One aspect of religion is to educate a person on how to think which trains our senses & emotions. From the point of view of existence, our location (home) is here in this universe. This personal location in this existence is important and we need to work on it.
Have you ever thought about the location of your existence: Where am I?
In this world, I need guidance. Just as in order to understand something, I need a teacher. My teacher knows my abilities and speaks to me in order to guide me. Similarly, my Creator guides me on how to use my potentialities. Although The Speaker is Absolute but His speaks to me within the limitations of my human potentialities. In order to understand His Speech I have to use my potentialities; I should not make an excuse of the Absoluteness of the Speaker’s Knowledge, so I may claim that I cannot comprehend the Absoluteness of the Speech.
Analogy: An engineer designs a laptop. Will the engineer treat the laptop more than its capacity? No. It does not mean that the engineer’s understanding of the laptop is only limited to the capacity of the laptop he designed. If the laptop was a conscious being, will it expect its engineer to treat it more than its capacity? No. Similarly, my Creator does not treat me more than my capacity. I am created by the Creator of the universe and He does not speak to me beyond my capacity. Furthermore, I am not here to challenge His capacity.
- The Creator speaks to me within my potentiality.
Quran is the speech to all mankind. Speech is from One, addressees are numerous. It is normal to expect that the One who speaks knows that His addressees have various levels of understanding. The Speaker speaks to everyone at their level and each addressee gets as much as they can (based on their capacity).
Example: Children of Israel (soldiers of God) ask Prophet Moses for water. When Prophet Moses struck his staff, twelve springs gush forward.
- Water has many meanings including guidance, mercy and source of life i.e. our needs are met by the Provider of the water.
- There were around 12 tribes as described by some scholars and each tribe got something out of his message. The message of the Prophet was addressing every tribe.
- The Prophetic mission is to present the message to every tribe according to their capacity. From this we understand that our capacity is not important but our feeling the need for guidance (water) is important. My search for the truth is important.
Every message has endless layers of meanings. This by no means alludes to the fact that one tribe is wiser than the other. What determines our level of success?
Analogy: A primary school student goes to class, struggles with his assignments and does all of them. He learns from his assignments and gets promoted to the next grade. A secondary school student goes to class and does not do his assignments, but knows more than a primary school student. Which student is successful (muflihoon)? The one who does the job best at his/her level is more successful.
- Our effort is what really matters. We have to be open to learning and try our best in our endeavors of searching for the “truth”.
How do I locate myself (my existence) in this universe?
- That is where God speaks to me which is everywhere; I need to use my human qualities to reach this purpose/objective.
Another purpose in the speech of God is to assign us an “identity” i.e. Who am I? We do not need to define ourselves with sociopolitical status nor do we need to associate our being to a certain community. The identity that we need to undertake as offered by the Creator is that of a “created being” i.e. believer. If we become familiar with the language of the Quran, we will realize that the Quran calls for one thing: “Warqa’u maarraki’een” (bow down before the Creator together with those who bow down before Him). Join in with human beings who bow down before their Creator.
We need to understand all the terminology used in the Quran to be able to better interpret the meaning in the speech of God. “Believers” is not a title of a community. On the other hand, “Muslim” is mostly interpreted as a sociopolitical title. Actually, “muslim” connotes an action rather than a brand. It means surrender, submission. Someone may believe but not submit.
- Belief is necessary; its practical side is “submission”.
“Abraham was neither a “Jew” nor a “Christian”, but was one who turned away from all that is false, having surrendered himself unto God; and he was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught besides Him.”
Through the Prophets, we learn how to manage our lives. One such verse is above. When Quran speaks to us, it speaks to us at two levels:
1/ Individual level: Prostration is an act between me and my Lord. I get closer to my Lord by humiliating myself in the most possible way, putting my head down to the ground. (This is simply a personal act as there is no such verse as to prostrate with those who prostrate).
