Posted by: Dawud Israel | July 16, 2009

Readings- Summer 2009

Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

Some readings that made me step back and think a little…I read a lot more and like to think I am smarter than what this blog portrays, so hopefully in the future, I will post more in terms of notes and excerpts. This is VERY long but I felt it was very beneficial from people such as William C. Chittick, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Seyyid Hossein Nasr, and Sh. Abdullah Adhami.

All of these come from sister Nisa78’s blog. I found it a while back and had it saved, because I knew it contained a lot of goodies, but only went through it lately. There were a few other good blogs I had discovered with rich thought, but they seem to have vanished from the online world.

Reading the World

Long before writing was invented, human beings read thier world. They interpreted their dreams and the flights of birds. They read the intestines of sacrificial animals and the memories of their ancestors. They read the things that surprised them, or the things that reminded them of something else. Most of all, they read in the places where there were holes — spaces — gaps. They filled up the blanks of the universe, as though they were pages, with writing. Leonardo advised aspiring artists to “discove” the pictures to be found in the cracks in walls; Chinese sages were conceived as their mothers stepped into the footprints of unicorns; all of us make up our lives out of the cracks in the walls of our past memories and the unicorn footprints of our future. The making of a life is similar to the making of a text. We live by reading our own stories[…].

Lynda Sexon

Islamic Intellectuals? (Discussion on the New Gods Muslims worship)

It appears to me, as an outside observer, that the thinking of most Muslim intellectuals is not determined by Islamic principles and Islamic understanding, but by habits of mind learned unconsciously in grammar school and high school and then confirmed and solidified by university training. Such people may act like Muslims, but they think like doctors, engineers, sociologists, and political scientists.

It is naive to imagine that one can learn how to think Islamically simply by attending lectures once a week or by reading a few books written by contemporary Muslim leaders, or by studying the Qur’«n, or by saying one’s prayers and having “firm faith.” In the traditional Islamic world, the great thinkers and intellectuals spent their whole lives searching for knowledge and deepening their understanding. The Islamic intellectual heritage is extraordinarily rich. Hundreds of thousands of books were written, and in modern times the majority of even the important books are not available, because they have never been printed. Those that have been printed are rarely read by Muslim intellectuals, and those few that have been translated from Arabic and Persian into English and other modern languages have, by and large, been badly translated, so little guidance will be found in the translations.

I do not mean to suggest that it would be necessary to read all the great books of the intellectual tradition in their original languages in order to think Islamically. If modern-day Muslims could read one of these important books, even in translation, and understand it, their thinking would be deeply effected. However, the only way to understand such books is to prepare oneself for understanding, and that demands dedication, study, and training. This cannot be done on the basis of a modern university education, unless, perhaps, one has devoted it to the Islamic tradition (I say “perhaps” because many Muslims and non-Muslims with Ph-D in Islamic Studies cannot read and understand the great books of the intellectual heritage).

The Gods of Modernity

The information and habits of mind that are imparted by modernity are not congruent with Islamic learning. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this concisely is to reflect on the characteristics of modernity—by which I mean the thinking and norms of the “global culture” in which we live today. It should be obvious that whatever characterizes modernity, it is not tawÁâd, the first principle of Islamic thinking. Rather, it is fair to say that modernity is characterized by the opposite of tawÁâd. One could call this shirk or “associating others with God.” But for most Muslims, the word shirk is too emotionally charged to be of much help in the discussion. Moreover, they have lost touch with what it really means, because they are unacquainted with the Islamic intellectual tradition, where tawÁâd and shirk are analyzed and explained. So let me call the characteristic trait of modernity “takthâr,” which is the literal opposite of tawÁâd. TawÁâd means to make things one, and, in the religious context, it means “asserting that God is one.” Takthâr mean to make things many, and in this context I understand it to mean “asserting that the gods are many.”

Modern times and modern thought lack a single center, a single orientation, a single goal, any single purpose at all. Modernity has no common principle or guideline. In other words, there is no single “god”—since a god is what gives meaning and orientation to life. A god is what you serve. The modern world serves many, many gods. Through an ever-intensifying process of takthâr, the gods have been multiplied beyond count, and people worship whatever god appeals to them, usually several at once.

