Reality Check

Who gets to dictate what is right and wrong?

People often succumb to “conventional wisdom” and conform to societal norms even though they may be wrong.

The desire for humans to exceed the limits is unceasing, which is why our Creator put limits on our behaviour. Without Allah legislating the boundaries, people in power will invariably write laws that reflect their own interests. It therefore comes as no surprise that the rules are rigged in their favour.

A remark often attributed to Galbraith is, “Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.” — Society needs checks and balances that come from a higher authority.

The Quran gives us a criterion to judge our actions. Without the authority and nuance of revelation, our frame of reference will always be biased and shallow. Good, bad, right, wrong are all faith terms. Without them life is reduced to commercial expediency.

Our world view is based on Islam and is not determined by those that shout the loudest or the microphone heroes who have mastered the art of influence and manipulation. It is through this lens that you see things for what they are.

Besides, every society has limits. Ours simply come from a higher authority.

When Rustum, the king of Persia asked the Muslims, why had they come to Persia, Rabiah Ibn ‘Amir said;

“Allah has sent us to deliver you from worshiping the creation to worshiping the Creator of the creation and to deliver you from the constriction of this world to the vastness of this world and the afterlife and from the oppression of [man made or altered] religions and ideologies to the justice of Islam.” [Al-bidayah wa an-nihaya, volume seven, the Battle of al-Qadisiyah]

Rustum and the Persian Empire were taken aback by these previously destitute men knocking upon their enormous gates, driven by an unimaginable and unforeseen passion to convey to the world a message, delivered simply by Rabīʿ b. ʿĀmir.

The message equated to the deliverance and liberation of society from all things destructive to mankind. It is liberation from servitude to oneself and others through love and submission to Allah.

Without Godly instruction and example, we will see the enslavement of many types; monopolisation over markets and education; the destruction of the earth; social ills and isms; the breakdown of families and society; epidemics of mental health issues stemming from confusion, emptiness, loneliness and over-indulgence, and many other such problems we see taking root around us today.

Materialism is limited and if you practice it, you’ll quickly snooker yourself into a corner and limit your options. Such people tend to have a narcissistic hunger for adoration that seems impossible to sate.

You’ve got to learn to transcend binary thinking and falling for false dichotomies. Our salvation is in returning to Allāh and once again becoming the bearers of light for the world slipping into darkness around us.

It elevates our existence from being a mere product of matter and time, to recognising us as conscious beings that freely choose to have a relationship with the one that created us.

“Say: ‘He it is Who has brought you into being, and has given you hearing and sight, and has given you hearts to think and understand. How seldom do you give thanks!” (67:23)

That is, Allah had made you men, not cattle. Doesn’t really matter whose worldview was trending during our arbitrary lifetime. You were not meant to blindly follow whatever error and deviation you found prevailing in the world, without considering for a moment whether the way you had adopted was right or wrong.

What makes us human is not lack of body hair and walking on our hind legs but the ability to reflect, learn lessons and invest for results we can’t see today.

Allah has blessed you with knowledge and intelligence, sight and hearing, so that you may recognise the truth, so do not be ungrateful to Him by employing these faculties for every other object than the one for which these had been granted.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the environment we live in has a very profound and sometimes subtle effect upon our beliefs, thoughts, and behavior.

It plays a major role in shaping our world view and who we are as individuals. Society, our system of education, the mainstream media, literature, art, popular culture, t.v., movies, and music heavily influence the way we perceive things and process information.

Because of that we tend to project these influences upon the Quran, Sunnah, and the person of the Prophet ﷺ. We start to see them through the prism of modern liberal thought or other philosophies and ideologies.

The sacred divine texts came to enlighten the mind of man and change the course of his life to fall in line with the will of his creator and sustainer. It encapsulates guidance in the most complete and comprehensive sense and thus requires no external sources of influence to help the human mind appreciate and comprehend it.

In fact, external influences such as preconceived ideas, cultural conditioning, social constructs, base desire and so on are merely obstacles that the person must seek to overcome in order to benefit fully from the guidance therein.

Human reason and the correctly understood meaning(s) of Sacred Texts will always come together in harmony without conflict. The problem arises when either reason becomes tainted with preconceived ideas or desires, or when words and expressions found in the Sacred Texts are assigned inaccurate meaning(s).