2/ Congregational level: Bow down with those who bow down is guidance we get from the Quran.. When it comes to identifying myself as a created being or my position before this world and it’s Creator, I openly declare my reality with others.
- When we bow down together, it means that we are not giving any attachment to any created event/object: I declare that I surrender unto God alone together with those who surrender themselves to Him.
We should get out of expressing ourselves under the banner of a “social name” (Jew, Christian, and Muslim). As per the verse, identities are not important but the attitude one lives by is important. I should ask: Do I ascribe divinity to anything in this universe, rather than which community I identify myself with? It is not my identity that will make my existence meaningful, but whether I surrender to my Lord, or something else in my practical life.
Haneef: people who turn away from all that is wrong.
Quranic description of identity is universal: whoever you are, wherever you live (your nationality, religious background) is not important. What is important is that you don’t ascribe any divinity to anything else but the Creator. In this regard, we need to have a “social identity” which has no material connection, an identity that is characteristically describable as opposed to demographic. The quality of such identity is as follows:
1/ Never ascribe the divinity to anything but the Creator of the universe.
2/ surrender yourself to Him.
3/ turn to Him.
What is the harm in having a social identity?
- It makes us lazy, as we do not search for the truth.
Quran says: are you conscious that you are muslim? It is a reminder not to identify oneself with a “social title”. It is another way to reflect on: “Have I tried to distinguish between right and wrong and submitted to the right? The definition of a muslim is someone who surrenders himself/herself unto God alone, someone who does not commit “shirk” (associate partners with God).
As a believer, practicing “justice” is important. Some scholars equate “justice” to “worship (uboodiya)”. If we do not treat something in creation according to its function, we are doing injustice to it. The function of every created thing is glorifying its Creator. Example: If I eat a banana just to fill my stomach, I am doing “injustice” to the banana. The fact of the matter is that the banana is created to remind me of who my Lord is.
- Worshipper of God= being a “just” person in the world.
What is the benefit in having a universal identity?
- It makes us “bow down” with anyone who “surrenders” to God only.
In order to present ourselves with the Abrahamic qualities, we have to go through a certain search and acquire some characteristics i.e. Oneness of God (tawheed). I have to identify myself with a certain attitude rather than a title. That should be my stance in the society. I should not hide myself behind a title.
Another way to look at the verse is stressing on the grammatical structure. Jews and Christians are like brand names. The word “islam” is derived from a verb, an action S-l-m. We cannot treat a verb-originated word as a title related to a group of people and so we cannot treat people as a member of that group of people just because of the title. If we wanted a title for a certain group of people that follow a certain religion alongside with Jews or Christians, then the more appropriate title would be “Muhammadans.”
Universality of the message of the Abrahamic tradition is important as well. Abraham was born into an Azar family, which is the pioneer enemy of Islam; Moses was raised up in a Pharaoh family, another enemy of Islam. Their beings have nothing to do with their family backgrounds (lineage). However, most interpreters of the Quran like to give an identity to their subjects which may confuse the readers. Taking that into consideration, Abraham is not a Christian, Moses is not a Jew and Muhammad is not a Muslim. They were all searching for the “truth” and trying to stay away from “falsehood”. This character made them “surrender” and they practiced the message as “believers”. (The word “Muslim” is used as a title for a community after the Prophet was deceased, for the group of people who claimed to have believed in the Qur’an as revealed by God. It does not denote anything more than a sociopolitical title).
- Our purpose must be utmost awareness of how much are we submitting ourselves to the Oneness of God.
- Be with the group of people who surrender themselves to God.
- Am I surrendering myself?
- Am I turning away from anything wrong?
- Am I being careful in not ascribing any divinity to anything else but my Creator?
It is hard to face reality. If we have not questioned these, it means that we have been identifying ourselves with a certain “title” and we have been under the delusion that we are “submitters” and thus “saved”.
Tags: Footsteps of Prophets Series