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Thoughts on the Current Crisis, Part IV

August 22, 2006

kr’s note: So it seems that it did take me the full two weeks to update. For the past two months, I’ve been woefully inconsistent and apathetic about posting–in some ways, that was probably good for me since I was able to stay away from blogging without too many ill effects. I think that was good for me, to prove to myself that I’m not really so addicted to my xanga as I thought, or everyone else seems to think. Besides, I really didn’t have much to write about as any creativity cells in my brain were suppressed through the repetitive mind-numbing drudgery that I endured for the past two months during general surgery. Without a doubt, the past two months were the worst two months of my life: never before have I ever worked so hard for something so meaningless. Alhamdulillah, I finished last Friday though, aptly finishing with a shelf exam that had NOTHING to do with surgery–I’m pretty sure I failed it, so perhaps some supplications from you hardcore folks out there will somehow miraculously change my wrong answers to correct ones; forget about doing well, I just want to pass at this point in time.

kr’s note #2: Shaykh Amin wrote me the greatest email ever the other day. He had called me while I was at the hospital and left me a voicemail. By the time I was free, it was too late to call back. The next day, he sends me this:

Shaykh Amin 
to kr156
 More options   Aug 16 (6 days ago)
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 As Salaam alaikoom

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SOS

n

Kamran Riyaz

n

Please report position

n

SOS

n

ASAP

n

regards

nn

“,0]
);
D([“ce”]);

//–>

 As Salaam alaikoom
SOS
Kamran Riaz
Please report position
SOS
ASAP
regards

Hahaha, I love Shaykh Amin. “SOS”… haha, priceless.

Blah blah blah, shut up kr. Enough about me. On to the conclusion.

As this discussion started with an analysis of the Children of Israel, it returns back to us as a nascent Muslim community understanding their historical significance as a tool to better understand our modern context. The Jews of Musa (`alayhi al-salaam), once liberated from Pharoah, could not remove from their minds their vision of earthly perfection. Thus, anything that they received that did not jive with what they had seen Pharoah and his ilk enjoying, they believed it to be insignificant. The “Firawnic Dream” was ingrained in their minds, becoming their measuring-stick for success and happiness, and anything else wasn’t worth writing home about. For the modern Muslim community–and the entire world–the “American Dream” has become the one and only measure of success, wherein happiness is apparently directly proportional to the quality of one’s lifestyle. And thus we toil and labor for cucumbers and onions, believing that this is the only way we shall find any bliss and contentment. The lesson of these verses from Surah al-Baqarah is quite simple: do not sacrifice salvation for the material world (dunya), despite how glamorous it might seem. The Jews of Musa didn’t want salvation, they wanted salad; thousands of years later, the Muslims of Muhammad (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) are doing the exact same thing. It was perhaps this malcontentment, more than anything else, that led to the activist and modernist movements at the turn of the 20th century, with figures like Attaturk leading the cry for Muslim societies to modernize. Eighty years later, the same story permeates the drama of the Middle East, with the alleged leaders of Muslim nations wanting to modernize–of course, their version of modernization being that they purchase stripped down F-16s that are merely of ceremonial value, and wouldn’t stand a chance against a slingshot in a real fight.

Therein lies the problem: not being able to differentiate between provision (rizq) from God and what one earns (kasabat aydeekum… “what your hands have wrought”). The former is blessed in all its aspects, the latter may or may not be, depending on one’s mindset. The conundrum arises when people are unable to be satisfied with provision and seek to earn more, thinking that what their hands will earn is better than what God has given. It is perhaps in understanding this simple truth that Muslims can understand their plight in the world today–that powerlessness is a provision from God at this point in time, and we should seek to embrace the power that is contained within it, rather than futilely trying to earn with our hands what is not blessed, or worse, what we are unprepared to receive. Which is why that it is no surprise that those who seek to constantly earn more are deprived of enjoying what they really earn. We live in an age wherein corporations can buy out continents, yet the human being can still only enjoy three meals a day. If one were to ask, “Why is life so busy now?”, the simple answer is that of control: people are obsessed with control, and will keep working, no matter the cost, to maintain even the illusion of control.

