One more question, if you wouldn't mind: would a princess or the daughter of a billionaire appreciate life in a palace in the same way as a girl who grew up in the slums and then became the wife of a president or a billionaire? One or the other may take such life for granted. Idem for us. We would probably have taken life in Paradise for granted. We would probably have thought that we are worth more than that. Satan said to Adam and Eve: «Your Lord forbade you from this tree only lest ye should become angels or become of the immortals.» (Al-A’raf : 20 ). Adam and Eve listened to Satan and ate from the tree because they suddenly aspired to something they deemed more precious than the Heaven they were in. But God, the Beautiful, the Bountiful, would that there couldn't be anything more beautiful than Paradise, because it's «a gift of welcome from their Lord.» (Al-‘Imran : 198). If you are a host and received guests that you like you would receive them in the best place possible and give them the best reception possible. God is not going to pay for Paradise. "42.49. Unto Allah belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He createth what He will.» «He is the All-Wise Creator. (Al-Hijr : 86) «He is the Knower, the Mighty.» (Ar-Rum : 54). A God like this would not be thrifty towards the faithful. Eternity alone is priceless. But eternity is too long a time. As a believer, I would love to have a long book of memories to accompany me in Paradise while enjoying all the good things in there. That's why God made us to live in this world so as to have as many beautiful memories as possible to cherish while in Heaven. God wants us to know His Merit, to value Him, to appreciate His generosity and kindness. If God makes us to suffer in this life of the world it's for us to see the difference between here and there, between the happiness we want to achieve by ourselves (which has an end, anyway) and the happiness that God wants us to feel for ever and ever in Heaven. In other words, God wants us to thank Him in advance for that unhoped-for gift. He wants us to thank Him here –despite any depravations– because it's only our thanks here that count. And yet people who spent their lives giving thanks to God in this world will also give Him thanks in the Hereafter. They will say : «Praise be to Allah, Who hath fulfilled His promise unto us and hath made us inherit the land, sojourning in the Garden where we will! So bounteous is the wage of workers.» (Az-Zumar : 74)
Now, is God worth or does He need to be thanked in advance? That's where people part ways: some will say yes (He deserves not needs), others won't care one way or another. That's where I have the choice: I choose between believing and not believing. When I believe I realize that, in fact, I don't have any other choice. Because the more I believe the more I feel obliged to Almighty. It's, in a way, like choosing between smoking and not smoking. Nobody is going to forbid me from smoking, but if I smoke I know the consequences. That's why God says: «Whoso doeth right it is for his soul, and whoso doeth wrong it is against it. And thy Lord is not at all a tyrant to His slaves.» (Fussilat : 46) If I give thanks to God I am doing that to save my own soul first, and then I am only doing the right thing. I am expressing gratitude to my God for giving me a chance to live in this "imperfect" world and a chance to work for a place in Paradise, where I can see all the perfect things that I can't see in this world. The Prophet (pbuh) said : "Allah, the Exalted, has said: 'I have prepared for my righteous slaves what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and the mind of no man has conceived.' If you wish, recite (Quran) : 'No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do."' (32:17)
On a radio show an old countryman was asked: "Do you recall the 1981 famine?" He said: "Oh that's nothing compared to the 1945 famine, when a woman would take her baby far away from her home and leave him/her beside somebody else's house or on the roadside, and then she would look back in sorrow and stop for a moment before continuing on her way back home." "That must be painful," said the interviewer. "Do you think such women were so heartless as to abandon their babies in this way?" "But that's famine, my friend," said the countryman. "Hunger makes you blind."
On a radio show an old countryman was asked: "Do you recall the 1981 famine?" He said: "Oh that's nothing compared to the 1945 famine, when a woman would take her baby far away from her home and leave him/her beside somebody else's house or on the roadside, and then she would look back in sorrow and stop for a moment before continuing on her way back home." "That must be painful," said the interviewer. "Do you think such women were so heartless as to abandon their babies in this way?" "But that's famine, my friend," said the countryman. "Hunger makes you blind."
That's blindness of the mind. How about the blindness of the heart? When I listen to some radio programs, not only from my country, I listen to international radio stations as well, I sometimes get the impression that the world is full of misery. I have heard a lot of people talk on the radio to complain about various problems. Even celebrities complain about their heartache, their horrific experiences with their partners, their parents, their children... Some go live on TV to talk about such things. At the same time, by day and by night, I hear on the radio a lot of laughter, a lot of merry music, a lot of sports, a lot of gastronomy, a lot of things that give me the impression that there's not one unhappy person in the whole world! I have heard many people use the phrases "Thank God", "Dieu merci", "alhamdulillah" to express gratigude to God. But I have also heard many people complain about God, or rather about Fate. One question such people ask: "How is it that God, this Almighty Creater Who knows everything, who is powerful, merciful, how is it that he knows my pitiful situation, he knows all about my sufferings, and yet he doesn't do anything to change my situation ? That's a difficult question. But I bet a good believer would say: "Yes «He is the Knower, the Mighty.» (Ar-Rum : 54). «He is Able to do all things.» (Al-Mulk : 1) , but I also have commited sins, and my «Lord is not at all a tyrant to His slaves.» (Fussilat : 46) and «There is naught that can change His words. He is the Hearer, the Knower.» (Al-An’am : 115) And even if my sins were all pardonable I may still have doubts about my faith. So God may want to test my faith by depriving me from things I love. God «would know him who believeth in the Hereafter from him who is in doubt thereof.» (Saba : 21) Even yaqeen (absolute belief) may vary from one person to another, from one situation to another. Some people may need to go through personal experiences, kind of heart knowledge, in order to strengthen their faith. God wouln"t deprive me from anything unless He has something good in store for me.» But even this very good believer may not think in this manner without having gone through some kind of personal experience. It's such experiences that would make a believer deal with God differently. I know, as a believer, that God is «the Knower, the Mighty.» (Ar-Rum : 54) and «is Merciful, Loving. (Hud : 90) , but God is also «Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong). (Ibrahim : 47) ; and I have sinned, no matter what my sins are. So when I have a problem I «call on Him in fear and hope.» (Al-A’raf : 56). I cry unto God «in longing and in fear » (Al-Anbiyaa : 90) I call on God in fear because I know He may punish me for my sins. I call on Him in hope because I know He «is Merciful, Loving.» (Hud : 90) and «He is Able to do all things.» (Al-Mulk : 1) It’s not because God says «Our word unto a thing, when We intend it, is only that We say unto it: Be! and it is.» (An-Nahl : 40) that I should expect Him to answer my prayer right away. What I should expect is that God can –when He wills so– answer my prayer. That’s what’s important for me. When I am in a difficult situation some good-hearted people would be willing to help me but they can’t. What could you do when you see a child burning behind the windows of a flat in a tower block on blaze ? What could you do when you see people swept away in their car by the floods ? Suffice it for me as a believer that God can help me when He wills so. For my part, I have to try to avoid anyhing that would anger God and make Him punish me in the first place. I should do as much good as possible –if I can– and then hope for the best. Nobody is going to tell God what to do. If I have questions God too would have questions to ask me : Did you give Me thanks for the job I gave you in…. Or did you rather respond by sinning ? Would you like other people to be ingrate to you ? So who should you blame for this debt you can’t repay now that you are jobless ? It’s not God who’s going to say this to me. If I am a good believer it’s my nafs lawama («the accusing soul» (Al-Qiyama : 2)) that’s going to put me through such a self-analysis. This means that if I have acted wrongly, I must assume the responsibility. I have to repair the damage. I must at least have some decency towards my Lord. «Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts.» (Ar-Ra’d : 11) In other words, I should not expect God to give me something for which I have done nothing good in return. God says : «For the taming of Qureysh. For their taming (We cause) the caravans to set forth in winter and summer. So let them worship the Lord of this House, Who hath fed them against hunger and hath made them safe from fear.» (Qureysh). What I should pray for first and foremost is hidaya (guidance). «Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured.» (Al-Fatiha : 6-7). Moreover, I should pray for al-khashya (the fear of God). Because without hidaya and khashya I can easily go astray. Hidaya is my passport. Khashya is my visa. God ( ) ( ) That means that God would give to even those who won't pray for anything, who won't do anything for the sake of Him. That's my trap. That's what will make me say: since God gives to those people why doesn't He give me too, I who believe in Him and strive to please Him? That's a trap! What can I do to avoid falling in the trap, if I haven't fallen in it already? Well, I just have to learn a lesson from my personal experiences. My personal experiences will teach me, through facts, that ( ). And in the Haddith ( ). Once I have learned this, I can understand why God deprived me from something I loved. God says: ( ) I ask myself: did I become a better person when God last gave me this or that? Did I thank God for His gift or did I rather respond by sinning? God says: ( ) What does this verse say to me? Well, it says to me:
Where are you heading? What do you want? Do you want to serve God or do you want God to serve you?
Those are legitimate questions. I should answer them, if I am a good believer. I should put all my requests and prayers aside for a moment and start asking myself questions about the things I got already. In the news we hear something like: "It's the worst hurricane in 30 years. Many people have lost everything." This is hard to live even for devout believers. It's not easy for anybody to lose everything overnight. But when I see that such things do not happen to specific nations or countries exclusively, I have to ask questions. Drought, for example, struck people even in the prophets' lifetime. It happened to followers of Moses (pbuh) in his lifetime. It happened to followers of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his lifetime, to the prophet's companions under the rule of Umar Ibn al-Khattab and other good leaders. What would I think of when I ask such quesions? Well, I would think of those (more or less happy/peaceful/normal...) 28 years between the current devastating hurricane/drought/war and the previous one. I would think of my hand/foot/tooth...before it was hurt. I would hopefully think of the time when I had water and electricity all day all year long...before the enerving daily power cuts. I should think of God's gifts and generosity and patience during all that time when I would not really appreciate those gifts.
