may not like his decision, but being servants lacking the power of the king, they have no authority to question him.

God, being the Creator, Owner, and Absolute Ruler of everything, therefore has every right to do whatever he pleases with his property. We have no authority to question him. Being his created, owned, weak, servants, we lack authority or power to question the acts of the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Wise, Creator, Owner, and King.

This line of thinking may not coincide well with the Rugged Individualism we Americans value. But nonetheless it is a reality. We must recognize that we are created and thus owned by the one who created us. Of course this does not sit well with our ego, but that does not change its reality. This is why Humility is such an important attribute for humans. And why the Prophets have taught that no one with even a ‘mustard seed of arrogance in their heart’ will enter paradise. Because arrogance will stop us from accepting the master servant relationship which is basic relationship we have with God.

Furthermore, as no one could object to an artist who throws out his stick figures because the artist owns full rights to those figures and the figures have no life compared to the life of the artist. Likewise, because God has infinite more power, knowledge, life, etc. than human beings, we in reality are nothing more than stick figures compared to the life of God and thus God, the Ultimate Reality, can do with us as he pleases. An Artist and his stick figures in fact, have more in common with each other, than does God and Humans. That is because both the artist and stick figures are in the realm of the finite so humans can only be so many times greater than the stick figures they draw. A Human can be trillions and trillions times greater than a stick figure, but once that human dies and is forgotten, in many respects his body has no more significance than the stick figure he drew as over time both are lost and forgotten. However, God is in the realm of the infinite and humans are in the realm of the finite, thus God is infinitely greater than Humans. Thus there is more in common between humans and stick figures than there is between humans and God, and just as we cannot object to a human burning his stick figures because they have no life compared to the life of the human, likewise, we cannot object to God burning humans, as we have no life compared to the life of God.

God is of course above all these examples.

The point of this is to say that God, the Owner, can do whatever he pleases and wants with his creation, and we are nothing compared to God and thus lack the authority or power to question him This is the first point necessary to understand when someone recognizes God exists. Irrespective of all the further arguments below, first and foremost we lack the authority to question God and thus cannot object against God or what he allows to happen in the world. “He cannot be questioned for his acts, but they (humans) will be questioned for theirs.”

Nonetheless, God out of his generosity and because he wishes to, not because he has to, has adequately explained to us why there is so much “evil” in this world and how we should respond to such evil, which is what the following points address. Nonetheless God did not need to give us the following explanations. It is sufficient for us to know that we are his servants and thus God can do what he wants. And thus this point alone addresses the initial question, “If God exists, why is there evil.” The answer is “God can do whatever he wants with his creation, and we have no authority, wisdom, or power, to question Him.” This answer is quite sufficient though it may not be satisfactory to many of us inquisitive humans. The following points however are extra gifts so that we may not only submit to God’s will and refrain from objecting to it, but so that we may have contentment and understanding of the reality of the world. The first premise is this however: God can and has a right to do whatever he wishes with his creation and we are in no position to question him. With that understanding, we can now move on to address the Wisdom behind why God permitted evil in this world. We do not have a right to understand this Wisdom and God need not answer to us, but out of his Generosity he has shared this Wisdom with us anyway.

Consideration of God’s other attributes

God possessing other attributes such as being “The Loving,” or “The Just” or “The Most Merciful,” do not negate God’s previous mentioned attributes of being the Owner and having full right to do whatever he wants with his creation.

For example, the particular Name of God, which is translated as "The Just" in English is "Al-Adl" in Arabic. Al-Adl is loosely translated as The Just, however it literally means "The One who is entitled to do what He does." In other words, because God is the only Ultimate Reality, and has created the concept of morals, right/wrong, good and [yes, even] evil, whatever he decides is just, is just. He is fully entitled to do whatever he does and therefore whatever he does is just. We do not judge God by Justice (or our personal opinion as to what justice is or should be) but Justice (or what we consider just) by God (by whatever He says is just or is not just). The Islamic definition of God being "Just" is that whatever he does is inherently just since he is the ultimate reality and the only rightful judge. So much so that even if the Owner and Creator, wanted to destroy his owned creation, no one could say that is unjust.

The same applies to God being the “Most Loving.” This does not mean that God must love everyone and everything equally. Rather there are some things that God expressly states he hates. In fact, Love can only exist when it is balanced by hate. Thus God loves the Humble and he expressly states that He “does not Love the arrogant.” God expresses the utmost Love for those who believe in him and try their best to earn his pleasure. Because of the second, third, and fourth issues which will be discussed, he expresses that love by giving his beloved servants peace of mind and contentment in this life, despite any outward difficulties they may suffer, and rewarding them for their patience, faith, and gratitude, by giving them eternal pleasure in Paradise in the hereafter. The Love God shows for his beloved servants is far greater than any Love or Mercy shown by any other being.