But we’re unable to put aside our garment of emotional fury to don the cloak of compassionate rationality in order to see that perhaps not being in control–given our current spiritual and moral maturity–is what is best for us. Perhaps it is a blessing that we don’t control everything in the world: imagine the global situation if everyone in India/Pakistan controlled the world–it would be similar to many masjid boards throughout America, with people backstabbing one another for more power, only on a global level. These nations are already drowning in corruption with what little they have, and if they were given dominion, they would rebel even more–panic and chaos would ensue. And thus the Qur’an aptly speaks of this, “If God were to enlarge the provision for His Servants, they
would indeed transgress beyond all bounds through the earth; but He sends
(it) down in due measure as He pleases. For He is with His Servants
Well-acquainted, Watchful (42:27)
” And thus the point is, have your community and worldly enjoyment, but don’t make it so unbearable that people are deprived of their rights and enjoyment of what they have. This is also an appropriate lesson for the Arab nations that import Muslim workers from the subcontinent, treating them worse than slaves and depriving them of any semblance of humanity and dignity. If this is the result that stems amongst current Muslims if given a shade of power, then one must wonder if we’re ready to bear the responsibilities that come with a more complete power. In other words, power does not breed leadership, leadership begets power. Only when a capable system of leadership (one that is given to spiritually intelligent men and women with a spirit of humanism) is in place can one begin to even discuss the possibilities of having power. Thus, Sun Tzu once again wisely captures this when he writes:
    “The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people of energy in face of the fullness of others.
    When welfare and justice embrace the whole people, when public works are sufficient to meet national emergencies, when the policy of selection for office is satisfactory to the intelligent, when planning is sufficient to know strengths and weaknesses, that is the basis for certain victory.”

The Muslim paradigm has been one wherein we understand that if we are given leadership, then we faithfully take care of it and embrace such stewardship. Thus our history is replete with stories of great leaders, such as the Prophet-king Dawud (alayhi ‘l-salaam) and Talut. Each of them didn’t actively pursue leadership; Allah gave them their leadership based on their virtues and qualities, and only when they were given it did they fulfill the responsibilities of leadership. On the other hand, if we’re not given leadership, then we don’t go after it. The traditional communities understood the wisdom in the following paradox: one does not need to be in control in order to be in control. This explains why they did not overtly covet power, and even when they were given power, thought themselves to be unworthy of it and ran away from it. The Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said (paraphrased) that whosoever seeks authority, we shall not give it to him. And thus our history is also filled with tales of individuals such as Yusuf (`alayhi ‘l-salaam), who didn’t want total domination, despite the fact that he could have had it (and was worthy of it). Instead, he took the position of leadership in an area wherein he felt he could be of the most use and benefit to those around him. The same theme existed in Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with him), who had to literally be forced into taking the Caliphate at the behest of the Muslims (on a side note, it’s interesting that the two figures, who shared the same title of “al-Siddiq”, the former’s title manifest in the Qur’an, the latter’s title manifest after his unwavering confirmation in the Prophet’s night journey and ascension, also had the same attitude towards leadership…) The same theme existed amongst `Umar, `Uthman, and `Ali (may God be pleased with them) as each were also forced to take the Caliphate. The other problem–possibly a greater one–with wanting leadership is that if one wants leadership and control for the wrong purposes, Allah may give it to him, but then that person will be removed from Him. The question then becomes, Is that really power?

As with all issues, the way forward becomes amazingly clear when one heeds the words of the Proof of Islam, one Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (rahimahullah). Given the background of what has been discussed thus far, the salient theme has been that of contentment and one’s attitude towards attaining more, especially in terms of material power. The great Imam said that the true salik (seeker and traveller of the mystical path) earns his living until Zuhr, goes home and takes a nap, then quests for the hereafter for the rest of the day. The idea is that true control is actually contentment with the dunya; certainly, one must struggle for it, but the greater struggle is for the hereafter. And thus classical scholars, particularly the mystics, were more concerned with contentment rather than overt power. For example, on the issue of being satisfied with one’s food, Ibn `Arabi writes that if one reads the last part of 2:60 seven times daily–“…So eat and drink of the
sustenance provided by Allah
“–one will have more contentment and enjoyment in one’s food. He writes that if one reads this verse 70 times a day, there will be an even more tremendous effect. The idea that stems from this is that if one lets the Qur’an dictate his lifestyle, things will be just fine, particularly in terms of the hereafter.