Now, suppose I am certain that somebody loves me so much and cares for my love so much, how do you think I would react? Well, if I am grateful, I would at least try not to hurt him/her, not to disappoint him/her even if I had no special feelings towards that person. If I am an ingrate, I might think that it's only too normal that such a person should love me more than that and should do the impossible to please me. So I wouldn't care, I would show that person that I don't like him/her, etc. What happens in this case? Well, I may regret losing that person's love. This is the consequence of arrogance. God does not like that. He said about Pharoh's people : ( )
So such terrible happenings should be a reminder to me. I should remember that God is more powerful than people, more powerful than states, more powerful than empires. Why did God make people suffer from drought while they were still receiving His revelations from their prophets? The answer is clear and simple: God wants mankind to know that ( ). It's not the government who creates jobs; it's God Who creates the conditions for economic growth where He wills when He wills. A government which cannot avert a major economic crisis cannot, overnight, create millions of jobs! It's God Who is the Lord of the world. The state/the government can build as many bridges and roads as it can afford. God can bring all that down in a few hours. At the same time, when the state destroys the environment with abject pollution and causes drought and floods, directly or indirectly, God remains the last resort to end the drought or control the floods. When I think about that, I should be amazed that God, Who has to run the World, the whole world with all its problems, can "find some time" to think of me too. ( ) This feeling that my God is the Lord of the world is my best insurance. When I give thanks to my God –for what He gave me already– I am breaking down the imaginary psychological barriers that separate me from Him; I am cleansing my heart from all its complexes. By reconciling with my God, through repentence, I am curing my heart from my superficial ego. By doing all that I am putting myself in the hands of the real Lord.
So I can't help bowing willingly, knowingly, with every cell in my body, with every bit of my soul, to God, to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Does that mean that the state is useless, that the government is redundant? Not at all. When a leader helps me with money to rebuild my home or the destroyed school for my child, that's good of him, and I should thank him for that –even though he might be doing so only to be re-elected or to boost the sales of his future memoirs. I should thank him because, as the prophet (pbuh) said, "He who does not thank people cannot thank God."
Now, should I accept help from people? Why not? I should not regard this as help to my person, but rather to the human being in me. When I go to work and spend hours at work, with all the resulting long-term consequences on my health, I am not doing that for the good of my soul only. I am doing that for the sake of society as a whole. When I spend years and years bringing up a child, I am not doing so for my own pleasure only. I am doing that to the good and interest of my nation as well. This child may become a soldier to defend the nation, or a teacher to educate the future generations, or a doctor to treat future patients in this country. So I should not feel ashamed to receive help –be it tax-payer money or private donations– when I can't help myself. Today I'm the one who needs help, tomorrow I may be the one who provides help to somebody else. This is solidarity. God wants two things: gratitude towards Himself and solidarity between humans. If we can't thank one another we can't thank God. If we can't love one another we can't love God. When somebody gives me something (some help) he may do so to be thanked or just to implement the human/humane side in him –to feel as a decent, useful person. When God gives me something good, it's like Him saying to me : "Hey, this is just for you to remember Heaven." ( ) When He subjects me to something painful, it's like Him saying to me: "Hey, this is just for you to remember Hell." ( ) In other words, God cares for me. He doesn't want me to go to Hell. He wants me to go to Heaven. Even the Quran describes death as a "moseebah", a calamity/tragedy. How can I rely on something that in the best case will end by a moseebah? That's even more horrific than losing one's home! Besides, when there's a calamity, a natural disaster, you don't really feel a very big difference between a rich country and a poor country. Suffering is suffering. You can rescue people here using helicopters and there using small boats or animals. The pace of reconstruction may differ and still one can only be astonished to notice that despite recurrent devastating natural disasters (the monsoon, for example) life goes on as normal. Every year there's a monsoon and yet it's there where you find the largest population in the world. The homes are rebuilt, the villages are rebuilt, the towns are rebuilt, and the tourists go back there. Despite the monsoon people play cricket every year. Despite the hurricane people go to concerts and stadiums every year. The point is that, as a believer, I should regard such terrible happenings as messages, as a reminder. I should remind myself that, as a human, I am weak. My power has limits. I am not "at home" : I am only a guest in this world. Many people were here one day. I too will go one day. The plane may give me the best comfort, in the best First Class in the world, but I am only a passenger. I may live in a Five-star-like home, but upon my death it will cease to be mine. God says:
My days are numbered everyday. ( ) So what can I do apart from seeking a peaceful rather than a confrontational relationship with my Lord. When I acknowledge my weakness vis-à-vis God, He too says to me : ( ) Therefore, God will take my weakness into account. Because He is ( ) ( ) ( ) When God knows that I do not want war with, that I am not seeking to antagonize Him, He turns my weakness into strenght. What does it mean for me to acknowledge that I am weak vis-à-vis God? It means that I don't want God to regret creating me. I want Him to be proud of me. How? God says: ( ) ( ) As I said, I am a guest this world. Yes, I can work and get money. But I can't do everthing to make my life smooth. I can't make my clothes myself. I can't make my bike myself. I need a tele; I need to follow the news. I need vegetables and fruits. I need power and water at home. What would I do with my money if there weren't other people to make all those things for me? I may be financially self-dependent, but never self-sufficient. I also need clean air. I need the sun. I need sleep. I need good health. So God thought of all these things before making us. He says : ( ) ( ) That's why He says: ( )
Now; instead of asking why does God give to those people who don't believe in Him I should ask: why don't I seek God's help? Why don't I respect God's decisions? If God wants to give so-and-so; so be it! What's important for me is that God can give me too. But I have to first prepare myself to receive God's gift. There's a difference between what God gave me before –without "deserving" what He gave me– and giving me something now or in the future as a reward for something I did to please Him. A reward is not like a present. I won't get any kind of reward without making sacrifices. When that reward comes my way I regard it as a mercy from God. Just as when somebody helps me (for love) or does something for me (for money) I regard that as a mercy from God. Nobody can help me or do anything for me without God's leave, anyway. So I regard God's mercy as a sign of the greatness of God. But as I realize how great God is, how powerful God is, I can't help feeling some kind of fear from God. I will realize that even the fear of God is actually a mercy. That's why good believers beg God to grant them khashya (the fear of God). The fear of God is kind of spiritual vaccination. I am a believer, but I am a human being after all. I can be weak at times because I have the same instincts, the same desires, the same fears as anybody else. Life is unpredictable. I don't know what may happen to me tomorrow. I may be smart, but I can't know what's on other people's minds. I may be betrayed, I may be deceived, I may be let down, I may be humiliated, I may lose things that are now essential to me. So if I rely on my own behaviorial capabilities, on my communication al talents, on my exceptional wits, I may still be surprised to have to deal with particularly unkind people who would have no mercy on me. Hence the importance of the fear of God. If I fear God I will do my best to avoid evil : I won't be tempted to harm other people. So if something bad happens to me I am the victim, not the aggressor. If I am the victim God helps me. ( ) If I am the aggressor, God ( ) So He may not help me. ( ) When I am trying to avoid evil, I am fearing God, not people. This is taqwa, keeping duty to God. Taqwa means that I am the monitor of my own behaviour. I watch my own acts. I don't wait for the policeman to arrest me to change my behaviour. I drive well, I respect the rules. I don't drink, and then I won't care wether there's a policeman on my way or not. That's sense. That's what a sensible person should do. And God speaks to sensible people, called in the Quran ( ) ( ) What does ( ) mean? It simply means not falling into unnecessary problems. When I think about it I realize that all this is good to me. Why do l worship God after all? Well, God says : ( ) ( ) I first worship God in order to fear Him, to keep duty to Him, to liberate myself from the fear of people. By doing so I avoid a lot of unnecessary problems. By being good, fewer and fewer people will suffer from my acts or complain about me or think of harming me. So I find myself leading a peaceful life. Therefore I see the benefit of my Faith. I see that religion is good for me. I feel that Faith is not only talk, that it has concrete positive effects on my daily life. So I give thanks to God for that: I see, through this, the greatness and wisdom of God. Now I am prepared to take a further step towards God. I will not content myself with avoiding evil (avoiding trouble) ; I will be proactive: I will try to give a hand to other people for God's sake. And I will regard that as something I do for my own sake. God says : ( ) Now I believe that God "is waiting for me". So I have to prepare for His meeting. How? I try to do things that would please Him. This is tatawu' (voluntary work). I do things for which I am rewarded I if do them but not punished if I don't do them. I do what I can. If I can do more; that's mujahada (striving). I can strive by helping people or/and by performing voluntary acts of worship to please God more (such as reading the Quran regularly, praying at night, fasting voluntarily etc.). The further step would be istiqama (sticking to the right path). I don't expect people to do what I don't do myself. If I fall, I remain a good believer, though, but I have to rise up soon after. ( ) ( ) If God punishes me for a sin, I should understand that God wants me to have a healthy uninterrupted relationship with Him. I have to beg His pardon (istighfar). I have to give up my bad habits (tawba). I should feel the fear of God (khushoo'). This "long" set of Arabic terms may be confusing to some, but they all beat around the same bush. They all mean one thing : having God on one's mind all the time. That's love. The Prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) This is not a call to believers to commit sins. Far from it. It simply means that God will create the conditions for you, for me, to fall. I am a single man, God leads a woman onto my path while I am weak. The last decision remains in my hand. If I fail the trial and sin I will be punished. My punishment will hopefully lead me back onto God's path. Thus God remains on my mind always. Some believers dread such situations. They don't want to sin at all. They don't want to commit abominable acts. But there are other people who dread al-khatarat (bad thoughts) ; not only al-'atharat (bad acts), they don't even want to think of committing the slightest sin ! Such believers are already engaged in endeavours to reform the behaviour of other people. What if they themselves fell in what they criticise other people for ! Such believers have moved up from salah (being good) to islah (doing good/correcting/reforming…). This is the grade of wilaya (Alliance with God). ( ) That’s the peak of the Everest. ( ) Those are the people who want to serve God rather than wait for God to serve them. That’s why God prepared for them a special grade in Paradise. ( ) ( )
Is that a «closed group» ? The Quran says : ( ) God says in the Quran : ( ) How can I be ( ) ? There’s a clear example in the Quran : ( ). That’s a prophet. I am not a prophet. How can I be like him ? The Quran says : ( ) ( ) ( ) It’s a question of choice. ( ) God says : ( ) How many people are willing to do that ? No wonder God says : ( )
If I can't be patient when I lose one thing, how can I thank God for all the things He gave me already? It's a question of Faith (belief) and of faith (intention). God says : ( ) And ( ) That's why God says : ( ) These people who are patient and grateful do not complain about Fate. They don't want an easy life from start to finish. They are ready for trials and sacrifices. Solomon (pbuh) is quoted in the Quran as saying : ( ). If I am a good believer, I should know that it's only too normal for me to give thanks to God. Otherwise why do I believe in Him ? ( ) ( ) Gratitude is a virtue, isn't it? God wants us to have virtues, not vices. When God says ( ) it's as though He says : Why should you believe if you don't give thanks to Me ?
