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Remember who you are…

October 29, 2008

In the famous Disney movie, The Lion King, there is a climactic scene wherein Simba, the wrongfully ousted protagonist, has a vision of Mufassa, his deceased father. At this point in the movie, Simba has run away from his rightful place as ruler of the pridelands, and instead sought out a non-descript and carefree life, ashamed at his heritage and ancestry, and content to wallow in luxury and entertainment. It is exactly at this point that Mufassa visits Simba and shames him when he tells him: “Remember who you are…”

It is perhaps useful to bear the above in mind when considering the plight of the Muslim community in the world to be quite similar to Simba’s situation in the movie. And just like Simba, it is becoming unfortunately more and more common for Muslims to feel ashamed of their identity, values and history and to attempt to seek out something altogether different. Of course, this is not withstanding the fact that it is quite comical to see a brown person (note that I’m generically using “brown” to refer to non-white, not simply desi) attempt to be something or someone that they aren’t.

It is imperative for Muslims to not only be content with who they are and where they have come from, but also to make no apologies and to feel proud about their legacy and identity. Certainly, this is difficult given the socio-political climate that we find ourselves—but perhaps this is why, maybe even more than any other period of Muslim history, it’s necessary for Muslims to reflect, to feel comfortable, and to feel honored with their status as being from the Ummah of the Prophet (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him).

Keeping this goal in mind, I’m presenting a section from Tanbīh al-Ghāfilīn (The Awakening of the Heedless) by the famous scholar, mystic, and jurist, Abū Layth Nadr b. Muhammad al-Samarqandī, specifically from the chapter titled “The Chapter Concerning the Virtue of the Community of Muhammad (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam).” The text is in Arabic and has not been translated yet, so the English translation below is mine; any corrections or suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Hopefully, this helps us to remember who we are.

—–

The jurist (Abū Layth) said: My father narrated to me on the authority of Abū `Abd Allah Muhammad b. Janāh….on the authority of Maqātil b. Sulaymān that Musa (upon him be peace) said: “O my Lord, indeed I find mention in the Tablets of a nation who will be intercessors and interceded upon, so make them to be my nation”.

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation whose expiation of their sins will be in the five daily prayers, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation who will fight the people of misguidedness until they even fight the vanguard of the Antichrist, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation whose purification is accomplished with both water and dust, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation such that if any one of them were to intend a work of righteousness but not perform it, one measure of reward will be written for him. And if he were to do it, then ten measures will be written for him, doubling until 700 or even more. And if one of them were to intend an evil act, nothing would be written against him. And if one of them were to do it, then only one evil act will be written against him, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation that seventy thousand of them will enter paradise without any account, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

(The narration continues under a different chain as follows, on the authority of Qatādah)

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation that is the best of nations, enjoining goodness and forbidding evil, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets of a nation: they will be the last such that they will be the first on the Day of Judgment, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

Musa continued: “O my Lord, I find mention in the Tablets whose gospel will be in their hearts and they will recited it (also) looking at it, so make them to be my nation.”

He (exalted is He) said: “They are the nation of Muhammad.”

This continued until Musa himself wished that he too could be from amongst the nation of Muhammad, and then Allah revealed to him: “O Musa, indeed I have chosen you over all mankind by virtue of My Message and My Speech, so take what I have given you and be amongst the grateful (7:144).” Also, “And from the people of Musa there will be a community that guides towards truth and is just (7:159)”… so then Musa became content.

As part of a longer narration, the gist of the first part being an argument arising between a follower of Musa and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) over the Prophet being chosen above other Prophets… it continues:

The Jewish man said: “Indeed `Umar alleges that Allah chose you over all men, and I alleged that Allah did not choose you over all men, so he raised his hand and struck me.”

The Prophet said: “…Nay, indeed Adam was the chosen of Allah, and Ibrahīm was the intimate companion of Allah, and Musa was the Prophet of Allah and Isā was the Spirit of Allah and I am the Beloved of Allah. Nay, O Jew, two Names from the Names of Allah the Exalted have been used to name my Nation: He named Himself “al-Salām” and my Nation was named “al-Muslimīn” (being a derivative of salām), and He named Himself “al-Mu’min” and my Nation was named “al-Mu’minīn.” … Nay, O Jew, you were the first peoples and we are the last peoples yet the first to arrive at the Day of Judgment (for reward). Nay, O Jew, indeed Paradise is prohibited upon the Prophets until I enter it and it is prohibited upon all other nations until my nation enters it.”

Ka`b al-Ahbār narrates: Indeed Allah the Exalted honored this nation with three things that He honored His Prophets with. The first is that each Prophet was made to be a witness over his people, and this nation will be a witness over all mankind. (The second) is that He said to the Messengers: “O ye Messengers, eat from the pure things and work righteousness (23:51),” and He said to this nation: “Eat from the pure things We have provided you (2:172).” (The third) is that every Prophet’s dua is accepted, and He said to this nation: “Call upon Me, I will answer you (40:60).”

It is said that Allah honored this nation with five favors:

The first: they were created weak so that they would not become arrogant in the land.