A Prophet once saw a blind person with no arms or legs thanking God. He asked him, “What are you thanking God for?” and the blind man replied that God has given him so many blessings, air, food, water, mind, heart, and most importantly, faith and paradise in the next life, so why should he not be grateful! Thus despite any outward difficulties people may face, God is nonetheless the Most-Merciful because he has given us so much more to be thankful about, despite how difficult life may be. This is because God did not need to create us—it is all through generosity. Thus even a person who has nothing has been shown great mercy by God for even having been created. God can choose to give extra Mercy to some people as he is the King and can forgive whomever he wants and give wealth or paradise to whoever he wants. But nonetheless, even if he gives some people very little or sends others to hell. He has nonetheless shown the most Mercy.

Thus God being the “Loving” or the “Just” does not contradict that he is the Owner and King and can do whatever he wants in this world. Whatever he does is Just, since he owns everything. And those whom he wishes to express his Love and Mercy to will be given what they are promised. Being the most Loving and most Merciful does not mean you must express your Love and Mercy to everyone and Islam does not define God’s love or justice in that manner. Nor does it mean that the Love and Mercy must be expressed in this finite material world and that those who you love cannot face temporary difficulties outwardly. In fact, as will be seen in the next few issues, God’s love of a person can often cause that individual what appears to be difficulties outwardly but what is in reality a great blessing. For example, when a person whom God loves gets so entangled in the material world and starts to forget God, God may put him through difficulty for three reasons:

  1. 1. So the person remembers that this world is finite he should not neglect God for it. Thus the difficulties the person face cause him to reconnect with God.
  2. 2. In that difficulty the person will call on and pray to God and God loves to hear the persons voice calling on him.
  3. 3. Because of the patience and prayer the person expresses during the difficulty, God will reward him such a great eternal reward in the hereafter that the person will be thankful for having had such a difficulty which resulted in such a great reward.

Thus we can see that God possessing other attributes such as being the Loving, the Just, or the Merciful do not negate his right to do whatever he pleases, so long as we properly understand Gods attributes, our relation to God, and the nature of this world compared to the hereafter.

The Insignificance of this world and the primacy of the eternal Hereafter

Understanding this point alone really can solve all the objections against world events that we may have. Often when we don’t see things within the proper perspective we will have the wrong understanding. For example if we hear of a person who did not show up for a quiz in one of their classes and thus received an F, we may think that person is foolish. However, if we see the full picture, that the person skipped a quiz worth one percent of his grade so he could submit an A level paper worth 99% of his grade on time, then we will consider that person smart. In fact, we will consider the person who spends so much time on the quiz that that they forget to submit the paper rather foolish. This is because the quiz is insignificant compared to the paper. Thus whatever happens on the quiz is irrelevant compared to what happens on the paper.

In the same manner this world is nothing compared to the eternal hereafter. Thus any loss or gain incurred in this life is nothing. The only thing that really matters is the eternal life. Right now we are like the student taking the quiz, not realizing it is only worth 1% of the grade and thus worrying about it so much. If we knew how much it was worth, we would not worry about it, and would rather spend our efforts working on our final paper. We would not consider any gain or loss on our quiz to have any significance. Thus something which appears to be a big deal when we think that this life is everything turns out to be not that big of a deal when we see it in perspective—that this life is not even one percent of the eternal life.

Even if this world lasts for a trillion years and every human’s life lasted that long that is still nothing compared to the infinite nature of the eternity. In mathematics, anything divided by infinity equals zero. Thus weather we are alive for 1 year, 100 years, or 1000 years, our life in this world will still not even be .01% of our eternal life. In fact it will be 0%, i.e.: nothing.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) said that if this world was worth even as much as the wing of a fly in the sight of God, God would not give a transgressor or disbeliever a cup of water. Thus we can see that in Islam, this world compared to the hereafter is not even worth the wing of a fly in the sight of God. Thus when we see people who commit evil make great material gain, we should realize that what they are gaining is worth less than a wing of a fly compared to the reality of the hereafter.

When God will resurrect people for judgment, they will be asked: “How long did you live,” and they will respond, “Only for a day or a day or half a day.” The day of Judgment alone will be 50,000 years long and life in this world compared to that will seem as though it was less than a day. Real success or real suffering hence is not what happens to people in this short material life, but on the Day of Judgment, and the rest of the Hereafter.