Again and again, it's a question of faith (intention). I can't believe in God without His leave. And I can't do good without His leave. If only I had good faith ! God says to me : ( ) So let me say OK. And then God helps me to believe in Him, to do good for His sake, to give thanks to Him... ( )
As I said before, God is speaking to ( ), people who use their minds to see what's good for them. God does not need my thanks. He is worth more than thanks, but does not need them.( ) If I am grateful to God, He too is grateful to me. He is ( ). He is ( ) It's a reciprocal "love" relationship. I care for God, He cares for me. I have nothing to give to God, He has a lot of things to give me. ] ] So, for good believers, expressing gratitude is expressing love and helping others is giving them a chance to love God in their turn. God does not want me to believe in Him just out of kindness. He wants me to believe in Him because that's the truth. He wants me to believe in Him so as to prepare for His meeting, to prepare "my return" to Paradise. ( )
What's the alternative ? There's either God or Satan. I have to choose. ( ) Yes, I can't see Satan (Lucifer) in the street. But God says : ( ) God (Who made Satan) also says : ( ) Would I take an enemy for a friend ? That doesn't make sense. God even speaks of ( ) How can I know that this person is "an angel" and this one is "a devil" ? I need a special light to tell this from that : ( ) God says : ( ) ( ) How can I ( ) them or anybody else if I don't have this "special light" from God ? How can I be a good believer if God does not help me see that light? ( ) ( )
Finally, all my work –as a believer– would be worth nothing if God does not accept it. ( ) ( )
God says : «He it is Who gathereth you at night and knoweth that which ye commit by day. Then He raiseth you again to life therein, that the term appointed (for you) may be accomplished. And afterward unto Him is your return. Then He will proclaim unto you what ye used to do.» (Al-Anaam : 60) If I am a good believer that warning should be enough to remind me that God ( ) and ( ). If that warning is not enough, if I don't really feel that God takes my life every night, well, here's another warning that appeals to me directly : ( ) I have experienced this firsthand. I was a student in a dorm where I could not have a shower for a whole month –simply because water was scarce that year. We could barely find water to drink. Water shortage kills. Drought causes huge fires. God says : ( ) Up to this day man has been unable to solve the problem of drought. Engineers have bombed clouds but apparently that hasn't worked. It takes more than bombing a thousand clouds to fill a river or save a forest from an imminent blaze. And when it does rain there's the risk of floods and mud slides.
Also God says : ( ) ( ) This might look highly unlikely for a non believer scientist but not entirely impossible for an ordinary believer like myself. All I know is that something fell from the sky in ... and injured many people in Russia, which has got an advanced space program. Yes, I concede that's rare and not so much dangerous, but should I wait for the sky to fall over on my head so as to believe? God also says : ( ) I am not a scientist to check that out. So should I know or believe ? Scientific knowledge is not static. Many things that are now obvious were not known a century ago.
God also says : ( ) What can I say about this ? Well, once again, I can only judge by what I notice. I have noticed that many farmers content themselves with sowing the seeds and working the land for a few days or weeks and then they go to sleep. One day the first green vegetation emerges from the ground. How did it emerge ? I don't know. Then bees come around and do their precious work, for free. Bees are the best volunteers in this world, aren’t they ? We humans take many things for granted. God says : ( ) We have seen how people move about in space. They can't walk as they do in the earth. God says : ( ) It is easy to argue with God because God is not going to argue with you NOW. But God is not dead. ( ) Speaking to God is not like speaking to a dead body. To God the real dead are those who want to argue with Him. ( ) Just as God revives the land after its death so does He revive the souls of men who suddenly feel the light of wisdom. ( ) "Signs for people who believe". I believe first, then I look for the signs. ( ) How can I be ( ) if I don't think about what's happening around me ? You know, temperatures in such beautiful Moroccan cities as Fez and Marrakech reach 40 to 45°C in the summer these last years. A recent joke says that if you want to marry a girl from one of these cities her father will demand a climatiser among her dowry ! God says : ( ) Also about Heaven He says : ( ) How can I feel, as a believer, the importance of this last piece of description if I haven't felt the difference? ( ) Is walking in the shade like walking in the baking sun ? A good believer knows that the shade is a great gift from God. A good believer would thank God for the mere sight or smell of a fruit, let alone eating it ! ( ) ( ) ( ) Those are the minority of the minority. Those are ( ).
What can I understand from the verse which says : ( ) ? As I said before, non-believers produce the good things for believers in this life. Most believers will only get a fraction of all that production, but even a king's stomach can't hold more than a few kilograms of food! In the Hereafter only believers will find the good things; nobody will produce such things for non-believers in Hell. God Himself says : ( ) God knows that people who really care about Him are few compared to the total number. And yet He makes these few suffer ! He deprives them of things they love. God says : ( ) Why doesn't God "fear" to lose that minority of the minority ? Well, He knows that they love Him. He knows that they will be patient and, on top of that, GRATEFUL ! Because they have ( ). That's why He made general norms (to rule the world) for the sake of that specific population. People marry and enjoy themselves generation after generation and as they do so a few souls are born in every generation and stand out with their hearts so as to join the lucky club of ( ) ( ).
God knows what He is doing. ( ) ( ) How many people care ? God says : ( ) ( ) Did God do that just for us to enjoy ourselves in this world, just for us to play and sing and dance and have sex ...? No, ( )
Good believers ( ) because they hold God in high esteem. ( )
God says : [14.32] [31.20] Why all this ? Just for us to play and sing and dance and have sex? God says : ( ) Disasters are warning me everyday. How can't I fear ?
Shall I live in this world for ever? What would I do if I found out upon my death that I had only been wasting my life away? The Quran says : ( ) ( ) I did not fall with the last rain. I know what's happening in this world. I know that people commit suicide in rich beautiful countries. People get depressed despite all their financial ease. People lose faith easily. People feel lonely in homes where everything is available. People use drugs to forget their unforgettable problems. People fear death.
We are all God's guests in this earth. The earth belongs to God Alone, Who can act as He pleases ( ), whether we like it or not. God was here before we were born and He will be here after we are gone. He allowed us to ( ) according to certain rules. Suppose somebody put at my disposal his home and said make yourself at home, faites-vous plaisir, would that mean that this home will be mine ? I know that I only came after thousands and thousands of generations who all had quite the same dreams and desires and that I too will go one day. ( ) ( ) But God also says : ( ) ( ) ( )
The question is, where do I go from here ? The previous generations nous ont légué un patrimoine partly red partly green. France, for example, is due to ban fuel-engined cars by 2040. That's because everybody has been aware of the dangers of air pollution. One does not need to be an intellectual to notice that our prosperity has had side effects. We all know that each one of us is partly responsible for what has happened to our earth. Deforestation, over exploitation of fisheries, corruption, and so on are the results of our own greed. Our leaders have understood that no single country, no single continent, can solve such problems alone. Hence all that quantity of world summits on this and that. Only now are we convinced that all Men are one. God was the first to address men as one. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) What is amazing, though, is that man has acknowledged his "sin" perpetrated against this earth; he has acknowledged his weakness; he has acknowledged his responsibility towards future generations.. but how many men have acknowledged the role of God in our lives ? God says : ( ) How many men are willing "to return" ? How many men are willing to listen to God ? ( ) Even those who, like me, pretend they listened to God, listen to what God says about them : ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
God said to the prophet (pbuh) : ( ) God wants mercy for us all. ( ) Our leaders can be good and well qualified, but they can't replace God. God says : ( ) For mankind. Unfortunately, some of our leaders are erecting frontiers and borders and imposing visas. Why ? Well, every leader fears for his dear country. That's comprehensible
God doesn't "fear" for His Kingdom. ( ) ( ) The problem is that some of our leaders give us the impression that they can give us everything we want. Well, that's questionable. God says : ( ) ( ) He even says : ( ) And that's true. If leaders in the past owned ( ), no empire would have fallen, no economic crisis would have torn societies apart. ( ) If I don't believe that, God says : ( ) ( ) ( ) When I realize the greatness of God, when I realize the grace of God, I can only feel rest in my heart. Even when I feel the fear of God my fear is immediately followed by rest in my heart. God says : ( ) ( ) ( ) Even on the day of resurrection, as the prophet (pbuh) said, ( )
A non-believer would say : why should I fear God if, as he says, ( ) ? That's a good question. But why do I look at ( ) and don't I look at ( ) ? The full verse says : ( ) Why don't I try to do good and avoid evil as much as I can and then hope to be one of those whom God will forgive, since He is ( ) ? But, at the same time, if I make a silly mistake, I ( ) because ( ) God says : ( ) As I said in a previous chapter, God wants to scare me in order to save me. He says : ( ) He also says : ( ) Wouldn't I be stupid if I missed such a golden opportunity ? If there's so much space in Heaven, why don't I hope to be one of the lucky dwellers of that beautiful world ?
God says : ( ) God is speaking to ( ). Who are ( ) ? ( ) The mosques we pray in are built by the rich, not the poor. Can't those people make better use of their money ? Don't they have minds to think ? ( ) That's the best investment, isn't it ?
