[Chapter 21] An Indispensable Human Threshold
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
An Indispensable Human Threshold
But before we expect to accomplish anything serious in this world as Muslims, we must meet a minimum threshold at the basic human level. That means before we expect to find the divine, we must reach a certain human threshold. That again means before we become great Muslims, we must qualify as great human beings. For, it is the best humans that make the best Muslims.
What an amazing concept this is – and how simple! And yet how true it is. So long as the talk is about human life on earth, the touchstone must necessarily be the excellence of human qualities in those who advance their claim to being human.
You have to have the right human material first before you become anything else. Islam is the next level up.
Just think about it. How can it be otherwise?
Then there is a further sorting that takes place in this group of the good – or the right kind of – human beings. They are offered a choice – wa Hadainahun Najdain Qur’an (90:10) – to either go to God or go elsewhere. Why and how, that is a complicated thing. Suffice it to say that in the face of such a choice some respond to the call of Allah and some, alas, turn it down. And some decide not only to refuse it but also to fight it and they do so with everything in their power.
That, however, is the right they have as human beings. It is the privilege that God, their maker and master, himself conferred upon them – the amazing and all-powerful right to say no, even to him.
That is how Omar, son of Khattab, rose to embrace Islam and became one of its foremost defenders and champions. The other Omar, Abul Hakam, on the other hand, rose up against Islam and became one of its most inveterate enemies earning the title of Allah’s enemy. Was it a foolish thing to do, to rise up against Allah? Of course, it was. That is why for 1400 years he has been referred to as the father of foolishness and ignorance.
SADAQAH AND AMANAH: DEFINING THE HUMAN THRESHOLD – AND CHARACTER
Sadaqah and Amanah constitute the minimum human threshold that we must cross in order to qualify as Muslims – and to be working for Allah in any real sense of that expression. Like everything else, our beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, set an example for us in this area as well – even before Islam came to him.
That means, before the advent of the revelation, he had positioned himself, not at the bottom, but at the summit of human excellence. His people with one voice hailed him as the pinnacle of perfection – as As-Saadiq and Al-Ameen.
Without going into too much detail, suffice it to point out that both these terms mean one and the same thing: truth. Sadaqah refers to truth in thought, feeling and speech. Amanah stands for trust and truth in behavior. In other words, no matter how you looked at him, he was a man other human beings could trust – fully, completely and without reservation or qualification.
They trusted his word when he spoke. For, he never spoke anything but the truth. They trusted his judgment and integrity when they submitted to his arbitration in a matter of life and death – when war was about to break out over who would place the black stone on the wall of the house of God. And they trusted him with their properties and belongings, whether it was for trade or for safekeeping. Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had become the equivalent of a banker to his people before he became the Rasul of Allah.
This is what the Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was before he became a Rasul. That was the threshold – the point of entry into Islam. Now I am asking us to hold a mirror in front of us – this mirror that the Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, provided and that the Qur’an was later to codify and document in clear and forceful terms. I am asking each one of us to hold this mirror in front of ourselves, our families, associations, organizations, Jama’ats, communities and societies – where all of these are called by the lofty title of Muslim.
And I am asking us to do so in Pakistan, Egypt, U.K., United States and other places. What do we see? If we like what we see, then we have nothing to worry about; we have got it made. If on the other hand, what meets the eye is not what was laid out as a minimum requirement for entering Islam, then we have our work cut out for us.
In other words, human affairs and social and community relations constitute the core of Islam, just as they constitute the highest point of human civilization prior to and outside of Islam. Nothing illustrates this better than the life of Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
COMMITMENTS, CONTRACTS & SOMETHING CALLED QAWL SADEED
The Qur’an is clear on the question of interpersonal dealings on the part of those who either realize they are working for Allah or aspire to work for Allah. It neither minces words nor does it skirt around the issue of the social obligations of believers to others.
These are the people the Qur’an calls Those Who Believe – Alladheena Aamanu. These are people enlisted to work for Allah. Addressing them, the Qur’an issues a terse and direct command in the first Aayah of Surah Al-Maa-i-dah. Here is what it says:
Yaa Ayyuhalladheena Aamanu, Awfu Bil’Uqud (5:1).
