Jumuah lecture on Friday 3 December 2021 (27 Rabiul Thani 1443)
Maulana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid
Ottery, Cape Town
We witness different phenomena of nature every day in our lives. Sometimes these phenomena are rare and sometimes they are commonly experienced, even daily. All these various expressions of nature are signs of the power and might of Almighty Allah (SWT). All these signs we experience are important for us and how we react and respond to them is indeed crucial.
Almighty Allah (SWT) draws our attention to different signs of nature in verses 13 – 17 of Surah Faatir (chapter 35 of the Holy Quran).
يُولِجُ اللَّيْلَ فِي النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِي اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ مَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْ قِطْمِيرٍ
13. He causes the night to enter in upon the day, and He causes the day to enter in upon the night, and He has made subservient (to you) the sun and the moon; each one follows its course to an appointed time; this is Allah, your Lord, His is the kingdom; and those whom you call upon besides Him do not control even the white spot on a date-stone.
إِنْ تَدْعُوهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُوا دُعَاءَكُمْ وَلَوْ سَمِعُوا مَا اسْتَجَابُوا لَكُمْ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُونَ بِشِرْكِكُمْ ۚ وَلَا يُنَبِّئُكَ مِثْلُ خَبِيرٍ
14. If you call on them they shall not hear your call, and even if they could hear they shall not answer you; and on the resurrection day they will deny your associating them (with Allah); and none can inform you like the One Who is Aware.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ
15. O mankind! You are they who stand in need of Allah, and Allah is He Who is the Self-sufficient, the Praised One.
إِنْ يَشَأْ يُذْهِبْكُمْ وَيَأْتِ بِخَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ
16. If He please, He will take you off and bring a new generation.
وَمَا ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ بِعَزِيزٍ
17. That is not a hard thing for Allah.
NABI IBRAHIM (A.S) CHALLENGED THE IGNORANCE OF THE MASSES
This is the invitation of the Holy Quran when it comes to reflecting on natural phenomena. However, the history of humanity reacted in a different way, as referred to here in Surah Faatir. Sometimes, the darkness of ignorance and lack of knowledge took them towards fantasies and superstitious beliefs. This is how they incorrectly interpreted rare natural phenomena which they could not understand – such as floods, eclipse and earthquakes.
We see from the verses cited above, that the Holy Quran opposes such an ignorant approach with very strong terms. We see a similar trend in verses 74 onwards of Surah An’aam (chapter 6 of the Holy Quran) where Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) addresses these people who were lost and unable to understand natural phenomena. These ignorant people thought they were powerful and started worshiping the sun and stars etc.
Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) challenged the people who worshiped the sun as the all-powerful, saying how is it that the all-powerful descends, and then one only sees the stars and the moon at night. He tries to conscientize them that anything with limitations cannot be God.
Verse 75 is a very deep verse, where Almighty Allah (SWT) showed Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) the secrets of this universe, making it abundantly clear to him who the Creator of these natural phenomena is, including the rare ones which we cannot understand:
وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُرِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ مَلَكُوتَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلِيَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُوقِنِينَ
And thus did We show Ibrahim the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and that he might be of those who are sure.
And then Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) firmly declares his conviction in verse 79:
إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.
OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) CHALLENGED THE SUPERSTITIONS OF THE MASSES
There are many examples in this regard from history. In fact, we all know about a similar example in the history of Islam where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) had a son by the name of Ibrahim who passed away at a very young age. Rasulullah (SAWA) loved him dearly and was naturally grieving at his passing.
Coincidentally, there was a sun eclipse on the same day he buried his son. People started creating a story that the reason for the solar eclipse is because the heart of Rasulullah (SAWA) is sad upon the passing of his son, and therefore the sun is also sharing in his mourning.
Rasulullah (SAWA) immediately intervened upon hearing this story being cooked up, commanding everyone to gather in the mosque. He then explained to everyone from the mimbar (pulpit), that the sun eclipse is a natural phenomenon from the system which Almighty Allah (SWT) has created.
Rasulullah (SAWA) could have played on this story to exploit if to prove his genuineness and for promoting Islam, and it would have been very effective in that society where superstitions were prevalent. However, he categorically denounced any connection of the eclipse with the death of his son. He does not need fake stories to prove his point!
SALAATUL AYAAT IS COMPULSORY TO REMIND OURSELVES OF ALLAH (SWT) AS THE ALMIGHTY
Rasulullah (SAWA) re-emphasized that the eclipse, which is a rare phenomenon, is one of the signs of Almighty Allah (SWT). The eclipse is indeed a reminder that there is a higher power controlling this natural system. He encouraged people to pray, to remember Allah (SWT) and His might. This is how Salaatul Ayaat became compulsory according to the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Now, I am sure it begs the question why Salaatul Ayaat is compulsory during the period of the natural phenomenon, such as the eclipse. The reason is that it is a rare phenomenon, requiring us to pause and reflect, and remember the higher power controlling this universe, namely Almighty Allah (SWT).