Likewise, if a great king offered us to live happily, healthy, and wealthy for the rest of the life on the condition that we would feel pain of a pinch for half a second, which would not last longer than that half a second nor have any remaining impact, I am sure all of us would agree to get pinched for that split second so we could enjoy the remaining 20, 40, or 60 years we have in our life. We would agree that one second of pain is nothing if it means we had 20 or 60 years of pleasure and comfort as a result. Likewise, those who understand the reality of this life and the hereafter would have no trouble understanding, that even if one were to suffer their whole life but as a result earn eternal paradise, that such pain he suffered in life would be nothing and it would be well worth it. Actually, the person who suffers for one second and earns a comfortable life for his remaining 60 years got a worse deal than someone who suffered their whole life, but had comfort for his eternity. Because one second still takes up a percentage of 60 years, as small as that percentage is. However, even 1000 years do not take up any percentage of eternity. Thus just as none of us would not feel bad for someone who suffered for half a second and as a result earned 60 years of pleasure, likewise we should not have any objections if someone suffers for 60 or 100 years in his life but as a result gets paradise for all eternity. And as mentioned, this is a bad example, because a person who suffers for one second out of 60 years has a much greater ratio of suffering than a person who suffers for even 100 years out of eternity.

In the same manner none of us would rationally accept to enjoy one second of pleasure if we knew that for sure as a result we would be imprisoned for the rest of our life. We would agree that such a person who allowed himself to get life in prison for one second of pleasure is a fool and that he did not profit from his pleasure. Likewise, someone who harms people and is an oppressor and as a result enjoys his life for 100 years, but then is punished in hell as a result for all eternity did not in realty profit or get away with being an oppressor. Actually, a person who enjoys his life as a transgressor and thus in return spends his eternity in hell is even a greater fool than the person who enjoyed pleasure for one second and then went to jail. This is because the person who enjoyed a pleasure for one second and went to jail for 100 years enjoyed a greater ratio of his imprisonment. One second out of 100 years is still a percentage. However, the person who goes to hell for eternity because of 100 years of oppressive pleasure, did not even profit .00001 percent of his existence. Even 100000 years out of eternity is still zero.

In understanding the last two paragraphs it is clear that compared to the reality of the eternal hereafter. A person who goes to paradise will be as though he never went through any suffering in their life. And a person who goes to hell will be as though he never enjoyed his life. Thus when we see in this world people who suffer, we should do our best to help them, but remember that this suffering is nothing compared to the reward which is in store for those who have patience with faith. And when we see those doing wrong, we should try to stop them, but remember, that their pleasure is nothing compared to the punishment that awaits them and they will not get away with their deeds.

Now we can understand the statement of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) who said that on the day of Judgment a pious person who had the most miserable and difficult life will be brought before God and God will have him taken to Paradise for one second and brought back. God will then ask him, “Did you ever suffer any hardship?” And the person after being exposed to the pleasures of Paradise for a mere second will forget all the suffering he has ever faced and reply “No my Lord, I have never seen any difficulty.”

Likewise, God will take an evil person who had the most pleasurable life and order that he be dipped into the fire of hell for a mere second. Then God will ask him, “Did you ever enjoy any moment of your life?” and the person after facing the punishment of hell for a mere second will forget any pleasure or delight he has ever experienced and will reply, “No my Lord, I have never seen any good.”

Thus no hardship in this life goes unrewarded and no evil in life goes unpunished—for the person who suffered the most in this world will say he never suffered at all after seeing paradise for a moment and the person who enjoyed life the most will remember no pleasure once they face hell for a moment. Thus the suffering or pleasure of this life is really meaningless when compared with the eternity of the hereafter.

God describes the people who will enter paradise by saying that “they will have nothing to fear nor anything to grieve.” Having nothing to fear means that there is nothing in their future that they will have to worry about. Having nothing to grieve about means that there is nothing in their past that will make them sad. Thus no matter how much a person suffers, even if a person is raped and tortured—compared to the recompense of the hereafter that suffering will leave no memory or effect.

In fact when those who were wronged and oppressed in this life are given their reward in the next life and they see the great recompense they will receive because of their suffering and patience, they would regret that they had not suffered even more so they could get even more recompense. In fact, they wish that that they their skin peeled off with iron combs in this life so they could get even more of the special reward reserved for those who suffered in the hereafter.

Thus when a person understands that this world is nothing compared to the hereafter, they will realize that nothing in this world that happens to them, good or bad, has any real significance. The only thing that matters is how a person does in the hereafter. Also when a person understands the great reward reserved for those who suffered, they will realize that any harm incurred in this life is no loss at all.

