Saturday, March 31, 2007

How Wonderful a Servant!

(This is just a rephrasing of the idea posted on the blog of Br. Ahmad Deif--yes, I'm hijacking his post)

In Surah Saad, Allah (swt) says of two individuals, “How wonderful a servant! He returned often in repentance.” In all of the Quran, this description is only mentioned of these two individuals. Who were they?

Ayyub, may Allah be pleased with him! The prophet who was struck with such calamity that it retell his story again and again, awed by his patience. All of his children died–how painful the loss of just one! Stricken with disease and abandoned by all but his wife, people ran from him, afraid of contagion, and shook their heads in condemnation. They said that this Prophet must have deserved Allah’s wrath, so severely was he tested. This continued for 18 years, and Ayyub responded only with adoration of His Lord, thankfulness for the years he had spent in prosperity, and worship.

And Sulayman, may Allah be pleased with him! The Prophet and king who asked Allah to “bestow upon me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any one after me.” Allah gave him the ability to command the wind, which “blew gently by his order wherever he willed,” the animals, “who did his every bid” and the jinn, who built structures and dived under the sea. Unimaginable wealth and powers!

How is it that two men, two prophets, of such different situations, merit the same title from Allah: “How wonderful a servant!” (Ni’m al-Abd)

This is testament that the circumstances of the Muslim are irrelevant–it is the state of the heart that matters. Whether one is tested with trial or prosperity, tested with character or illness, it is your relationship with Allah throughout life that is the crucial element. It is the thankfulness, repentance, humility before Allah, not the outer circumstances, that determines where we stand in His eyes.

Sayyid Qutb on History

In Milestones, Sayyid Qutb makes some remarks about the history of human civilization. He made an interesting point: Islam brings out the humanity of human beings, and man-made systems bring out their animalistic characteristics. The whole of history, except for a few illumined exceptions in which people were guided by divinely inspired principles, can be seen as the drive for food, shelter, and sex.

This struck me because it is similar to the Darwinist theory of history: that human beings are just like animals, and their history is merely a more sophisticated version of survival of the fittest. So one can hardly blame the Darwinists for their twisted view of humankind–that’s the conclusion you might come to if you look at the history of civilization devoid of belief in God.

Islam, however, brings out the best in people. It even transforms the animalistic characteristics of human beings, the need for materialism and the physical drive, into worship and something beyond the self. Islam elevates the human being beyond the confines of physical existence, and emphasizes the humanity. Shaikh Sayyid Qutb doesn’t go much into what this humanity is. But I had some thoughts–

the mind, soul, intellect, thought, self-awareness, conscience, bonds with others, emotions. Everything that takes the human soul out of the body and into a greater awareness of Allah.

So, in a way, all that is human … is what is not.