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The Right to Choose

by

AbuBakr Karolia

South Africa, October 8, 2005

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In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

 

THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE

 

By ABUBAKR KAROLIA

SOUTH AFRICA

 

 The Prophetic Grooming and Witnessing

 

 

Muhammad, the Prophet (S) of Islam (570– 632 C.E.) belonged to a noble Arab tribe of the Quraish called the Banu Hashim. This tribe and family were responsible for the hospitality and welfare of the pilgrims who came to Mecca. The pilgrims came from far and wide to give tribute to their gods which were the idols that was placed in the precinct of the Ka’ba. There were some 360 idols and Lat, Uzza, Manat were the main deities and Hubal the principle one. 

The Prophet (S) did not accept this idol-worshipping value system and he was aware of a single Creator who was the Lord of all Creation. Nor was he convinced that this pagan value system offered the truth or a solution to the problems of the time. The Prophets (S) questions were like those of the Prophet Ebrahim (AS) who was called a Hanifan or a monotheistic believer. 

This awareness of a Supreme Creator led the Prophet to meditations and vigils in the cave of Hira near the outskirts of Mecca. He spent many years in reflections and solitude to search for a Creator that would guide him to a meaningful and a contented life. At the age of 40 he began spending longer periods of thinking, reflection and meditation. Then he received the first revelation of the Noble Qur’an, which was the basis of his first contact with the Divine Creator. 

It was Allah who sent His Great Angel Jibra’eel and through him transmitted His message to the Prophet (S). Allah chose him as His Final Messenger who was to carry a message that was guidance for humanity. 

The Message of the Wise Qur’an was the guidance of Almighty Creator that trained and groomed the Prophet’s (S) character to perfection.  The Prophet (S) reflected the “Iqra’ (to proclaim or read) message of the Qur’an which became his character, teachings and way of life. The guidance from the words of Allah gave him clarity in his worship, his politics, his economics, his manner and behaviour. 

This profound behaviour that was the Prophetic character began to reflect a personality that was a “mercy for creation”. The Prophet then projected this character with his close companion and family and they groomed themselves from his example.  His companions represented the best community of Muslims because they associated and practised what they learnt from the Prophet and witnessed him receiving the direct revelation of the Qur’an from Allah. 

Ibn Ata’illah Iskandri (died in 1309 C.E.) a profound Egyptian scholar, in his book of illumination, At Tanvir fi Iskat at tadbir tells us that The Prophets (S) companions experienced a heightened feeling of contentment and happiness when sitting and learning in his presence and it was dissipated when they returned to their homes. They explained their feelings to the Prophet (S), so he advised them to have high expectations of their meetings, so that the profound feelings would become permanent in their behaviour. He told them that their standard and behaviour would be groomed to a point that the angels would shake their hands in the street. 

This Prophetic behaviour is our heritage and we must be responsible to its value and thus become responsible for our selves. The Noble Qur’an is our guide and our teacher. Allah groomed the Prophet through the teachings of the Glorious Qur’an. The Prophet (S) groomed his companions, and we can do the same for ourselves, our family and friends. Similarly when we are in the company of our parents we have to behave correctly.  In the same way we would behave impeccably if we sat with the Prophet (S) of Islam who represented a perfect character and was the best of Creation.  A groomed character, who loved, feared and hoped in Allah, reflected a character and personality who was an example of the Islamic message. 

The Prophet (S) groomed himself perfectly because he behaved in the state of “Ihsan” (beauty and perfection). He was the best character because he was always in the presence of Allah, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth. He worshipped Allah as if he saw Him and if he did not see Allah then he knew that Allah saw him. 

 

The Noble Qur’an a Fresh reservoir for all time 

 

When we look at some of the old languages as Sanskrit, Aramaic or Latin, we realise that these languages was for a certain people or nation and are not spoken or used generally in the contemporary era. 

When we consider Yusuf Ali’s English translations of the Noble Qur’an, and with careful inspection we noticed that he used the English style of the King’s James version of the Bible.  Whilst it is a translation that has benefited and been very useful in particular to English speaking Muslims and continues to do so, its language style is outdated and not widely written or spoken.  The syntax and spoken word of this style are not used in the 21st Century as a common language. Therefore it is essential that translations must appear frequently and regularly, so as to ensure fresh ideas and solutions for the current era as they are pronounced and become apparent through the Arabic Language and message of the Qur’an. The exegesis of the Qur’an must appeal to people in their current lingua franca or communicative style and especially when they do not understand the Quranic Arabic language. 

Let us now look at the Arabic of the Qur’an and those that study the inner meanings of the Glorious Qur’an (mufassirin’s) will tell us that it’s style is ever fresh and acts as a reservoir of knowledge and guidance for all time. The beauty and the nature of the language of the Noble Qur’an speak to the present era and people. Every word is like a clear spring which flows with timeless wisdom and teachings, provided that the courtesy and intention for learning and practising it are correct. The Noble Qur’an must be studied from various dimensional positions, with clear intentions or levels of consciousness energetically and their inner meanings may become apparent by continuous analysis for its true value in the present time and place. 

