Saturday, 5 May 2012

A Journey into the Muslim Mind

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “A Journey into the Muslim Mind” by Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah.

It seems that we need to rephrase the epistemological paradigm which formulates the Muslim mind.  This paradigm includes his theological beliefs and his comprehensive vision towards human beings, universe and life at large along with his perception of pre and after life.  This paradigm of thinking carries a lot of weight as it represents the Muslim’s reference point and accurate measure upon which his character is formulated and his thoughts are generated.

We want to redefine this epistemological paradigm in order to be able to answer the three big questions in people’s lives and the answers of which will determine how we look at ourselves and how we deal with our surroundings and the universe at large.  Also with such paradigm we are able to deal with the challenges of our modern life and be able to speak in a language which enables others to appreciate and maybe embrace our paradigm of thinking.  The fact is that we find this epistemological paradigm embedded in our hearts and its building blocks are found in our credal beliefs and juristic rulings and all we need to do is to rephrase this paradigm to activate it as an essential foundation for our life.  We are about to embark on a journey into the Muslim mind in which we discover his foundational bases of thinking along with the advantages of his intellect and heart in order to explain how such paradigm affected his contribution in art and literature and how we can activate this paradigm once again for the Muslim to be a positive contributor in developing the world today.

According to the Muslim’s theological creed, he managed to answer the first of three big life questions which is “where did we come from?”  This question has to do with the past and stemmed from human’s confusion and absence of knowledge regarding his origin and his starting point.  This question is more like the question of a young child who lacks the ability to remember the day in which he was born so he asks about where he came from.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

I called them not to witness the Creation of the heavens and the earth, nor (even) their own Creation… (Surah al-Kahf:51)

For the Muslim, he is able to answer the faith based question with a full certitude that Allah (s.w.t.) is the One Who Created the heavens and the earth along with Creating human beings among everything else.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
(Allah) Most Gracious!  It is He Who has Taught the Qur'an.  He has Created man: (Surah ar-Rahman:1-3)

The Muslim also believes in unity and monotheism not only when it comes to Allah (s.w.t.) but such belief extends to encompass his theological structure.  Therefore, there is only one final prophet who is the seal of all prophets as Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur'an:

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has Full Knowledge of all things. (Surah al-Ahzab:40)

And there is only one final holy book which is preserved from all sorts of fabrication and alteration as Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

We have, without doubt, Sent down the Message; and We will Assuredly Guard it (from corruption). (Surah al-Hijr:9)

Also the Muslim ummah or nation is one as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore, serve Me (and no other). (Surah al-Anbiya’:92)

This, along with having one direction of prayer as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens; now shall We Turn thee to a qiblah that shall please thee.  Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever ye are turn your faces in that direction.  The People of the Book know well that that is the truth from their Lord nor is Allah unmindful of what they do. (Surah al-Baqarah:144)

Finally, there is one Divine Message across the ages as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline): He has Chosen you and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham.  It is He Who has Named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind!  So establish regular prayer give regular charity, and hold fast to Allah!  He is your Protector ― the ― Best to Protect and the Best to Help! (Surah al-Hajj:78)

Monotheism and Oneness according to this perception encompasses the elements of people and things and transcends the factors of time and space and therefore must affect the mind of the contemporary Muslim and should become a base for his understanding of life and his behaviour towards the universe at large.  The Muslim believes that Allah (s.w.t.) did not create humans to leave them stranded without Divine Guidance.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Ordained Divine Laws and Revelation as Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

To thee, We Sent the Scripture in truth, Confirming the Scripture that came before it, and Guarding it in safety; so judge between them by what Allah hath Revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee.  To each among you have We Prescribed a Law and an Open Way.  If Allah had so Willed, He would have Made you a single people, but (His Plan is) to test you in what He hath Given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues.  The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will Show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute. (Surah al-Ma’idah:48)

He Chose Islam to be the name for the religion which He Ordained since the time of Adam (a.s.) until the time of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

The religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will): nor did the people of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them.  But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is Swift in Calling to Account. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:19)

He also Says:

…This day have I Perfected your religion for you, Completed My Favour upon you, and have Chosen for you Islam as your religion... (Surah al-Ma’idah:3)

The issue of ordaining Divine Laws should be able to answer the second big question which deals with the issue of what we are doing on earth.  There are three bases and purposes for the Divine Decree.  The first of which is worshipping Allah (s.w.t.) and out of this worship stems a human being who is able to develop the world and build civilizations.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

I have only Created jinn and men, that they may serve Me.  No sustenance do I require of them nor do I require that they should feed Me.  For Allah is He Who gives (all) Sustenance ― Lord of Power, Steadfast (forever). (Surah adz-Dzariyat:56-58)

The second base is developing the world in which we live in as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

.., and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth. (Surah al-Baqarah:60)

And the last element for Creation is purifying our souls as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it! (Surah ash-Shams:9-10)

The Muslim also believes that there is a Day of Judgment in which both Punishments and Rewards are Granted.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it!  And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it. (Surah az-Zalzalah:7-8)

