ALLAH does not change the state of people, until they change it themselves

24.11.12

Human In The Light Of God



Do you think that our conception of God influences how we see our role in the universe? How, or how not?

This was the question asked in our recent lesson. This lesson gave us a chance to explore the possibilities of a human in the light of Iqbal's third lecture in Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam
There are five elements in the Islamic conception of God, i.e. God is (a) the Infinite Ego; (b) Creative; (c) Knowing; (d) Powerful; and (e) Eternal

What I understood from this lecture (and Mr. Khurram's discussion) is that the human reflects in his actions and deeds whom he worships. The character and color of the one who is worshiped are automatically transferred into the worshiper. If someone worships a mere statue then ultimately they retain the habits of [the material] of their god. This is the case if someone worships money, and could be why the hypocrites are detested so much because of this very reason.

A musalman^, in his obedience, blends his self into the Will of his Lord and then  he exhibits  the qualities of His Lord. In Quran, Allah says, "Allah is just and loves those who are just." "Allah is merciful and loves those who are merciful." Allah loves those who are compassionate, considerate, and thoughtful of others in their dealings. Allah likes those who are wise, and who seek knowledge. Look at all of these qualities, these being the names of Allah. He wants to see these [of course partially] in His slaves also. 

Map of voyage by Spanish traveler Ibn Jubair in the 12th century AD
Español: Mapa de la travesía del viajero andalusí Ibn Yubair o Yabar en el siglo XII

The true character of a Muslim reflects Allah in all of his actions, whether he's in public or private, is conducting his business or imparting knowledge, or fighting in the cause of Allah. And in many instances, he reflects whom he worships. 
And that is why the earlier Muslim's character was strong and displayed the infinity of Allah. They were fearless on battlefields; they were wise in managing empires and countries; in their implementing of law they were considerate and knowledgeable; in their teaching methods they sought simplicity and vastness of many studies; and they were relentless in seeking Allah through science. Because they believed Allah is Infinite, they discovered newer elements of this universe, dug deeper and deeper, and found out Truth in simplest forms. Those vistas of Knowledge, Creativity, and Infinity are open testaments of their faith.
Take the Ash'arites, for instance, as Iqbal has explained in this lecture, and how they developed their theory of "Atomism" from that one verse+ of the Quran. They took God to be Creative, who creates something new "every" moment - and decided to participate in that Creation, by putting forth a theory which cannot be disproven even now.  In fact, modern physics confirms parts of it. 
The role of man, if he considers himself to be the vicegerent of God, is to "actively participate" in this act of Creation that is forever being carried out by God. By perceiving God to be closer to us than our jugular vein, we know that He is not cold or distant, but merciful and compassionate; He does not want us to be passive, but to have our share in His Creativity. If we feel that He has not created us out of mere chance, but out of plan and design, it gives us more sense of purpose, and we become more aware of the importance of our role in this universe*. 
The oldest copies of Ibn Sina's second volume of "Canon Of Medicine" from the year 1030.

The concept of God conveys and comforts us that man is not alone or forsaken in this universe. God is always so eager to connect with man that He has created the whole universe through which man can access Him*. 
This understanding, at this moment, conveys to us the message that our conception of God is the pathway to what world is created*." 
The conception of God deepens our worldly experience, and adds value and guidance to our entire journey*. 
‘’God is the light of the Heavens and of the Earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lamp – that lamp enclosed in a glass – the glass, as it were, a star” (24:35) 
Finally, the knowledge that One exists, to whom everything belongs, and that a All Powerful Being is watchful over us comforts the fragile souls of His Creation and is the source of ever-present inspiration and Light.  

(*discussion from my fellow course participants)
+(God adds to His creation what He wills.” Al-Quran)
^Musalman used here indicates the common use of the word. The one who is obedient to Creator. And he/she coud belong to any faith. 

15.11.12

Sects and Iqbal

The lecture 'Islam as a Moral and Political Ideal' was delivered at the annual session of Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam in 1909 and published in The Observer, Lahore, and the Hindustan Review, Deccan, in April and December that year respectively.

"The eternal proposition regulating the structure of Islam is that there is a fear in nature and the human being must be liberated from fear and thus become conscious of himself or herself as a source of power; there's no mediator since God is the "birthright" of every human being.

"A strong will in a strong body" is the ethical ideal of Islam, completely missing in the Indian Muslim; a great personality is needed for ethical revival of a people. An educational system reflecting its national ideals is the next best option. 

Democracy is the most important political value in Islam while two fundamental principles regulating its political structures are that (1) the law of God is supreme, since the authority of the human being except as an interpreter of law is "inimical to the unfoldment of human individuality." and (2) all humans are equal. 

Historically, the democracy of Muslims lasted only thirty years and disappeared with their political expansion; the task of liberating Asia of despotism was therefore left to the British Empire - which is "the greatest Muhammadan Empire in the world" not because so many Muslims live in it but also by its own spirit. 

Unfortunately the Muslims in India have "out-Hindued the Hindu" in adhering to castes and sub-castes. Religious and Social sectarianism must be condemned if the Muslim Community is to fulfill its mission of freeing the humanity of superstition."

