Friday, November 16, 2007

قتل الإنسان ما أكفره - Developing an Insight

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Introduction to the post:

The following is an insight I got as I was writing on the humble beginnings of man. In fact, the post was initially entitled "the humble beginnings of man". But as I was writing this piece I realised for the first time the connection between the gratitude we ought to show to Allah and the gratitude we ought to show to our parents as mentioned in Surah Luqman. It suddenly dawned upon me that those who are rebellious and ungrateful to Allah are not very different from those who are rebellious and ungrateful to their parents. Whilst parents are the nurturers of their children Allah is the Lord and Nurturer of the Worlds. I then thought of exploring this insight further through a connection with the Qur'anic verse I had originally in mind for the post, namely: قُتِلَ الإِنْسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ .

The following, then, is no more than an attempt to develop my initial thought for the post and a subsequent thought as I was originally writing the post, into a coherent and structured piece of writing, insha Allah. In hindsight, I have also realised that there are different ways in which I could have gone about this task - ways that I might consider in the future. Once such way (some elements of which are included here) is to explore all the implications in being grateful or ungrateful to Allah, and why Allah in one verse orders us to thank him but at the same time also to thank our parents. Shukr is an act of acknowledging that someone has been good to you, and Kufr is a rejection not only of the benevolence of that someone but often also of the very existence of that someone. Shukr presupposes also that we are aware of the good that has been done to us, and that we often contemplate these gestures of goodness, kindness and generosity, lest we not take them for granted or just assume and accept that that is how things ought to be and just are in the world. For example, it just so happens that we have parents who care for us, and that there is nothing special about this, such that it warrants gratitude. This is a perspective that will have to change even if we do not hold it consciously. It is by acknowledging our parents and what they have done for us, esp. our mothers, that we will also properly understand what it means to make Shukr to Allah, Who is the One Who gave us parents in the first place.

There are other insights that can be teased out from an extended reflection on the concept of Shukr, but we will defer that for now so as not to delay some of the insights that we have already gained from such a reflection, and to Allah belongs all Praise.

Exploring the Qur'anic verse: قُتِل الإنْسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ :

[Assessing Three Translations Based on a Linguistic Analysis of the Verse]:

YUSUF ALI: Woe to man! What hath made him reject Allah;
PICKTHAL: Man is (self-)destroyed: how ungrateful!
SHAKIR: Cursed be man! how ungrateful is he!

Both Pickthal and Shakir concur that the Kufr mentioned in مَا أَكْفَرَهُ is the Kufr that relates to being ungrateful to the Bounties and Favours of Allah whereas Yusuf Ali maintains that it refers to the Kufr that relates to the Rejection of Allah and the Denial of His Existence. On consulting the tafsir literature the tendency seems towards interpreting Kufr as Rejection and Denial but at the same time many of them also combine the Kufr of Rejection and Denial with the Kufr of Ungratefulness implying that both interpretations are valid, and that a Rejection of Allah's Bounties is also a Rejection of Allah Himself.

Secondly, while Yusuf Ali analyses "ما" as being interrogative (استفهامية) such that the sentence becomes a question, both Pickthal and Shakir analyse it as the "maa" of displaying wonder (تعجبية) such that the sentence becomes one of displaying wonder and surprise at the fact of man's rejection of Allah and His Favours. Both these analyses are supported in the tafsir and lughah literature.

Thirdly, قُتِلَ is interpreted as a type supplication against man. Many exegetes give the meaning of "قُتِلَ" as "لُعِنَ" (i.e. to be cursed). This seems to concur with the interpretation of Shakir and possibly Yusuf Ali, whereas Pickthal gives a more literal interpretation of self-desctruction coming to man.

Fourthly, الإنسان is taken mostly in the generic sense, and is often interpreted as الْكَافِر because of "ما أكفره" ., such that it is not الإنسان in the absolute sense but rather الإنسان as a كافر (rejector of Allah and His Bounties). Also, if interpreted as referring to someone in particular, then it can also be extended to others by way of qiyas (analogy), that is, people displaying similar qualities.


What is the cause for the CHARGE OF INGRATITUDE being laid against man?

The Qur'an continuously and constantly reminds us of our humble beginnings:

(1) there was a time that we were not a thing worth mentioning

(2) we originated from a despicable substance that came from an equally dispicable place

(3) as babies and little kids we could not care for ourselves; in fact we could not feed ourselves nor could we clean ourselves after we rid ourselves of the substances that came from the food that we could not feed ourselves

(4) we are also utterly and totally dependent on everything and everyone around us just to survive let alone live in luxury: the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the food that we eat, the houses that we find shelter in, the clothes that we wear, etc.

