Islam In-Depth – “The Moral World Of The Qur’an” March 2nd 2019

We continue reading M. A. Draz’s “The Moral World of the Qur’an”.

Obligation

“The Qur’an tells us that it is the sceptics or those in whose hearts is a disease who obey the law only inasmuch as they profit by it; while those who have faith submit to it unconditionally. The Qur’an not only extols generosity which is shown both in times of comfort and of adversity, and courage which braves hunger, thirst and tiredness, but it also severely condemns those who allow such inconveniences to prevent them from carrying out their duty.” — Draz, 28.

“When the divine law speaks, as it tells us in its own terms, it is not for any man or woman of the believers to have any choice about it. Can any stronger expression be found to establish the necessity with which duty is imposed?” — Draz, 28-29.

Scepticism, Transactional Theology, and Hypocrisy

لَقَد أَنزَلنا آياتٍ مُبَيِّناتٍ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَهدي مَن يَشاءُ إِلىٰ صِراطٍ مُستَقيمٍ

وَيَقولونَ آمَنّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالرَّسولِ وَأَطَعنا ثُمَّ يَتَوَلّىٰ فَريقٌ مِنهُم مِن بَعدِ ذٰلِكَ ۚ وَما أُولٰئِكَ بِالمُؤمِنينَ

وَإِذا دُعوا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسولِهِ لِيَحكُمَ بَينَهُم إِذا فَريقٌ مِنهُم مُعرِضونَ

وَإِن يَكُن لَهُمُ الحَقُّ يَأتوا إِلَيهِ مُذعِنينَ

أَفي قُلوبِهِم مَرَضٌ أَمِ ارتابوا أَم يَخافونَ أَن يَحيفَ اللَّهُ عَلَيهِم وَرَسولُهُ ۚ بَل أُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الظّالِمونَ

“We have sent down Signs making things clear. Allah guides whomever He wills to a straight path. They say, ‘We believe in Allah and in the Messenger and we obey.’ Then after that a group of them turn away. Such people are not believers. When they are summoned to Allah and His Messenger, so that he can judge between them, a group of them immediately turn away. But if right is on their side, they come to him most submissively! Is there a sickness in their hearts or do they have misgivings or do they fear that Allah and His Messenger will be unjust to them? No, it is simply that they are wrongdoers.Qur’an 24: 46-50

Necessity and Moral Obligation

“…moral necessity is different from both physical necessity and logical necessity. Physical law exercises over our bodies a constraint to which we submit, involuntarily and inevitably; moral law, on the other hand, supposes freedom of choice; it is an obligation, but does not constrain us physically. From the beginning it leaves us the choice (at the risk of a later reaction) of whether to observe it or violate it. It is the primordial rule that the Qur’an ceaselessly proclaims, as much for the duty of faith as for practical virtue.” — Draz, 29.

لا إِكراهَ فِي الدّينِ ۖ قَد تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشدُ مِنَ الغَيِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكفُر بِالطّاغوتِ وَيُؤمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ استَمسَكَ بِالعُروَةِ الوُثقىٰ لَا انفِصامَ لَها ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَميعٌ عَليمٌ

There is no compulsion in religion. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false gods and has belief in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.Qur’an 2: 256

مَن يُطِعِ الرَّسولَ فَقَد أَطاعَ اللَّهَ ۖ وَمَن تَوَلّىٰ فَما أَرسَلناكَ عَلَيهِم حَفيظًا

“Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah. If anyone turns away, We did not send you to them as their keeper.Qur’an 4: 80

وَلَو شاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَن فِي الأَرضِ كُلُّهُم جَميعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكرِهُ النّاسَ حَتّىٰ يَكونوا مُؤمِنينَ

“If your Lord had willed, all the people on the earth would have believed. Do you think you can pressure people until they become believers?Qur’an 10: 99

فَذَكِّر إِنَّما أَنتَ مُذَكِّرٌ

لَستَ عَلَيهِم بِمُصَيطِرٍ

“So remind them! You are only a reminder. You are not in control of them.Qur’an 88: 21-22

Obedience and Moral Obligation Are In Themselves Guidance

قُل أَطيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطيعُوا الرَّسولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوا فَإِنَّما عَلَيهِ ما حُمِّلَ وَعَلَيكُم ما حُمِّلتُم ۖ وَإِن تُطيعوهُ تَهتَدوا ۚ وَما عَلَى الرَّسولِ إِلَّا البَلاغُ المُبينُ

“Say: ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. Then if they turn away he is only responsible for what he is charged with and you are responsible for what you are charged with. If you obey him, you will be guided.’ The Messenger is only responsible for clear transmission.Qur’an 24: 54

De Facto/De Jure

De facto: a state of affairs that is true in fact, but that is not officially sanctioned. “The general who sits at the head of the military is the de facto ruler of the nation.”

De jure: a state of affairs that is in accordance with law (i.e. that is officially sanctioned). “I know that, de jure, this is supposed to be a parking lot, but now that the flood has left four feet of water here, it’s a de facto swimming pool.”