(An excerpt from Illustrated Biography of Iqbal by Khurram Ali Shafique)

14.11.12

A Poet Prisoner

Talha Ahsan 'has written the letters to the wider world which are his poems'.

As you will know, I am not in any way a fan of arguments which claim that artists are more sensitive than others, or indeed liable to be more insane than others. I do agree – and find it reasonable to assert – that any profession, or longterm activity, can leave its mark on the practitioner, physically, mentally and emotionally. Forensic anthropologists can identify archers from wear patterns on their teeth; the interested disinterest with which doctors and surgeons can view their fellows is a recognisable trait; as are the impulses towards control and improvement which manifest themselves in educationalists.

The arts, if I can be brief with my definition, are about communication. We can argue later about pieces of art which try not to communicate and why I think they're not really pieces of art at all and more like telegrams from people who have issues with commitment. Put simply, someone who works in the arts notices things: emotions, actions, remarkable and humdrum elements of their lives and the lives of others and – of course – the fruits of their imaginations. The artist generates and captures material, analyses it, crafts it and then presents it. An almost infinite variety of inspirations combine, distil, appear without warning, bubble up over years and generally bother the artist, delight the artist, scare the artist and become insistent that they should be expressed. And the artist expresses. Something only they know about and have come to understand is given to us – we are made richer by a stranger, who takes us into times, places, situations and personalities which we could not otherwise experience. This is a beautiful and generous phenomenon and I have been glad of it for all my conscious life.

And artists do, through time, become recognisably artists. They love what they do and love to do it. Their desire to communicate to strangers can override very reasonable demands from family and friends that they should be a little more domestically focused and expressive. And specialities begin to show: someone like me will notice when words are repeated in conversations, or have unusual lyricism, or when an advert pretends to imply positive qualities and happy lives while meaning very little. Painters will see and see and see: the fall of clothes, the combination of colours, the alteration of faces, the endless effects of light. Actors will pick up minute alterations and inaccuracies in inflection, will assess strangers with horrible rapidity and accuracy and, having spent years making themselves deeply accessible to their emotions in a way that allows them to pay their bills, will cry at the drop of a hat.

To repeat, the artist generates and captures material, analyses it, crafts it and then presents it. I mention this, because the poet Talha Ahsan has been much in my thoughts lately. I have never met Ahsan, but I have read his poems; been given his expressions of landscapes, the touch of loved skin and something of his experience of being imprisoned.

I have written about Ahsan here before and you may be aware that he is a British subject and resident who was arrested on 19 July 2006 and who has been held without trial ever since, awaiting extradition under the terms of the increasingly notorious Extradition Act 2003. The US requested his arrest and the UK authorities obliged, although he has no case to answer in the UK. The Extradition Act doesn't require the provision of prima facie evidence. It seems that evidence gathered during Babar Ahmad's interrogation – an interrogation described in the high court as "grave abuse, tantamount to torture" – may have helped form the basis of the case against Ahsan. Ahmad was later awarded £60,000 compensation by the Metropolitan police and also has no case to answer in the UK. He also remains in custody awaiting extradition to the US.

The situation of these two men is mirrored in a number of other appalling cases, some of which affected white Christians and therefore received rather more media attention. I would hope that any reader would feel compassion for their position, which is something far closer to purgatory than anything I would wish on anyone.

For me, Babar Ahmad is someone I have read about in newspapers and on websites. Talha Ahsan is someone who has written me letters from his prison and who has written the letters to a wider world which are his poems. The insight into his predicament and his humanity which his writings offer remind me why so many politicians prefer that unsanctioned forms of expression – especially artistic expression – should be limited, or entirely curtailed. And they remind me of how human beings can make beauty flower, even in a wasteland of absurd and willful amorality.

If Ahsan is finally extradited to the US and found guilty, he will be detained in a supermax prison where he will remain in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. The vast majority of his interactions with prison authorities will be provided virtually, via a black and white TV. Human contact will be limited to occasional strip searches, medical interventions and the arrival of his meals. He will have a tiny window. Less technologically advanced forms of solitary confinement were used in Victorian prisons until it was found they tended to make inmates insane.

This is intolerable. The lack of justice, the lack of transparency, the stain of torture, the calculation of imprisonment amounting to torture – this is all intolerable. This should not happen to Babar Ahmad – because it is intolerable. This should not happen to anyone – because it is intolerable. This should not happen to my friend Talha Ahsan who writes poems about drinking turkish coffee and getting a haircut and kissing while mouths taste of peaches and prayers and compassion and love and wishing to have never been born and illuminates each line with himself and his voice and his music – because it is intolerable.

In prison Talha suffers, as we all do, idiosyncratically. Should he be confined to a supermax facilty, he will become a man who has almost nothing to notice every day and who has no one to share his life with, or to hear his voice. He will be denied the right to communicate – something enshrined by the UN as fundamental to our experience of being human. One of the parts of who he is, his occupation, will have been constricted to its vanishing point. He will rehearse his death, the last of his absolute removal, until it becomes reality. Although he is a man of immense personal strength and compassion, I feel there may be no onwards for Talha which is not very dark. I hope I'm wrong. Free and in my study and with all the wider world under my fingers, I hope I'm wrong.

