Friday, May 29, 2009

Where's Today's Ark?

Where's Today's Ark?

By Nasir Munir

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.

The world is an incessant interplay of the ninety-nine attributes of God. These attributes are almost equally divided between those of rigor and immanence. Man benefits from both. Where immanence predominates, one is to be thankful for God's mercy [1]. When tested with rigor, a concerted effort to correct any deviation from the monotheistic path (tawhid) is required. The Prophets are chosen by God to guide erring humanity to the Straight Path.


The people later to be known as the nation of Noah a.s gradually slipped into a state heedlessness (ghaflah). They negated the primordial covenant with God and attributed divine power to replicas of people, things and special events. The Satan who was granted the power to "whisper to the soul" made this practice fair seeming. Against this backdrop, God sent a messenger to reacquaint the people with the covenant and guide them to the Straight Path (Siraat ul Mustaqeem).

The time slices during which God's Messengers were sent to earth are times of divine refraction in human experience. During these times Truth becomes manifest and evidentiary miracles, often custom made, are in plain view of people. Rebuffing Truth (which is Kufur) with the divine light blazing is a form of Pharaonic arrogance not dissimilar to Iblis's first act of disobedience. God grants human beings volition in accepting or rejecting the Guidance (Hidayah).

The nation of Noah a.s, by and large, rejected Guidance. God decreed that the rejecters would perish. An enormous body of water overwhelmed all, save those in the ship of salvation.

Prophet Noah a.s, in common with other Messengers of God, showed, for all humanity the path to reclaim the title: "lieutenant of God on earth" [2]. Stations of the nafs along this path are followed by aspects of Prophet Noah's life-long Message as it reflected in life-events of later Messengers of God. Finally, the teasing question: "Where's Today's Ark?" is tackled.

Discovering the Straight Path

The Prophets are chosen by God to guide erring humanity to the Straight Path (Siraat al Mustaqim). A Hadith [3] identifies three Stations along this path:

1) Islam: concerns the stage of action, (generally acts of piety that require the body to be performed) [4]

2) Iman: the state of firm conviction in the belief in God; this is the stage where the mind surrenders to the Truth.

3) Ihsan: indescribable in human terms is the witnessing of God (shahood). Hallmarks of the previous states are unnecessary. God is witnessed through the 'eye' of the Heart (qalb). Each of these states has associated with them a progressively more abstract and more complete view of the true nature of God. The ascension to succeeding Stations - states - is made possible through Jihad al Nafs [5]. The ascension to higher states is not necessarily linear, as Imam Rumi's ascension to the state of Ihsan shows.

Those that rely on intentions, Walk on the Path. Those that rely on love, Fly on the Path. Imam Rumi was a renowned Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) scholar. While visiting the city of Tabriz, he was questioned about the purpose of acquiring knowledge. Not content with his answer, the questioner stated that the purpose of knowledge was to "Know, the Known". In an incommunicable flash of realization, Imam Rumi realized the significance of the questioner's statement. Whereupon, guided by the questioner, who he accepted as a Sheikh (guide), he followed a path to Know the Known (Almighty God), which led him to the state of Ihsan. The questioner, as it turned out, was a Gnostic, himself, Imam Shams Tabrazi. Imam Rumi's son later writes that the great scholar was like a schoolboy learning from his Sheikh every day.

The Prophets

Iblis, the ancient enemy of Adam a.s, has purposed himself to make mankind forget our affirmation to: "Alastu -bi -rabbikum" (Am I not Your Lord?). Failure to honor our covenant leads to outcomes similar to that of Satan. God, in His mercy, selects people (Prophets) to remind, guide and admonish erring humanity. Noah a.s was selected to remind people of their covenant with God and give them an opportunity to accept or reject it. This is the mission of all Prophets of God. The truths, sense of ‘ubudiyyah, ridha and the road to salvation shown by Prophet Noah’s are recounted in the context of later day Prophets.

The Nations of Ad, Thamud

The people of Ad and Thamud were descendants of the people of Noah a.s - who were in the ship of Salvation. Similar to the people of Noah a.s, they too attributed divine power to man-made objects, thereby rejecting God and the Prophets sent to them (Hud and Salih). Their fate was similar to that of the nation of Noah a.s.

Heedlessness leads to attributes similar to those of Iblis - with ensuing consequences.

Prophet Ibrahim alaihissalam

Prophet Ibrahim a.s was cast into the fire (after he destroyed the idols). God decreed he should be saved:

"O fire be coolness and peaceful to Ibrahim". (Al-Anbiya’, 21:69)

God who made the natural order can just as easily break it.

Prophet Ibrahim a.s when challenged to sacrifice what he loved most - offered his son, Isma’il.
The sacrifice required is not of flesh and blood, but rather the surrender of man's purpose and will to God. (in a word: Islam)

Prophets Yusuf and Yunus

Prophet Yusuf a.s was a favorite son of a Prophet, abandoned in a dry well, sold to slavery and imprisoned in Egypt.

Prophet Yunus a.s was cast in the pit of a large fish and endured ill health.

Neither Prophets railed against God. Both of them showed a serene acceptance of God's will (Ridha, a key Islamic virtue).