Once an angel noticed that a pious believer and an ungrateful disbeliever were both fishing. The disbeliever was catching many fish yet the believer was not catching any. The angels thus beseeched God saying “Your pious servant is catching no fish but a disbeliever is able to catch many fish.” God then showed the angels the eternal home of the believer and the eternal home of the disbeliever. When the angels saw the paradise and wonderful eternity awaiting the believer, they no longer felt bad that he was not doing too well in this finite world. That is why the Prophet of Islam taught that this world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for a disbeliever. That is because no matter how bad or good life is a for a believer, this life is a prison compared to how wonderful his eternity is. Furthermore, no matter how good or bad life is for a disbeliever, this life is a paradise compared to what awaits him in the hereafter[1].

When a person sees this world in the proper context and realizes the great reward awaiting the oppressed then no hardship or evil in life appears to have any significance and thus there is no room to object.

God’s Purpose for Creating this World as a Test

When we understand that God has a right to do whatever he wants, and that any loss in this world is meaningless, then we can understand the third point: This world was created as a test for us. Neither is this world Paradise where no harm or sadness exists, nor are we angels who are incapable of harming ourselves or others. God already created a world where no pain or suffering exists—where people can have whatever they please with eternal happiness. That is paradise. He also created creatures that never sin or do any wrong and they are Angels. (This of course is different than the Christian view of angels). Thus if God wanted to create a place where no harm occurs or creatures that can do no wrong, God had no need of creating us since he created Paradise and Angels. This world was created purposely different than Paradise. When we object when undesirable things happen in life, we do so because we expect this life to be paradise or we expect God to have created us like angels. If God had made no room for undesirable things to occur, he would have been creating another Paradise, and there is no need for that.

God wanted to create beings that would be even greater than Angels. Angels worship God and do good because they have no ego or base desires to commit wrong. They are incapable of committing any wrong. In short, angels have no choice but to worship and obey God. God thus wanted to create a being whose worship of God would be greater because it would be done out of free choice. Thus God decided to create a being which, like angels will be given intellect, but unlike angels, will be given passion, desire, and free choice. It is easy to see how the worship of God done by a being that cannot see God and is surrounded by desires and temptations is far superior than the worship done by a being which sees God and has no desire other than to worship Him. The fact that humans may do undesirable things was no surprise to the All-Knowing God—for God chose to create him with free will. Hence the Quran says the following about the creation of humans:

2:30. Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not."

Humans alone were fit to be vicegerents of God on earth. That is because we, and not angels, can face fear, hunger, thirst, desire, and so on. These are all attributes that make us human. If God gave such attributes to Angels, they too would be no different than humans. Thus God created a being which has desires, needs, and temptations, but still chooses to worship God and sacrifice—something angels cannot do. Thus the pious human being is far superior to Angels. However, as God gave humans free choice so that those who do good are more honorable because they do it out of choice—likewise He gave humans the ability to do sin and to oppress themselves and others as a result of following their passions through free choice. Thus this world became a test. Which humans would be honorable and choose God over their desires, and which humans would choose their desires over God? Those who in this life choose to sacrifice and do good will be rewarded with eternal paradise. Any suffering they may incur in this life as a result of their sacrifice is negligible as explained in the previous section. Those who choose to do wrong and worship their lusts instead of God will be punished through Hellfire. Any good they gain by committing wrong in this life will be negligible compared to the hereafter as explained in the previous section. Thus this life is a test and God purposely created us with free choice and any harm that occurs in this world occurs either through the choice of other humans or through acts of God (like natural disasters). Those who do wrong or are wronged will be recompensed accordingly in the hereafter. Those who suffer due to Acts of God will likewise be recompensed in the hereafter and there is often hidden good for them in this life as well. The test for us is how we react to the situations God allows us to face and whether we are grateful to him and recognize him through his clear signs.

2:155. Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, 156. Who say, when afflicted with calamity: "To God We belong, and to Him is our return":- 157. They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from God, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.

God’s Wisdom and Our Limited Knowledge

This has already been touched upon in the previous section and the preliminary note. In short we do not know the wisdom behind the happenings we consider to be “evil” nor do we see the world in proper perspective. Above we mentioned the wisdom of God creating this world and the wisdom in giving humans free choice and the justice which will be served to the wrongdoers and the recompense reserved for the wronged. In this final section we will cover some of the additional wisdom and mercy that are hidden in undesirable events.

Perhaps the greatest mercy in the occurrences of undesirable events such as sickness, accidents, or disasters, is that they remind us that this world is temporary—that it is not Paradise; that we should not be content with it; that our real home is the hereafter which is what we should be working for. If no undesirable things happened in life we would think this is Paradise and would be content with this life. However this life is only temporary and it is not paradise and undesirable events help us remember that. Thus God says what is translated from the Holy Quran:

32:21. And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty of this (life) prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may (repent and) return. 22. And who does more wrong than one to whom are recited the Signs of his Lord, and who then turns away therefrom? Verily from those who transgress We shall exact (due) Retribution.