For example, the Quraysh rejected the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ by saying: “Why was an Angel not sent down?” According to their reasoning, a Prophet could not be a human but had to be an Angel, yet Allāh condemned them for using false reasoning saying: “But if We had sent down an Angel, the matter would have been decided; then they would not be reprieved.” (6:8)

They sought to interpret the religion according to their own ignorance. Whatever ran contrary to their preconceived ideas and false notions was incorrectly perceived as a direct conflict between reason and Revelation when, in reality, it is merely a conflict between reason and preconceived ideas.

Therefore we do not subscribe to any views that clash with Islam and challenge the premise from which they’re operating.

Furthermore, the Prophets came with knowledge which reason could not attain in and of itself, such as knowledge about the Creator, the Hereafter, the Unseen (Ghayb), and so on; never did they come with what reason considers impossible.

The reality is that reason is a prerequisite to all knowledge as with it we acquire knowledge; however, it is not sufficient by itself.

Emaan transforms any situation into a good one, The Prophet said “I’m amazed at the situation of the believer. Indeed, every situation is good for him. He’s thankful if he experiences something good, and that’s good for him. And he’s patient if he experiences something bad, and that’s good for him. This doesn’t happen for anyone but the believer.” (Saheeh Muslim)

Some people hate this world because they have been faced with a great deal of trial, stress and exhaustion in it. Undoubtedly these people do not understand the true nature of this world. This world is the realm of striving and trial, the realm of stress and exhaustion, especially for the righteous believer, who encounters all kinds of trials by means of which Allah expiates his sins and raises him in status.

“And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring.” (20:131)

At times, we erroneously interpret a test from Allah as an indication that He doesn’t love us, or that we have been abandoned. Tests come to all people, in all stations of life, whether by way of prosperity or adversity, and regardless of one’s level of faith. Every test is designed to bring us closer to Allah because He loves His servants and wants the best outcome for us.

The best of mankind had to bury six of his children, and he ﷺ said “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord”.

Tawakkul involves using these tests to seek Allah and to be closer to Him. We have the beautiful verse: “Your Lord (O Muhammad ﷺ) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.”(93:3)

Did Allah not love His Messengers? Yet, they endured what seemed like unsurmountable losses, challenges, and setbacks, raising them to the greatest heights of nobility.

He suffered days with ill-health and was injured in battle. Muḥammad ﷺ went from being one of the most noble, respected men of Makkah to being ridiculed and exiled. And now, the city which expelled him rises and sleeps by calling his name.

Allah says “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars” (29:2–3)

God certainly knows what people harbour in their hearts before any test, but the test reveals, in practice, what is known to God, yet hidden from human knowledge. He thus makes people accountable for what they actually do, not for what He knows of their reality.

This is, in one sense, an act of grace, while in another, it is an act of justice. At the same time, it sets an edifying example for people so that they do not hold anyone accountable for anything other than what is clearly apparent of their deeds and what such deeds entail.

It is through this process that the nihilistic spiritualists are exposed i.e. those that only do good things to the extent that it makes them happy.

Athletes train in preparation for the test of tournaments; similarly, a believer’s prayer exercises his or her soul, so when the test comes, the soul doesn’t just survive it but thrives in it. The prepared soul experiences solace in the face of challenge.

For those who have been wayward or whose souls are spiritually flaccid, these are excellent times to return to our Lord. Indeed, this is often the very purpose of the tribulation. The Qur’an reminds us, “Corruption (fasād) has manifested on the land and in the sea from what humanity’s hands have earned, to make them taste some of what they have done, that perhaps they might turn back to God” (30:41).

Belief is not a mere word we say; it is a reality that imposes duties, a trust that carries requirements and a struggle that demands patience and perseverance. They are subjected to tests so as to prove their sincerity and true mettle, just as gold is tested with fire so as to separate it from any cheap elements.

How is it possible to pass the tests of this world and enter the gardens of Jannah without first crossing over the bridge of patience?

Trials are the means by which we are tested and elevated. You want to be able to look back and take pride in how the responded to the challenges that were sent your way.

The disbelievers suffer a deep void and emptiness in this regard because such
people do not expect to be rewarded [by their Creator] and do not have reasons to assume patience that would lighten their burden.

