Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Self-Surrender / Third Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I see that I will not be able to do anything with my application for residency until the weekend...fasting Ramadan while going through a rotation makes the rotation a tad more time consuming, hehe. Alhamdulillah, though...that I'm able to fast as I am, that I'm able to take some time in my busy schedule and reflect...

My father thinks that there is more richness to Christianity. I told him that I could never be Christian because, to be Christian, I'd have to renounce Islam. He tells me that he still respects my mother and respects Islam, but he doesn't understand...from big theological things like not being able to accept Christ as savior to smaller but infinitely important details as the nature of God...I can't.

Because God as described in the Qur'an is not jealous, is not grieving of the evils committed by man...all is in His power and everything is His Will. I don't argue too hard with my father about this because this point is the very basis of his faith and I'm not out to destroy his foundation. However, he must understand not to destroy mine, for mine is the following:

"God--there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills [them to attain]. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And He alone is truly exalted, tremendous." (2:255)

This belief is fundamental in Islam...God as infallible. So no, God did not rest on the seventh "day." I think to some people it would seem cruel that God does not grieve the evil committed on earth, but why would he? Why would he grieve the child starving to death if that child will return to him with a greater comfort and richer life than he or she could have ever experienced on earth? Why did the child have to suffer in the first place. Recall 2:30...verily, He knows what we do not know.

Is that frustrating, yes. But with what face can anyone therefore say, "Oh, who is this God who does whatever he wants, reigns over us all." All I can say is...I hope that He who has created me and everything else that exists reigns over us, and has a plan for us...and who are we to be privy to everything, especially if we did nothing of the grunt work of the creation of our existence. It's arrogance to express disdain at an All-Knowing God. Perchance were you instrumental in your own making? Some people believe they are, but they could not even carry themselves in their own womb, could not feed themselves for much of their childhood, those crucial years that make us no, you are not self-made.

I see why denial of the truth of God is referred to as arrogance now.

Al-Baqarah is a very rich surah!

I like the following story because Abraham, the father of the most practiced of the Abrahamic faiths, even had trouble with his faith. And if Abraham, the progenitor, struggled, it makes sense that we revelation uninspired folk would struggle as well. I also liked God's answer to his doubt:

"And, lo, Abraham said: "O my Sustainer! Show me how Thou givest life unto the dead!" Said He: "Hast though, then, no faith?" [Abraham] answered: "Yea, but [let me see it] so my heart may be fully at rest." Said He: "Take, then, four birds and teach them to obey thee; then place them separately on every hill [around thee]; then summon them: they will come flying to thee. And know that God is almighty, wise." (2:260)

Hahahaha, Abraham was probably like, wth, and then he got it. God can say be and it is. We won't always be there when he says be and something comes to pass. That is part of the struggle to having our hearts set at ease...I won't know my future. That sets my heart at edge, but oh well. God wills, and he wills the best for us...I'll hold fast with that.

Meanwhile, I marvel at the sign of God that is birds...which is part of the reason I love that...birds are awesome. Especially ones that can talk...I am in awe of birds! Did you know that they are one of the few other animals that can keep rhythm and dance (monkeys can't) because they can speak like humans, and therefore their brains are rhythmically structured like humans' brains because apparently speech necessitates appreciation of cadence? Masha'Allah, man!

Here's something else that stands well on it's own:

"The parable of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing." (2:261)

Simple, sweet, straight to the point. Charity is really stressed as necessary for true piety...especially that kind of charity that we don't noise about. So we'll never know who's really pious, so measuring piety should not be any more concern to us than noising about our own charity!

And on we are to the House of 'Imran, where the first of my favorite Qur'anic stories is told...but first...

The following (yes, translation by Asad) is one reason that I don't worry so much about who calls themselves Muslim by their mouth and who actually surrenders themselves to God in their actions:

"Behold, the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [man's] self-surrender unto Him; and those who were vouchsafed revelation aforetime took, out of mutual jealousy, to divergent views [on this point] only after knowledge [thereof] had come unto them. But as for him who denies the truth of God's messages--behold, God is swift in reckoning." (3:19)

It's more powerful to say that the only true religion is self-surrender to God than to give it any label that we use to divide ourselves. I seek the company of those who readily surrender themselves to God, not because I am of the best of them, but so I may learn from them...insha'Allah.

Oh yeah, and this injunction...sound familiar?

"Say [O Prophet]: "If you love God, follow me, [and] God will love you and forgive you your sins; for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace." (3:31)

The forgiveness of sins through following a Prophet who is directly inspired by God is not necessarily novel to any one of the prophets...especially the one who's word is cited in 3:49-51. In comes Jesus (as).

The words of Jesus (as) are here. I think that the key to believing the Qur'an is believing that it was divinely inspired, and I think people who attempt to understand Islam just assume that it couldn't have been, claim to know that it wasn't or are ignorant of the fact that we believe this and therefore do not even evaluate it themselves. Because I've heard plenty a Christian then say, "Well, didn't Muhammad hear about Christian stories when he was growing up?" Without accepting that this is direct revelation from God, no, I don't expect anyone to look upon the Qur'an in awe as I do...

But God acknowledges so many times that we will differ, and yes, this is His in, this is inevitable, part of the human condition, human nature, which He created when He created us. And hopeless it may seem for those who choose to feel like checker is hopeful for me who is relieved to live in a purposeful world with One who has dominion over all, who will protect me whether or not I pray to ask to be protected, and who will care for me even more when I do pray. So while we are bound to disagree, let us use our difference to fortify us and prepare us for the life to come, the purpose God intends for us:

"Say: "O followers of earlier revelation! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God." And if they turn away, then say: "Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves to Him."

Maybe one day we can all pray together in the most beautiful of prayers. Until that day, we continue to revel in our difference, letting the pride of this life get in the way of our becoming ever closer to God in all our life...

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