AL Kennedy writes in Guardian.

9.11.12

On Iqbal Day

My favorite passage from Javed Namah, an epic story told by Allama Iqbal.

“In this world there is no beggar,” said the Martian Astronomer, “Nor anyone is poor; no slave, no master – no ruler and thus none dominated.”
I said, “Being born a beggar or a destitute, to be ruled or suppressed, is all by the decree of God. He alone is the architect of destiny. Destiny cannot be improved by reasoning.”
“If you are suffering at the hands of destiny,” replied the Martian astronomer with a visible anger, “It is not unfair to ask God for a new one. He has no shortage of destinies for you. Failure to understand the mystical significance of destiny has led the inhabitants of the Earth to lose their identities. Here is a hint to the secret of destiny: change yourself and your destiny will change with you. If you are dust, you shall be scattered by the wind. But if you become solid as a rock, you can break the glass. If you are dewdrop, then you are destined to fall but if you are an ocean, then you will remain. To you, faith means conformity to others while your imagination remains confined because you do not conform to yourself. Shame on the faith that serves like an addiction to opium!” 


Then he paused, and added, “A gem is a gem as long as you think it is valuable, otherwise it is just a stone. The world will shape itself according to your perception of it. The heavens and the earth too will adjust.”


Also check Marghdeen Mystery 

Slavery And Iqbal


Why did Iqbal have to propose a "reconstruction" of religious thought when he wrote his The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam?

Could it be that he perceived well the locus in need of this reconstruction and precisely how the reconstruction needed to occur?  I would argue yes to both points.
  
In Iqbal's, The Book of Slavery (part of his Persian Psalms, 1927), he wrote:

"The fetters are not on feet, but on the heart and soul; this is indeed a very intriguing situation."

In The Book of Slavery, Iqbal appears to have been anticipating a situation with which many Muslims in the world today resonate.  In his own day, Iqbal saw firsthand the political slavery associated with the colonizers.  He also believed that this political slavery was influencing, and enervating toward, religious beliefs and faith.  It is this that could be termed Iqbal's concept of the religion of slaves. 

Iqbal, applying his deep psychological insight, found this inner, voluntary capitulation to reside in the hearts of the people.  It is this that he was striving to reconstruct.  InThe Book of Slavery, Iqbal describes how political slavery affected the religious thought in Islam:

In slavery, religion and love are separated Honey of life becomes bitter. What is love? It is imprinting of Tawhid (Unity) on the heart, Then to strike oneself against difficulties. In slavery, love is nothing but an idle talk,Our actions do not correspond with our professions. The caravan of his ambition has no inclination for a journey, It lacks faith, has no knowledge of the road, and is without a guide.  A slave underestimates both religion and wisdom; In order to keep his body alive, he gives away his soul.  Although the name of God is on his lips, His centre of attention is the power of the ruler— Power that is nothing but ever-increasing falsehood, Nothing but falsehood can come from it. As long as you prostrate before it, this idol is your god,  But as soon as you stand up before it, it disappears.

I comprehend Iqbal's concept of the religion of slaves from a perspective outside of a Muslim society.  That is simply because I happen to have been born in a society not considered Muslim.  I look at Iqbal from where I find myself, and indeed consider him as not only a prominent blessing for the Muslim world, but for all people everywhere.

I understand Iqbal, with regard to The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, as not offering commentary on Islam.  Rather, he was pointing at something that, if not revivified, would stand in the way of the religious understanding and consciousness of Islam.  If brought back to life, it would be a gate-opener.

I perceive Iqbal not as a theologian or interpreter of doctrine (although his work may manifest as such). Rather, I perceive him more as a physician who goes about healing, tuning, and adjusting the human being.

I perceive that Iqbal was not seeking to resurrect religion for the sake of humans. Rather, I sense that he was seeking to resurrect humans for the sake of religion. 

His mission, I sense, was in guiding people to find, take back, and keep their righteous mind. Without this locating, reclaiming, and keeping of the righteous mind, mental slavery is inevitable.  
I sense that he fully knew that this was the path to overcoming fear and of attaining genuine independence for the Muslim world.  The movie clip above (The Great Debators) is based upon the true story of African American debate coach, Melvin B. Tolson, at a historically black college wherein he sought to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American south in the 1930s.  The actor, Denzel Washington (as Mr. Tolson), speaks well to the dynamic that it is the mind that must be released from its fetters in order for genuine freedom to be birthed. 

Many thanks are due to the generous and expert tutelage of Mr. Khurram Ali Shafique in the many high quality study opportunities he offers through the Marghdeen Learning Centre, his The Republic of Rumi blog, in association with Iqbal Academy Pakistan, the International Iqbal Society, and others.  With his guidance, the very important vision and philosophy of Iqbal are reaching many people.