Those two questions when answered honestly will be more worth our meditating upon than all the loud declarations of faith we so often make without thinking much.
Mankind’s greatest fears are from food insecurity and hunger. This is why we are all beholden to our jobs and our employers. We submit ourselves to the most unhappy circumstances at our jobs sometimes, in order to meet the primal need of hunger and food we have.
So, the loss of our job then is what we fear the most. Or if we are retired the loss of income would become our greatest fear. Thus, for millions of us our jobs become our “gods” and the various comforts of our lives that accrue from them are depended upon our uncompromising service (and worship) of our jobs.
When we take a deeper dive into the story of our love, it would again reveal that our true loves are many: our families, our wealth and our possessions. The Quran reminds us of these:
“The love of desires (that come) from women, and of offspring, and heaped-up hordes of gold and silver and well-bred branded horses and cattle and tilth, is made to seem fair to mankind. This is the provision of the life of this world, while Allah is He with Whom is the good resort.”
3:14 Al imran
When we place these undeniable realities of our “loves” and “fears” in our daily lives against our oft parroted claim in verse 4 of Surah Fateha in which we so repeatedly recite:
“Thee alone we worship (serve) and from thee alone do we seek help”
1:4 Al Fateha
We have to wonder what we really mean by “thee alone” when we recite this. Our lives are laced with so many loves and fears, to say “thee alone” becomes questionable. Paying lip service to one, really means nothing, when what we follow are the dictates of our desires.
We all aspire for paradise. But paradise comes at a price. See what the Quran has to say about this too:
“Or did you suppose you would enter Paradise untouched by the suffering which was endured by those before you?”
2:214 Al Baqara
“Such believers, who sit still, not having any injury, are not equal with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has raised the strivers with their wealth and lives in rank above those sitting back; and to each (class) Allah has promised good, but He has bestowed a great reward on the strivers above those sitting back.”
4:95 Al Nisa
Paradise will remain elusive as long as we commit to follow our “desires” and our “passions”, the Quran reminds us. Moreover for those who are willing to pay the price, the Quran promises success not only in the hereafter but in the here as well.
“Allah has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will certainly appoint them successors in the earth as He appointed successors those before them; and that He will certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that certainly He will, after their fear, give them security in exchange. They will worship Me (alone) and not associate anything with Me;”
24:55 Al Nur
The Quran’s idea of servitude (Ibadah) is hardly limited to praying and fasting alone, as we have so regularly been taught to believe. Indeed, there is so much more to this idea of servitude that the Quran refers to it as a “bargain” for life . See what the Quran has to say on this too:
“Verily Allah has bought from the believers their souls and their properties for Paradise to be theirs: they fight in the way of Allah, so they slay and they are slain, (this is) a promise binding on Him in the Torah, and the Evangel and the Qur’?n. And who is more faithful to his promise than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that you have made; and that is the great success.”
Iqbal whose interpretation of the Quran is unmatched in the language of poetry, expresses this verse in Urdu, in his beautiful poetic style:
“Yeh Shadath Gahe Ulfat Main Qadam Rakhna Hai Log Asaan Samjhte Hain Musalman Hona”
When one steps into the world of belief ( shahada) one enters the realm of selfless love and sacrifice;
People think that, it is easy to become a Muslim!
The lesson for those of us who believe we can purchase our tickets to heaven through our wealth, is a harsh one to know when we read the Quran. Nor can we be certain to seek His pleasure by secluding ourselves within the serene surroundings of our sacred spaces, with shining walls and marbled floors.
Quran’s demand is for perpetual action. It is for service above self, for a struggle that has no end, for sacrifice that has no limits.
Iqbal again :
“Amal Se Zindagi Banti Hai Jannat Bhi, Jahanum Bhi
Ye Khaki Apni Fitrat Mein Na Noori Hai Na Naari Hai”
By action, life may become both paradise or hell; This creature of dust in its nature is neither of light (destined for heaven) nor of fire ( marked for hell).”
At a time when the mounting fervor of Muslim hate and Muslim bashing is at a peak globally, it is more important than ever to recognize that more is needed of us than before.
For starters recognizing the many gods of pride and passion that we have come to worship, while neglecting the God that speaks to us from the Quran.
We cannot have real unity (tauhid) when our ethnic pride is dearer to us than our Muslim pride. When language, culture, money, sectarian obsession and geography, become our passions then we become deaf and blind to the teachings of Quran which came to transcend those boundaries and remove those barriers.
We cannot ignore the God of reason and reflection and embrace the gods of rituals and medieval mandates in order to find solutions to our problems and to the problems of the societies we live in today. We cannot push the God that came to liberate us from our tribal dysfunctional ways into a closet of our own mistaken beliefs, aided by the preaching’s of the priests of secularism, and expect to become a relevant force in the marketplace of our present times where confusion and conflicts abound.
Living in a country with so many alternative realities which excite our sensibilities, invite our submissions and distract us in so many different ways, finding our path to the real God, may not be so easy.
But we have the Book with the timeless Guidance it contains, in which He speaks to us in our most intimate moments, without reserve . See what He says to the Prophet (pbuh) in the Quran:
“When my servants ask you concerning Me, then (say unto them): verily I am nigh. I answer the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me; so (they should) hearken unto My call, and believe in Me, in order that they may be led aright.”
This notion that we seem to have embraced of visiting His house in Mecca once a year or His house in our neighborhoods once a week, to satisfy the demands for His submission, is clearly not enough. If we are to dig ourselves out of the rabbit hole of history, a lot more is required. And it is not simply returning to science and math either, as some would have us believe. As a community that has been lifeless and devoid of “values” that give life, listen once more to the admonition of the Quran:
“O you who have Faith! Answer Allah and the Messenger when he invites you to that which gives you life”
Without a singular focus on the teachings of the Quran as our first priority, re learning the lesson of life, we will remain a dead community.
Again Iqbal in explaining this verse of the Quran, paints our portrait in his vivid and uncompromising style:
Woh Sufi K Tha Khidmat-E-Haq Mein Mard
Mohabbat Mein Yakta, Hamiyyat Mein Fard
The Sufi, once foremost in serving God,
Unmatched in love and ardency of soul,
Ajam Ke Khayalat Mein Kho Gya
Ye Salik Maqamat Mein Kho Gya
Has got lost in the maze of Ajam’s ideas:
At half?way stations is this traveller stuck.
Bujhi Ishq Ki Aag, Andhair Hai
Musalman Nahin, Raakh Ka Dhair Hai
Gone out is the fire of love. O how sad!
The Muslim is a heap of ashes, nothing more.
There is no escaping the need and importance of a return to the Quran and its “life giving” message. If it is such a blessing to simply read or recite it to benefit the dead, imagine how much more of a blessing it could be if we choose to actually comprehend it and follow it to improve our lives.
May Allah inspire us to understand the Quran and follow it.