We are like little children, because we just happened to have had parents that looked after us and cared for us, and we took for granted that that is how things must be. How ungrateful we often are to our parents. It is this fact, that the Qur'an in Surah Luqman endeavours to bring home and engrave in our consciousness. It tells us to be good and grateful to our parents, and then tell us at length of a period in our development that we often take for granted and that we have no recollection of. This is the period when our mothers carried us pain upon pain, weakness upon weakness, and then risk dying during child-birth just to give birth to us. Then we turn around when we are older and treat our parents with such ingratitude and disdain that it is almost hard to believe that as weak and helpless babies we would turn out to be such monsters to our parents.

Now, this situation is not much different from our relation to Allah. No wonder Allah orders us in the same verse to be grateful to both Him and our parents. Yet Allah has done infinitely more for us than our parents. In fact, He gave us parents in the first place to look after us. Whatever care and compassion they showed us when we were helpless babies and children is as a result of the mercy and compassion He has placed in the hearts of our parents especially our mothers.

At the end of the day, all Praise belongs to Allah. Yet, many of us, despite partaking of all the bounties and favours that Allah has betstowed upon us turn around and show nothing but ingratitude and arrogance.

Some of us turn around and put forth a parable to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Allah says of him in Surah Yasin:وضرب لنا مثلا ونسي خلقه، قال من يحيي العظام وهي رميم؟ . Such utter arrongance and ungratefulness! After everything He has given us, some of us have the audacity to question His Existence, His Revelation, our Resurrection on the Day of Judgment! The Qur'an time and again tells us, nay, reminds us of how hopeless and helpless we once were, and how hopeless and helpless we will once again become, but very few of us take heed and take the Reminder seriously. In fact, the verses (17 - 23 of Surah 'Abasa) that follow the verse under discussion (namely, قتل الإنسان ما أكفره ), remind us of our humble beginnings:

مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ
مِن نُّطْفَةٍ خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ
ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ
ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ
ثُمَّ إِذَا شَاء أَنشَرَهُ
كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ

[From what stuff hath He created him?
From a sperm-drop: He hath created him, and then mouldeth him in due proportions;
Then doth He make His path smooth for him;
Then He causeth him to die, and putteth him in his grave;
Then, when it is His Will, He will raise him up (again).
By no means hath he fulfilled what Allah hath commanded him. ]

Yes, from what stuff was man created?
Yes, and what was he before he was created?

هَلْ أَتَى عَلَى الْإِنسَانِ حِينٌ مِّنَ الدَّهْرِ لَمْ يَكُن شَيْئًا مَّذْكُورًا

[Has there come over man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning?] (Surah al-Insan, verse: 1).

Such then are man's origins: nothingness, then a sperm-drop - a dispicable substance emitted from an equally dispicable place, and so also when he is eventually born. It is clear that the beginnings of man's creation involve nothing but lowliness and inferiority. Why then all this arrogance, audaciousness and impudence?

So also will be his end in this world. From nothingness he comes and to nothingness will he be reduced. From turab (dust) he comes and to turab will he return. ثم أماته فأقبره (then He caused him to die, and then put him in the grave). Why then all this arrogance, audaciousness and impudence?

I mean if it is not enough that we should be humbled by our humble beginnings then let us at least be humbled by our humble end in this world. 'Umar ibn al-Khattab used to say: Every day you hear people announcing: مَات فُلاَنٌ (So-and-so has died), and there will come a day when people will announce: مَاتَ عُمَرُ ('Umar has died), and that did come and people did announce: مَات عُمَرُ ('Umar has died).

And here I, the author of this blog, say as 'Umar has said: Everyday you hear people announcing: مَات فُلاَنٌ (So-and-so has died), and there will come a day when people will announce: مَاتَ أَمِيْنُ اللهِ (Amienoellah has died).

Are we ready for that day? If not, then let us not waste time.

The Greatest of Mortal Sins:

I remember in a hadith that the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) asked his companions concerning the greatest of Mortal Sins, to which he then replied: الإشراك بالله وعقوق الوالدين و and then he sat up and said: ألا وقول الزور and repeated it until the narrator wished he would stop (because of how much it scared them), in this order. What is striking of this hadith is the mentioning of the sin of disobeying one's parents immediately after the sin of associating partners with Allah. If one ponders over a possible connection between these two sins then you cannot but conclude that at the basis of both these mortal sins is the issue of ungratefulness. How can one associate partners with Allah after He created him and then bestow bounties upon him? How can one disobey his parents after all they that they have done for him and have gone through whether before or after he was born? Worse then is to disobey one's parents and on top of it to associate partners with Allah. In fact, the Qur'an talks about such a case.