Why do angels say to Heaven dwellers ( ) ? Well, the prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) An Olympic gold medal is not Heaven, but can anybody be an Olympic champion without making sacrifices ? Can you get a high university degree without making sacrifices ? The right question is, is Heaven worth such sacrifices ? No doubt our world is beautiful, otherwise there wouldn't be any such thing as tourism, with the myriad sumptuous hotels and resorts and campings... But there are also tragedies. ( ) There's no ( ) in Heaven. There are no problems in Heaven. So to get a chance to go there I have to endure some kind of suffering in this world.
Some people commit suicide because they can't have a lasting feeling of happiness. I too have suffered, but I have also had a lot of happy days. I should be grateful to God for that. If I am patient and grateful in this world God will make my life better in this world and hopefully grant me a place in Heaven. ( ) Do I really need to be in Heaven after my death ? Well, Ibrahim (pbuh) ( ) and ( ) And yet he said : ( ) How can't I pray to God to grant me a place in Heaven too ? The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) You know those kind of radio shows where you are invited to send answers in SMS text messages. They give an easy question so that a large number of people send in a large number of text messages. Well, for you personally, to increase your chances of winning you send as many text messages as you can afford. Why don't I do the same when it comes to Heaven ? An ordinary Muslim who keeps his duty to God is entitled to Heaven, but to avoid "bad surprises" I should try to do better than a mere Muslim. Why don't I try to be a moomin (a believer), that's a higher grade ? I should try to secure a place in Heaven first, then try to philosophize the whole thing. In the first chapter of this book I talked of "my safety first". Now, how do I understand the story of Heaven ?
[ ] God made the earth before Heaven and Hell. He made part of the earth look like Heaven and part of it look like Hell, as a reminder for the future dwellers of this planet, for us. God describes the Quran as a reminder. Now that we are here we should ask ourselves questions. The Quran says : ( ) I can't over-interpret these verses. They are clear. God wants man to worship Him.
Does this mean, though, that God needs man to worship Him ? God Himself answers this question. He says : ( ) If God needed to be adored He would have spared at least those who adored Him in the best way in the past, but we all know that even prophets and saints died. Would God be interested in the number of worshippers or in the quality of worshippers or in the quantity of worship ? Again, ( ). Suppose God was interested in the number of worshippers or in the quantity of worship, how much would "my worshipping" weigh in all that ? Would I deserve eternal happiness in Heaven for this little worshipping I do in my short life ? This doesn't make sense. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) And yet God doesn't want us to go to Hell. God says : ( ) ( ) The question is, why does man want to go to Hell ? True, ( ) But you and I know what man is like. Many men love defiance. Many men are reckless. Even many smart men make silly mistakes. Think of AIDS, drugs, bad food habits, etc. So it’s easy to generate question after question. Some people ask questions so as to understand, others just to argue for the sake of argueing. Those who ask questions so as to understand can understand that God made Heaven to show how great He is, how merciful He is, how gentle He is, how grateful He is, how lovely He is. God made Heaven to share with believers His beauty bounty. Therefore He is worth worshipping. Not because He has got a Fire « in His back garden », not because ( ), but because He is ( ). These people will understand that God would be worth worshipping even if there were neither Heaven nor Hell. But there must be Heaven and Hell. There must be a way to diffrenciate between the grateful and the ingrate. God will not accept to be worshipped for free. ( ) God will guide you, if you are willing to listen, and pay you for the slightest thought of Him. ( ) He will pay you even in the life of the world. But there’s something more precious than Heaven. Can you guess ? It’s ( ) That’s why ( ) And because God is not just anybody. His ( ) is hard to obtain. Hard but not imossible. It requires sacrifices.
I do things out of love of God, out of respect of God, not out of kindness. God does not need my kindness. God wants me, as a believer, to love Him and to know why I should love Him. I love God because He is beautiful, bountiful, merciful, forgiving, loving. I love Him for His intricate qualities. I love Him because that’s the natural course. I would love a human for much, much less virtues and qualities than that. Likewise, just as I would love to see a wonderful resort created on earth by a human like myself, I would love to see Paradise which was designed and prepared by God Himself for the faithful. I believe in God and I don’t know what He is like. I believe in Heaven and I don’t know what it really is like. I can’t even imagine it. Now I believe in the invisible as the only way –decided by God– to pay for a ticket to Paradise. In other words, I don’t only think of Heaven from a religious perspective, but also from an intellectual perspective. For this idea to be cleacer, take one person. Imagine a man by the name of Juan Toledo Iglesias, a 22-year-old teacher in Lima, Peru. This man comes across a Muslim couple in his city. These Muslim man and woman are not Arabs. They are Peruvian. The teacher, accustomed to Western lifestyle, asks himself questions. He does some research on the Web. He reads books, then travels to an Arab country. On his arrival, he is shocked to see that many people in this Arab Muslim country do not really give him the impression that this is Islam. So what does he do ? Does he go back home and say why should Islam be good to me while these Muslim people do not practise true Islam in their own country ? Or does he say « I don’t care of the people. I came here to discover more about the religion » ? Suppose he ignored the people and focused on the Faith as such, what could happen to him ? Well, many people went through a similar process and ended up becoming cleriks and imams who preach Arabs and non-Arabs on true Islam ! Imagine the happiness of such cleriks and imams.
God says : ( ) ( ) ( ) Should I take this as an excuse and say if God wants me to be a good believer He would make me a good believer ? Well, that’s like staying at home and waiting for God to bring you what you want to eat, etc. That’s like giving birth to twelve children that you can’t feed.
As I said before, the Quran speaks to ( ). That’s means, I use my own mind, my own personal experience to know the truth, and when I know the truth I have to heed it. Even good believers –who are already believers– say : ( ) They always to say : ( ) If I use my mind I can only strengthen my faith. ( )
Here’s an innocent question : why do ill people and pregnant women fast Ramadan ? Sometimes the holy month of Ramadan comes in the heat season and yet many men insist that they should fast it although ther are ill and many women insist that they should fast although they are pregnant ! God says : ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
It’s not Islam that is pushing ill men or pregnant women to fast Ramadan or these hungry people not to eat from a meat that is normally forbidden. It’s these people’s hearts that push them to do so. It’s their love of God that is making them to behave in that way. It’s for such people that God made Heaven. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( )
Now compare these two groups :
Group A :
Group B :
Just think of two people you made friends with. One is increasingly good to you, the other is increasingly nasty. If you had a little heaven and a little hell, what would you do with these two friends ?
What would I understand when I ampreached on my Faith orally or in writing ? I understand that by creating me, God gave me the opportunity to have this brief terrestrial experience which I will remember when I am in Heaven, if I ever go there. On the Day of Judgement I will be given a book, it’s a book of my memories. My knowledge of theworld, of God, of myself should be a light for me. My knowledge should strengthen my faith. My knowledge and my faith will be like my two hands, my two eyes, my two ears, my too feet. So my mind (be it in my brain or in my stomach) won’t work independently of my heart. I need both of them as I need both of my hands, both of my eyes… My mind abd my heart will show me how to best work for both this life of the world (which is only ….) and my eternal life, where I will be able to see God with my own eyes, if I ever go to Heaven.
In my early youth I needed to know things without questioning anything. I grew up as a Muslim, so at school I was taught how to read the Quran, how to perform my ablutions, my prayers, etc. As I grew older I learned more from the mosque, from the media, from books, from society, etc But there came a time when I realized that what I knew was not enough. There was a book which could have helped me understand what I was going through, but I did not know the book at that time. When that book came my way and I read it, I finally understood part of what I had experienced. But the book was too hard for me. (I could not finish reading it on one occasion.) I thought i twas for saints, not for ordinary believers like myself. So I continued to think about my faith without relying so much on other people’s thoughts. I studued the Quran on my own. So what would I say now to someone who asked me about my religion ? The five pillars of Islam are known to all. There are another five things that are not known to all. What comes first in Islam, I think, is (1) la prise de conscience ( ) ; then comes la rédition des comptes (2) ( ) ; then comes (3) la bienveillance. ( ) ( ) ( ) ; then comes (4) solidarity : ( ) ; then comes (5) change : ( )
That’s the knowledge. Now the practice. Imams and preachers will not be with me everywhere every time. It’s my heart that will be with me everywhere everytime. So I have to work on my heart. If I have a clean heart Faith will go in just as the roots go into a fertile soil. How can I work on my heart ? As we said before, and as is well explained by our dear scholars, there is annafs al ammara and annafs allawama and al mutmainna. When I am in a hell because I don’t know what to do that’s annafs allawama. That means that I fear God, or, if I want to go a step further in my Iman, that I wouldn’t love to do anything that would anger my Lord. That’s out of respect, out of love of my Lord. That’s a good thing. And God likes that. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
It’s defiance that is a problem. Even between us humans it’s not right to defy someone whom we want to be good to us. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) The point is, there are limits that one should be ready to accept. All this is a set of « operations », a process, if you will, that take place in the heart. Defiance comes from the heart first. So it should be tackled in the heart first. I want to move up from Islam to Iman to Ihsan. I want to elevate my nafs from ammara to lawama to mutmainna. This means that it’s I who should endeavour towards reaching that level. I should do my best to please God, not to defy Him. I should do my best, but not the impossible. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) I should do what I can. If I can worship God at night while people are sleeping, that’s great, that’s the top honour for a moomin (a true believer). If I can fast very often, that’s great too. But Islam does not ask me to ( ) I can express my gratitude to God in many different ways. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) He also said : ( ) ( ) The Quran says : ( ) ( ) The mere fact that I am willing to give is a sign that I want to be grateful to God. The Quran says : ( ) This wish to give, to be good, is not peculiar to believers like myself. This wish is human because it comes from the heart and every human being has got a heart. Even animals have this kind of thing. Many people have been saved from death by their pets.