This belief directly affects the believer’s behaviour in terms of performing or restraining from certain acts.  For this reason we find the believer performing an act which encompasses hardship while missing out on another act which grants him pleasure when he sees that performing such an act or refraining from another will grant him Paradise and earns him a Heavenly Reward.  Therefore, such understanding is tightly connected with the issue of believing in Allah (s.w.t.) and the Decreed Laws which in turn yield a positive effect on people’s lives or else seeking Allah’s (s.w.t.) Pleasure through performing good deeds and fearing Allah’s (s.w.t.) Wrath through refraining from bad deeds will turn to reasons which hinder our abilities to enjoy life and fulfill our mission in it.  In fact, Allah (s.w.t.) has Decreed these laws to regulate our life, preserve it and develop it so if we by our own misbehavior turned these Decreed Laws to obstacles which hinder our ability to develop and enjoy life then we have acted in a way which contradicts the purpose of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Divine Law both in letter and spirit.  These three big questions led to the establishment of the intellectual components which formed the basis for building the Muslim character.  We hope that Muslims turn to these components again and to have an accurate understanding of the Divine Revealed Message.

The Muslim also believes in the Absolute because he believes that Allah (s.w.t.) is Infinite.  The belief in Allah’s (s.w.t.) Infinity stems from the belief in Allah’s (s.w.t.) Divine Names and Attributes as Allah (s.w.t.) Mentioned in Qur’an more than 150 of His Divine Names.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

The Most Beautiful Names Belong to Allah: so call on Him by them... (Surah al-A’araf:180)

In the Prophetic traditions, there are more than 160 Divine Names of Allah (s.w.t.) so the sum total with the subtraction of the repeated names would be 220 Names.  These Divine Names and Attributes can be divided into Attributes of Beauty such as the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiving and Attributes of Majesty such as the Avenger.  And there is the last section, the Attributes of perfection such as the First, the Last.

For the believer, he embraces the Divine Attributes of beauty so he would be loving and forgiving, kind and generous.  As for the attributes of Majesty, he does not embrace it, yet has some sort of attachment to it.  The third type of Attributes pertaining to Divine Perfection, the Muslim needs to have deep faith in them.  So embracement, attachment and faith are the three characteristics which identify the Muslim mind.  The believer also realises that the human being is dignified and honoured and he is not merely part of this universe.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

We have Honoured the sons of Adam; Provided them with transport on land and sea; Given them for sustenance things good and pure; and Conferred on them Special Favours, above a great part of Our Creation. (Surah al-Isra’:70)

Therefore, the human being is indeed a unique creature in this universe because he is the carrier of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Divine Message and the holder of the Trust.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains: but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it ― he was indeed unjust and foolish (Surah al-Ahzab:72)

The believer also understands that he is the master in the universe and not the master of it as Allah (s.w.t.) is the Master, as Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) stated.  The whole universe is in a constant state of praising Allah (s.w.t.) as it is Mentioned in the Qur’an that everything prostrates before Allah (s.w.t.).  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth ― the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees the animals; and a great number among mankind?... (Surah al-Hajj:18)

During the believer’s journey on earth, he walks as a master not as an inanimate object.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And He has Subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect. (Surah al-Jatsiyah:13)

And also Says:

Seest thou not that Allah has Made subject to you (men) all that is on the earth, and the ships that sail through the sea by His Command?  He Withholds the sky (rain) from falling on the earth except by His Leave: for Allah is Most Kind and Most Merciful to man. (Surah al-Hajj:65)

The believer realises that time, place, people and circumstances are legitimate factors according to which juristic rulings change.  Therefore, Muslims pay special glorification to the Night Journey.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
We have indeed Revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: (Surah al-Qadr:1)

And also Says:

We Sent it down during a Blessed night... (Surah ad-Dukhan:3)

The Muslim also glorifies and sanctifies the Ka’bah as Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

The first House (of worship) Appointed for men was that at Bakka: full of Blessing and of Guidance for all kinds of beings: (Surah Ali ‘Imran:96)

Allah (s.w.t.) also Places Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in such high status when He Says:

Deem not the summons of the Messenger among yourselves like the summons of one of you to another... (Surah an-Nur:63)

And also Says:

O ye who believe!  Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk, as ye may speak aloud to one another lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not. (Surah al-Hujraat:2)

All these bases form the Muslim mind and shape his character.  These components formulate the thoughts of the Muslim who believes that the divine message of Islam is universal and that Allah (s.w.t.) has Sent messengers with the Old Testament and the New Testament and Sent Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) with the Last Testament and Made all people one nation since the time of Adam until our present day.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

Behold!  Allah Took the covenant of the prophets, Saying, “I Give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you a Messenger, confirming what is with you; do ye believe him and render him help.”  Allah Said, “Do ye agree, and take this My Covenant as binding on you?”  They said, “We agree.”  He Said, “Then bear witness and I am with you among the witnesses.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:81)

This epistemological paradigm should be the standard for our evaluation and the measure for accepting other people’s ideas and thoughts as well as being the nucleus for renewing the religious discourse to be compatible with the reality in which we live.

1 comment:

  1. yes pre assumption is bad and not worth it


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