The second: they were created small in size (compared to previous nations) so that they would not become desirous of much food and drink and their clothes would be few (ie, they would not have to consume much food and drink, or require more cloth for their clothes and thus have to give account for all this)

The third: their lives were made short so that their sins would also be less

The fourth: they were made poor so that their reckoning on the Day of Judgment would be less.

The fifth: they were made to be the last nation so that their remaining in the grave would be the least.

And it is mentioned that Adam said: Indeed Allah the Exalted gave the Nation of Muhammad four favors that even I was not given:

The first: The acceptance of my repentance was only in Makkah, whereas the nation of Muhammad may make tawbah in any place and Allah will accept their repentance.

The second: I used to be clothed, but when I sinned (in paradise), I was made naked; but the nation of Muhammad, even if they sin unclothed, Allah will clothe them.

The third: Indeed when I disobeyed, my wife and I were separated (and reunited much later); but the nation of Muhammad, even if they disobey, He does not separate them from their spouses.

The fourth: Indeed when I disobeyed, He removed me from paradise; but the nation of Muhammad, they disobey outside of paradise but by repentance, they will indeed enter it.

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From → Islam

10 Comments
  1. Mimi permalink

    Interesting parable. However, I thought Simba was running not from his identity but from his evil, ignorant, unjust uncle who wanted to rule the land. He may have had issues with his reflection in the water but lets be empathetic and understand he was just a cub.

    Also, the disney characters and the plot are actually a reflection of the Jewish exile and return to the promise land. In fact test audiences deemed this movie as too Jewish. Please see the you tube clip on Judaism and the Lion King.

    So indeed it is a far stretch to talk about Muslim identify with the use of the Lion King.

    PS: Are you trying to say you are Simba or have issues with identity?

    Regards
    Sympathetic Muslimah

  2. @Mimi

    Agreed with the original reason for Simba leaving, however, I think he ended up being reluctant to go back to Pride Rock and reclaim his destiny. But maybe another characteristic of Simba to think about was his accountability. When Nala came and told him about the horrible situation of the lions (Muslims) and other animals (non-Muslims) because of the evil Scar (opressors and injustice mongers in our world), Simba can’t get over the “fact” that he would be responsible for his father’s death.

    Running away does nothing for you, and in fact for Simba, it was for a wrong reason altogether (since Scar killed off Mufasa). In any case, Muslims tend to “run away” from practicing Islam when they slip up in fear of how the Muslim community will view them.

    Maybe it’s because of how our communities judge and reckon people so harshly for their mistakes that it creates more Simbas that are just too darn scared to remember who they are.

    Wow, such a long thought process over the Lion King. Thanks a lot, Kamran. 🙂

  3. altamash permalink

    oh no the Lion King is a Jewish film? There goes my number 1 film…

    if anyone says anything bad about Remember the Titans…well then I guess I will never watch a movie ever again…

    this was a half decent post kr…except it was way too long (just like your xanga days)…

  4. Even if “The Lion King” was written from a Jewish perspective, that doesn’t mean that it only resonates with Jewish audiences. Nor does it mean that the film only holds relevance for Jews. The archetypes of a villainous, power-hungry male relative and of a young prince seduced by comfort can be found in many cultures.

    Mimi said, “Also, the disney characters and the plot are actually a reflection of the Jewish exile and return to the promise land.” Be careful when you say what a story “actually” means. To whom does it mean this? To the author? To the test audiences? To critics? It is the nature of art to be open to multiple interpretations. If a work of art only has one possible meaning, it is usually pretty shallow.

  5. altamash permalink

    wait so is this a jewish movie? I’m so confused…

    is hakuna matata hebrew for some anti-Islamic sentiment?

  6. AzamHussain permalink

    This is why KR had to return. Thank you for translating, maybe you should forget the medical stuff and leave that to others with more limited talents.

  7. Sadiq permalink

    Great post mA.

    Can you do a post on Beverly Hills Chihuahua?

  8. anonymous permalink

    Alhamdulilah, thanks for this post and the translation!

    “Of course, this is not withstanding the fact that it is quite comical to see a brown person (note that I’m generically using “brown” to refer to non-white, not simply desi) attempt to be something or someone that they aren’t.”

    Although I understand why you’re pointing this out…it made me think of Muslims who are “white,” and the pressure they face to fit in amongst the immigrant-populated Muslim communities. I know a few, iA I can improve myself and help them to feel more comfortable with being themselves as well!

  9. I think we need to forget the Jewish, non-Jewish related notion here. So what if it is about the about Jewish exile? What if it is not? Does that affect the big picture from which we should understand and learn? I.e. it doesn’t add value.

    The issue at hand is that Muslims run away from their identities. They fear to face it, breath it, and live it.

    I argue it is fear of the presence of an inwardly being. We fear fear discovering our authentic self, or exposing it due to the judgments in our communities (i.e. what SaqibSaab referred to).

    But really, when you think of it, being Muslim is just so……. well, just so great (for a lack of better words).

    I think we are better off living without regrets, i.e. living our identities of Muslims and humans, whether you are brown, yellow, white, green, red, or rainbow coloured. Because to live the inauthentic self is like being suffocated daily, and who wants to be suffocated?

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