Now, I have the wish to do good. How can I do it ? Is it always easy to do good ? One day I was listening to a radio show in which listeners asked for advice from other listeners. One listener said this : « I am the youngest of three brothers living in a foreign country. My problem is that I see one of my brothers flirt with the wife of my other brother. I am in a hell because I don’t know whether I should turn a blind eye and thus have peace with both of my brothers or tell my poor brother who is betrayed by both his wife and his brother. Please help me. I need your advice. » I am sorry I can’t give my opinion on this. But the other day I found a full cigarette as I was walking in the woods. I said to myself : should I crush it since it’ll only harm somebody’s health ? or should I rather leave it for a poor guy who can’t buy a cigarette ? Well, I did not crush it. This is called Ijtihad, meaning you try your best to come up with the right solution to a problem like this. Ijtihad is the work of scholars, of the erudite. But sometimes you need to take action on the spot. Hence the importance of work on one’s heart.
But hearts do get tired at times. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) How can I ( ) so that my heart won’t go blind ? One way is taking a holiday. One way is taking a rest, any kind of rest. One way is arts or sport. In the time of the prophet (pbuh) people liked poetry and cavalry. I don’t know what you personally like.
Listen to this unbelievable story that I heard on the radio. An aged experienced hunter was asked about his hunting feats. Speaking in front of members of his tribe who knew him well, he said he had hunted 72 wolves and scores of foxes, among other things. He and his friends ate those wolves and foxes. Once, the man said, my friends and I were lurking behind a makeshift wall for foxes, wolves or rabbits. Then a rabbit appeared on the bare ground. Je l’ai visé, et je n’avais jamais râté un gibier, et une fois que je l’ai pris dans mon viseur, the muezzin started to call for prayer. The rabbit s’arretta net. Il s’appuya sur ses fesses et resta motionless sans bouger. When the muezzin finished his call, the rabbit passe dits front paws on its face, as in prayer, and went away. I was moved as I saw that, so I left it alone.
That’s quite unbelievable, but one may need to hear or read challenging tales like this one. That’s part of literature, my own hobby. What would entertain my heart may be different from what would entertain your own. Tbourida in my country, Morocco, is not baseball in the US or hokey in Canada or cricket in India. When reading the Quran, an ex-priest who reverted to Islam may be interested in what it says about Jesus Christ and Mary ; an ex-rabbi may be interested in stories about Hebrews ; a scientist may want to focus on something in the Quran that has to do with science, etc. What about me ?
Well, I saw on TV a large crowd of people in China gathering for long hours (one said he waited for no less than three days) in order to see (and take pics of) white fog as it settled down on a village. The view was spectacular. It must be breathtaking to see white fog hanging just under your feet. I wish I were with them. I wish I could see sunrise and sunset in those places where people go only to see sunrise and sunset. The Quran speaks of (takweer : 17-18) The Quran is not poetry, but as a poet I love that kind of language. Have a taste ! This is how it sounds in Arabic : wallayli iza ’ass’ass wassobhi iza tanaffass
And this :
falaa oqsimu bishafaq, wallayli wama wassaq, walqamari izattassaq…
And this :
washamsi wa dohaha, walqamari iza talaha, wannahari iza jallaha, wallayli iza yaghshaha…
The Quran says : ( ) What is (al bayan) ? It’s the ability to express things in a beautiful way. How can I express things in a beautiful way if I can’t feel beauty ? Why does the Quran speak about beauty, as in ( ) ? Well, normally, ( ) The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) When the Arabs and many non-Arab Muslims see, hear or smell something beautiful they say : ALLAH !
In Hajj, people from all over the world meet at the same place, do quite the same things, and go back each to one’s home. Back at home each follows one’s own customs. What do these customs do ? They tell you how to behave in society. That’s what the Quran does. If if I am a believer, the Quran tells me how to behave when I am alone and when I am in society. I am never alone, actually. I am physically alone, but my soul is supposed to be linked with the Creator. The Quran helps me handle all my relationships : with myself first, with my kin, with my close community, with my state, with the country I live in, with the Ummah (The Islamic Nation), with mankind, with God and with Satan. In my relationship with myself, for example, I am advised on how to preserve my life, my money, my mind, my faith and my honour. I am advised on how to manage my relation to beauty and greatness. I am advised on how to turn my fragility (instincts, etc.) into a moral strength that preserves my honour and self-esteem. I am advised on how to elevate myself from an animal (a body) into a decent human being (a good soul in a good body).
What about Satan ? Shoild I fear him ? Well, God says : ( ) So if I don’t want to be one of ( ) I should not take Satan for a friend. True, as the Quran says : ( ). But I should nonetheless be wary of him. What’s the difference between God and Satan ? Well, ( ) ( ) As for God, ( ) The Quran does not say to me go and sin, but it says if you sin, be honest and say sorry. If I heed Satan for a moment and commit a sin, then I have to repent, and I will be punished even if I repent, so that I will not be encouraged to go on that way, the way of Satan. ( Al-An’aam : 121 )
God wants to save me. God wants me to lead a clean life in a clean society. If I am not clean I should not expect society to be clean. If society is clean that’s not a guarantee that I’ll be clean too. I have to watch my own acts. If I am married, God would not want me yo be constantly watching my wife. I can’t watch her all the time, anyway ! God will make her watch herself by keeping duty to Him, by taqwa. (Annisaa : 34) Nobody can watch anybody. I can never me fier à l’integrité ou la probité de quelqu’un, because anybody can deceive me. Even very, very good believers are fallable : they can make mistakes. So God thought of a way to minimize these mistakes. Scholars call it ( ). If you leave a man with a woman alone, they are very likely to make a mistake, sooner or later. The prophet (pbuh) said : ( ) If you let your son or little brother go to a place where alcohol and drugs are served freely, he is very likely to do as others do. So what do you do to save him ? You prevent him from going there. If he doesn’t listen to you, what happens ? Idem for the Quran. The Quran prohibits adultery because, as you know, there may be bad consquences for everybody. Would you be pleased if you learnt that the child you call your son, the child you have fed for so many years, was in fact the son of another man ? If that didn’t happen to you personally, well, it did happen to many men. God knows that sex makes one feel so good, but for how long ? God knows that cocaine makes one feel so good, but for how long ? If I can’t marry, for material reasons, for example, and I make a mistake, at least, I should say sorry. At least I should consider that as a sin. ( ) ( ) I should beg God’s pardon and implore Him to give me the means to marry. It’s not a matter of coertion. It’s not because God wants me to suffer from sexual deparavation. It’s because God wants me to elevate myself from an animal into a decent human being. Sex was made to encourage people to marry and beget children. Some of these children would hopefully worship God. God knows that I can, if I will, and with His help, do without all that filth. God knows that I can be stronger than Satan and all his temptations. Experience will show me that Satan can sometimes be as good as a lion in a cage, and it’s I who will go and let him out of the cage. Experience will show me that I wouldn’t make such mistakes only if I were weak. Sometimes I would do it soon after being relieved from a long suffering ! ( ) What would I expect God to do to me in that case ? So, when God punishes me for my mistakes, it’s because He wants me to be an honest, decent person. ( ) And even the worst punishment God would inflict on me, because of my mistakes, will only do me good ultimately. That’s a sign for me to know how God only wants good for me, how God wants me to be happy, how God loves me before I love Him. ( ) God wants me to feel embarrased, ashamed of myself, so that I say SORRY. ( )
I too could say why should I be punished in the first place since it’s God who made Satan and gave him the power to mislead me ? Now, suppose your lovely beloved only son stole a car and went to prison, would you take responsibility for that ? Would you agree to go to prison in his place, because it’s you who did not give him the right upringing ? Maybe your son is good and would never do such things, but suppose your wife’s car was stolen by the son of a single mother who made sex with her boyfriend during a school outing. Would your wife curse the boy who stole the car or the ex-High School student who gave birth to him ? If you slept with a giel that you picked up on the street and you got AIDS, whom would you blame for that ? The girl, her parents, yourself, society ? If you got a bad illness because of the junkfood you eat everyday, would you pénaliser les grosses industries alimentaires or les nouveaux modes de vie or society, or who ? Would you blame toute la chaine alimentaire ? The Quran sensibilise et responsabilise. The Quran speaks of ( ), of ( ) and of ( ). It’s up to me, as a believer, to manage my ( ), with the help of God. (Al-Fajr : 30-32) (qad aflaha man zakkaha). The Quran helps me organize my life as an individual and helps individuals to organize their life as a community. The Quran sets a set of rules, some are very specific, others are general. There are things that any literate believer can take directly from the Quran. Other things need érudition. Our erudites help us understand not only the words but also the spirit of the Quran. Anyone can how directly from the Quran how to give thanks to God for all His grace. ( ) But when it comes to handling our complex relations within society we need serious knowledge inspired by the Quran and the Haddith. It’s our scholars, who have the knowledge, who tell us how we can accomplish our mission as viceroys of God in the earth. ( ) ( ) ( ) Life in society needs organization. People need to know their rights and obligations ; they need to know, for example, the extent of the freedom they are allowed in soiciety. But people also need to understand why they should abstain from doing things that others, in the same society, would do without gêne. Even a truly intellectual person can end up obeying God’s do’s and don’ts sans broncher les sourcils. That’s 3ibada, worship. But there’s ibada (worship) and maarifa (knowledge). I strive, within the faith, to understand, to know the end God had in mind when He commanded this or prohibited that. God says : ( ) As a believer, I understand that God did not prohibit that without reason : ( ) For practical reasons. If I want alcohol or drugs or sex out of wedlock or whatever to be depenalized time will show me the bad consequences of such a decision. Take men-women relationships, for example. From a societal point of view, there might be no problem for a sensible, honest, faithful woman to receive her male friend in her tent or in her personal room. But it’s because human experience has always shown that people don’t behave in the same way and that man can be weak that religion wanted to put des gardesfous. ( ) Even in positive law many people tend to look for loopholes and derogations in order to get ce qui ne leur est pas dû, to circumvent law. Freedom is not only an individual responsibilty. It’s also a collective responsibilty. If the City (the state, the authority) outlaws l’usage d’une drogue, par exemple, the ai mis noble, the aim is to save many people from addiction, from falling into delinquency. It’s amaana ; c’est un intérêt général. Your children are not only your children ; they are the children of the nation ; they are the future of the nation, they are the treasure of the nation, be it Morocco, Malaysia or America. The City too should have a say in the way you upbring your child. Idem for the Quran. If I am a believer, the Quran shows me how to deal with my child, how to deal with my wife, how to behave in society as a whole. God says : ( ) The Quran wants you and me to be responsible persons. Even when it comes to elections, I have to vote –if I do vote– for the person I think is best ––even if I don’t really need anything from that person or his/her part. I am doing this as part of my responsibility towards the City. Whether I go and vote or si tat home on the day of elections, my responsibilty will not end there. I am responsible everyday : ( ) That’s everyday ! At least I should not contribute to corruption. Because if corruption becomes rampant, widespread, everybody en pâtirait, even good people. ( )
That’s why the Quran wanted to organize our life, individual and collective, in such a way that everybody would enjoy the beauty of the world in a decent, legitimate way that wouldn’t harm anybody : Life is a precious gift. And God wants life for us, not death. ( ) The Quran even cares for our feelings. If I don’t like somebody I may turn away from him, but if he says helllo I should return the greeting. ( ) This teaches us humility. Tout individu est important en soi. Même un malade en comma, même un fou ou un chômeur sans le sou, est important au moins quantitativement –du fait que, en devant manger, s’habiller, se faire soigner…., il contribue indirectement au bon déroulement de la machine économique d’ici ou d’ailleurs. Quand on parle d’une économie quelconque, on dit c’est un marché de tant de consomateurs. On y met tout : les sages et les fous.