The Glorious Qur’an tells us that self knowledge is our foundation and self transformation is our conduct and worship. Neglect of these two main principles in my opinion is why Muslims civilizations have declined and are in disarray in the 21st Century. Nor were they creative during tribulations and were heedless during ease. The Prophet (S) of Islam always taught Muslims to do things proficiently, efficiently and consistently. To maintain these high standards, it is the priority for all Muslims to remain vibrant and creative in body, mind and soul for the welfare of themselves and their community. This eagerness must be extended in all fields of learning and practice for the World and the Hereafter and for perpetuity. 

If the Qur’an-ul-Kareem is to continue its role as a guide for Muslims, then they must utilise its message effectively for their solutions in every situation. 

Let us consider the example of the dream of the King of Egypt in the story of Surah Yusuf (AS) - Surah 12, which tells us of the seven fat and the seven lean cows. Studying this particular example in the Wise Qur’an, it teaches and gives us multidimensional solutions for the modern problems we are experiencing. For example when Yusuf (AS) interpreted the above dream he showed that Egypt will experience seven prosperous years and seven difficult years. This analysis provides the decision makers with an opportunity for a far reaching effective solution and preparation for a given situation still to come. 

To widen the discussion on this topic is to understand how the wisdom and guidance of the Noble Qur’an can be utilised to see situations as they are and perhaps well into the future for an appropriate result and way forward. It further tells us about strategy, groundwork and methodology. It tells us about the current situation and a consultative process and planning for our solutions. It considers the validity of leadership, potentials and resources. It tells about the unity of purpose and a cohesive plan that will work. It tells us about contingency and the reliance of Allah.  It tells us about the Geo-political and economic movement of people in the region during difficult times. During this period there must be substantive preparation for the safety and security of the region and its people. It teaches us about the sensitive details of political science, the unity of purpose and perhaps the forging of alliances with neighbours and nations during difficult times. It expects us to consider social conditions as well as the welfare of people. It clearly illustrates the role of leadership to participate in the protection, security and assistance of their people during times of tribulation and struggle. 

This is a brief analysis (ta'wil) and interpretation of the Qur`anic foresight and guidance. It is urgent and essential that Muslims interpret and solve their present predicament by learning from history for a healthy future and the survival of humankind. 

From this single example, one can envision the reasons why the Qur`anic wisdom and guidance are enshrined for ever. Although, it is up to our vibrancy and sensitivity to ensure the delicate balance for our well-being by making the correct choices that will keep us ahead.  We have the tools to guide us on the correct path, but it is our creative and continuous correct behaviour that will determine the best solution for our continued prosperity and happiness. 

To begin our recovery in the 21st Century we must study the Language of the Qur’an and inculcate its value system systematically and compassionately in our lives. 

 

 The Right to Choose 

 

When we consider some of the points discussed thus far, I would like to say that the Noble Qur’an makes a beautiful statement in Surah 2 Al Bakarah in Verse 256 that: 

“There is no compulsion in the Din” 

If Allah makes a statement that is far reaching and challenges the very fabric of rationality, empirical study and behaviour - then there must be a valid reason for that declaration. 

This statement gives confidence to an individual or a collective society or nation that when they effectively follow the message of Islam and its example it will be appreciated as a solution and perfection for mankind. Therefore in this situation it is not necessary to wilfully force any person to accept this message; rather the very nature, teachings, proofs and practices from the Wise Qur’an and Prophetic Character will convince thinking people to make the correct choice. 

I believe The Prophet (S) similarly invited Khalid bin Walid (died 642 C.E.) (R) to accept Islam. The Prophet (S) challenged Khalid (R) and told him that if he was such a genius and a rational individual, why was he not a Muslim. Khalid’s arrival in Medina and his visual and physical example of the Muslim community in Medina and appreciating and experiencing the leadership, behaviour and conduct of the Rasul (S) and his companions convinced him to become a Muslim. 

When a rational person, searching for the truth - realises the correct behaviour of the Islamic message which is a wonderful example of grooming, perfection, harmony and action as the “walking Qur’an” or the Prophetic character that brings a person happiness and contentment in this world and the Hereafter, then that person knows the correct choice that he or she must make.

 

History is whose Story, and have we been Honest? 

 

In the 1395 year history of Islam even though Muslims have survived, the question remains, whether they have remained pristine, enlightened and imbibed its message. If they are truthful to themselves then they must consider their deviations, why they have lost their central leadership, are dysfunctional, generally divided and sometimes cannot effectively judge simple principles of the value for human rights as seen in many Muslim countries today. Therefore in the contemporary era it is necessary for Muslims to protect, re-learn and inculcate the values of the original character of the Living Islam that brought them success and brought them to great heights materially and spiritually for the renewal of individuals, communities and societies. 

