Thursday, December 14, 2006

Between Extremes I

A recurring theme in my Islamic studies class is that Islam is a path of moderation. Two weeks or so ago the sister was teaching about Surah Yasin, the condition of the heart, perfecting good character, and extremes in religion before getting to the topic--four stages of life. The following week she was going to give the same class because a different group of students showed up (with a few of the same, myself included.) But instead, she had me teach it. Yes really. It was a surprise but I love doing things like that so... I did. Granted, she helped me out the whole way through, it's not like I was by myself, but it was fun all the same. On one hand, it seems like a lot of disjointed thoughts but I guess somehow it's all related--haven't figured out how, yet.

We started with an ayah in Surah Yasin... the reference is 36:36: Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.

All things in pairs. (Find it interesting perhaps that this ayah is 36:36... pairs... 2 36's??) The instructor had elaborated on this verse, trying to get us to think of something produced by the earth that is not in a pair. I don't know too much about microbiology, and I think I would need to to really follow my train of thought on this particular question. The complexity is deceiving in fact. You could for example observe a tree... the earth produces this tree. In pairs? No, it's just one tree. Hmm. Well, there is the portion you see, above the ground, and the portion you don't--the root structure. In fact the root structure is as important as the surface portion of the tree--is this a pair? Seen, and unseen. Also, didn't we study in 5th grade biology (it's been a loong time since I took 5th grade biology) that plants have "male" and "female" parts to reproduce? Pollination is the transfer by insects of pollen ("male"/"sperm") to the "female" parts of another plant? And other plants have various means of reproducing as well. Some creatures do not do this... the exception rather than rule, but the ayah says all things, so what is the pair? I'm not sure. Like I said, I'd need more biology and I never was good at biology.

Next part of the lecture? We ask in our salat, when reciting Al-Fatihah, ihdinas siratal mustaqeem; siratal latheena anamta alaihim ghairil maghdoobi alaihim walad-daalleen . Show us the straight path: the path of those on whom you bestowed your grace, not of those on whom you bestowed wrath nor who went astray. So you can look at this such that there is a straight path in the middle, on one side is the path of those who earned wrath, on the other side is those who went astray. So we discuss how one goes astray from Islam by looking at the 6 articles of faith. These are defined in the hadith Jibril as belief in
  1. God
  2. Angels
  3. Prophets
  4. Scriptures
  5. Fate
  6. Day of Judgment

So how does one go astray in these? We can look at it, I guess, as "too much" or "too little" in all respects but it's different in each case really. Remember that God says the Muslims were created as an Ummah (Community) justly balanced. Where? In the Qur'an, in Surah Baqara... right in the middle of the surah. Now isn't that interesting, for the verse to say "Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind,..." appears right in the middle of the surah? It should be easy for you to find. Surah Baqara has 286 verses, half of 286 is 143, and sure enough, the reference for this ayah is 2:143. I don't mean to prove anything with that... I just think it's really interesting. I learned that in a speech from Suhaib Webb last Sunday.

So back to the point... going too far in religion. Firstly, we believe in God. Surah al-Ikhlas (the Sincerity) is equivalent to a third of the Qur'an. In length? No... but how? The Qur'an generally covers three main topics, three threads if you will--God, Prophethood, and Resurrection/Afterlife. Surah al-Ikhlas really refutes 8 different problems people have with believing in God. In English, the surah says:

Say He is Allah, the One (and Only) (ahad)
The Eternal/Absolute, on whom all depend (Somad)
He begets not, nor is He begotten
And there is none like Him.

Four verses, and one of the most clear and powerful theological refutations you can find. So how do people go too far in their belief of God? Away from the straight path? We believe in one God... so perhaps too far is believing in many gods... or no god, or a god that is too distant to hear you, a god that exists but has no relation to the world even if he created it, that god has children, that god was created, or that anything else in the world could be like God... including humans. Stay in the middle... repeat Surah al-Ikhlas.

So in a way, Islam is the middle path, while Christianity and Judaism are on the sides. On the one hand, in Christianity you have a son of God, Trinity, and sometimes supernatural powers assumed by people, while in Judaism there is a belief in God of course, and one God, but often that God is irrelevant to daily life, or uninvolved in the working of the world.

Now I've written a lot but not gotten far into the lecture... more later insha'Allah.


Anonymous said...

assalamu alaikum

again sis mashaAllah :)

looking forward for the rest inshaAllah

just a small comment sis, reciting al fatiha correctly is very imp so try your best sis and may Allah reward you
here is the correct translitiration for the ayah you put
ihdinas siratal mustaqeem; siratal latheena anamta alaihim ghairil maghdoobi alaihim walad-daalleen


Gold said...

masshaAllah nice post Amy,

paris also.. electrons and neutrons, positive and negative, attraction and repultion, love and hate, high and low, tall and short.. pairs.. nothing doesn't have a pair that either matches or opposes it.. and everything is everything.. tangible nor non-tangible..

doesn't this all make u believe more and more.. why we - as mu'uminoon - were ordered to reflect, think, set the minds free and stop thinking and arguing about when exactly to raise the finger during tashahhud for example, or whether we should eat with our hands or with our cuttlery...

the world is not okay and it really does need moderations..

waiting for the next one inshaAllah :-)