In the late 1980’s a classmate of mine shared with me a number of American magazines (Time, Newsweek…), and one day he said : «Look !» At that age I was shocked. I still had a beautiful image of such American big cities as New York, Los Angelos… Several years before that an American tutor said to me : «Don’t think America is Paradise !» But what my classmate wanted to show me in that American magazine was shocking, to say the least. Otherwise he wouldn’t even have thought of showing it me. And it was in an american magazine ! It’s serious. Waste –all imaginable waste– covering the ground between sky-scarpers on the streets of New York. As if that was not shocking enough, my classmate showed me in another American magazine pictures of American citizens sleeping in cardboard boxes on the streets of Washington, DC, the Capital of the United States of America. It was just unbelievable. Now, in hindsight, I would say : So what ? The neighbourhood where I grew up until age 22 was bordered with two small landfills. The whole neighbourhood has now disappeared, making way for a new residential area. The two landfills have disappeared too, and the two streets that lined the old neighbourhood are now as clean as most of the streets in the city. I don’t think that what I saw in the magazine would be seen today by passersby on that NY City street. Maybe a new skyscraper has arisen in that place. So, today, I would rather look at the minds and the hands and the arms that can raise these buildings as high as the sky. I would rather look at the epic American volunteerism, I would rather look at those millions of anonymous American citizens who donate (for love) to help not only fellow citizens but many people around the world as well. I would rather look at American civil society, at American freedom of speech, without which I may have never seen such shocking images. The problem is, it takes a lot of time (and good faith) to change one’s point of view. You have to be an eagle-eyed observer to see what many other people don’t. But what would you say when you hear or read a report on women from a Muslim or Arab country who serve as prostitutes in other countries ? Is that more important for you to know than the increasing numbers of youths living in these Arab and Muslim countries who become doctors, engineers, highly specialized technicians, experts in all fields, designers and inventors, successful buisnessmen and women…. ? Should I look at the beautiful waterfalls as were freshly made by the French, in «the Switzerland of Morocco», or at those parts of the resort which have been littered by young Moroccan visitors with all kinds of empty cans and bottles or at the filth left behind by country people on their way to their fields ? Should I look at the wood seats as they were placed in there by the French, for future visitors to sit at, or at the food waste left by careless picnickers ? Should I look at the hut beside the palace or at the palace beside the hut ? If you were sitting at a café in N.Y. City, would you sit out there and look at women’s legs and breasts, or at the amazing diversity of the city dwellers ?
I recently heard an interesting radio show on China Radio International. A French journalist was telling a Chinese journalist about his trip to the Chinese Xinjiang Uyghur Region. He told her, among other things, about an oasis. As soon as the Chinese journalist heard the name, she said : «Ah, it’s known for its apples !» The French journalist agreed and said how amazed he was to see that in that small oasis, surrounded by an immense forbidding desert, people grew apples, grapes and all sorts of fruits ! He then talked of another place in which, he said, temeratures would reach 50°C, explaining that by the fact that the place lay below sea-level. The Chinese journalist recongnized the place at once and agreed that it was the hottest place in China. But then she was greatly surprised, as I was, when the French journalist said that no farther than 100 km away from this hellish place…it SNOWED ! (By the way, I saw some of these Xinjiang places on Chinese TV.) What can this teach us about us humans ? First, we can’t always know what’s beyond the hellish place or what’s beyond the place where it snows –just as we don’t know whether this woman was once a prostitute or may become a prostitute in the future. Not all famines are God-made : many famines are man-made. And even when we know that this famine was man-made we should not sit idly by and wait for people to die. Why did those people settle in that Uyghur oasis, in the middle of the desert, and did not go to a place with milder weather ? Nay, they settled in there and turned the place into a garden of apples and grapes… It’s like they turned hell into heaven. They chose to be positive people. They chose to be civilized people. They chose to be good citizens, who fed themselves and produced good fruits for their fellow citizens. That’s what God wants us to do. That’s what I have learned from my religion.
( ) If man was placed as a viceroy in the earth, how about me who am not only a man, but on top of that a believer? I have, if I can, to turn hell into heaven. Those things in this world I think are not so perfect, I should try to make them perfect. I should be positive ; I should be a good citizen. I should do better than those who came before. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) If I can’t do good, for one reason or another, I should at least keep my evil to myself. If I can’t clean those dirty places in the city, at least I cleanse my heart and mind. ( ) Generation apres generation, dieu nous donne une chance de faire preuve de notre humanite. Comme dans un examen, dans un atelier, ou sur scene, we are tested. We are in a prize competition. The ai mis to improve our conduct. The aim is (for us) to make the world a better place. The criteria are the same : genuine faith, plus good deeds. They may be hard competitions at times, but that’s how gold is made. It must go through fire to be usable gold, to become tempting jewels. Hence golden education. It’s fire, but it’s good fire. Think of cooking. I once saw TV images of the Australian forest. I wished I could go there and see the forest with my own eyes. But then a huge blaze swallowed up the beautiful forest. I said to myself you’re lucky you weren’t there ! And then the forest started to grow again, much more beautiful than before. The commentator in the film said that it’s this natural destruction by fire that made the soil richer and the next vegetation more luxurious than the one before. The little
« fire » meant for us, human believers, in the form of trials, hardships and loss, is not meant to destroy us. God says : ( ) God is Merciful. God does not want us to kill ourselves or one another. ( ) ( ) God wants us to revive our souls and, if we can, the souls of our loved ones. That little fire is meant for us to discover ourselves and to discover God through ourselves. Through our trials we learn ( ). Who can be patient without God’s help ? ( ) And yet, if I just try to be patient, if I have good intentions, if I trust God, God says to me : ( ) ( ) But what do we do, we humans ? Very often we are arrogant, pretentious. We think we know enough to solve our problems all by ourselves. God says no, ( ) If man knew that much, no civilisation, no empire, no kingdom would have become past. If I am a good believer I should know that ( ). So I wouldn’t even rely on what ly state or government could do for me. States do not fall overnight, so only those who reflect, those who meditate, would understand what God means by ( ) When I reflect I realize how week man is. Everybody is vulnerable, sooner or later. Even if I were a lifetime ruler or a megabillionnaire, old age, would make me vulnerable, illness would make me vulnerable. And yet, when I realize how weak I am, in the Kingdom of God, and I put myself in the hands of God, my vulnerablity et précarité become my strength. Because what I want to do God will do it for me –with His knowledge and His strength. ( ) Those partners ( ) may be the state, the people I vote for, the union/syndicat, the insurance company, my family, my friends…. What could those do that God can’t ? Or could any of them conjuer le sort ? If God ( ) and if God ( ), how can my will prevail over His will ? If I don’t believe this, time will prove it to me. ( )
Who can today say the earth is flat ? But we all forget that we’re sitting/walking on a small planet in a galaxy in a world of a billion galaxies. We all run from fire, from floods, from the gun… we all fear for our lives. But where de we run to when ordeal is marching on us like an invincible army, like a volcano, like a river bursting off its banks, like a tsunami ? God says : ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) God ( ) and ( ) ; it’s up to me to accept or reject that ( ). Shall I lecture you on ( ) and the damage they do to man ? When God says ( ), it’s because He wants you and me to be ( ), to be better than many people who live like cattle, as the Quran says. ( ) When God says : ( ), it’s because He wants you and me to earn our money and beget our children in a dignified way. If God says : ( ), it’s because He wants you and me to be sensible persons who enjoy life in a dignified way. We eat, we drink, we work, we play, we make love, we do whatever we do in a dignified way, as civilized persons.
Now, where does our arrogance come from? It comes from our desire to show off. We want to show people around us that we are self-independent, we are the best. We want the world to know that we got our job because, as they say, "one Scotsman's worth 3 Englishmen". Idem for one's spouse. Idem for one's children. Idem for one's fortune. It's all the fruit of our ambition. It's all a matter of merit.
The Quran speaks about Zachariah (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh). Wasn't Zachariah (pbuh) an ambitious man? Wasn't Ibrahim (pbuh) an ambitious man? Well, the answer would depend on what we mean by ambition! If ambition means the desire to attain glory, power, social success, etc., I don't think Zachariah (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh) were that kind of person to have such a desire. If ambition means aspiration for a noble goal, a strong will to please God (and save humanity from evil) with deeds that would continue even after one's death, then, definitely, there's no doubt Zachariah (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh) were just that kind of men. And that's what God wants good Muslim men to be like.
