Saturday, February 6, 2016

Accessing our lost spiritual wealth

The following is an edited version of the address given at the spirituality session at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam January 11th, 2016.]

We have to begin this subject by referring to the Qur'an. It says that the essence of every human being acknowledges their Lord. Alastu  Berabbikum? Qaaloo Balaa Shahidnaa. "Am I not your Lord", God asks. "Yes, we testify", is the response. It goes on to say that on judgement day, the excuse of "simply" adhering to family/social conventions will not be acceptable in the Divine Court.[ Q 7:172-173]

We also have the hadeeth in which the Prophet reportedly says " Every child is born upon the Fitrah." . This part of the hadeeth can be seen as Tafseer on the verses mentioned earlier. The hadeeth continues "His parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian." [Bukhari and Muslim]. So what do we learn?

[1] All humans possess, to use the language of tonight's program- that treasure, or at least they possess the potential to access that treasure.

[2] That treasure is bright, it is shiny and attractive, and is at its brightest in children, especially the very young. This fact is universally know, across religions and cultures. The Bible has it that Jesus says "You shall not enter heaven until you become like these little children." [Matt. 18:3]

Across human cultures, the statements and smiles of children are seen as reflecting an essential goodness and purity. Indeed, adults are often judged by other adults based upon their children's impressions. That is just a fact! In Islamic terminology, this is called Fitrah, the term highlighted in the hadeeth cited earlier.

Moreover, across human societies, crimes against children are seen as among the most horrible of crimes.

[3] Children are raised, influenced by their societies, to become adults with the thinking of that society or their surroundings. Thus, the import of the second part of the hadeeth "the parents make him a Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian".  This part of the hadeeth highlights  for us that treasure becoming lost or, to use another term, buried.

When the treasure gets buried, the consequences are profound. Faith in fellow man as well as faith in God weakens, if not totally dies! Ties between peoples become little more than business transactions. Trust is destroyed. A Vacuum is created, a hole is made. Some attempt to fill it by using drugs. Some turn to alcohol. Some will turn to other items. Others may seek to fill that hole by harming themselves, or others, even going to the route of committing suicide. Others still will turn to materialism as their god, or fill that hole in their own soul by seeking to dominate other human being, seeking after power and authority. They will often proclaim belief in empty, meaningless expressions. They make their lives' mission the acquisition of the biggest phones, the biggest cars. They risk becoming a people dedicated to nothing but indulgence.

Why tell us about the original acknowledgement?

After God says all of Adam's children recognize, in their own core, we are told

"Thus, do we [Allah] explain clearly the signs so that perhaps they will return " { Q 7:174]

وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
This means that Allah has told us this in order that we may return to it. He has told us a treasure exists and has even given us a map.

Continuing with this analogy. By stages, we are taught how to read the map. Messengers of God come to give us tips, to instruct us as to its symbols. There is even a discipline that must be adhered to if we are going to read the map correctly.

The  role of ritual

All religions have the rituals of worship, fasting and prayer, in some sense or another. These concepts have survived the corruptions that have taken place over the countless generations. However, in Islam we have Al Kitaab Al Mubeen, The Clear Scripture and we also have the Straight Path. "All paths lead to God", the popular saying goes. However, the Islam of the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad constitutes the straight path. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That is Islam. Islam is the path that gets you there quick.

We have prayer and fasting, but we also have a discipline. This is shown in what the religion says about pork. Yes, Allah created pigs, yet he also says we are not to consume them. God created grapes, yet he says we are not to consume wine. These are NOT petty injunctions. These are examples of the discipline needed to study that map and bring out the treasure which has been hidden for so long!

So all of the authentic teachings and rules of Islam are present for our benefit and welfare.

Can antiquity be our guide?

When we talk about guidance, we tend to look at the past. For Muslims of all shades and madhaahib, we will look to the time of the Prophet. For Christians, they will focus upon the person of Christ. In this practice, we are indirectly acknowledging that there are deficiencies in today's way of thinking.

There is truth in this, however we can also view this in another way. Our Recent past, as recently as our parents and grandparents, can likewise provide us with keys to unlocking that treasure. Our recent past includes people we admire in our family line or in our society. I am not talking about actors and politicians. I am talking about figures who were truly about what is right, especially those we saw personally and was able to access personally.

Think about what you admire and love within them. Perhaps they were hard working, courageous. People dedicated to prayer, overcoming serious problems. These positive things are also a source of guidance. After all, Allah does not make mistakes. He placed you in your family and in your unique set of circumstances as a foundation.

Contemporary mindset very evil

The prevalent mindset in today's world is directed by evil forces. In politics, social order, even in the imagery of religion. The prevalent mindset promotes violence, xenophobia, racism, enmity between communities, selfishness, distrust, greed and paranoia. It promotes individualism in an unhealthy way, making us easier prey. Moreover, the prevalent mindset is against education.

Education should give us knowledge as well as cultivation, to make us better people. But today there are moves that seek to go against making us better people, In short, the prevalent mindset seeks to lock us out of the treasure.

Be courageous

Don't be afraid to be "weird". The Muslim should particularly be "weird" in the sense that our thinking and mindset be directed by this religion more so than any other consideration.

"And whosoever obeys Allah and his Messengerr have already acheived a mighty acheivement.{ Q 33:71}
وَمَن يُطِعْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا
Every child is born upon the Fitrah

Children don't know fiqh or religious labels. They don't even care about that. They do, however, love. They share. They trust. They bring out things in adults. They worship without any urging from their parents.

Watch your toddlers put down a rug and make Sajdah. They do so with joy, and brings joy to the hearts of nearby adults.

