Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Secret of the Spirit
Al Isra (The Night Journey) - Chapter 17: Verse 85
"They ask you concerning the spirit: say, 'the spirit is of my Lord's command. Of knowledge, what you have been given a little."
Our human nature, at its very core, is believed to be somehow in direct touch with the Divine, and for this reason the human heart or spirit is left undefined in Islam, indeed just as God is left undefined, known only by attributes that reflect aspects of the Divine nature but never capture the totality of God's essence.
Interestingly, this ambiguity concerning the true nature of the spiritual "heart" or spirit was put to the test during the Prophet's (peace be upon him) own lifetime. Of the many groups and individuals who resisted and resented Muhammad's claim to prophecy in the seventh century, some sought to confound him with religious and spiritual questions of considerable nuance and subtlety. One of the most famous of these questions concerned the spirit or soul. According to the account of the earliest biographer of the Prophet, when Muhammad was pressed to explain the spirit's true nature, he waited, seeking God's help. Divine help eventually came, but in a way that raised more questions than it answered. The Prophet offered them nothing more than this verse, and his companions and subsequent generations of followers all agreed that the Prophet's restraint in this matter was binding upon them all. In this way, the Islamic tradition came to cover the mystery of the spirit or soul with a heavy silence. Even after, the matters was referred to as the "secret of the spirit" and was deemed to be among the restricted topics concerning which open discussion and speculation were forbidden.
Compiled From:
"In the Light of a Blessed Tree" - Timothy J. Gianotti, pp. 123,124

Understanding the Prophet's Life
Dealing with Disabled
On one particular day, the Prophet met notable Quraish leaders Utbah ibn Rabiah and his brother Shaybah, Amr ibn Hisham better known as Abu Jahl, Umayyah ibn Khalaf and Walid ibn Mughirah. He had begun talking and negotiating with them and telling them about Islam. He so much wished that they would respond positively to him and accept Islam or at least call off their persecution of his companions.
While he was thus engaged, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, a blind companion of the Prophet always eagher to memorize the Quran, came up and asked him to read a verse from the Quran. "O messenger of God," he said, "teach me from what God has taught you."
The Prophet frowned and turned away from him. He turned his attention instead to the prestigious group of Quraysh, hoping that they would become Muslims and that by their acceptance of Islam they would bring greatness to the religion of God and strengthen his mission. As soon as he had finished speaking to them and had left their company, he suddenly felt partially blinded and his head began to throb violently. At this point the first sixteen verses of Surah Abasa were revealed, rebuking the noble Prophet on account of Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, sixteen verses that have continued to be recited from that time till today and shall continue to be recited.
From that day the Prophet did not cease to be generous to Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum. to ask him about his affairs, to fulfill his needs and take him into his council whenever he approached. In fact, in later years, he often greeted Ibn Umm Maktum with these words of humility: "Welcome unto him on whose account my Sustainer has rebuked me."
When God rebuked the Prophet on account of his behavior toward Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, He does not dwell on the latter’s disability except to refer to him as the “blind man.” In other words, the Prophet is not being admonished on his insensitivity towards a handicapped person, but rather on his negligence of someone who came to him to learn.
The Prophet’s behavior toward disabled people is an example par excellence for us. In addition to greeting Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum with respect and humility, the Prophet designated him as the leader of Madinah many times in his own absence. As far as the Prophet was concerned, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum's blindness was not a hindrance in his ability to carry out his duties.
Even though the Prophet was sensitive to the particular circumstances of his disabled companions, he did not consider these to be things which should stand in their way of leading normal lives. Rather, he was intent upon focusing on their inner beauty and amorphous souls – just as he did with all of his companions.
Therefore, putting aside our own prejudices and assumptions, we must recognize that disability in and of itself is not necessarily a hindrance or disadvantage. No doubt, it causes the afflicted person far more difficulty than someone who is not in his/her position. This is all the more reason why we should make extra efforts to provide facilitation to disabled individuals by ensuring not only their physical comfort through appropriate measures but their mental and emotional ease as well. The latter can only be accomplished if we view them beyond their physical state, just as the Prophet did.
Compiled From:
"Companions of the Prophet" - Abdul Wahid Hamid
"The Treatment of Handicapped People in Islam" - Saulat Pervez

Securing Women's Rights
We have been used to thinking that women have been created for the family life and for raising children, and thus their natural place is in their homes. Nothing in the Quran or Sunna clearly supports such a view or assumption. Such a division of labour between the husband who earns the living of the family and the wife who stays at home doing housework is a societal experience, which has occurred for a very long time throughout history in so many societies, including the Arab society at the time of Islam, and the subsequent Muslim as well as other societies until recent times when change has come out. Women learn and work equally to men, and the family responsibilities are requiring more financial resources. Caring about the home has to be reviewed, and the Prophet's traditions indicate his assistance to his wives.

However, such a modern experience of women's work and the consequent need for husband's help in the housework in so many countries does not necessarily mean that it is an eternal natural law. Social change never stops; and norms are introduced, maintained or abandoned according to their practical benefit.

In English, the verb form "to husband" denotes the mastery and management of the house, and "husbandry" may mean the control of resources and careful management or the production of plants and animals. The word "groom"- used in bridegroom - is related to feeding. This may merely reflect a societal tradition that has existed throughout history. The Arabic language, however, differently uses the same word "zawj" meaning mate or companion of the other, for both husband and wife. Some may add the feminine suffix "h" to "zawj" to indicate that the word in a particular context means wife, but this is not a linguistic rule or obligation, and the Quran uses the word "zawj" and its plural "azwaj" to mean wife and wives respectively [e.g. 2:35, 102, 232, 234, 240, 4:12, 20, 6:139, 7:19, 13:38, 20:117, 21:90, 23:6, 24:6, 26:166, 33:4, 6, 28, 37, 25, 50, 53, 59, 60:11, 66:1, 3, 5, 70:31, as well as for husband and its plural [e.g. 2:230, 232, 58:1]. One may argue whether a woman's work is better from various angles for the family than her stay at home or not. I may go further to say that some Muslim women, and non-Muslim as well, may prefer to stay at home, but this does not mean that this is God's law that is explicitly spelled out in the Quran or the Sunna. The discussion has to be moved from theology to sociology, or from the divine laws to the human thinking and experience.

Moreover, the Arabic word "qawwamun", with its preposition "'ala" which describes the relation of men to women in the Quranic verse 4:34, does not imply any superiority, but simply means "taking full care of". The verse reads: "Men take full care of women, for what God has granted some of them distinctively from the other, and what they may spend out of their possessions". The distinctiveness between men and women is related to the woman's pregnancy, delivery, and nursing, which make it necessary that the man should have the responsibility to provide for her needs and the needs of the children, at least when she is hindered with such a distinctive natural function of reproduction. This hindrance is not permanent, and it cannot be a reason to keep the women at home all her life, and neither does it hinder her intellectual and psychological merits. She is not supposed to bear children or raise them all her life, and at a certain age children have to go to school. Further, suppose that a woman may not marry or bear children, what, then, should keep her at home?
It is time to look to the woman as an equal human being, not just as a bearer and raiser of children, a cook, a home-cleaner, or a dishes and dirty-laundry washer etc. The family life and raising children require a join-effort of both the man and the woman. Since the woman has her right and obligation in obtaining an education according to the guidance of Islam, it is good for her personality and for the society, just as it may be good for the family itself to support the woman's right to work, and as long as this right is beneficial for all parties, it should be secured.
Compiled From:
"Are women created only for family life?" - Fathi Osman

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