Meaning, that when people begin to forget God and become content with the worldly life, God may send them a small hardship (small compared to the hereafter) that through that hardship they may pray, remember, and reconnect to God. Thus sickness, a disaster, a death in the family, loss of wealth, etc. are all meant not to be punishments necessarily, but a reminder. And often it is seen that after people are afflicted with difficulties they remember God but when God bestows his grace, they enjoy God’s blessings and forget him:

39:08 When some trouble toucheth man, he crieth unto his Lord, turning to Him in repentance: but when He bestoweth a favour upon him as from Himself, (man) doth forget what he cried and prayed for before, and he doth set up rivals unto God, thus misleading others from Allah’s Path...”

Thus hardships in this life are a mercy in that they remind us to come back to God.

Also as explained in the Preliminary note, we do not really know what is good for us and what is bad for us because of our limited knowledge. Once Moses u was asked by the Children of Israel, “Who is the most knowledgeable person in the world?”

Being a great Prophet of God, Moses u “I am.”

God was not happy with this answer so God sent Moses u to learn from Khidr, one of God’s hidden devout servants. Khidr agreed to teach Moses u on the condition that Moses u would not ask him any questions. As they were traveling together, they needed to cross a river. Some nice people offered to take them across the river on their boat free of charge. Before leaving the boat, Khidr secretly cut some holes in the boat. Moses u was extremely upset. He asked “How can you cut holes in the boat when they were so nice to us and gave us a free ride.”

Khidr simply replied, “Didn’t I tell you your not allowed to ask me anything.”

Moving on, Khidr saw a little child playing. Khidr killed the boy. Moses u now was extremely upset, he said “How could you kill an innocent soul, you have surly done an evil thing!”

Khidr once again admonished him for asking questions and Moses u once again apologized and said he would leave his company if he asked any more questions. They finally arrived at a town hungry and tired. No one in the town was nice to them or agreed to feed them. Khidr saw a wall about to fall so he fixed it but asked for no payment. Moses u once again objected saying “Why did you not ask a payment for that?”

Khidr told him “Since you cannot have patience, we must part ways, but I will teach you the wisdom behind those questions which you had no patience over. The boat belonged to good needy people who used it for their livelihood. However, there was an unjust king who used to take over every ship he saw. So I made some holes in it so they would patch it up. Thus later when they passed by the king’s checkpoint, the king saw the ship’s blemish and did not take it. As for the boy, his parents were pious believers. Had he grown up he would have caused them great hardships and would have led them to disbelief, so I killed him so God would give them another son who would be pure and merciful to his parents. And the wall belonged to two orphans whose pious father left a hidden treasure for them under it. If it had fallen their treasure would have been exposed so I fixed it so they could recover it when they grew older. This is the wisdom behind the things over which you had no patience.”

The moral of the story is that we never know the wisdom behind the happenings in the world and because of our limitations are thus in no position to judge God.


In short, as humble servants, we are in no position to question our Creator. Nor do we have full knowledge and wisdom that we can properly judge the events around us as being good or bad. Any objections we may have merely result from misunderstanding ourselves, the event, the reality of this life compared to the eternal hereafter, or the attributes of our creator. This life is a test and any gain or loss in it is negligible—all that matters is how we fare in the hereafter. God is most Just, Merciful, and Loving, in that he has created us and given even the poorest amongst us countless blessings. He has sent us clear divine guidance and promised those who accept that guidance a wonderful paradise and warned those who rejected of punishment. God will not wrong or be unjust to any soul in that he has promised his Mercy to whoever asks for it sincerely and will not deny it to anyone who in this life sincerely seeks it. Those who do not attain Paradise thus have none to blame but themselves, for God’s door’s of mercy were wide open but they refused to enter it.

[1] The Question often arises about why God chooses to punish those who reject him even if they are “good people.” After restating that we are in no position to question God, the answer is simple: If a person is good to everyone in the community but is neglectful to his own parents who gave them everything he has, we would not consider that child a “good person.” Likewise, a person who is “good” to everyone but neglects and rejects his Nourisher and Provider cannot truly be considered a “good person.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Avoiding Repeating the Destructive Transgressions of the People of the Book

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Allah's Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words) "those before you" ? He said: Who else (than those two religious groups) ? (Muslim)
Avoiding the Grave Mistakes of the Previous Nations
Allah swt sent Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him at a time when many of the people of the previous scripture no longer followed the teachings and example of their Prophets. They belittled and ridiculed their great predecessors and their scholars. They preferred to follow their own vain desires and opinions and assumptions about God rather than what God actually revealed. They claimed to be pious adherent and superior believers yet mocked their scholars and the traditions and teachings of their prophets as outdated. They accepted some of their teachings and commands and rejected others claiming they knew better. They assumed about God without any real knowledge or practice.