The truth of my assertion becomes obvious if we compare the intellectual history of the West and Islamic civilization. Up until recent times, Islamic thought was characterized by a tendency toward unity, harmony, integration, and synthesis. The great Muslim thinkers were masters of many disciplines, but they looked upon all of them as branches of a single tree, the tree of tawÁâd. There was never any contradiction between studying astronomy and zoology, or physics and ethics, or mathematics and law, or mysticism and logic. Everything was governed by the same principles, because everything fell under God’s all-encompassing reality.

The history of Western thought is characterized by the opposite tendency. Although there was a great deal of unitarian thinking in the medieval period, from the Middle Ages onward there has been constantly increasing dispersion and multiplicity. “Renaissance men” could know a great deal about all the sciences and at the same time have a unifying vision. But nowadays, everyone is an expert in some tiny field of specialization, and “information” increases exponentially. The result is mutual incomprehension and universal disharmony. It is impossible to establish any unity of knowledge, and no real communication takes place among the specialists in different disciplines, or even among specialists in different subfields of the same discipline. In short, people in the modern world have no unifying principles, and the result is an ever-increasing multiplicity of goals and desires, an ever-intensifying chaos.

Despite the chaos, everyone has gods that he or she worships. No one can survive in an absolute vacuum, with no goal, no significance, no meaning, no orientation. The gods people worship are those points of reference that give meaning and context to their lives. The difference between traditional objects of worship and modern objects of worship is that in modernity, it is almost impossible to subordinate all the minor gods to a supreme god, and when this is done, the supreme god is generally one that has been manufactured by ideologies. It is certainly not the God of tawÁâd, who negates the reality of all other gods. However, it may well be a blatant imitation of the God of tawÁâd, especially when religion enters into the domain of politics.

The gods in the world of takthâr are legion. To mention the more important ones would be to list the defining myths and ideologies of modern times—evolution, progress, science, medicine, nationalism, socialism, democracy, Marxism, freedom, equality. But perhaps the most dangerous of the gods are those that are the most difficult to recognize for what they are, because we in the modern world take them for granted and look upon them much as we look upon the air that we breathe. Let me list the most common of these gods by their seemingly innocuous names: basic need, care, communication, consumption, development, education, energy, exchange, factor, future, growth, identity, information, living standard, management, model, modernization, planning, production, progress, project, raw material, relationship, resource, role, service, sexuality, solution, system, welfare, work. These are some, but not all, of the ninety-nine most beautiful gods of modernity, and reciting their names is the dhikr of modern man.

Anyone who wants an analysis and explanation of the nature of these gods should refer to the book Plastic Words by the German linguist, Uwe Poerksen. The subtitle is more instructive as to what the book is all about: The Tyranny of a Modular Language. Poerksen explains how the modern use of language—a use that achieved dominance after the Second World War—has resulted in the production of a group of words that have turned into the most destructive tyrants the world has ever seen. He does not call them “gods,” because he is linguist and has no apparent interest in theology. Nevertheless, he does give them the label “tyrant,” and this is a good translation for the Qur’«nic divine name, al-jabb«r. When this name is applied to God, it means that God has absolute controlling power over creation. “Tyranny” becomes a bad thing when it is ascribed to creatures, because it indicates that they have usurped God’s power and authority. In the case of the plastic words, the usurpation has taken place at the hands of certain words that are used to shape discussion of societal goals.

As Poerksen points out, these tyrannical words have at least thirty common characteristics. The most important of these is that they have no definition, though they do have an aura of goodness and beneficence about them. In linguistic terms, this is to say that such words have no “denotation,” but they do have many “connotations.” There is no such thing as “care” or “welfare” or “standard of living,” but these words suggest many good things to most people. They are abstract terms that seem to be scientific, so they carry an aura of authority in a world in which science is one of the most important of the supreme gods.

Each of these words turns something indefinable into a limitless ideal. By making the ideal limitless, the word awakens unlimited needs in people, and once these needs are awakened, they appear to be self-evident. The Qur’«n says that God is the rich, and that people are the poor toward God. In other words, people have no real need except toward God. But nowadays, people feel need toward meaningless concepts, and they think that they must have them. These empty idols have become the objects of people’s devotion and worship.

The plastic words give great power to those who speak on their behalf. Anyone who uses these words—care, communication, consumption, information, development—gains prestige, because he speaks for god and truth, and this forces other people to keep silent. After all, we think, only a complete idiot would object to care and development. Everyone must follow those whose only concern is to care for us and to help us develop.