Zachariah (pbuh) knew that getting married and begetting children were not personal achievements to pride oneself on, but rather a gift from God. That's why he said : "give me from Thy presence a successor ..." He knew that he could not force the hand of Fate. Ibrahim (pbuh) said : ( )
Many people thought they chose the right partner. Then they divorced. See ? You turn and turn and then you go back to square one. We rely on our own data. We forget that God has all the DATA. Can anyone really know all the data about one’s partner living with one under the same roof ? Can we really know what our partner feels towards us or thinks about us or does behind our back ? If partners knew all that « data » about one another, would there be such a worrying number of divorces ? ( )
Suppose you were in a beautiful garden and then you got a call with bad news : chances are you’d forget all about the beauty of the garden. All your thoughts will focus on your SELF. There’s nothing more important to you than your SELF. And that’s normal. « Man was created weak. » (Annisaa : 28) Paradoxically, it’s at our moments of weakness that we pay attention to things we wouldn’t notice normally. This morning I went past a very old house on the outskirts of the city. It was in the worst possible state you could imagine. The French family who built this house and lived in it for years and years, during the colonial era, would be shocked to know that it has been turned into a dirty animal shed with lots of filth all around. Of all those French settlers there remains one family in the whole area and it still lives in its old house. I have seen more than a dozen such uninhabited old houses in and around Sidi Moussa Elmajdoub, a rural commune, not far away, which was called by the first French settlers «La Suisse du Maroc» (The Switzerland of Morocco), however exaggerated that might be ; to everybody here the real Switzerland of Morocco is Ifran, in the Atlas Mountains. (When I visited Ifran with friends in 1995 I said if this is Ifran I wonder what Paradise is like !) Anyway, a few weeks ago I went to Sidi Moussa Elmajdoub on foot and I was a bit dazzled (once again) by the beauty of the valley and the artificial waterfalls built by the French and I can understand why the first settlers called the place the Switzerland of Morocco. (At least at that time there was no dam on the river and so there must have been much more water than now.) The problem is, I was just going past a large graveyard, with lots of graves in it, when the rustic beauty of the valley snatched a broad smile from my face. I quickly forgot all about the graveyard and took pleasure in walking alongside the waterfalls. Such is the power of temptation ! But it is unislamic to feel and enjoy the beauty of the world ? Is it unislamic to live in a beautiful mansion in the middle of the greenery ? God says : «Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing?» (Al-A’raf : 30) This beauty was made for us, but it can also turn against us. It’s like knife, you remember (Chapter One) ? «Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring; and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), and cattle and land. That is comfort of the life of the world. Allah! With Him is a more excellent abode.» (Al-‘Imran : 14) So why should there be such pleasures in the first place ? Why should there be such a dazzling beauty ? Well, it’s the same place, the same Switzerland of Morocco, for the French settlers, for those who lived there before them and for those live in there now. The same beauty, the same temptations, the same graveyard. But God did not make beauty only. He also allowed for there to be nasty things –for us to reflect.
Even the soldiers who served the French colonial authorities were not all French. Many came from other French colonies. And the foreign people who were then in our cities and villages were not all French. Also there were local collaborators. We learnt all this at school. The question is, does one choose to be a settler in a colonized country or a collaborator ? A settler or a local collaborator may have a family and children to feed. These children will not necessarily know how their father got the money to buy them good food or good clothes or build them a good house. Another question is, what’s the difference between a house built with money made by collaboration (or corruption) and a house built with money made by legitimate trade, for example ? For a stranger, what matters is the look of the house : is it nice or not ? He will be thrilled at the beauty of the house, of the car, of the factory, of the children… even if he knows the origin of the money. It’s because people look at the look, not at the origin. If this stranger were poor or single or homeless, who would care about him ? He may even be of those who, whenever God tries them by straitening their means of life, say : « My Lord despiseth me. » (Al-Fajr : 16) Maybe the French family who lived in that old house (turned into an animal shed) enjoyed the beauty of the house and the area in that beautiful time, but then the French had to leave. Maybe they weren’t even happy with the money they got when they sold everything. I can imagine the house was beautiful like a beautiful French High School girl. You can’t compensate that with money. But why is the house so dirty now ? Is it because the owner of the place is so poor that he only cares about the money he gets from the animals ? Doesn’t he care about beauty ? Or could he be «a wise person» who believes beauty is transient ? Could he be happy with his life ? I don’t even know who it is, so I can’t answer those questions. But what would I do in his place ? What would I care about ? That’s a very big question.
I wonder whether you have ever seen a little child or teenager draw something in an old copybook that he wouldn’t show to anybody. The copybook is full of drawings of horses or pets or movie characters or imaginary or real persons –why ? You, who can’t draw, would say WOW ! You are amazed at the child’s creativity. But to him that’s quite normal, it’s natural. And suppose he wanted to show his «work», who would be interested ? Don’t you know of painters/writers…who were recognized as such only after their death or very late in their life ? Don’t you know of artists who died poor while their work brought lots of money to other people ? Does such an artist necessarily have someone in mind (an audience) when he creates something ?
You know, it’s springtime right now, and the other day I was walking in the nearby wood when suddenly my eyes fell on a beautiful wild flower. As I was looking at that particular flower I noticed other flowers just beside it –maybe much less beautiful, but each with a different colour, each with a different shape. Once I was leaving a school where I gave evening classes when a 17-year-old female student of mine waved to me and said in a voice filled with awe : «Teacher, look over there ! » She pointed with an almost trembling hand at a car that was parked across the street. Between us, my heart leapt when I saw the car. It was just marvellous. (Didn’t I say temptation is so powerful !) I understood why the girl was looking at the car with such reverence. Well, I too went around in that wood, walking slowly, going from path to path, looking with such wonder at all those wild flowers, examining, like a passionale botanist, the shape, the colour, the peculiarities of each flower. When you are in such a place, looking with your heart rather than with your eyes, you can’t help asking : But why did God make this flower grow here, at this particular place, where nobody would see or care about it ? How many people would come and spend half an hour going from flower to flower and looking at their colours and shapes ? Well, is the number so important ? You remember those verses at the beginning of this book ? "And though thou try much, most men will not believe." (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) God knows all that ! He knows that only a few would ever care. God says : «And whatsoever He hath created for you in the earth of divers hues, lo! therein is indeed a portent for people who take heed.» (Annahl : 13) It’s for those people, who «take heed» that God made that beauty. If God says to those people : «Is He then Who createth as him who createth not ?» (Annahl : 17) , they will certainly say : No ! He Who creates is not as him who does not create. God says : «Have they not observed what is before them and what is behind them of the sky and the earth? (…) Lo! herein surely is a portent for every slave who turneth (to Allah) repentant. » (Saba : 9) «A vision and a reminder for every penitent slave.» (Qaf : 8) This penitent servant (عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ) will be sensible to all beauty : be it wild beauty in the woods or man-made beauty like that wonderful car parked in front of the school. But this penitent servant will not be impressed too much by man-made beauty when he knows the origin. He will care as much about the look as about the origin. «The evil and the good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee.» (Al-Maeda : 100) This penitent servant knows that it’s all trial. «Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal.» (Al-Anbiya : 35) But here’s the problem ! If that is what I believe, well, I will be tested. I can’t feign, once or twice. «Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction? Lo! We tested those who were before them. Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign.» (Al-Ankaboot : 2-3) If I pass the first test, I should prepare for the next. The rule is : the higher I rise in my iman (faith) the harder my trial will be. And I’ll be tried with people around me, people who have wonderful cars, nice houses, good jobs, lovely children…and even people who don’t have anyhting at all. «And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer.» (Al-Furqan : 20) I’ll be like a lonely sailor in a pitiless sea, lonely except from God. Each time I go beyond a wave in this monstrous sea of temptations I say «lo! with hardship goeth ease, Lo! with hardship goeth ease» (Ash-Sharh : 5-6) until I reach the shore with the least damage. It’s a fascinating experience, but it’s very, very hard. It’s like learning chess on a software application, you go from level 1 to level 12. Except that you risk leaving plenty of feathers there!
Some people surpass themselves by practising certain sports or by engaging in certain adventures. A penitent servant surpasses himself by practising his faith, on the ground, in reality. In either case, if I am a moomin, I’m doing that for the good of your own soul. «And whosoever striveth, striveth only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether Independent of (His) creatures.» (Al-Ankaboot :6) The world is full of people, but only a few of them mean to you. Your family and your friends mean to you more than anybody else. Idem for God. In the Quran we read : «Leave Me (to deal) with him whom I created lonely, And then bestowed upon him ample means, And sons abiding in his presence And made (life) smooth for him. Yet he desireth that I should give more…» (Al-Muddaththir : 11-15) How can this one mean to God anything ? If I want to mean something to somebody I do something to please him, don’t I ? If I want to mean something to God I do something to please Him, don’t I ? But if I can lie to people, if I can feign to people, I can’t lie to God. «Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign.» (Al-Ankaboot : 3)
All the temptations, all the glamour, all the beauty in the world was made to that purpose. «All this hath been) in order that Allah might try what is in your breasts and prove what is in your hearts. Allah is Aware of what is hidden in the breasts (of men). (Al-E-Imran : 154) And just as we reveal to God that we are truly sincere, God reveals to us, through our tests, that when everybody lets us down, God alone stays by our side to support and save us. Just we know God more and more we end up loving Him.
