Saturday, February 6, 2016

The ways of Allah: Reflecting on Divine Anger

[ Note: This is an edited version of a recent Friday Khutbah [sermon] at the Toledo Masjid. We have omitted the opening Hamd and formatted the entire khutbah,with both parts, into one article.]

For the last couple of weeks, we have been discussing Soorat Al-Faatihah, looking at some interesting details. Today, we want to examine a question that arises from the opening chapter. In Al-Faatihah, we pray for guidance, on a path that is straight, a path that produces blessing, grace [Ni'mah], not that which produces Ghadab [Divine anger] [Ghayril Maghdoobee 'alayhim]

In terms of Ghadab, I came across nineteen entries in the Qur'an in which this term or a related term is mentioned. We shorten that list even further when we reduce our query to those verses which directly tell us about that which invites Allah's wrath.

A person may ask further, "doesn't this make God seem reactionary?" After all, in human experience, the feeling of anger when someone else hits your vehicle is a feeling stimulated by the other driver, so can we say that God is like this?

If God is like this, how can that be reconciled with the teaching that Allah is the All-Knowing, Aware of future events?

To answer these queries, we must remember that Allah runs the universe according to laws or patterns.

"And You will never find any change in Allah's Sunnah"
وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا
[Q 48:23]

We can call it the laws of nature, or even Karma, the term used is not important. Certain things trigger certain other things, all of which are in accordance with the laws of God.  So when we read about "God's anger" or "God's wrath" we should see it as the laws of natural consequence.

Examples of Divine anger in the Qur'an

Two times we can find in the Qur'an the story of Musa's people [Moses, peace be upon him]. They were unhappy with what God gave them. God sent them prophets, scripture, Prophets, and goodly things to consume. This even allowed them to develop the notion of a "chosen people" among themselves.

"Abasement and humiliation were stamped upon the, and they incurred 'anger' from Allah, because they rejected the signs of Allah, killing Prophets unjustly. This was so because they were disobedient and went beyond the limits."

 وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الذِّلَّةُ وَالْمَسْكَنَةُ وَبَآؤُوْاْ بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ذَلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعْتَدُونَ
 [Q 2:61]

This ayah, which is also given in a slightly different from in Soorat Al 'Imraan, mentions a few things.

[1] "Rejecting the signs of God"- the signs sent for their guidance. We can compare this traffic laws. A person goes through the red light, not caring about the regulations. He does so all the time, thinking there will be no consequences. He may even drive the wrong way on a one-way road. Eventually, an accident happens. The driver is hurt, his vehicle is destroyed, or he may even be killed.

[2] "Killing of Prophets"- Prophets are sent to supplement the laws of guidance. To kill is a grave sin, but to kill special people, people of responsibility, invites social disorder. In the animal kingdom, the wiping out of certain species leads to imbalance within the environment. In our times, killing of a police officer is a crime that generates a sterner punishment that killing of a civilian.

[3] "Disobedient, went beyond limits"- This creates Fitnah in the physical and spiritual world. The rebellious mindset is a thinking pattern that places Allah at the bottom, rather than the top, of priorities. It makes everything confusing, To surrender to God is to surrender to that which is natural, goodly and beneficial.

With just this one ayah, we should see that Allah's anger is not petty nor whimsical. It is serious, and comes about as a result of serious transgressions, in body, soul and society.

So when we pray Ihdeenas seeraatal Moostaqeem, seeraatal ladheena an'amta 'alayhim, Ghayril Maghdoobee 'alayhim wa lad daalleeen, we are praying to have that which Allah wants for us in our life! In whatever place, situation we find ourselves, we concentrate, make efforts, to be serious about God's Ni'mah [blessings, grace].

Methodology of Prophet Muhammad

As Muslims, we have a text as well as a Prophet to help us understand and apply the text. The methodology of the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is very important in terms of getting Divine blessing as opposed to Divine anger. The society to which he belonged had senseless violence, irrational thinking, lack of discipline, and even the worship of dates, which would then become food!

The Prophet's methodology included patience, strategy, reform of social norms, and the inculcation of BETTER VALUES.

This message is a message that changed the most hardened of hearts, such as 'Umar ibn al Khattab and Khalid ibn Al-Waleed. This message, as exemplified in the Prophet's reformation of his society, is something for the real world. We often discuss racism, tribalism, addictions to such things as alcohol, but his message also influenced the urge to be educated!

The first word revealed to the Prophet was "Read" [Iqraa]. The society was uneducated, yet the Quranic revelation tells them to read. That is revolutionary!

The Prophet [upon whom be peace and blessings] even had prisoners after Badr freed if they would teach ten Muslims how to read.

So these important aspects of the Prophet's strategies, methodologies and priorities, have to be followed if we are be on and stay on the straight path in this world, a path that all can benefit from.