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Thursday 23rd Nov 2017

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Home Ramdaan Kareem Taraweeh Reflections - Juz 26
Taraweeh Reflections - Juz 26

Juz Twenty Six

Sūrah al-Ḥujurāt

Sūrah al-Ḥujurāt contains essential teachings  for  our collective life and along with sūrah Noor must be part of the core Qur’ānic syllabus for everyone. Here are just some of the highlights from this sūrah.

News Reports

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
O you who believe, if a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly.  (Al-Ḥujurāt, 49:6)

We are required to check the sources before jumping on a news report. If the source is not trustworthy then we must investigate the report itself before spreading it or acting on it. The āyah says that we should not accept a report from a fāsiq. The word can be translated as wicked, ungodly, and iniquitous. This gives us much to think about our practices as media consumers for the description fits most mainstream media reports about Islam and Muslims. We know that most of these reports are tainted, yet continue to treat them as reliable.

It should also stop our practice of publishing reports through emails, social networking, blogs, and other channels without  ascertaining the  credibility of  the  resource or authenticity of the report.

The āyah also gives another very important  message regarding our  media policy. It  uses the  Arabic word إن meaning in case to describe the situation that a report comes from a fasiq. It does not say إذ meaning when. It follows that it should not be a normal practice that our news sources are of the type described; we need to develop our own reliable sources of news and information.

Brotherhood

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allāh, that you may receive Mercy. (Al-Ḥujurāt, 49:10)

Yūsuf Ali writes: “The enforcement of the Muslim Brotherhood is the greatest social ideal of Islam. On  it was based the Prophet’s ﷺ Sermon at his last pilgrimage, and Islam cannot be completely realized until this ideal is achieved.

Mocking and the Standup Comedian

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at other men: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at other women: It may be that the latter are better than the (former): Nor defame each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong. (Al-Ḥujurāt, 49:11)

Laughing at someone implies a sense of superiority. So the act is bad both for the harmony of relationships  as well as for the spiritual health of the one making fun of the other.

Today mockery, like many other sins, has been turned into an art form and a serious business. With the invasive culture of entertainment which is spreading like a cancer, it has made inroads in areas that would be unthinkable a generation ago. Today in the West there is hardly a major Islamic conference without  entertainment  from  singers, musicians, and comedians. In that atmosphere many may not realize that the standup comedian is a recent American invention. The term standup comic or standup comedian entered Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries in 1966. As usual, radio and television were the main channels responsible for its phenomenal spread. Its predecessors were in Vaudeville and Burlesque, two American institutions of popular entertainment, which followed the Minstrel shows of early 1800s. The Minstrel shows made mockery of black people. So much for the dark history of this craft.

Humor is fine when it is within limits. We see examples of it in the Prophet’s  ﷺ life. But it was not  a  routine, everyday occurrence. Imam Ghazali says, “It’s not appropriate that it should be invoked by one who wants to indulge in it regularly. Excessiveness in humor and practicing it constantly is prohibited.” An Arabic saying goes: "Humor in conversation is like salt in the food."

A little bit of salt makes it tasty and more palatable. The problem of the comedian is that he wants to produce the entire dinner from salt alone. To be sure he presents himself as a social, cultural or political critic. But it is not that he wants to talk about, say, a social issue and while talking a joke comes to mind so he uses it to drive home his point. Instead he looks for jokes to make people laugh and uses the serious issues only to wrap his jokes in. So he comes with imitation bread, meat, and vegetables but in reality all he has is salt. His stock in trade is salty monologues disparaging others to make the audience laugh. And that is a deadly diet.

The Comedian’s problem is in the very nature of his job; he must make people laugh. If nobody laughs at his lines then that will be the end of his career. Under that intense pressure he will do whatever it takes to produce the desired results. This overriding concern can be seen in a famous line from George Carlin, who “helped bring stand-up comedy to the very center of American culture” according to Time magazine.  He said, “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” This shows why “Muslim comedian” is an oxymoron. For one can either be intent on crossing the line or intent on not crossing it.

Some of the lines are drawn in the āyah quoted above. Others are in hadith. One hadith says, “Woe be to the person who tells lies to make people laugh.” Another hadith warns us against causing insults or injury to others. “It is sufficient evil for a person that he should disdain his Muslim brother.”

As a side note, it is significant that prohibition of mockery has been done in a gender specific language; men are prohibited from making fun of other men, women of other women. The question of men making fun of women and women making fun of other men does not arise because such mockery takes place in social settings and Islam does not recognize a mixed gender social setting to begin with.

Suspicions, Spying, Backbiting

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
O you who have attained to faith! Avoid most guesswork (about one another)—for, behold, some of (such) guesswork is (in itself ) a sin; and do not spy upon one another, and do not backbite one another. Does one of you like that he eats the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it. And fear Allāh. Surely Allāh is Most-Relenting, Very-Merciful. (Al-Ḥujurāt, 49:12)

Suspicions, spying, presumption of guilt, backbiting—these are common ailments in most social settings. In addition to telling us that these are deadly diseases (note the very graphic depiction of the reality of backbiting), this āyah is also telling us that the way to get rid of them is only to remember Allāh and have His fear in our heart.)

Tribalism

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allāh’s sight, is the one who is the most God-fearing and righteous of you. Surely Allāh is All-Knowing, All- Aware. (Al-Ḥujurāt, 49:13)

 

This is the  universal declaration that  alone can end  all tribalism, racism, and nationalism of all Jāhiliyyah—modern and ancient. Unfortunately Muslims whose responsibility it was to invite the entire humanity to this declaration have been at the forefront of violating it. These are very powerful words. But their full power will be realized when the world sees them in practice.

 

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