Thus we see that most of the people of the previous books of today have taken their religion as nothing but weekend play and amusement. Nothing more than a small part of their culture. They know practically nothing of the teachings and practices of their Prophets and follow very little of what they do know.

Allah swt warned us of the mistakes they made so we know to avoid them. Allah swt condemned some of the people of the book who went so far as to kill their own prophets and scholars with impunity:
Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
And now tragically in these days of great fitna (tribulation) many Muslims are following the same footsteps of the People of the Book as the Prophet warned. Many Muslims who do not even understand the Shariah abandon and neglect it. They belittle the Muslim scholars and the Sunnah and the ways of the Prophet's Companions and the great scholars of Islam. Just as the People of the Book did before us, they accept some of the teachings of Islam and reject others. They mock those Muslims who hold on to the Sunnah and Shariah and still practice their faith. Allah swt has made it very clear however that either we accept the whole of Islam as practiced by the Prophet and taught by the majority of Muslim scholars or we are not true Muslims:
"There was not a single Prophet among those who were sent before me who did not have apostles and companions who followed his Sunna and obeyed his commands. But afterwards other generations came whose words belied their deeds, and whose deeds were not in accordance with what they commanded others to do. Whoever struggles against them with his hand is a believer. Whoever struggles against them with his tongue is a believer. And whoever struggles against them with his heart is a believer. But when none of these things are done, then not a single mustard's seed weight of faith is present."
The Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him Warned us about these difficult times:
Narrated Irbad bin Sariyah(ra): One day Allah's Messenger sallalau alayhi was sallam delivered us a very eloquent Khutbah on account of which eyes shed tears and hearts became softened. a man said: "O Prophet of Allah, this is as if it were a parting sermon. So advise us. "He (sa'allahu alayhi wassallam) said: "I admonish you to fear Allah, to listen and obey even if a Negro slave is appointed your leader. Because whoever among you shall live after me, will soon see much discord. So hold fast to my Sunnah and the examples of the rightly Guided Caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold them fast. Beware of new things (in religion) because every heresy is a misguidance." (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)
And yet this is what we see in our times. So called "Muslims" that argue that we should object to the sunnah of the Prophet peace be upon him and his companions. That we need to abandon those aspects of shariah which we do not find convenient or "modern." That we should be like the modern Jews and Christians who gave up their laws; abandon religious prayers and devotion; support fornication, homosexuality, intermixed prayer services, etc. They actually advocate that we follow the ways of the People of the Book who have completely given up their laws, when the Prophet Muhammad peace be Upon him and Allah swt in the Quran warned us to avoid falling into their mistakes and orderd us to stick with the Sunnah and the examples of our pious predecessors. Allah clearly warns that a believer would never dispute with the rulings of his Lord:

33:36 It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.

Respecting the Scholars
But alas this is from the signs of the end of times, where the ignroant who reject the teachings of the scholars and the sunnah and shariah would become leaders. The Prophet, peace be upon him, warned us that he lived in a time where the learned were many and the ignorant few and disrespected. But a time would come when the ignorant were many and the scholars were few and disrespected:
Hazzam bin Hakeem narrated from his uncle from the Messenger of Allah (SAW) who said: “You are in a time of many jurisprudents (fuqaha), few speakers, many who give and few who ask; so action in this time is better than knowledge. There will soon come a time of few jurisprudents, many speakers, many who beg and few who give; so knowledge in this time is better than action.
Anas b. Malik reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: It is from the conditions of the Last Hour that knowledge would be taken away and ignorance would prevail (upon the world), the liquor would be drunk, and adultery would become rampant. (Muslim)
These signs of the hour are exactly what these so called Muslims call for. They abandon 1400 years of Islamic Scholarship and say Niqab, Hijab, Purdah, Hudud, is outdated and oppressive. That men and women should freely mix and be free to dress indecently. Thus they are simultaneously calling for Ignorance and Adultery.
Abu Wa'il reported: I was sitting with 'Abdullah and Abu Musa that they reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) having said: Prior to the Last Hour, there would be a time when knowledge would be taken away, and ignorance would take its place and there would be bloodshed on a large scale. (Muslim)
'Abdullah b. 'Amr b. al-'As reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to the ignorant as their, leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray. (Muslim)
And such is what we tragically see in our time. Those most ignorant and who have not studied properly and live off their vain assumptions are those who people often turn to. And thus they are astray and lead others astray.