Believers! Fulfill your commitments! Keep your contracts. Meet your obligations. Be true to your promises. Keep your word. Let your word be your bond.
Terse, clear, simple, direct and powerful – that is what this message is. And it stands alone – this direct order to the community of Islamic belief, behavior, profession and claim. For, the Qur’an, having issued this command to the believers to do what they must – what they are supposed to and what is expected of them – moves on to other topics. The word 'Ahd elsewhere is part of the same family of expressions.
And then I want you to pick up the Qur’an and go to Surah Al-Ahzab (33) and read from Aayah 56 to Aayah 73 – the end of the Surah. Consider the issues of profound social significance that the Qur’an addresses in those Aayaat – issues that go to the heart of the solidarity, cohesion and viability of the pioneering Muslim community in Madinah under the leadership of the Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam – to the very survival of that community.
And then I want you to zero in on Aayah 70, which seems to direct our attention to the panacea against the host of evils that may threaten a Muslim community – the community of believers – anywhere at any time.
Here is a paraphrase:
O, Those Who Believe! Fear Allah and say
the right thing (33:70).
The expression used is Qawl Sadeed – I am having trouble finding the right English equivalent for it. “Right word” appears to be the closest to my way of thinking right now – clearly I need to investigate this more. But I would be happier using an Urdu translation: Khari Baat. Some Ulama’ have used Seedhi Baat, which is good too.
In all cases what it means is this: Don’t prevaricate; don’t obfuscate; don’t beat about the bush; don’t hedge and fudge; don’t spin and twist; don’t create channel noise. Instead, just plain tell the truth. Say it the way you see it.
This, as well as all the other positive and negative qualities I have listed in this book, is a question of character. Their ultimate combination as rooted in human heart and manifested in human character is a significant part of Taqwa – and Iman. It is all part of working for Allah – now or ever.
It is only when we have them, or work to attain them, that our Iman may be considered valid. If we don’t, we are perilously close to the mortal threat of Nifaq – which is a fundamental and ruinous flaw of belief and behavior – character – in Islam.
Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, defines the character of a Munafiq as exactly the opposite of the qualities of Sadaqah, Qawl Sadeed, Amanah and 'Ahd.
Here are some of those words from the Hadith – a Munafiq (hypocrite or opposite of believer) is one who:
Idha Haddatha, Kadhaba.
Idha 'Aahada, Ghadara.
A Munafiq – opposite of Mu’min – is one who lies, cheats and fails to keep commitments, contracts and promises.
In other words, the Munafiq – hypocrite – is a social abomination. His behavior is a threat to social solidarity in a community or society. Unlike a Mu’min – believer; Muslim; don’t worry about technicalities, someone who has made a serious commitment to work for Allah.
Don’t forget to revisit now the context of that Aayah in Surah Al-Ahzab. The context deals extensively with the Munafiqs and their nefarious activities to undermine the solidarity of the Muslim community in Madinah.
Once again, let us pick up that mirror – we should not have put it down in the first place. And let us see where we stand on the question of meeting our social obligations. Is our word, as they say, our bond today – as individuals, families, associations, organizations, communities and societies?
What is the mirror telling us? Are we among the best people – if not the best people – in the world in this regard? If we are, then glory to the one who made us so. And we have nothing to fear – not here, not there. Not in this world, not in the next world.
But if what we see in that mirror is different from what it is supposed to be, then there are two things we need to do. First, we need to be terrified about the sure retribution that awaits us, right here in this world as well as in the next world. Second, we need to take immediate steps to rectify this situation – to effect a complete culture change on this issue in us as individuals, families, associations, organizations, communities and societies.
That is what Still Working for Allah means; and that is what it requires? It is coping and dealing with reality, as it truly exists in us as well as around us. It is not an exotic cruise, couched in abstruse language and pompous abstractions, into a make-believe world of empty clichés and unrealistic dreams.
END OF CHAPTER 21
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.