Empires have risen and fallen from many different places. One should therefore expect good and bad days, had the believers only received good days, the hypocrites would hasten to join its ranks “…And so are the days (good and not so good), We give to men by turns, that Allah may test those who believe…” (3:140)

The hypocrites only appear to be Muslim when they stand to gain something material or when its convenient. Its only when the balance of power tips in favour of those who disbelieve that the true believers prove their loyalty and the hypocrites are exposed for who they really are.

Thus there is a great wisdom in the delay of things, which serve as a trial and respite for the wrongdoers and those who were deceived by them, as well as exposing the hypocrites and those who were tempted by the ways of the unjust people.

“And let not those who disbelieve ever think that (because) We extend their time (of enjoyment) it is better for them. We only extend it for them so that they may increase in sin, and for them is a humiliating punishment.” (3:178)

As a human being, you try to forget your wrongs, move on, and live comfortably. But such comfort is an illusion, as the Prophet said that “if you see Allah giving someone what he wants from the dunya despite his sins, then this is istidraj (entrapment).”

In fact, when Allah — the Exalted — wishes to destroy one of the nations, He increases its establishment! The Most High said, “So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (6:44)

The believers should never be deceived by the apparent might enjoyed by the forces of falsehood at any particular time, or by the outcome of a single round in battle. One small jostle could bring down their house of cards; they’re actually more fragile than you might have thought.

The actual purpose of our existence in this life is not being established in the earth and leading the world, even though this is one of the aims a Muslim must strive to accomplish. But the actual purpose for our existence is to worship Allah, be it in times of prosperity or poverty.

The time which passes until we actualise this establishment is not lost time. Rather, it is the very opposite; it is our opportunity to understand the purpose of life, and it is the era wherein we truly and correctly worship Allah — for once we reach our aims, this purpose becomes blurry, and we begin worshipping Allah as “we want,” and not as “He wants.” In other words, many of us begin worshipping Allah according to our desires. Or, even worse — begin worshipping our desires!

We begin to presume that we are inherently capable of doing things, become distracted with the glitter of this world, and fall prey to other similar diseases of establishment.

Due to all that, Allah — the Most Wise — who wishes for us to prosper and succeed and understand our purpose in life, may chose to lengthen for us the phase of preparation before establishment.

“…The final victory is for the righteous.” (7:128)

The eventual outcome will be in favour of the believers.

We have a terrible understanding of what actually fulfils us and its amazing how many things we acquire just to impress others and patch their insecurities.

Jinan Yousef writes — We may chase after compliments, praise and attention — but after that momentary pleasure, it will fade away. What will be left is mere emptiness. We go after money, power and status — but it won’t end there, because we will always want more. And our hearts will always be perturbed because these things are temporary. Once we have reached the goal, the pleasure we feel will wear away and we will want something else or something more.

If we find ourselves in that position, these words are hard to read because, in a sense, we don’t want to give up the chase. We think, perhaps, somehow, we will find that which we are looking for. It bothers us to have to prioritise Allah and His religion in our lives, because that might get in the way of worldly pleasures. But “truly it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.” (13:28)

Look at the Prophet ﷺ. He could have compromised his principles when Quraysh offered him power, wealth and women for him to tone down his message. They even tried to negotiate a power-sharing agreement whereby the other gods would be worshipped on some days and the One would be worshipped on others. Declining these offers caused the Prophet ﷺ physical hardship, but he was at rest in his heart. Why? Because he knew that ultimately to seek dunya for the sake of dunya was not the goal, no matter how tempting it might be. He knew that whatever he gave up was temporary, because the real comfort in this world is with Allah. And he was not let down.

A similar question was posed by the angels at the creation of man.

“when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successor on earth,’ they said, ‘How can You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed, when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?’ but He said, ‘I know things you do not.’” (4:19)

Allah loves the good that counteracts the evil. How could you be patient if there wasn’t suffering? How could you help others if they didn’t need it? How could you demonstrate your Emaan and raise your station in the hereafter unless there were opportunities for you to do so?

Ultimately we got to trust in Allah’s wisdom and accept that we won’t fully understand why everything happens the way it does.

Ar-Rahman can of-course create a place with no evil. It’s called Jannah. The only difference is that the extreme Atheist in their arrogance feel entitled to that world right here and now and reject God on the basis of not having it. The irony is that by rejecting God they are rejecting the very world that they desire in the Akhira.

