Allah asks us to exalt His divinely sent prophet in our remembrance of Him, as discussed in Part 10. This is a way of causing us to direct our attention to our dependence upon Him as the Source of all we have, whether in terms of His material provision or in terms of His spiritual guidance through our Prophet. All of our possessions have originated with our Creator and Maintainer, regardless of the many or few intermediaries through which they have arrived to us.
ACCEPTING OUR DEPENDENCY UPON ALLAH
Let us be willing to take a lesson from the experience of Moses in regard to demanding from Allah more than what He, in His complete wisdom and mercy, has intended for us in this life. Moses, at a turning point in his story, was not granted his wish to “see” Allah — although Allah did “work with” His righteous servant in responding to his request:
So when Moses came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: My Lord, show me [Yourself], that I may look upon You. He said: You cannot [withstand this, so as to] see Me. But look upon the mountain. If it holds firm in its place, then shall you see Me. Yet when his Lord manifested Himself to the mountain, He caused it to crumble, and Moses fell down [faint, utterly] stunned. Then when he recovered [his senses], he said: Highly exalted are You [far above all]! I repent to You! And I am the foremost of the believers [in You among my people!] [Sûrah Al A’râf, 7:143]
One thing for sure in our compliance with divine Guidance: The better/ faster we learn to “work with” the lessons served up to us daily —through the coordinated events and circumstances which come to us in our own personal lives— the better/ faster we proceed to bringing about for our communities the benefits of an ideal Muslim cooperation with our Lord’s Guidance.
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Indeed, humankind is in [a condition of utter] loss— except for those who believe and do righteous deeds— and exhort one another to [uphold] the truth, and exhort one another to [persevere in faith with] patience. [Sûrah Al-‘Asr, 103:2-3]
Whoever rallies to a good cause shall have a share in its blessings; and whoever rallies to an evil cause, shall be answerable for his part in it: for, indeed, God watches over everything. [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:85]
An ideal human society is one in which the Ways of God are acknowledged and willingly adopted in public affairs. Individuals, families, neighborhoods, towns, nations, and various alliances, access the most psychologically-sound freedom and encouragement to validate their innermost needs when they adhere to the Way of God and His prophets.
He guides onto a straight way him that wills [to be guided]. And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that [with your lives] you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:142-143]
Yes, we are accountable to Allah for ourselves, but it is cooperatively as part of our community that we can contribute most in the direction that is taken collectively. By speaking out for truth and just corrective action, we can sometimes even help save our leadership or dominant spokesmen from compromising the Straight Path in the public eye. Much is at stake when some in our communities forget or refuse clear guidance.
But one day We shall raise up a witness out of every community, whereupon they who were bent on denying the truth will not be allowed to plead [ignorance], and neither will they be allowed to make amends. [Sûrah Al-Nahl, 16:84]
INDIVIDUALS THRIVE IN THE STRAIGHT-PATH COMMUNITY
All of us humans —whether religious or not, whether Muslim or otherwise— sometimes feel an uncertainty as to just exactly who and what we actually are in our intentions and behavior, just exactly how we are best to focus our efforts, moment by moment. Do we want to be in synchrony with the admirably good person that God has created for us to be?
Verily, it is We who have created man … a being endowed with hearing and sight. … Verily, We have shown him the way; [and it rests with him to prove himself] either grateful or ungrateful … Verily, all this is an admonition: whoever, then, so wills, may unto his Sustainer find a way. But you cannot will it unless God wills [to show you that way]: for, behold, God is indeed all-seeing, wise. He admits unto His grace everyone who wills [to be admitted]; but as for the evildoers — for them has He readied grievous suffering. [Sûrah Al-Insân, 76: 2-3; 29-31]
As individuals with the intent to please our Lord in living as complete Muslims, we are naturally the most comfortable when we can be in tune with the direction of the social group we find surrounding us. That is why we must be active in our Islamic communities, build close relationships, form and nurture various social circles within our community. If we find that our local community is not offering us the spiritual and knowledge-based guidance and the sense of belonging that we need, so as to function as a brotherhood, then we must not resign ourselves to its dysfunction. A long-standing problem caused by them should not necessarily be for you an unsolvable one. Do not assume that change for the better cannot be accomplished, regardless of what we find self-appointed leaders doing. We must make up our minds that we will be part of the solution.