The mujtahids who speak for these mini-gods are, of course, the “experts.” Each of the plastic words sets up an ideal and encourages us to think that only the experts can achieve it, so we must entrust our lives to them. We must follow the authority of the scientific mujtahids, who lay down shariahs for our health, our welfare, and our education. People treat the pronouncements of the experts as fatw«s. If the experts reach consensus (ijm«‘) that we must destroy a village as a sacrificial offering to the god “development,” we have no choice but to follow their authority. The mujtahids know best.

Each of the plastic words makes other words appear backwards and out-of-date. We can be proud of worshipping these gods, and all of our friends and colleagues will consider us quite enlightened for reciting the proper dhikrs and du‘«’s. Those who still take the old God seriously can cover up this embarrassing fact by worshipping the new gods along with Him. And obviously, many people who continue to claim to worship the old-fashioned God twist His teachings so that He also seems to be telling us to serve “care, communication, consumption, identity, information, living standard, management, resource . . .” — the dhikr is well enough known.

Because the plastic gods have no denotations, all those who believe in them are able to understand them in terms of the connotations that appeal to then and then convince themselves that they are serving the basic need that is stated in the very name of the god, because, after all, it is a self-evident need. We are poor toward it and we must serve it. It is obvious to everyone that these gods are worthy of devotion. Religious people will have no trouble giving a religious color to these tyrants. In the name of the plastic gods, people of good will join together to transform the world, with no understanding that they are serving man-made idols, idols that, as the Qur’«n puts it, “your own hands have wrought.”

The topic of false gods is vast, especially nowadays, when more false gods exist than were ever found in the past. The Qur’«n tells us that every prophet came with the message of tawÁâd, and that God sent a prophet to every community. Every community of the past had its own version of tawÁâd, even if people sometimes fell into shirk because of ignorance and forgetfulness. But in modern society, there are nothing but the gods of takthâr, and these gods, by definition, leave no room for tawÁâd.

Understanding the nature of false gods has always been central to the intellectual sciences, but this cannot be the concern of the transmitted sciences. One cannot accept that “There is no god but God” simply on the basis of taqlâd. The statement must be understood for people to have true faith in it, even if their understanding is far from perfect. Hence most of the Islamic intellectual tradition has been concerned with clarifying and explaining the objects of faith. What is it that Muslims have faith in? How are they to understand these objects? Why should they have faith in them?

The first of the Islamic objects of faith is God, then angels, prophets, the Last Day, and the “measuring out, the good of it and the evil of it” (al-qadri khayrihâ wa sharrihâ). In discussing God and the other objects of faith, it is important to explain not only they are, but also what they are not. When people do not know what God is and when they do not know that it is easy to fall into the habit of worshipping false gods, then they will have no protection against the takthâr of the modern world, the multiplicity of gods that modern ways of thinking demand that they serve.

What is striking about contemporary Islam’s encounter with modernity is that Muslims lack the intellectual preparation to deal with the situation. Muslim intellectuals—with a few honorable exceptions—do not question the legitimacy of the modern gods. Rather, they debate about the best way to serve the new tyrants. In other words, they think that Islamic society must be modified and adapted to follow the standards set by modernity, standards that are built on the basis of takthâr. This is to say that innumerable modern-day Muslims are forever looking for the best ways to adapt Islam to shirk.

Many Muslims today recognize that the West has paid too high a price for modernization and secularization. They see that various social crises have arisen in all modernized societies, and they understand that these crises are somehow connected with the loss of the religious traditions and the devaluation of ethical and moral guidelines. But many of these same people tell us that Islam is different. Islam can adopt the technology and the know-how—the “progress,” the “development,” the “expertise”— while preserving Islam’s moral and spiritual strength and thereby avoiding the social disintegration of the West. In other words, they think, Muslims can forget tawÁâd, embark on a course of takthâr, and suffer no negative consequences.

