Monday, December 17, 2018

Reflections on Qur'anic message - Part-13: Broader Dimension of Zakah - ‘Purifying ‘One’s Thoughts by Dispelling Defilements of Mind



By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
07 October 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.
This is in sequel to the reflections on institutional Zakat in Part-12 of this series.
Human mind is constantly stalked by evil thoughts and there is a perpetual tug of war between depravity (Fujurah) and moral uprightness (Taqwa) in man’s sub-conscious mind (Nafs) (91:8, Reflection 7). The depravity of mind can trigger a whole series of mental defilements such as anger, jealousy, greed, arrogance, hatred and contempt of others, cruelty, vengeance, and other negativities, and disturb the equanimity of mind and keep it locked in futile thoughts with adverse impacts on personal, social and family life and in the overall well-being of the community.
The Qur’an regards this theme so weighty that it raises it with the Prophet in its following very early passage (verse 74:5) that commissioned him on his Prophetic mission:
“O you enwrapped (Mudaththir) (in your thoughts) (74:1)! Arise and warn (your people) (74:2). Magnify your Lord (74:3). Purify your inner self (literally, ‘cloak’) (4).Shun all defilements (74:5). Do not bestow favour, seeking gains (6). And turn to God in patience” (74:7).
A broad cross section of Qur’anic verses is listed below under appropriate headings to bear out the crux of the Qur’an’s counselling against the defilements of mind
1.       Restraining Anger and Forgiving People:
“[The morally upright (Muttaqin)] are those who spend (in charity) in (times of) plenty as well as hardship, restrain anger and forgive people for God loves the compassionate” (3:134).
2.       Courtesy in Greeting:
“When you are greeted with a greeting, return it with a more courteous greeting or (at least) its like. Indeed God takes account of everything” (4:86).
3.       Against Talking Evil Of People:
“God does not love of evil talk in public except by one who has been wronged. (Remember,) God is All-Knowing and Aware” (4:148)
4.       To Speak Graciously:
“Tell My servants to say what is best - for verily Satan sows dissension among them, for Satan is an open enemy to man” (17:53).
5.       Shunning Arrogance:
“And do not walk arrogantly on earth - for you can neither cleave the earth apart, nor reach the mountains in height” (17:37).
“(Said Luqman to his son): ‘Do not turn your cheek away from people (in scorn), nor walk arrogantly on earth. Surely God does not love any arrogant boaster (31:18). Therefore, be modest in your bearing, and keep your voice low; (and remember) the harshest of sounds is the braying of an ass’” (31:19).
6.       To Be Discerning Against Slanderous News:
“You who believe, if a wicked person comes to you with a (slanderous) news, verify it, otherwise you may ignorantly harm (other) people, and become regretful for what you have done” (49:6).
7.       To Avoid Excessive Suspicion:
“You who believe, avoid excessive suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a sin; and do not spy (over others), nor backbite each other. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it! So heed God and (remember,) God is Most Relenting and Merciful” (49:12).
8.       Against Backbiting:
“Woe to every backbiting critic (104:1), who amasses wealth, and keeps counting it (and does not spend in charity)” (104:2).
9.       To Conduct Oneself Graciously At Places Of Worship:
10.     Not to Be Lavish In Eating and Drinking
“Children of Adam, conduct yourselves graciously [literally “‘hold on to your God given endowments (Zinat)] at every place of worship. Eat and drink - but do not be wasteful for He does not approve of those who are wasteful” (7:31).
In a very restrictive sense fine clothes are also God’s endowments, and accordingly the verse has been traditionally rendered to imply the wearing of one’s best dress at every place and occasion of prayer. Such an interpretation is not tenable as this will be discriminatory against the poor who may not have any fine clothes to wear.
This all may be of little interest to any modern reader for none of the listed biddings or prohibitions can help him to advance in the rate race for wealth, power and social status, or add glitter, glamour or celebrity air that are most sought after in this era. As for the lay Muslims long ‘Bayans’ (sermons) and stories of the prophets, saints, Sufis, and accounts of their miracles and other similar narratives may have far greater appeal than the cut and dry pronouncements of the Qur’an. But those few of any religion or no religion that may care to heed at least some of them may be rewarded with ineffable, peace, harmony and tranquillity in life that money, power, position, glitter, glamour and celebrity air cannot buy.
Part Twelve of the Series:
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.