“Thus, faced with duty, one has the choice de facto, but one does not have it de jure. Moral necessity is therefore not existential, but ideal.” — Draz, 29.


Understanding Islam – Reductionism, Reality, and Intention

Imam Marc discusses the relationship between reductionism, reality, and intention and how the Qur’an advocates for not a reductionist world view, but an expansionist one.

Phe·nom·e·non (/fəˈnäməˌnän, fəˈnäməˌnən/):

  • a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question;
  • the object of a person’s perception; what the senses or the mind notice.

From Richard H. Jones’ Analysis & the Fullness of Reality, he quotes Robert Nozick on the relation between phenomenon, reality, and reductionism:

“The philosopher Robert Nozick labeled ours ‘the Age of Reductionism’, and most people in our scientifically-informed culture would agree. We want to understand the world, and under the influence of modern science we now want to know how things work in terms of material and efficient causes. Moreover, we are not fully satisfied with any suggested explanation of a phenomenon unless it is explained in terms of something we deem to be a basic reality. We search for the ‘true nature’ of things—what is ‘really real.’ And this is where reductionism enters the picture: we want to get down to the reality that is the source or substance of a phenomenon. We take a phenomenon apart to see what makes it tick, or we retrace (Lat., re-ducere, ‘to lead back’) the development of the phenomenon to its roots. A reduction thus proposes what in the final analysis is real in a phenomenon. We find that what was apparently real is ultimately ‘nothing but’ its parts or something else more basic. Thereby, an apparent reality is ‘reduced’ to something real, and our desire for understanding at least the reduced phenomenon is satisfied.”

Continuing, Jones says,

“It is important to note that reductionism is not merely a matter of the scientific identification of the causes at work in a whole. Rather, reductionists go further and claim that the parts and causes are all that is real in a whole—the reality of a whole is nothing but that of those parts. It is easy to see why many people are disturbed by such reductions: in moving from the more complex to the simpler in human beings, reductions deny what is distinctly human.”

وَإِذ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلمَلائِكَةِ إِنّي جاعِلٌ فِي الأَرضِ خَليفَةً ۖ قالوا

أَتَجعَلُ فيها مَن يُفسِدُ فيها

وَيَسفِكُ الدِّماءَ وَنَحنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قالَ

إِنّي أَعلَمُ ما لا تَعلَمونَ

“When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am putting a khalif on the earth,’ they said, ‘Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?’ He said, ‘I know what you do not know’.” Qur’an, 2: 30

“More generally, reductionists ‘reduce the more valuable to the less valuable, the more meaningful to the less meaningful,’ and never the other way around. If things are reducible to a reality below the surface, then much of human life loses its value. The effect on our lives is to undercut the reality of what is specific to being human—consciousness, free will, personhood, our cultural creations.”

سمِعْتُ

رسولَ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم يقولُ إنما الأعمالُ بالنيةِ وإنما لامرِئٍ ما نوى فمَن كانت هجرتُه إلى اللهِ ورسولِه فهجرتُه إلى اللهِ ورسولِه ومَن كانتْ هجرتُه إلى دنيا يُصيبُها أو امرأةٍ يتزوجُها، فهجرتُه إلى ما هاجَر إليه

I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ saying, “The deeds are according to their intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for the sake of Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration will be considered to be for Allah and His Apostle, and whoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain or for a woman to marry, then his emigration will be considered to be for what he emigrated for.” Sahih al-Bukhari, #6689

Understanding Islam: Muslim Spirituality Session 1

[Direct download]

Taj al-’Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus by Ibn ‘Ata Allah al-Sikandari (al-Iskandari)

The Bride-Groom’s Crown Containing Instructions on Refining the Self

“The master of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self-mastery.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

In his work, Sufism For Non-Sufi’s, Dr. Sherman Jackson writes,

“…part of Islam’s essential struggle from the very beginning was to identify good, substantively sound spirituality and distinguish it from and elevate it over bad, misguided spirituality. In sum, not all spirituality was or is good.” – Sherman Jackson

What is the function or purpose of spirituality from a Muslim perspective?

  • Inspire us: to do good, to do self-help, in all things which inspiration is required.
  • Elevate our morals: the world pulls at us asking us to merely adapt, not to transform.
  • Imbue us with “devotional confidence and resolve” to connect with God, worship God and put God front and center of our lives.

Spirituality and antinomianism:

  • “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”;
  • one who rejects a socially established morality;

Spirituality in the Muslim tradition should also perform two functions:

  1. Affirm the supernatural.
  2. Eschew the superstitious.

Hikam #1

من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

“Amongst the signs of leaning on one’s own handiwork of deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

“Amongst the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

Life of the Prophet – Session 3: Theology Superstition and Modernity

The following is a short audio excerpt on the monthly class, Life of the Prophet, at Middle Ground. At the end, we discussed how the world was changing at the birth of the Prophet and the advent of Islam.

[Direct download]

Understanding Islam – Explorations on Faith Part II

We continued Understanding Islam this week with a continuation on the topic of faith (see/listen to Part I).

[Direct download (Part 1)]

[Direct download (Part 2)]

[Direct download (Part 3)]

[Direct download (Part 4)]