Soul Searching

Posted on April 6, 2011


Allah (swt) repeatedly informs us about the lives of the Prophets in the Quran.

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّهُ مُوسَى تَكْلِيمًا

“And [We sent] messengers about whom We have related [their stories] to you before and messengers about whom We have not related to you. And Allah spoke to Moses with [direct] speech. (4:164)”

The essence of those stories is sometimes lost on us for a number of reasons. We are unable to grasp the nuances of the text because we are unfamiliar with the rich imagery of Quranic Arabic. We have heard them so many times from childhood that they fall in the same category as other tales and legends that have been repeated to us. They are usually taught in a chronological manner like the other biographies of other famous people and become in our minds a list of events rather than powerful, life changing narratives.

But these are not stories of old. These are the Messengers of Allah (swt) that are being spoken of and the words that are recounting the events of their lives are the Words of Allah (swt). They cannot be treated as tales that one hears for entertainment or brief moments of inspiration. We have to experience these narratives because they are our road maps to a successful hereafter.

We must feel the intense regret and shame that Prophet Adam and his wife felt after they ate of the tree. When Allah (swt) told Prophet Musa to throw his stick and it turned into a snake and then He commanded him to pick up the snake we should be able to feel the wriggling mass of cold, reptilian scales in the palm of our hands and experience the fear that he must have felt. The experiences are of course too numerous to relate here. Through continuous recitation of the Quran these narratives should become the blueprints of our existence. Inshallah, over time we will also develop the fortitude and trust in Allah that His Messengers had. For them, as for us, sometimes the sea parts and a path opens up in the most difficult circumstances and sometimes life feels like the bottom of a well when even your own family has forsaken you.

Similarly, when you read the Seerah of Rasullallah do not consider it merely the tale of a great man but walk the streets with him and his companions and actually experience their struggles and triumphs. His words were inspired by Allah (swt) so they should be given the value and respect that they deserve.

Today I would like you to stop for a moment and place yourself as a character in the fabric of time and join a group of people that are gathering for an assembly. You have the choice between two crowds.

For the first choice, imagine for a few minutes that you are a merchant in ancient Arabia or the wife of a merchant or a young man or woman belonging to one of the tribes that lived in Mecca at the time of the Prophet (saws). The scene is set in the bustling marketplace of Mecca where the hot desert winds blow and the sound of haggling pervades the atmosphere. Suddenly the cry “O Sabahah!” is heard from the mountain of Safa. That means someone needs help or there is some imminent danger. It sounds like Muhammad (saws) so everyone pauses and rushes towards Safa. His voice carries over the crowd: clear, compassionate and strong.  As is narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas, he said: “When the following verses were revealed:

“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad [saws]) of near kindred.” [Al-Qur’an 26:214]

The Messenger of Allah [saws] ascended Mount As-Safa and started to call:”O Bani Fahr! O Bani ‘Adi (two tribes of Quraish).” Many people gathered and those who couldn’t sent somebody to report to them. Abu Lahab was also present. The Prophet [saws] said: “You see, if I were to tell you that there were some horsemen in the valley planning to raid you, will you believe me?” They said: “Yes, we have never experienced any lie from you.” He said: “I am a warner to you before a severe torment.” Abu Lahab promptly replied: “Perish you all the day! Have you summoned us for such a thing?” The verses were immediately revealed on that occasion [Bukhari 2/702; Muslim 1/114]:

“Perish the two hands of Abi Lahab…” [Al-Qur’an 111:1].”

Imagine for a moment that you are standing next to Abu Lahab. Does the hatred in his face repulse you? Or do the words of Muhammad (saws) make you uncomfortable and you wish that he would stop so that you could return to your business? Are you unsure how to react? Do you scan the faces of your tribesmen to see their reaction so that you can imitate it? Or do the words of the Messenger of Allah (saws) speak the voice of your soul and you wish you could rush over to him and swear allegiance but are afraid of the reaction of the silent, hostile crowd?

The second crowd is much larger than the first. It is not too far from where the Prophet had stood on the mountain of Safa  many eventful years ago.  This time he is sitting on his camel in a valley in Arafat surrounded by a sea of thousands of people that have all gathered to be able to join the Messenger of Allah in what was to be his final Pilgrimage. The air vibrates with the words of the Talbiya until the Prophet speaks. Then those blessed to be present hang on his every word and memorize it so that they can convey it to later generations as he has commanded. The Prophet’s Final Sermon is a beautiful summary of the teachings of the Quran and as he concludes verse number three of Sura Maidah is revealed:

“This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [Al-Qur’an 5:3]

Imagine that you are a part of this blessed crowd and you can gaze up at the face of the Messenger of Allah as he speaks. You eyes are transfixed on his radiant countenance and no shadows of doubts, no distractions of this world and no fear of recrimination cloud your understanding of his words. You love Allah (swt) and you love His Messenger and are overwhelmed with a feeling of intense gratitude that Allah (swt) has granted you this beautiful religion. You heart is clear with the clarity of true Eeman (faith) and your sights are set on Paradise.

Allah (swt) reminds us in Sura Nisa:

“But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.” (4:65)

As the Messenger of Allah said:

“’None of you can become a believer until his desires become subservient to what I have brought.”  (Cited by al-Nawawi in al-Arba’in, see the tradition no. 41)

Check for a moment the state of your heart. In which crowd would it belong? Is it beset with unanswered questions about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (saws) and with the onslaught of Islamophobia the very foundations of your faith are shaken? Or are you at peace with the call of the Messenger and your heart is at peace even as you struggle to implement Islam in your life?

May Allah (swt) make us worthy of the promise He makes in Sura Fajr:

(89:27) (On the other hand it will be said): “O serene soul!

(89:28) Return to your Lord well-pleased (with your blissful destination), well-pleasing (to your Lord).

(89:29) So enter among My (righteous) servants

(89:30) and enter My Paradise.”

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