The fact that so many people think this way and do not recognize the absurdity of their position shows that they have lost the vision of tawÁâd that used to give life to Islamic thinking. They cannot see that everything is interrelated, and they fail to understand that the worship of false gods necessarily entails the dissolution of every sort of order—the corruption not only of individuals and society, but also of the natural world. In other words, when people refuse to serve God as He has asked them to serve Him, they cannot fulfill the functions for which He has created them. The net result is that our world becomes ever more chaotic. A significant Qur’«nic verse here is this: “Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea because of what the hands of people have earned” (30: 41). When people follow the gods of takthâr, corruption can only increase, and it will end up by destroying the natural world just as it is destroying society. “Corruption” (fas«d), after all, is defined as the lack of “wholesomeness” (Äal«Á), and wholesomeness is wholeness, health, balance, harmony, coherence, order, integration, and unity, all of which are established through tawÁâd or “making things one.”

Attitudinal Obstacles

The second sort of obstacle preventing the recovery of the intellectual heritage can be discerned on the societal level in the attitudes and habits of mind that have been adopted by modern-day Muslims. These result from the loss of intellectual independence and have become embodied in the institutions and structures of contemporary society. I will not attempt to go into details. Instead let me suggest that these obstacles become manifest in various currents that are not difficult to see, such as the politicization of the community, monolithic interpretations of Islamic teachings, and blind acceptance of the teachings of contemporary Muslim leaders (in other words taqlâd where there should be taÁqâq). Perhaps the broadest and most pernicious of these obstacles, however, is the general attitude that one might call “anti-traditionalism.”

Although Islam, like other religions, is built on tradition—the sum total of the transmitted and intellectual heritages—many Muslims see no contradiction between believing in the gods of modernity and accepting the authority of the Qur’«n and the Sunnah. In order to do this, however, they need to ignore thirteen hundred years of Islamic intellectual history and pretend that no one needs the help of the great thinkers of the past to understand and interpret the Qur’«n and the Sunnah.

We need to keep in mind that if there is any universally accepted dogma in the modern world, it is the rejection of tradition. The great prophets of modernity—Descartes, Rousseau, Marx, Freud—followed a variety of gods, but they all agreed that the old gods were no longer of any use. In the Islamic view, God’s prophets share tawÁâd. In contrast, the modern prophets share the rejection of tawÁâd and the assertion of takthâr. One can only reject God’s unity by inventing other gods to replace Him.

In traditional Islamic terms, God is qadâm,” ancient” or “eternal.” God has always been and always will be. In modernity, the gods are new. To stay new, they have to be changed or modified frequently. The new is always to be preferred over the old, which is “outmoded” and “backwards.” Science is always making new discoveries, and technology is constantly offering new inventions that all of us quickly think we need. Anything that is not in the process of renewal is thought to be dead.

One name for this god of newness is “originality.” He rules by ordaining new styles and models, and his priests are found everywhere, especially in the domains of advertising and mass indoctrination. Thus we have the fashion mujtahids who tell women what to wear and who change their fatw«s every year. Originality’s priests also exercise authority in the world of art. Or take the modern university, where many professors adopt the latest intellectual styles as soon as they arrive on the scene. In much of the modern university, as in women’s fashion, Paris rules.

The greatest danger of anti-traditionalism for modern Muslims is that they have accepted this god—like so many others—without giving any thought to what they are doing. Hence they think that for thirteen hundred years, Muslims had nothing to say. They want to retain their Muslim identity, but they imagine that in order to do this, it is sufficient to keep their allegiance to the Qur’«n and the Sunnah, blithely ignoring the great interpreters of the tradition over the centuries.

If people think they no longer need the grand interpreters, this seems to be because they believe in the gods of progress, science, and development. They tell us that today we know so much more about the world than those people of olden times, because we have science. People who think this way usually know nothing about science except what they are taught by the media, and they certainly know nothing about the Islamic intellectual tradition. They are blind obedientalists on the intellectual level, even though taqlâd is absurd in such matters. What is worse, this is a selective taqlâd. They will only accept the intellectual authority of the “scientists” and the “experts,” not that of the great Muslim thinkers of the past. If Einstein said it, it must be true, but if Ghazz«lâ or Mull« Âadr« said it, it is “unscientific”—which is to say that it is false.