This Salaatul Ayaat is equally compulsory for any natural phenomena, such as floods, earthquakes, etc. The reason being that the pure nature of this universe is reflected therein, and it is our choice whether we wish to divert it towards ignorance or truth.
HUMAN ARROGANCE GETS REPEATEDLY CRUSHED BY THE ALLAH (SWT) AS THE ULTIMATE SUPERIOR
As human beings developed the sciences and evolved in its understanding of nature, it took a different turn. First, it could not understand these rare phenomena of nature and created fantasies and superstitions. However, when the knowledge and understanding developed in human beings, it created arrogance! This resulted in the claim of full knowledge, trying to prove there is no God (SWT), instead of their knowledge creating an appreciation for the higher power in control!
But then we keep coming back to the all-important verse 15 of Surah Faatir referenced above, highlighting the key dependency that we have on Almighty Allah (SWT). And nature will keep reminding us that we are indeed dependent.
We have seen this point proven beyond any iota of doubt in this journey through the pandemic. It has been proven time and again, that we are nothing. We are unable to effectively combat this invisible virus, despite our advancement.
The whole world has exhausted its energies on this virus and we still find a new mutation emerge, making us once again feel helpless. And again, we keep coming back to the all-important verse 15 of Surah Faatir referenced above, highlighting the key dependency that we have on Almighty Allah (SWT).
This is where we see the Holy Quran fighting with the arrogance of human development and science when it is hellbent on denying the might of the all-powerful Allah (SWT), claiming that it is able to flourish independently!
The key point I want to cement in our minds is that these rare natural phenomena, be it cosmological, meteorological and the insurgence of diseases and mutations, are all a reminder that we are purely dependent on Almighty Allah (SWT), as highlighted in verse 15 of Surah Faatir.
TAQWA: THE CONSTANT REMINDER TO BE GOD-CONSCIOUS IN EVERYTHING WE DO
I once again wish to remind about Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT) ie. to be conscious of His pleasures and displeasures. This requires us to always reflect on the different natural phenomena around us, through the different phases of our lives, as a strong reminder of our dependency on Almighty Allah (SWT).
Indeed, these natural phenomena are a reminder of our weakness and our existential poverty in front of Almighty Allah (SWT). Indeed, every sign is a crucial reminder of this dependency.
IMAM RIDHA (A.S) EXPLAINS SALAATUL AYAAT AS A MEANS OF SEEKING PROTECTION
Someone asked the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), regarding the reason for Salatul Ayaat being compulsory. He explained that it is compulsory in response to experiencing the signs of Almighty Allah (SWT), such as the eclipse, earthquake and other natural phenomena.
He then noted that we do not know whether the sign experienced is reminding us of the Mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) or His Punishment. This again takes us to the principle point of our discussion, highlighting our key dependency on Almighty Allah (SWT).
Imam Ridha (a.s) further explained that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) loved to draw his nation towards his Creator. Hence, it is a means of seeking protection by making dua (supplication) at the moment of experiencing such signs of Almighty Allah (SWT) in the form of the natural phenomena, in the same way that He protected the people of Nabi Yunus (a.s) when they made dua.
Indeed, these signs are a reminder to go back to Almighty Allah (SWT) and humble ourselves before Him.
OMICRON VARIANT: 4TH WAVE OF COVID-19 WITH REPEATED ARROGANCE OF WESTERN POWERS
This new variant of coronavirus is again a sign for us to reflect how dependent we are and how Almighty Allah (SWT) is certainly the all-powerful. He overrules all of us and all our achievements and progress are trivial in comparison to His Might.
Every turn of this journey through the pandemic exposed so many flaws in our human behaviour. This latest development has once again exposed the injustice from human beings towards fellow human beings.
We all saw the Western arrogance again front and centre when these so-called first world countries immediately invoked travel bans on our country and other Southern African countries the moment we announced the discovery of this new variant. They did this without scientific proof being analyzed.
This once again highlights the imperialist selfish arrogance by these Western powers for centuries and still continues, while they present themselves in self righteous garbs of human rights, compassion and civil society. Quite frankly, the way they react is in diametric contrast to their pious rhetoric.
They act selfishly, portraying to their people that they are safe (because they have nothing to do with these people in Africa), without any iota of thought regarding the disastrous suffering of their shutdown on the lives of the people in the countries they are invoking travel bans on.
This mentality of the West shows its ugly face repeatedly, when they try and present themselves as the champions of human rights and compassion for humanity. Despite this, they are completely oblivious when they punish nations.
They repeatedly forget that they are not safe, as we learned from the verses of Surah Faatir discussed earlier! They forget that there is a higher power which makes their supposed power trivial in comparison. I want to end off with this thought, for us to reflect on how the so-called “first world” reacts to the so-called “third world”. How the rich, developed world treats the underprivileged nations.
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