Friday, May 27, 2011

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 109-110

The following ayahs are a continuation of the theme we've been looking into for the past few months. That being (i) the relationship of the Bani Israel with Allah (SWT), and (ii) the interaction the Bani Israel had with Prophet Muhammad (SAW) during his time.

In ayah 109, Allah (SWT) highlights the motive of the Bani Israel during the time of the Prophet (SAW). Often they would come to the Sahaba and ask them questions about the deen that would confuse them.The Sahabas did not know how to respond because they did not know the intentions of the Bani Israel - were they really sincere in their questions or did they just want to derail the Sahabas from the Straight Path? Allah (SWT) makes what is going on clear by saying, "Many of the people of the Scripture wish that if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves, even after the truth (that Muhammad (SAW) is Allâh's Messenger) has become manifest unto them. But forgive and overlook, till Allâh brings His Command. Verily, Allâh is Able to do all things." They have been asked to not respond to them, and instead, focus on Allah (SWT), as He controls everything. 

This is the principle of the Muslim in any difficulty. Today's Muslims complain that we live in such a difficult time, saying that the media is trying to hurt the image of Islam by its portrayal of Muslims. We need to remember that the same type of media that exists today existed at the time of the Prophet (SAW), but at a more severe level. People would question and falsely advertise the deen. This was from the kuffar, the dominant force at that time, and also from the People of the Book. These groups would confront the Muslims with negativity, criticizing the Prophet and various aspects of the deen. Their motive was to degrade the religion as well, and they thought that they were at an advantage since Islam was a flickering flame at the time. 

Regarding this, the Prophet (SAW) and the Sahaba were commanded to overlook it and forgive it, as Allah (SWT) is in-charge of all things. Instead of focusing on picking a fight with everyone, they were told to focus on developing a relationship with Allah (SWT). By doing this, one becomes the beloved of Allah and someone close to Him, and thereby Allah takes care of all things for them. When one's focus is Allah then everything else falls into place. 

Overlooking and forgiving is an important concept in Islam. We need to remember that we all have weaknesses, and degrading another person will not improve any situation. If today we find ourselves to be more righteous than before, we have to remember that yesterday we were lacking. A person who picks out flaws in others is the one who is focused on others. Rather, we should focus on the Greatness of Allah and realize that we are all weak, and Allah is All-Powerful. If we focus on Him we will move away our focus from petty things. 

In the next ayah Allah (SWT) gives more specific advice regarding this matter, "And establish As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, and whatever of good (deeds that Allâh loves) you send forth for yourselves before you, you shall find it with Allâh. Certainly, Allâh is All-Seer of what you do." This is the way to remove focus from such things:

(i) Establish prayer: Put your energy in it. Literally "iqama" means to straighten something. For example, it's your wedding day, and you're ironing your wedding day clothes. Imagine how you would make sure that every little wrinkle is ironed, and nothing is missed. Then you hold it up in the light and double-check if there any wrinkles left. You would do it to perfection. This is what "iqama" means, to establish prayers and make it perfect and firm: the takbir, the ruku, the sajdah, each and every letter and every single other aspect. This is the advice given to them by Allah (SWT) at time of difficulty.

(ii) Give charity: There are several levels : Partially it's mandated by Allah (2.5% of our wealth should be distributed to the poor annually, known as Zakah) and partially it's the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) - Sadaqah. When the Prophet (SAW) told the Sahabas about the virtues of giving Sadaqah, the Sahabas would would purposely go and find extra jobs in order to give away that money for Sadaqah. This is the second advice given in the time of difficulty. 

(iii) They are being reminded that these good acts are going to be put forth for the next Life, which is what we should be working on. Effort needs to be put into the future. For example, if Walmart decides to start up a new store in an area, they don't just throw a dart on a map and say "Ok, let's build it here". A lot of research and effort needs to be put into this investment. Similarly, in the deen we put forward good deeds for the Hereafter. 

The focus is not on the problem, but it's on Allah (SWT). When we have a problem, we should not be depressed dwelling on the issue, but rather, we should turn to Allah, for He is always there for us. 

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to apply this in our daily lives, Ameen