If such people really knew something about the intellectual roots and bases of science and theology, they would know that science has nothing to say to theology, but theology has plenty to say to science. The reason for this is that theology is rooted in tawÁâd, and hence it can look down from above and discern the interconnectedness of all things. But science is rooted in takthâr, so it is stuck to the level of multiplicity—the lowest domain of reality—and it can only dissect this multiplicity and rearrange it endlessly. Even when it is able to gain a certain overview of interconnections, it does this without being able to explain how it can do so or what the ultimate significance of these interconnections may be. By its own premises, science is banned from the invisible domains—what the Qur’«n calls ghayb. If it has nothing to say about angels and spirits, which are sometimes called the “relative ghayb,” it has even less to say about God, the “absolute ghayb.” In contrast, the Islamic intellectual tradition is rooted in knowledge of God, and thereby it also acquires various modalities of knowing His creation. These are rooted in absolute truth and in certainty, unlike modern disciplines, which are cut off from the Absolute. Only this sort of traditional knowledge can re– establish human connections with the divine.

Finally, let me suggest that the most basic problem of modern Islam is that Muslims suffer from what has traditionally been called “compound ignorance,” jahl murakkab. “Ignorance” is not to know. “Compound ignorance” is not to know that you do not know. Too many Muslims do not know what the Islamic tradition is, they do not know how to think Islamically, and they do not know that they do not know. The first step in curing ignorance is to recognize that one does not know. Once people recognize their own ignorance, they can go off in “search of knowledge” (Çalab al-‘ilm)— which, as everyone knows, “is incumbent on every Muslim,” and indeed, one would think, on every human being. No recovery of the intellectual tradition is possible until individuals take this step for themselves. The tradition will never be recovered through taqlâd or by community action, only by the dedication of individuals, through their own, personal taÁqâq. Governments and committees cannot begin to solve the problem, because they start from the wrong end. Understanding cannot be imposed or legislated, it can only grow up from the heart.

The Prophet said, “Wisdom is the believer’s lost camel. Wherever he finds it, he recognizes it.” People today do not know what wisdom is, and still less do they know that it belongs to them by right. Until they recognize this, they will never know that their camel has been lost. They will think that in any case, camels are no longer of any use, since cars, airplanes, and computers will take them wherever they want to go. It is a tragedy when people have no idea that the only way to cross the desert of modernity without danger is by the camel of wisdom.


Satan and Sharp Edges- how he fools us

There is a traditional Islamic saying according to which Satan hates sharp points and edges. This old adage contains a most profound truth, which applies directly to the present-day situation. The Devil, being everywhere, manifests his influence by dulling all sharp points and edges which are accessible to him, so that sharp distinctions disappear in the milieu dominated by his influence. The edges of doctrines become corroded and their sharp form gradually fades away. Truth and error become ever more confused and even sacred rites and doctrinal formulations, which are the most precious gifts to God to man, become hazy and indefinite as a result of this corroding influence which makes everything appear indistinct and ambiguous.

To disuses the challenge of the modern world to Islam require, therefore, that this haze be dispelled through a rigorous application of intellectual discernment based ultimately upon the shahadah, whose first stroke when written in Arabic is, in fact, in the form of a sword. This word must be used to break the false idols of the new age of ignorance, idols which so many Muslim accept without even bothering to question their nature. It must be used to cut away and remove all the false ideas and ‘isms’ that clutter the mind of Modernized Muslims. It must help to chisel the soul of the contemporary Muslim from an amorphous mass into a sharp crystal which glows in the Divine Light, for a crystal glows precisely because of its shapely defined edges.


Meanings of the word “Belief” Present and in the Quran

“In its original meaning, then, “belief” is an act rather than a subjective state of mind but, in relation to modern usage, it seems reasonable to ask whether the distinction the author makes between “belief” and “faith” is valid. The blight of subjectivism has affected all the terms employed in religious discourse. Faith, belief, thought have all been cut loose from the notion of ascertainable objective truth; they have been reduced to a matter of current intellectual fashions and personal feelings. “I believe in God” has come perilously close to meaning, I feel there must be a God but, of course, I don’t know”.”

“The Muslim however might say that faith is an acknowledgement of the truth, belief adherence to the truth, and thought validated only in so far as it reflects the truth.”

“Believing”, says the author, has come to mean that “an opinion is held about which the person who holds it…. leaves theoretically unresolved the question of its objective intellectual validity”. Such a notion is, he points out, entirely foreign to the Muslim’s perception of the Qur’an, and he adds that the idea that religious people are expected to “believe” this or that is “a modern aberration”. The very notion of “belief” as it is now understood is, he says, entirely absent from the Qur’an, whereas words for knowing are ‘frequent and emphatic”. A mu’min is not a “believer”, but someone who makes an act of faith, and faith “is something that people do more than something that people have”. His definition of kufr is certainly to the point; it is not – he says – “unbelief” but, rather, “refusal”, even “a spitting in Allah’s face when He speaks out of His infinite authority and vast compassion… It is man’s negative response to this spectacular divine initiative”. When the Muslim makes the Shahada, he is not making an affirmation of belief. He is bearing witness, “corroborating an observable objective fact”. The response of the “Yes-sayer” to the truth is not “belief” but “recognition”.