It may be essential or interesting as this point to establish what led to the demise of the Caliphate in 1924 Common Era (C.E.). This institutions origin was from 632 C.E. and it lasted for 1292 years.  Subsequently it may be significant to set up discussion forums as to why Muslim leadership became corrupt and tyrannical and how distant they were from the teaching of the Qur’an and the Prophetic character. 

In many ways the study and enquiry of Islamic history is vibrant and interesting, although there are many examples and stories of appalling behaviour of Muslims individually and collectively which are an embarrassment and must not be emulated. In most cases Islamic history has to be re-organised and perhaps accepted in some cases for its immature reporting because of the fabrication and lies of the rulers and pseudo-scholars, for their own interests that have corrupted the essence of the Divine message. Historian, historiographer and sociologist, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1395 C.E.) in his Magnum Opus, Al Muqqadima, systematically explains the difficulties and the methodologies of documentation and the reporting of Muslim history. 

This study and enquiry of Muslim history is necessary and urgent to clear up the misconception seen from the various lenses which has created so many fragmentations and factions within the Muslims. We cannot change what occurred in history but we can reduce the hurt we have caused ourselves. Therefore I believe that a systematic and organised process by scholars and friends of truth make a serious effort that should be a value as a form and meaning for self introspection, which will be a way forward and a revival for Muslims in the 21st Century. 

History have also shown that when the leaders and scholars practiced the message of the Noble Qur’an and the Prophetic character for the pleasure of Allah profoundly - with mercy and justice appropriately, then the Muslim community and their surrounding areas benefited and the respect of  Islam was enhanced. Allah’s Mercy is in every situation but His Blessing is multiplied by righteous deeds that are a direct benefit to humankind.   But if these people were egotistical and projected their narrow minded, ignorant and conceited ways then the decline of the Muslim community and the World sets in. This sadly is the state and manner of the Muslims in the beginning of the 21st Century. 

Throughout history there is testimony and examples of nation and peoples decline due to their corrupt and ignorant behaviour. Consider the decline of nations such as the Babylonians, the early Egyptians, the Roman Empire, The Mogul Empire, The Ottoman Empire, The British Empire and who could be next can be predicted by studying the behaviour of individuals and nation in the contemporary era, who are against the harmony of the earth, humankind, disrespecting neighbours and are mainly interested in their own welfare and create division for their own vested interest. 

One may say that this description fits the present super powers of the West but then many Muslim nations and leaders reflect this mirror image as well and so are a party to this mayhem, irrational behaviour and violence that not only the Muslim world but the World is experiencing.

 

Conclusion

 

In my opinion Muslims must understand the meaning and practice of a correct Islamic behaviour or a model leadership and what these priorities signify for their revival in the 21st Century. Therefore it is imperative that responsible human beings within a society inculcate a value system and an example that projects the security, love, the welfare of its people and neighbours. 

Their behaviour must emulate a “Middle” Society (ummatan wasatan) that is just, merciful, morally conscious, upright and who perfect themselves in their “living and dying” for the Love of their Creator and for the benefit of humankind.  There can be no rise of an individual or nation if the correct prescription or method is not in place for their change. This correct behaviour and wisdom must be established as a strong ethos that will be respected and emulated for the happiness of humankind. In a process where everyone is respected and the essential basics as security, education, shelter, general care are provided with justice and humanity. 

This was the behaviour of the Prophet of Islam. He followed the ‘Light of Lights’ – Allah, by following the light – the Ruh that was already within him. He reflected his perfection as a mirror that groomed the individual and society. This is the heritage and message of Islam. It was the Prophets (S) individual consciousness of obedience, submission and acknowledgement to his Lord the Creator of the Heavens and Earth that led to a wonderful collective consciousness of success and balance of the original Muslim society. 

When Muslims are an example of this message then they can confidently and humbly call for the “the right to choose”. Let there be no compulsion in the Din (the way of Islam) because it encompasses the beautification of human character and the protection of the environment through sound leadership and the best example. 

The Shahada is our grooming, our unity, our worship and our transformation. 

 ”Iqra” is the beginning of our self knowledge and our wisdom and practice is the Din of Islam, Iman, Ihsan and the Last Day. 

We take refuge in Allah from ignorance and oppression. 

May Allah keep us in His Presence, May He guide our Living and our Dying and may He keep us in Iman, under His umbrella and presence. 

May Allah, Guide and Keep us on the Straight Path and be of those people that He has graced. Insha-Allah.

 

AbuBakr Karolia - Johannesburg, South Africa.

October 2005 

Edited by Najma Ansari

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