And thus the measuring stick of the Muslims has always been, and once again must be, success in the hereafter. Our energy and struggling towards the material world should only be considered valid if it increases our status in the next world; only when that happens does even the mundane become sacred. For example, if one does research and experiences a sense of spiritual wonderment and growth as a result of that, then it becomes worship. But toiling in the world only for the sake of physical control is foolhardy at best and dangerous at worst. It is noteworthy, as well as entertaining, to recall the words of Shaykh Muhammad Meeran (rahimahullah), author of the Arabic primer “Wafiyah” and Shaykh Amin’s teacher, when he said: “Let the kafir be our servant. Why should I worry about making a plane if I want to go to America? Let him make the plane, I’ll use it to go worship Allah and spread Islam in America.” In other words, striving for only worldly achievement is not the task of the Muslim. Instead, our mindset should be that if one achieves in this world, then it should also be to prove the superiority of Islam and revelation (wahy) over all else, to make manifest that “our position” on any matter, whether it be sacred or mundane, is greater than “your position”. Understanding that helps us to better realize the significance of our lacking overtly physical power at this present time in history.

The time for wallowing in envy, self-loathing, and vain rhetoric about material success without any spiritual or moral foundation must come to an end. The nation of the Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) must become wise enough to read its own sacred text and history in order contextualize their situation, and realize that they’re really not as powerless as they believe. In order to have any hopes of accomplishing anything significant, whether it be in this world or the next, it requires for Muslims to once again intimately connect with the Divine and their illuminated tradition as a pillar towards attaining contentment, and a springboard towards the future. Whether or not we are given leadership or power, this Ummah can still accomplish greatness; so long as the main intention is towards the hereafter, any worldly recognition will come in its due course. The bigger challenge, I believe, is whether or not we are humble enough to admit that our internal challenges must be addressed before we look towards the ones outside our proverbial house. And until we can admit that, and become serious about addressing those issues, our economic and political impotence will only increase. Once again, Sun Tzu writes that “the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” The middle nation must realize that it needs to seek victory with God and Him alone, or else it will continue to experience defeats, and the story of Lebanon will replay itself in the not-so-distant future.

By the status of its Messenger, may God preserve and have mercy on his nation, despite their inadequecies.

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10 Comments
  1. i was surprised at how quickly you commented on my post but lo and behold, you have an update of your own =) more comments about the actual post after i read it

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Very good. Now write something funny.

  3. can I post this on the a hadeeth group? A bunch of people have asked me what I thought about the current crisis in the middle east…it will give your xanga a bunch of fame!Ready for our date next week(iA)?

  4. LOL!”Complete Text and broke khutbaharies” is probably one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard.Very ingenious bro. :)Two eProps for that!-Mohd

  5. A perfect conclusion to a perfect series of posts… even if it did take about a month =)
    The email of Sheikh Amin was awesome, lol

  6. mashallah great post as usual, what more can i say bro =). that line with the f-16 was great hehe. glad you liked my post, might also do one on progressive muslims lol.

  7. Why is this post so low-rated? I thought this was the best one, the final part for a great series
    The Shaikh Meeran quote was… wow, MashAllah, that man must’ve been a genius.
    The Art of War quotes were also great

  8. how shameful. this post deserves more props than what it’s got rite now… (yes, egad!, i decided to prop somebody in like ages…)

  9. Great post and tied up the series neatly, methinks. It is very true that we Muslims have lost sight of our goal in life, and have been bewitched by earthly splendour rather than the divine.I like the Imam al-Ghazali quote about the salik(ah) seeking provision until Dhuhr. Made me feel slightly less guilty for having to give a lot of attention to work… when really my hasanat balance is dangerously low.Now here comes the bit where I ask permission to feature this post in my blog. Can I quote the whole thing? I’ll credit you of course :D.

  10. ^go right ahead. in the future, you dont have to ask permission either bro.

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