-Gai Eaton


Knowledge as a Path to God

I would therefore like to reaffirm that since we believe that God is the Embodiment and Fountainhead of all Absolute and Perfect Knowledge, a person with the maximum of learning is closest to God.

Every time we acquire new knowledge or make a fresh discovery we tear down a curtain of ignorance between us and The Creator and thus move a little close to the Fountainhead.

Therefore the only road to God is the path of knowledge, in the pursuit of which one should spend the whole of this eartly life.

Imperfection is the destiny of human knowledge as perfection belongs only to God. Any human being who considered himself perfect has only shut himself from acquisition of more knowledge and has thus become intellectually stagnant.

The glory of humanity lies in a constant and unquenchable thirst to seek wider horizons of knowledge and discovery in a ceaseless endeavour to create a better world.

Yours sincerely,


Self-determination and Self-defition

one can live with a lot of broken rules of shari’ah. But what repentance can there be from a broken soul or psyche?

Self- definition: defining for oneself who one is and which actions are consistent with one’s choice of self-hood.

Self- determination: how to gain the requisite control or influence over the social and political institution that affects ones life.

Self-definition <—-> self- determination.

Goal of self definition: to affirm ones subjectivity vis-à-vis the world around one and to gain public recognition for one’s subjectivity chosen self.

“double-consciousness,” i.e., the seemingly inescapable tendency to look at oneself through the eyes of some other, to “measure one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt…”

“In a real sense, the future of Islam in America will depend not on whether Muslims can arrive at an understanding of scripture and tradition that allows for home-mortgages or inheritance between Muslims and non-Muslims, but on whether that understanding will liberate the Muslim cultural imagination and allow it come into its own, here in America For the fact is – and every honest Muslim knows it – that one can live with a lot of broken rules of shari’ah. But what repentance can there be from a broken soul or psyche? And how can the latter be avoided if the world outside the masjid reflect nothing of the Muslim’s thoughts and creative spirit? If Muslims are to establish a real existence here in America, one that will enable them not only to consume but to shape American reality, the Muslim cultural imagination will have to be liberated. Once this is done, Muslims will be able to move beyond the relatively safe arena of sports (Hakeem Olajuwan, and until recently, Mahmud ‘Abd al-Ra’uf, etc.) into those of literature, poetry music, fashion design, comedy, interior decorating, etc., just as has existed throughout Islamic history, and just as exists in virtually every Muslim country in the world!”
Muslims, Islamic Law and Public Policy in the United States

By Sherman A. Jackson


Laziness in Islam

bismillahi al-rahman al-rahim

Laziness, or lethargy can come from running low on “spiritual reserves,”from being in uninspiring settings (tell me about that) — but, you know,I really believe that for the (mu`min) the center of tranquility, the (sakina),the inspiration, all of that, is within. I know it is very hard — but (by the grace and mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), it is in there).Sometimes what appears to be laziness could also be misinterpreted”burnout” or exhaustion because we’re too hard on ourselves. May Allah(jalla thana`uhu) bless us with vision and wisdom to see the difference.The du`a that’s specifically against laziness is the “Sahih” of Imam Bukhari(rahimahullah) on the authority of (sayyiduna)

Anas ibn Malik (radiyallahu’anhu):
“… Allahumma inni a’outhu bika {you know this part}mina al-hammi wa al-hazan, {from anxiety and sadness}
wa al-‘ajzi wa al-kasal,* {and inability and laziness}
wa dhala’i al-dayni, {and the burden of debt}
wa ghalabati al-rijal …” {and the “humiliation” of men}*

The word (‘ajz) is not just inability or incapacity. It indicates a certain “lack” to act that comes from (inner) weakness. As in the hadith of Tirmidhi (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “al-kayyisu man dana nafsahu wa ‘amila lima ba’da al-maout. wa al-[‘ajizu] man atba’a nafsahu hawaha, wa tamanna ‘ala Allahi al-amani.” – – the intelligent or, vigilant servant is ever blameful of himself, and works for what comes after death; the [‘ajiz] is the one who lets himself follow its whim, and then wishes for goodthings from Allah. Notice how the one who “follows his whim” is attributed to “weakness.”