The Prophet's grandchildren [Hasan and Husseein] used to climb on his blessed back when he was in Sajdah, and it has happened to us all. Even within the animal kingdom, at the Haram [Makkah, site of the Ka'bah], birds are always circling the Ka'bah [i.e. Tawaf] and never make any droppings on the pilgrims.

Children and animals both exists in a state which recognizes God. For children, the older they get the easier it gets to be taken into another direction, which is mentioned in the hadeeth.

Job of Parents

Parents have to strive to bring up their children right, and the children also push their parents in the right direction, having the correct attitude. The children can give us keys to the treasure, and even tips on how to read the map. When that map is read with the distractions of ego, anger, insecurity, past hurts and the like, you will go in the wrong direction.

So it's more than having a map or even the treasure. It has to be read correctly and the treasure has to be utilized correctly.


"So when you read the Qur'an, seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the rejected enemy." [ Q 16:98]

فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
We don;t just say 'Bismillah"! People can [and do] be horrible in the name of God. We have to say A 'oodhoo Bellaahee Minash shaytaanir Rajeem.

In a similar way, money cannot solve our problems unless we know how to use it!

As life goes on, the more knowledge and experience we get under our belt, the easier it should be to use that map and utilize the treasure. If we don't have the knowledge/experience, we have to follow those who do.

"So ask the people opf reminder, i.e. knowledge, if you don't know" { Qur'an 16:43, 21:7]
فَاسْأَلُواْ أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
The guides can take us there, or at least show us where to look and what to zoom in upon.

Addressing our unique needs

All of us have some common needs, but there are needs that are unique. A person needing evidence that God exists is not the same as one needing to learn the details of the salaat. The first person is skeptical, while the other simply needs technical support.

Moreover, an astray person, in need of guidance, yet attempts to always argue with the guide or put on a show for the guide, that person needs hidaayah the most, and if the guide cannot deal with them, it is to the loss of that astray person.

In the Seerah literature, we have a report which states that a man came to the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]  complaining that he [the Prophet] was  not giving out wealth correctly. The man said to the Prophet "Fear Allah, O Muhammad" [as the exact wording says Faqaala "AttaqqiLLaah, Yaa Muhammad"].

The man didn't even call him "Prophet or Messenger" . He says "Muhammad". The Prophet responded "who is more in obedience to God that me, who is more trustworthy than me?" [Bukhari and Muslim].

The hadeeth says the man walked away. That man, tradition says, is the progenitor of the Khawaarij [Kharijites], the first terrorists group in the Muslim communitty. This emerged in Iraq, where ISIS has likewise, also emerged.

So when the guides are marginalized or ignored due to ego, the consequences can be devastating, both physically and spiritually.

The same hadeeth goes on to talk about a people who recite the Qur'an, but it doesn't go beyond their throats. They leave the religion the way an arrow leaves the bow when shot out [thus, the name Khawaarij, from the root kharaja 'he left']

While we see this hadeeth as predicting a political rebellion, this can also be seen in a spiritual sense. God knows what he's doing. He sent prophets and guides as well. He sent guidance. He sent a map. So don't underestimate the guide. Let him help you, and you help him,

Let us use the map, let us access the treasure for our benefit, and whatever level we are at now. May Alllah be our protector and guide.


Non Believer said...

Hi Waheed. I found this article a few days ago when I was looking for insight into one of the topics in its labels. I confess it has taken me that many days to quell my anger sufficiently to respond to what I found here.

First let's quote the entire hadith that you reference Vol. 2, Book 23, Hadith 441:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?" Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: "The pure Allah's Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not."(30.30)

Some time ago, I asked you, somewhat rhetorically, what you thought were the causes of the Quraysh persecution of Muhammad prior to the Hijra. In my mind the answer was clear and reading this account, there can be little doubt. Muhammad repeatedly breached the norms of human social interactions. He did this in so many ways: he insulted those around him, including members of his own clan; he behaved sacrilegiously at the Quraysh temple and insulted their religion, and so on. The quoted hadith has Muhammad insulting every parent who does not raise their child according to his beliefs.

It's astonishing to me that Muslims believe that God is so incompetent. Muhammad's mission to communicate "Allah's message" was a total failure. Clearly, the approach being used here would never attract converts. In today's language, we would see this hadith as "appealing to his base". Such an approach is doomed to fail; these cannot be the true words of an all-knowing God.

However, this isn't what angers me.

What angers me is that you choose to live amongst us and to teach this sort of bigotry. I can accept that Muhammad was an extreme bigot, but what have you to gain living in America and spreading such hate? What non-Muslim would hear these words and not take offence? You use these words to teach your followers that you are somehow superior to us and that we are "mutilating" our children. Shame on you!

I totally agree that children are born innocent and that we must absolutely be careful what we teach our children. I struggle, as do most people, with the prejudices that I was raised with. I take seriously suggestions when it is pointed out to me that I still suffer from such prejudices.

It is my view that if you truly believe that a belief in God is "innate", then there is no reason for you to impose so forcefully such a belief on an unsuspecting child. When they are old enough to understand the subtleties of theology, then they can be presented with the options so that they can decide for themselves.

Since children seem to begin with the same view of God as those around them, it can only be that these views are learned. Your assertions that children naturally "make Sajdah" is simply ridiculous. I found it quite refreshing to read the letters between the Thai children trapped in the cave and their parents. They are filled with love and longing to be re-united and the letters lacked any reference to supplication to God. Now that they have been rescued, they give thanks to the rescuers, not some supernatural being. This is what is natural among children who have not had their heads filled with superstition.

It's OK for Muslims to be "weird", to wear strange clothes, to eat strange foods, to follow strange rituals, and to believe strange superstitions, however, bigotry directed against those of us who do not believe as you do is absolutely not OK. Accusing me of "mutilating" my child is an outrage.