A heap of steel becomes a axe after it is beaten up endlessly. If leather wasn’t beaten blow by blow it would be a piece of garbage. If metal wasn’t fired it would still be a rock somewhere. What about you? What would happen if you were not tested…

A trial Dismantles the facade we build for ourselves, and forces us to come back to our senses. Leading psychologists have observed that many people don’t change until they experience massive trauma. Hence vitality usually emerges in people after a severe shock.

Ibn Qayyim says “The ibtilaa’ (testing) of the believer is like medicine for him. It cures him from illness. Had the illness remained it would destroy him or diminish his reward and level (in the hereafter). The tests and the trials extract these illnesses from him and prepare him for the perfect reward and the highest of degrees (in the life to come).” In events like this people become focused, and the truthful are known from the liars.

A goldsmith in classical Arabic is called a fattan, meaning one who causes fitna, because his actions cause the outer layer of impurities present in gold ore to fall away, and leaves the pure gold underneath. Similarly, a fitna exposes the reality of a person: the veneer of false mannerisms intended to show off a façade of falsehood disappears, and one’s core level of God-consciousness, integrity, and commitment to truth are displayed for all to see. Such situations are in reality immense spiritual opportunities by which we can display our true sincerity and trust in Allah Most High.

We perceive trials as they are meant to be perceived — as tests of our trust in Allah, forcing us to put our knowledge into practice and bringing us closer to Him.

Perhaps Allah desires for the slave a position in paradise but he is not able to reach it by his actions. Thus the person is inflicted with calamities so that his sins are erased and he is rewarded for his patience thereby raising his status in the hereafter.

If Hajar had known that her running between Safa and Marwah would be celebrated until the end of time by millions, if not billions of people, she would have run with a huge smile on her face. And so, it may be, that our patience during the most difficult of times, will be rewarded with the pleasure of Allāh, the ultimate reward which will last an eternity: Imagine your smile then.

However, trials take a multitude of forms, and it is only when disaster strikes that our true conviction becomes manifest.

As a believer in the unseen world, you are also able to absorb losses and instead see them as victories. Your whole scale and perception of what loss is is completely beyond what they are for those around you.

They deal with the currency of money and health, you deal with the currency of Allah’s Pleasure. For you, there is no such thing as loss so long as you are true to your principles and have fulfilled the criteria for attaining Allah’s Pleasure. While the Battle of Uhud was, in a worldly sense a loss, Ibn al-Qayyim dedicates roughly eight pages of ‘Zad ul-Ma’ad’ to in essence illustrate how it was a victory. This writing of his should be dissected and pondered over deeply by any Muslim looking for clarity in our current circumstances.

So do not be deluded by these current seemingly negative occurrences. But see them as opportunities and use them to propel you closer to Allah.

Belief in the unseen world has very deep and powerful implications in our lives as Muslims in this world. No worldly power can possibly stand in our way, because we are privy to powers even greater and are emboldened because of this.

By making our success/failure based on the currency of the unseen world, we can never lose, no matter what “losses” befall us in this world. Our religion will be attacked, we will be thrown in prison, our lands will be invaded and pillaged, but we never lose because these are all transactions of this world, while the flurry of activity in the unseen world — reward being recorded, palaces in Paradise being prepared — tells a very different story as to who won & who lost.

This is the true meaning of gain/loss — based on the scales of the Ghayb, not those of this tangible world that will one day melt away.

Our era in particular is one of large-scale attack on belief in the unseen. If, despite this downpour of opposition, you find your heart still stationed within the domain of belief in the unseen, unmoved by the doubts of the doubters, then take it as one of your most hopeful signs in life that Allāh is preparing you for Jannah.

Whether one has seen it or not, and regardless of whether one is able to comprehend it or not, the motto of the believer is the exact same words of Abū Bakr who said: إن كان قال فقد صدق

“If the Prophet has said it, then he has told the truth.”

Islām does not depend on its adherents. Nor is it a reality that needs human validation. What is already supreme cannot be made better by its followers. It is entirely a privilege to them that they should fear losing, the same way as they would fear to be thrown into fire. “Our Lord, do not make our hearts swerve aside after You have guided us. And give us mercy from You. You are the Ever-Giving.” (3:8)

See the world as it is and also as it should be and then work towards it.

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