Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Lately, my writing for Payaam has taken a bit of a hit. Reasons are many. But they all could also be summed up into one. Regardless, gone are the days of endless hours of gushing sentences and continuous pounding on the computer to be replaced by long – at least to me they are long – spells of draught and inactivity.
So, I will write what I can in whatever format I can in the hope Allah will make it useful to whom and how he wants. For, it is he who does what he wants; when and how and where he wants; and with regard to which part of his creation he wants.
This is the essence of Tauhid and it is the core of belief – what the Qur’an calls Iman. For anyone to think or claim that they have an independent will, power, intention, authority or ability to act autonomous of God Almighty’s will, permission and intention, they are simply delusional.
The name for such a state of denial and delusion is Shirk. The Qur’an is clear and emphatic on this issue, just as it is with regard to a lot of other issues.
And where the Qur’an wants to keep you guessing, it makes no bones about that either, as evidenced by Alif-Laam-Meem, Taa-Haa, Haa-Meem, Noon, Qaaf and the rest. Don’t even try figuring out what those mean. No one has been able to all these 1400 years.
On the other hand, maybe you can and you should and others have. There are ways to read them and analyze them that make your jaw drop with incredulity considering that this Qur’an flowed in its earthly phase out of the mouth of a man who could neither read nor write, nor was he trained and tutored by any sages, saints or scholars.
RANDOM? WHAT RANDOM?
But really, what is the extent of randomness in our life – and in our world? At least to the extent the knowledge and understanding of a perfectly lay person like me are able to reach, and discern, the more random and unconnected things appear to be, and the more randomness you analyze and try to understand, the more patterned and predictable things turn out to be. The more chaos and fragmentation you expect to find, the more order and predictability you run into.
The sheer orderliness and redundancy of everything about life, and about our universe, is simply mind-boggling, till you are left with a simple fork in the road: with a choice whether or not to believe in God. You are left with the conundrum of whether to call what you see a handiwork of God and his meticulous planning and design or to call it a creature of sheer chance.
You stand there alone pinned between the horns of the dilemma: To Believe or not to Believe.
And that is where God wants you to be: you, alone with your own thoughts, struggling to make up your mind by yourself, whether to go to him or to turn and go away from him.
And then suddenly – just as he decreed from eternity – his mercy envelopes you and you inexorably cry out, “Yes! I Believe!” And then you look around, take a breather and say: Thank God for the blessing of Islam. And thank God for the bounty and sweetness of Iman.
Alhamdulillahi ‘alaa ni’amatil Islam. Alhamdulillahi ‘alaa halaawatil Iman.
So, in a world in which there is nothing random, and in which everything reflects the most meticulous planning and choreography by our maker and master, here are some random thoughts on some tidbits of life and reality for those who pay attention and listen carefully: Liman alqas-sam’a wa huwa shaheed.
PUBLICITY VS. PRIVACY
Like everything else, the Qur’an provides the ideal middle ground between the two extremes of privacy and publicity. These are some of the things that make it completely nonsensical and false to associate the idea of extremism with Islam, regardless of whether it is done by some foolish Muslims in their misguided zeal to serve and promote Islam or by self-seeking others as a cheap propaganda tool to advance their own illegitimate and fraudulent interests and goals against legitimate and valid Muslim interests and rights.
In Islam both are valid concepts: privacy as well as publicity. They are both necessary ingredients of life. And life cannot be lived to optimum without a happy and healthy mixture of the two of them blended together.
And each one of these two concepts has a place and a rationale to reside where and in the way it does and should, but in moderation and always in a state of constant and delicate balance with the other and with the environment. And this state of balance is not a static or rigid one but a most dynamic and evolving one that is sensitive to life and its ongoing and changing demands and requirements.
Thus it is that the Qur’an asks you to be generous and charitable in both public and private – where, when and how you see fit. But the Qur’an does tilt the scale in favor of privacy ever so slightly – your own as well as that of others who may be involved.
Listen to the Qur’an say it in its own words:
Wa in tubdus-sadaqqaati fa-ni’immaa hiya,
Wa in tukhfuoohaa wa tu’toohal fuqraa-a fa-huwa khairul-lakum!
Allahu Akbar! How can human thought or language approach this elegance or this transparency and yet be all wrapped up in an air of such grand mystery and discovery that is simply too tantalising even to contemplate?
The paraphrase below will make clear what I mean: “And how wonderful it is if you were to perform charitable acts in public, but if you were to conceal your charity and do your alms-giving in private then it is better for you!”
I don’t know about you, but I am speechless with sheer wonder and awe.
And when all is said and done, there are no losers in the game of charity: those who give in secret and those who give in full public view, they are both winners.
And that is what Islam offers: a zero-sum game of a different kind, which means in the game of life as prescribed by Islam, there are no losers. Everyone is a winner. And you win more or less based on your intentions and actions, and on your skills and abilities.
So, in a sense, in Islam you write your own ticket. Allahu Akbar, what a system! Where is the room in such a system for priests, shamans, intermediaries, professional Confessors and other sundry surrogates?
As to when to go public and when and with regard to what to remain private, those are decisions that will be made in most cases by individuals, and where absolutely essential, by societies, cultures and governments in view of legitimate public good and common interest.
If you know a better way of doing it, let hear about it.
And that is typical of Qur’an’s approach to things, whether they are conceptual issues or matters of practical application: it leaves you scratching your head for better alternatives.
Inna haadhal Qur’ana yahdee lillatee hiya aqwam.
Paraphrase: This Qur’an points the way to approaches and alternatives that are better and more valid and straightforward.