One of the major problems of these people is they believe that the teachings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him do not apply in our times and that the West is a better example to follow. But how can one believe in the Prophet of God and yet believe his teachings were limited. Does not the Quran say:
33:21 "Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful example for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah."
The Problems of us making the same mistakes as the people of the book arises because we do not respect, honor, and learn from the scholars who have passed Islam down generation to generation and learned it directly from the Prophet Peace be Upon Him. The Prophet Peace be Upon Him said:
"Whoever belittles the following three persons is not a Muslim but a hypocrite: first, an aged Muslim: second, a scholar (of religion); and third, a just ruler."

"I fear particularly for three shortcomings in my followers. First, due to increasing worldly benefits and achievements. they will envy one another; second, discussion
of the Holy Qur'an will become so common that even the ignorant will claim that they know the meanings of the Holy Qur'an, although many meanings are such that cannot be understood by anyone except the well versed scholars of that Book, who say: "We have a firm faith in it, and that it is from Allah", so how much more careful should be the common people; third, the religious scholars will be neglected and will not be patronized properly."

The Holy Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) also said: "Luqmaan instructed his son in these words: "Keep the company of scholars, and listen attentively to the words of the wise, for therewith Allah revives the dead hearts, just as He revives the dead earth with heavy rains; and the wise alone understand the religion."

Allah has warned what is translated as:
"Messenger! keep the company of those who pray to Allah every morning and evening, and they desire only His pleasure; and do not turn your eyes from them to the attractions and adornment of the worldly life: and do not follow him whose heart We have turned away from our remembrance, and who follows his desires, and (therefore) he has broken the limits (of true religion)."
Islam is based not on following our own assumptions and desires, but on true knowldge:
12:108 Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto Allah,- on evidence clear as the seeing with one's eyes,- I and whoever follows me. Glory to Allah. and never will I join gods with Allah.""
He (swt) says: “And verily guess is no substitute for the truth.” [TMQ 53:28]
And He (swt) said: “They have no (certain) knowledge. They follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not (‘Isa).” [TMQ 4:157]

"Do you have Ilm for that which you claim so that you provide us with? You follow nothing but conjecture (Zann)." [TMQ 6:148]

"17:36 And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning)."
50. "But if they hearken not to thee, know that they only follow their own lusts: and who is more astray than one who follow his own lusts, devoid of guidance from Allah. for Allah guides not people given to wrong-doing."
Identifying a Proper Scholar
The Quran and Hadith very clearly warn against following our vain assumptions and conjecture regarding Islam without studying from proper scholars who have studied under qualified teachers in an unbroken chain to the Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him. How then do we know who is a qualified scholar to learn from? Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi explains:
How do we recognize when someone is truly a physician? If he is accredited, completed his residency, people come to him for treatment, and many of them are nursed back to health. Likewise, the signs of a true spiritual shaikh are when he has spent a considerable amount of time with and benefited from a recognized shaikh, and the ulama and people of intelligence think highly of him, come to him in times of need, and feel an increase in love of Allah I and decrease in love of the dunya when sitting in his presence, and the situation of those who sit in his company is continually progressing. When one observes all these signs in a person, he should know that he is worthy of being made a shaikh. He should consider him a panacea for his spiritual ailments and believe that visiting and helping such a person is a great honor. Thus, a complete overview of the characteristics of a shaikh is: He is mutaqqi and pious. He is a follower of the Sunnah, knows a sufficient amount of the knowledge of Deen, remained in the company of a recognized shaikh, the scholars and intelligent people
are inclined towards him, his company is efficacious, and the murideen are improving in his company
Ordaining Good and Forbidding Evil
Allah swt warns us that the grave mistake that the previous nations fell in was their:
  1. Disrespect for the Sunnah of their Prophets and the teaching of their scholars
  2. Accepting only the parts of their faith they found convenient or that was in accordance with their vain desires
  3. Failing to enjoyn what is good and forbid what is evil
  4. Preference to please and attempt to get honor from the disbelievers and emulate their ways.
Allah swt says what is translated as:

78. Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawûd (David) and 'Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allâh and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds.

79. They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar (wrong, evil doing, sins, polytheism, disbelief, etc.) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do.

80. You see many of them taking the disbelievers as their Auliyâ' (protectors and helpers). Evil indeed is that which their ownselves have sent forward before them, for that (reason) Allâh's Wrath fell upon them and in torment they will abide.

