Lecture 4 in the Ramadaan series:
REFLECTIONS ON SURAH ISRAA’
17 April 2021 (4 Ramadaan 1442)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
I want to conclude our discussion relating to the upright guidance with one final point of reflection. Allah (swt) says in verse 9 of Surah Israa:
إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْءَانَ يَهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشّـِرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ اَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْراً كَبِيراً
“Verily, this Qur’an guides to that which is the most upright, and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they shall have a great reward.”
The guidance of the Quran is towards a path which is straight, balanced and rational. Recently in one of the Jumu’ah khutbahs, we discussed the validity of interpreting the deeper (butuni) layers of the Quran.
A verse can have a plethora of different meanings, including exoteric and esoteric understandings.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) has taught us in an authentic hadith that the path of the Ahlulbait (as) is what is meant by “Aqwam.”
While the previous interpretations are completely valid, the path of wilayah is the most straight forward and balanced path to the truth.
The Quran is given this title since it is in line with our nature as was previously explained, and thus is simple to follow.
Consequently, this shows that the belief in Imamate and leadership is linked to our very nature as human beings!
THE HASTY NATURE OF MAN
Allah (swt) then discusses a fascinating trait observed in human behavior:
وَيَدْعُ الإِنسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَآءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ عَجُولاً
“And man prays for evil as he prays for the good; and man is ever hasty.”
This verse is another indication of why individuals go astray. While we analyze this characteristic, try to keep in mind the features the Israelites had incorporated in their souls, and the relationship this may have with hastiness.
The beginning of this verse indicates an apparently strange phenomenon.
Human beings seemingly desire evil and goodness to the same degree. In a case where the vision of our hearts is veiled, we fail to see the true reality around us.
Accordingly, we mistakenly misjudge what is good as evil for ourselves. This can lead to an individual continuously pursuing evil as as he does good.
The fundamental reason is given in the final words of this blessed verse.
وَكَانَ الإِنْسَانُ عَجُولاً
“…and man is ever hasty.”
This is the weak point of the human being. While the Quran is critical in this instance, in other places Allah (swt) declares mankind as the most perfect creation.
This is seen in Surah Tin:
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ
“We have indeed created man in the best of moulds”
In Surah Muminoon, after providing a detailed description of the creation of man, Allah (swt) praises himself as the Best of Creators.
ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَاماً فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْماً ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقاً ءَاخَرَ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ
“Then We created of the sperm a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh; thereafter We produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of the creators!”
In a latter part of Surah Israa which we will soon reach, the Quran reads:
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي ءَادَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِنَ الطَّيّـِبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَي كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلاً
“And, indeed, We have honoured the children of Adam, and We carried them on the land and the sea; and We provided them with sustenance of the good things; and We preferred them greatly over many of those We created.”
While we have been bestowed with this great honour, at the same time we have flaws.
This may cause doubts to arise.
Why would an All-Merciful Creator place these same negative attributes within us?
Does this not work against our favour in achieving salvation?
The answer to this question lies in accepting that human existence is contingent and short-lived.
As a result, there are certain limitations that are naturally imposed on him. A key characteristic of this material existence is that goodness and badness are continually together.
Whatever we see in this world, there is a beautiful aspect and a negative aspect.
Allah (swt) has given us the power of free.
This is essentially a positive thing; however, this allows for evil actions to ensue as well.
A basic example of this is the desire of continuously progressing and discovering new realities in the world that we live in.
While this can be source of goodness in society, it can also develop into greed. As this grows, an individual becomes increasingly more impulsive.
Instead of reflecting on the long-term impact, he tries to accumulate as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. These behaviors have also led to the culture of instant gratification present we see around us.
An important distinction to note is that risk is a part of everyday life. It cannot be completely eliminated in any given situation.
The Quran, in advising us about haste, is not encouraging paranoia and indecisiveness.
Rather, it is a cautious warning against a dangerous disposition that we have within us.
We have a number of traditions from the Ahlulbait (as) that warn about this harmful characteristic.
The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: “Haste is from the actions of Satan.” This shows that the believer deliberates over his actions before carrying them out.
It has also been narrated that the Prophet (SAW) has said: “People are destroyed by haste. If they had paused for a little while, none would have perished.”
Imam Sadiq (as) has also said: “Precaution is a source of security, while haste is a source of regret.”
While these ahadith show the importance of taking caution, we have another set of traditions from the Infallibles (as) that point in another direction.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has been recorded to have said: “Allah (swt) loves those good deeds which are done immediately.”
This is also seen in many verses of the Quran, an example of which is in Surah Baqarah verse 148.
فَاسْتَبِقُواْ الْخَيْرَاتِ أَيْنَ مَا تَكُونُواْ يَأْتِ بِكُمُ اللّهُ جَمِيعًا إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“…so, hasten to precede each other towards all that is good…”
This may seem like an apparent contradiction.
The reasoning behind this type of haste is because once it is clear that there is goodness in it, one should not delay their action. This is because Shaytaan will most likely interfere between our intention and the action taking place.
Inshallah we shall continue our discussion next time.
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