You might ask concerning the parents who strive to cause you to deviate from the Straight Path. Here again we find the Qur'anic directives instructive. We are told not to obey them in that respect but still to accompany them in goodness in this world. This is the gratitude we show to them even if they are non-Muslim, because as non-Muslims they went through the same difficulties and gave us the same care when and after we were brought into this world.

Worse is the fact that some of us use the very bounties that Allah has bestowed to deny Allah and show ingratitude:

Allah says in Surah Ibrahim (verses: 28 - 29):

29 -أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ بَدَّلُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّواْ قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ، جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا وَبِئْسَ الْقَرَارُ - سورة إبراهيم 28

[Have you not seen those who change the Grace of Allah into rejection and ungratefulness and led their people down to the Abode of Destruction, into Hell? They will burn therein, - an evil place to stay in!]

The Mufassirun say that the people referred to in the verse are the Disbelievers of Makkah on whom Allah had bestowed all kinds of bounties and favours, and then honoured them with His greatest Bounty which was to raise the The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) - the Mercy unto the Worlds - from their midst. Yet they turned around and rejected him, and instead of welcoming him they ridiculed him and subjected him to all types of persecution, such that he and his followers had to eventually flee Makkah.

In this day and age we find that the favours that Allah has bestowed on humanity such as technology, science and medical advancement, have been used by some to deny Allah's Existence. The very tools of learning and research (such as their senses and intellectual faculties) that Allah has endowed them with, they have used to turn against Him. Instead of using these tools to point them in the direction of Allah they use them to to point them in the direction of atheism and a godless secularism.

In fact, we find some have even made it their livelihood - a livelihood that (in reality) comes to them from Allah - to reject and deny Allah and His bounties. It is to this effect that Allah says in Surah al-Waqi'ah (verses: 81 - 82):


أَفَبِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَنتُم مُّدْهِنُونَ ، وَتَجْعَلُونَ رِزْقَكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ تُكَذِّبُونَ

[Is this the Message that you scorn? And have you transformed the livelihood and sustenance that come to you into denial and false declaration?] In other words, is this how you show your gratitude and thankfulness to Us and repay Our Favours upon you by not only being ungateful and thankless but by outrightly rejecting Us and denying this Message of Ours?]

... But it is Allah's Way not to act hastily but to let them rejoice in their misguidance for a while. This is the meaning of Allah's Name al-Sabur (الصبور) - which refers to Allah's attribute of not acting hastily and executing matters before their appointed times - times that He Himself has appointed for them.

We can only but marvel at the patience and constance with which they are marching to and getting ready for the Fire (if Allah does not will for them to be guided). To echo the words in Surah al-Baqarah (verse: 175):

فَمَا أَصْبَرَهُمْ عَلَى النَّارِ

[How constant and patient are they in their striving to reach the Fire!]

... But then again it is only out of ignorance that they behave in this way, for had they really known, their behaviour would have been totally different.

Finally, Allah Almighty is not in need of our gratitude, nor does our ingratitude affect Him in the least, because He is free of all needs and wants, while we are the ones who are in need of Him (يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الغَنِيُّ الحَمِيدُ) (O Mankind, You are the ones who are need of Allah, while Allah is free of all needs and wants, and worthy of all praise) (Surah Fatir: verse 15). Moreover, we are the ones who stand to benefit from showing how grateful and thankful we are for all the bounties and favours Allah has bestowed and continues to bestow upon us. Thus, Allah reminds us in Surah Luqman verse: 12:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ وَمَن يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ

[Indeed, We bestowed (in the past) Wisdom on Luqman: "Show gratitude to Allah." Any who shows gratitude (to Allah) does so only to profit his own soul: but if any is ungrateful, verily Allah is free of all wants, Worthy of all praise.]

May Allah make us the custodians of His Din, and make us utilise everything in our power and possess from what He has granted us in the way of promoting and advancing the course of the Religion of Truth.

2 comments:

siraj said...

assalamu alaikum,

jazakAllahu khairan and nice to see you back.

assalamu alaikum,

abu abdillah

sheepoo said...

EXTREMELY happy to see you back.

Thanks for all the knowledge sharing