Those whom Allah condemns from amongst the Children of Israel were condemed for the same actions that many Muslims nowadays are engaged in and which the Prophet Peace be Upon Him warned us about. They used to assume their understanding was superior to that of their scholars and they used to prefer this temporary material world to the eternal hereafter. Thus they openly sinned and did not forbid each other from engaging in haram (prohibited actions). Similarly today if a Muslim speaks out against sins and evil, even other :Muslims" try to stop him, calling him an "extremist." They do not forbid what is evil because they believe in "freedom" even if it is freedom to act in contravention to the commands of Allah. If a practicing Muslim condemns sin they attack him in the name of liberalism, yet if people disrespect Allah and his messenger they stay quiet or even support them! Allah swt explains that this is because they wished to take the disbelievers as friends and protectors in stead of Allah and the Muslims, in order to seek honor, forgetting that honor and success is only found by obeying and submitting to the Creator of the heavens and earth.
33:48 And obey not (the behests) of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.
The Prophet peace be upon him warned however that Muslims must ordain what is good and forbid evil:
Narrated Abu Tha'labah al-Khushani: Abu Umayyah ash-Sha'balli said: I asked Abu Tha'labah al-Khushani: What is your opinion about the verse "Care for yourselves." He said: I swear by Allah, I asked the one who was well informed about it; I asked the Apostle of Allah (p.b.u.h.) about it. He said: 'No, enjoin one another to do what is good and forbid one another to do what is evil. But when you see niggardliness being obeyed, passion being followed, worldly interests being preferred, everyone being charmed with his [own] opinion, then care for yourself, and leave alone what people in general are doing. For ahead of you are days which will require endurance, in which showing endurance will be like grasping live coals. The one who acts rightly during that period will have the reward of fifty men who act as he does. Another version has: He said (The hearers asked:) Apostle of Allah, the reward of fifty of them? He replied: The reward of fifty of you. [i.e. the companions]
Hadhrat Jareer (radi Allaho anho) has narrated that Hadhrat Mohammad (sallallaho alaihe wasallam) was pleased to say: "When an individual of a community sins, and the community, in spite of its authority over him, does not prevent him from sinning, Allah's punishment descends on them even before death, i.e., He subjects them to various tribulations in this very world."
(3) Hadhrat Anas (radi Allaho anho] has narrated thatHadhrat Mohammad (sallallaho alaihe wasallam) was pleased to say, "The Kalimah La ilaha Illallaho al~ays~benefit these individuals who proclaim it, and keeps away from them woes and troubles, unless, indeed, its rights are ignored." The companions inquired: "What does the ignoring of its rights mean?" Replied the Prophet: "It means that when sins are being committed openly they do not prevent or stop them."
O people, Allah has ordained you to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, lest a time should come whenyou call and He may not respond, you ask for a favor and He may not grant it, and you call for help and He may refuse'.
We must Ordain good and forbid evil despite our own weekness:
Hadhrat Anas (radiallaho anho) relates: "We inquired of the Holy Prophet: O Prophet of Allah, is it right that we should not enjoin virtue unless we practise all the virtues ourselves, and should not forbid the wrongs unless we ourselves completely abstain from them all? 'Nay,' said the Prophet, 'do enjoin others to practise good deeds even though you do not practise all of them, and do forbid evil actions even though you do not abstain from them all'."
It is very clear from these Hadith that when we abandon ordaining good and forbidding evil we will loose the help and support of Allah in this world. People are afraid however from following Shariah and the Sunnah and ordaining good and forbidding evil because the westerners they try to appease may ridicule them. However, no prophet was sent to please everyone. Allah swt explains:
"And We sent down Prophets before you amongst people gone by, and no Prophet came to them but that they ridiculed him."
Islam did not come to please everyone. If people are not happy with what Islam teaches the solution is not to change the teachings of the Prophet peace be upon him to please ignorant. We judge by what Allah and his Messenger taught "Even if the disbelievers hate it" ..."Even if the transgressors hate it"... "Even if the Polytheists hate it." " If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel." (All translations from the Quran)

A Muslim does not sell his faith to please others for those are acts of the hypocrtyes who try to get honor by pleaseing and befriending those who do not respect Islam: "138. To the Hypocrites give the glad tidings that there is for them (but) a grievous penalty;- 139. Yea, to those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay,- all honour is with Allah."

Reward and Necessity of Adhering to and Reviving the Sunnah
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who called (people) to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who called (people) to error, he shall have to carry (the burden) of its sin, like those who committed it, without their sins being diminished in any respect.

A great scholar, Imam Ghazali, said: "Any Muslim who dares to take steps to remove the present state of ruin and devastation, endeavours to revive the act of propagation and comes forward to shoulder that I heavy responsibility, will surely rank as the noblest and the most distinguished being among the whole of mankind."

It is reported that the Prophet Peace be Upon him said: "Whoever revives my sunnah at the time of the corruption of my ummah will have the reward of 100 martyrs."

"Islam began as something strange and it will return once again to something strange so good news [paradise] to the strangers. They are those who revive what people have neglected from my sunnah."
5:54 O ye who believe! if any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him,- lowly with the believers, mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things.