How? You as an individual, a would-be-complete Muslim, should seek the companionship of those sincere in faith and advanced in knowledge. One single other person is good enough for a start. Does your partner feel the same complaints as do you? Do you take advantage of the activities and resources already available in your community, even if they are not good enough in your estimation? Do the two of you agree about what is missing, what needs to change? Do you speak up in a positive way about what is needed?
Once the partnership between the two of you is strong and established, the two of you can consider inviting into your activities one or two others. Do not give up the strength of your relationship by adding others too quickly. Do not expand your two-some unless you agree that you are ready. You may want to keep your private two-some meetings going, even if you take on others for a different type of gathering from time to time. Never forget that your brotherly pairing is for the purpose of improving your closeness to Allah. Ultimately you want to make sure that no brother or sister in your community is left out.
If word of your flowering brotherly solidarity gets around and begins to attract others, then you may want to organize for regular meetings so as to take on a few others with a set program —a discussion on a topic; a short talk given by a member or by someone brought into your meeting; a lunch gathering with some sort of educational theme (for example, what do the Quran & Hadith say regarding X), or an exploratory question (what are the various sides of the controversy over Y?) An expanding group —if it is to be an ongoing success— needs a moderator and rules of engagement. We must give each other moral support in questions of everyday life and we must offer ready channels for getting answers to knowledge-based issues.
Even in a Muslim-majority setting, we may have to choose right from wrong, or at least the better from among the various possible options. As complete Muslims we are designed to participate with our fellow Muslims in “enjoining good and forbidding evil“ so as to maximize —together— our reverent consciousness of Allah (taqwa). We can learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We frankly need to be in synchrony with Muhammad’s people for ultimate guidance and support —both giving and receiving— on the Straight Path. Islam is not intended as a D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself) project for hermits and “lone wolves.” If you find yourself a DIY-er, then scrutinize your group’s membership; attend congregational Prayers with them; consider anew whom you can befriend, connect and partner with —so as to upgrade the health of the personal religious development and service of you both.
[Duly] establish the Prayer. And enjoin what is right. And forbid what is wrong. And be patient with whatever afflicts you. Indeed, these are among the [foremost] commandments of [God that must be kept with] diligent resolve. [Surah Luqmân, 31:17]
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar: The reward of the congregational prayer is twenty seven times greater (than that of the Prayer offered by a person alone). (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhari 649)
He has laid down for you, [O humankind— in] whatever He has [already] revealed to you, [O Muhammad— all the tenets] of [Heavenly] religion, [the likes] of which He had [first] enjoined upon Noah, and that which He had thereafter enjoined upon Abraham, and [upon] Moses and [upon] Jesus; namely: You shall be steadfast in establishing the religion [of God]. And you shall not divide therein! As to those who associate gods with God, that to which you call them, [O Prophet,] is a great burden upon them. It is God [alone] who chooses [to draw near] to Himself whomever He so wills— thus He guides to Himself whoever turns [to Him] in penitence. …
So to this [upright religion of all the prophets] call [everyone, O Prophet]. Moreover, keep [steadfastly] straight [upon God’s path], even as you have been commanded. Thus you shall not follow their whims, [which have led them to division]. [Sûrah Al-Shûrâ, 42:13, 15]
Once we have developed the renewed commitment to be in synch with our Lord —which is the ultimate purpose of belonging to our Ummah and the means by which we can accomplish our completeness as Muslims— then we must ask,
- “Just exactly how can we best facilitate our ideal Muslim character and community cooperation?”
- “Can we even hope to do better than what we are collectively doing just now?”
- “Can we realistically expect to improve our lot as Muslims in this world?”
If we are to make progress, then we must do it together —in synchrony with our brethren— if we are to achieve lasting results.
…To be continued in Part 12