You have certainly, as I have, heard or read existential questions as to why God did this or that, questions about Lucifer, about evil, about punishment, about free will, about Fate, about disaster, etc, etc. Such questions are anything but new : they have always been asked by believers and non-believers alike. Let me add one more question : Is it easy to believe? The Quran says : "And though thou try much, most men will not believe." (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) If I start asking why that is, I may not get the answers I want. So what to do ? Suppose you were (yourself or one member of your family) in a place (a school or anywhere else) and then somebody came in and started shooting at everybody. Would you then start asking who that person was or why he was doing that ? Or would you rush to safety ? Safety is hidaya (guidance). "It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path –" (1 :5-6) If God says, for example, "And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah" , (10 : 100) I say right away "Guide us to the straight path –". If I flee from war and become a refugee a thousand miles away I should consider myself lucky, for many others have not had that chance. God help them. My safety comes first. Likewise, I will listen to God and I won’t argue with the arguers. "And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah's Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie." (6 : 116)
I, the author of this book, am a Muslim because I was born into a Muslim family in a Muslim state. As a kid, I was used to seeing people around me perform their daily prayers, recite the Quran, observe the holy month of Ramadan, etc. I mean, everybody can be a Muslim. You only have to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger, to perform salah (ritual prayer), to pay the zakah, to fast during Ramadan, and to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Ka`bah at Makkah, if you can afford it. That’s Islam. It's only when you start asking questions that you enter the area between Islam and Iman: when you want to know why you should be a Muslim and not something else. It’s at this critical phase that a Muslim can either move up to the level of Iman or leave the Faith altogether. One who, through personal experience and more knowledge, succeeds in discovering the truth and the beauty of Islam will move up, gradually, step by step, to the level of Iman and become a moomin (a believer), not only a Muslim, (a submitter). This person would want to live and enjoy a peaceful Iman experience: to live as a moomin, always trying to improve his Iman in an attempt to reach the level of Ihssan. This is a long process that starts with "Guide us to the straight path –" The personal experience and the necessary knowledge will come afterwards. You first build the house (that is Islam), then you put in the furniture (that is Iman), then you add in the home decorators (that is Ihsan). When you reach this level, God becomes your ally and protector. "Indeed, my protector is Allah, who has sent down the Book; and He is an ally to the righteous." (7 :196) "Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light." (2 : 257) Your life becomes good. "Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do." (16 : 97) It’s like your little heaven in the earth.
How do I know that I reached this level of the Faith ? The answer is : (The true believers are those) "Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest! Those who believe and do right: Joy is for them, and bliss (their) journey's end." (13 : 28-29) "The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely –" (8 : 2) If I reach this level God says to me : "O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do." (8 : 105)
Can anybody reach this level of the faith ? Honestly, I don’t know. But why not try ? God says "So fear Allah as much as you are able" (64 : 16) "Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship" (concerning the rituals; that's different from trials.) (2 : 185) But He also detailed ways one can work his/her way up through the Faith ranks. If I can't fast very often or worship at night while people are sleeping, for example, I may still rise in my Iman by enduring hardships and remaining steadfast in the worst ordeals. Anyway, God Alone will judge my Iman. But I can have clues/signs, just like I know whether I took or lost more weight. If I become pessimistic because of an ordeal, that’s a sign for something. If I remain patient and grateful no matter what happens to me, that’s a sign for something.
What about sins ? Can I sin and yet rise in my Iman ? Well, I can’t sin and get out of it safe and sound. A sin is a sin. There’s punishment in there. There’s no la la land about it. God will punish me and show me the way I can correct myself. If I try in earnest to correct myself, if I repent each time I sin, that would probably not be a big problem. Tawba nasoh (definite repentance) will come ultimately. Man is fallable and anyone can sin, but men’s hearts differ. The Word of God will have a much better impact on someone who "hath a heart, or giveth ear with full intelligence." (50 : 37) "Your Lord is best aware of what is in your minds. If ye are righteous, then lo! He was ever Forgiving unto those who turn (unto Him)." (17 : 25)
Now, why do I sin ? Very often it’s either because I am pessimistic (and think God is not going to help me anytime soon) or because I feel self-sufficient and think that even God’s punishment would not affect my life anytime soon. Why should I expect God to help me ? Did I become a Muslim to serve God or to make God serve me ? What if God gave me everything I wanted ? Would I even care about moving up from the level of Islam to the level of Iman ? God first gave me a chance to become a Muslim, now He gives me a chance to become a moomin (a believer). This is a higher grade, I have to work hard to get up there. I have to work hard psychologically and intellectually. So if God puts me in a pitiful situation, that’s my chance to create a harmony between the physical things I do as a Muslim (praying, fasting…) and the spiritual framework within which I do these things. By doing so, I give a meaning to my salah (prayer), to my fasting, to my pilgimage… I am not only imitating other people; I am translating the language of my own heart and mind into physical acts. This will not happen overnight : it comes bit by bit. God knows what I want. God knows what I need. God knows the limits of my patience more than I do. God knows everything about me, even before I was born. What matters now is my intention, is what I have at heart. Do I want to serve God or do I want God to serve me? If I just want God to serve me, I will remain no more than a Muslim, which is per se a GREAT thing). If I want to serve God, God will put the angels and the whole universe at my service. Trial by ordeal is painful. But I know that non-believers too go through painful experiences. It’s my intention, it’s my heart, that turns my painful experience into grades on the ladder of the Faith. It’s ups and downs. My Iman may go up very high, then it plummits, then it goes up higher than ever before, then it dies away, then it revives again and becomes stronger and stronger …until I find myself on the straight path. Yes, it’s a long experience, because the rule is : the higher you rise in your faith the harder your trials will be. Now, what if I fail a test/trial ? Very simply, I will be punished. When I feel alright, even if I am a moomin, I may fall to temptations, I may forget all the sufferings I experienced during my last ordeal. So God will remind me by a new ordeal. That good job which gave me such a strong feeling of security and self-suffiency, well, I'm losing it now. I try by all means to get a new job : all to no avail. My feeling of security is replaced by pessimism. What do I do ? Well, I either give in to my animal instincts, pushed by my overwhelming pessimism, or I remember my Lord and run to Him for safety. Unfortunately for me, God may not remove my calamity anytime soon indeed. He will wait for me to learn a lesson. God will wait for me to put more questions to myself, to go through a self-analysis, to think more objectively about the world around me, about life, about my role in this world, about my goal in this life. God will wait for me to be honest with myself. If I do this I will rise higher and higher in the Faith. As for the job, God created the whole world, how can’t He find me a good job, a good wife… ? If I am a true moomin God cannot only give me a good job, He can give me all the tools and means to grow, to become an eviable person.
Solomon said : "My Lord! Forgive me and bestow on me sovereignty such as shall not belong to any after me. Lo! Thou art the Bestower. So We made the wind subservient unto him, setting fair by his command whithersoever he intended. And the unruly, every builder and diver (made We subservient), And others linked together in chains, (Saying): This is Our gift, so bestow thou, or withhold, without reckoning. (38 : 35-39) Not everybody can be Solomon, of course. Not everybody can be rich –even in America and China. From the very beginning life was based on dualities, just like the whole world. Male and female, day and night, good and bad, rich and poor, faith and heresy. Both believers and non-believers can be poor or rich, but believers and non-believers do not approach life in the same way. Even believers do not approach life in the same way all the time. Hence, the importance of guidance. God will show me the way, but He will not always push me to do something or prevent me from doing something. God says : "We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure; and He revealed iron, wherein is mighty power and (many) uses for mankind." (57 :25) I’m not going to lecture you on what you could do with a knife or with your money or with your body. Just as I have a unique finger or ocular print, I can also have a different psyche, a different destiny from others. But I am not totally master of my destiny. "Lo! this is an Admonishment, that whosoever will may choose a way unto his Lord. Yet ye will not, unless Allah willeth. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise." (76 : 29-30) Even when it comes to remembering God. "So whosoever will may heed. And they will not heed unless Allah willeth (it)." (74 : 55-56) God even "cometh in between the man and his own heart." (8 : 24) But God’s meddling in my life will generally differ according to two things : 1) my faith (the degree of my faith in God ; 2) the kind of good God wants to grant me with sooner or later. "Lo! my Lord is Merciful, Loving." (11 : 90) But when I am leaving my place of work for the last time, without having any alternative in the offing, I may not even care about that good thing God may be keeping for me. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want sleepless nights. I don’t want to hear comments or see looks that make me feel small. I want happiness now, and for ever. Why should I be laid off by a human like myself ? Why should other people continue to go to work ? Why should other people live a normal life ? The same questions, my friend. They have always been asked by believers and non-believers alike. Reason alone cannot answer these questions. We only try to philosophize things, as I am doing in my book. Because we know what’s in the Quran, we know what happens in life around us, but there are things we don’t know. And it’s these things we don’t know that make it hard for you and me to understand anything.
If I am a moomin (a believer), God gives me in the Quran an interesting example of how I could misinterpret God’s actions. The story of Moses with Al-Khidr (in the Surah of Al-Kahf) shows me that even a prophet cannot always understand God’s 'behaviour'. This story shows that it’s quite normal (it’s human nature) if I cannot undertand what’s happening to me, because I am using human reason / logic to think about these things. The problem is not with reason, though. The problem is that we humans base our reasoning on data which may not be complete. God has all the data, that’s the difference. It’s like God managing my heritage without my knowledge but wisely, to my best interest. What God takes away with one hand He makes up for it with the other. In the Quran He says : "it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. » (2 : 216) For example, God speaks in the story of Moses with Al-Khidr of this man who left two orphans. "…And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father had been righteous, and thy Lord intended that they should come to their full strength and should bring forth their treasure as a mercy from their Lord…" (18 : 82) We do not know the age of this man at his death. But no matter how old he is, that's it, this man has accomplished his mission, he can go to rest. God will take care of his children and widow. This should enlighten me personally that I must break down this psychological barrier which tells me that at certain age I must absolutely have realized this or that, otherwise I am in a state of personal failure or considered as such. It is this psychological barrier that torments us, traumatizes us, makes us mad, blind. And we keep wondering why this or why that. Because we do not have all the data we do not really care what may happen next.
By creating us, God wanted to show us His beauty and goodness. God did not need us. He just wanted to give us a chance to have this earthly experience. God knew that the earth would not be a paradise for us. He promised us a true paradise without deserving it, plus eternity. But we, me first, we want paradise here and right away. That's why God gives us time: to think, to compare, to remember. Fortunately, God does not punish us right away. Even Pharoh, He did not punish him right away. Because God knows that when we give ourselves the time to think (earnestly) we will naturally have the chance to see His righteousness and justice in all that He does.