Abu al-Hasan al-Mada`ini related the following (du’a):
“Allahumma la takilna ila anfusina fa na’jaz, wa la ilan-naasi fa nadi’.” — Oh Allah! do not leave us to our own selves for we would weaken. And, do not leave us to the whims of people for we would be lost.” When One is always concerned with how people think, that would ultimately affect her sincerity.(sayyiduna) “umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “Whoever purifieshis intention to be sincere to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), Allah would take care of what would be between him and people.”

This is reminiscent of the (hadith) of Zayd ibn Aslam (rahimahullah)that I related to you from the “Muwatta`” where he said: “Fear Allah (have “taqwa”), and people would respect (or, have an affinity toward) you — even if they hated to.”(‘ajz) comes from being low on spiritual reserves and from the (ghaflah) — or, absent-mindedness, that comes from being content with little deeds. al-imam al-Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said: “the righteous ‘salaf’ were as fearful of their good deeds being squandered or not being accepted as the present generation is certain that their neglect would be forgiven.” Please remember that al-Hasan passed away 110 A.H.

In this capacity, Rabi’ah al-Qaysiyah al-‘Adawiayh (rahimahallah)said: “We need to repent to Allah (ta’aala) for the way that we repent to Him.” In this capacity, (sayyiduna) Sa’id ibn al-Jubair (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “The reward of a good deed, is a good deed after it. The ‘reward’ or, (jazaa`) of a bad deed is a bad deed after it. May Allah (‘azza wa jall) save us from (ghaflah) here, and humiliation in the (akhira) — amin.(‘ajz) is also synonymous to (dha’f), as in sura al-nisa`: “wa khuliqa al-insanu [dha’ifan].” Some scholars of language distinguish between (dha’f) — with a (fatha); and (dhu’f) — with a dhamma. The former is weakness in body or in intellect or opinion; the latter is weakness in body only. In surat Rum, Allah (jalla thana`uhu) said: “He created you from [dha’f], and provided you with strength after it …”The word (kasal) implies a certain “heaviness” (or, tathaaqul) to do something, rather than inability. Since the (‘ajz) is the more complex inner dynamic associated with defeatism, we are taught to seek refuge from it first, because it is the inner weakness that leads to outer laziness and lethargy. [likewise, we are taught to seek refuge from anxiety because it leads to sadness. . .]

Therefore, in the “Sunan” of Abu Dawud (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “. . . Allah judges for [‘ajz], so be “mentally vigilent” – – ‘alayka bi al-kays – – and if something overwhlems or overcomes you, then say: ‘hasbiyallahu wa ni’ma al-wakil’.”Allah (jalla thana`uhu) describing the believers who were tested (in al-‘imran): “fa ma wahanu lima asabahum fi sabili Allahi wa ma [dha’ufu] wa ma istakanu…” — and they did not “act weak” in the face of what befell them in the path of Allah, and they neither exhibited (inner) weakness, nor acted as if humiliated…” Our beloved messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) warns: “He is not among us — i.e. does not embody our (adab), who willingly agrees to humiliate himself, without being coersed.”When this happens on a communal level, you have a prevalent (wahn), or defeatism. It means “weakness of the sort that no longer enables its bearer to stay ‘upright’.”

And, so Allah (jallah thana`uhu) gives the believers the proper perspective and focus in surat al-‘imran: “wa la [tahinu] wa la tahzanu wa antum al-a’laouna,” — do not become “weak,” do not grieve, for you will be dominant (i.e. high) — with the catch, however, “in kuntum mu`minin,” — (if) you would be believers. Surrender to Allah (‘azza wa jall) first, and you rise, you transcend the need for anything, truly. This yearning to be with Allah (jalla thana`uhu) is what begets the inner (sakina) referred to in the beginning. Yahya ibn Mu’adh (rahimahullah) said: “The servant who is ‘aware’ of Allah (ta’aala) leaves this world not having done enough of two things: crying over himself — and yearning to be closer to His Lord (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).” May Allah grant us awareness.


Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

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