Prophet Moses

Prophet Moses a.s wished to behold God: “‘Reveal Yourself unto me so that I can see you'. (God replied :) 'You Shall Not See Me, but look at that mountain, if you see it standing, then shall you see Me". God revealed his Glory to the mountain. The mountain was flattened and Moses fell in a swoon. ..." (Al-‘Araf, 7:143)

Almighty God does not reveal himself in this crude manner. Contained in man is something that is not of the earth (that points to heaven, our primordial home), by cultivating that can man hope to see God (with the eye of the Heart)

Prophet Isa

For all his exalted position (his ascension and second coming him) his first words on his (miraculous) birth were:

 "I am the slave of God ..." (Maryam, 19:30)

The state of ubudiyyah (slave-hood, obedience) as contrasted to Satan's disobedience is the most perfected of the states, and most pleasing to God. (Note: Slavery and slave-hood in this context should not be confused with chattel slavery (e.g.: Roman Empire, New World)

Prophet Mohammad

He is the seal of Prophets, after him there will be no Prophets.

 "...This day have I perfected your religion for you completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion..." (Al-Maidah, 5:3)"

The Message first conveyed by Prophet Adam a.s and affirmed by all succeeding Prophets after him was reaffirmed and re-conveyed for the last time. The era of the Prophets has come to a close.

God has completed His favor on mankind. The Book, Al-Qur’an is a witness and source of salvation for all of humanity till the end of time.

Present Day Ark

Today, humanity is in need of an Ark to save us from the ravages of Modernity. The era of Modernity ushered in by the writings of, for example, Gibbon and Edmund Burke has led to a loss of meaning. With only the lower agitated possibilities of the human condition recognized, Modernity has striven to find meaning. Karl Marx attributed alienation of the soul to class differences in society; Sigmund Freud attributed it to the early repression of the passional dimensions of the human condition. When these remedies proved inadequate, meaning was sought in a sea of machines, skepticism and then skepticism about skepticism and later by New Age spirituality (among others). With higher states of the human condition explicitly excluded, Modernity's quest to find meaning and purpose are bound to be frustrated.

Modernity is characterized by a lifestyle that is centered on the self, and on the lower possibilities of the human condition. The message of vision we inhale almost from birth is to glorify the nafs of clay-bound body in one form or the other: to "discover oneself"; to "free oneself", and last but not least to "be yourself" emphasize a self-centric modality of behavior. Our patterns of consumption for instance: automobiles, clothing, being seen at the "right" places etc., it appears, define our identity. The result, not surprisingly, is a society which enthusiastically pursues material happiness but which puzzles over ever increasing rates of suicide, drug abuse, failed relationships, and aberrant forms of self-mutilation. Unremarkably, it's a society in denial, pain.

"... Had you spent all that is upon the earth, you would not have reconciled their hearts, but God has reconciled their hearts ..." [Al-Anfal, 8:63]

The Prophetic Message and The final Prophet's luminosity reshaped the pagan Arabs from a crude materialistic populace to a unified nation - all this in a span of twenty three years. This shows that the Adamic restoration is possible even under the worst of conditions, even in times such as ours. The proverbial ark is with us. With the Qur’an, the example of the Prophet s.a.w and thousands of transformed souls to guide us, let us set foot in the Ark - before the rains.

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.


[1] Whereas God is under no compulsion to be merciful; mercifulness (i.e. to be merciful) is a state that God has prescribed for Himself:" ...kataba alihi rahama ..." [Al-An’am, 6:12]
[2] “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:30]
[3] It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) said: Ask me (about matters pertaining to religion), but they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) were too overawed out of profound respect for him to ask him (anything). In the meanwhile a man came, and sat near his knees with hands on laps and said: Messenger of Allah, what Al-Islam is?-to which he (the Holy Prophet) replied: You must not associate anything with Allah, and establish prayer, pay the poor-rate (Zakat) and observe (the fasts) of Ramadaan. He said: You (have) told the truth. He (again) said: Messenger of Allah, what Al-Iman (the faith) is? He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you affirm your faith in Allah, His angels, His Books, His meeting, His Apostles, and that you believe in Resurrection and that you believe in Qadr (Divine Decree) in all its entirety, He (the inquirer) said: You (have) told the truth. He (again) said: Messenger of Allah, what Al-Ihsan is? Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: (Al-Ihsan implies) that you fear Allah as if you are seeing Him, and though you see Him not, verily He is seeing you. He (the inquirer) said: You (have) told the truth. He (the inquirer) said: When there would be the hour (of Doom)? (Upon this) he (the Holy Prophet said: The one who is being asked about it is no better informed than the inquirer himself.
I, however, narrate some of its signs (and these are):when you see a slave(woman)giving birth to her master - that is one of the signs of (Doom); when you see barefooted, naked, deaf and dumb (ignorant and foolish persons) as the rulers of the earth - that is one of the signs of the Doom. And when you see the shepherds of black camels exult in buildings - that is one of the signs of Doom. The (Doom) is one of the five things (wrapped) in the unseen. No one knows them except Allah.
Then (the Holy Prophet) recited (the following verse): "Verily Allah! With Him alone is the knowledge of the hour and He it is Who sends down the rain and knows that which is in the wombs and no person knows whatsoever he shall earn on morrow and a person knows not in whatsoever land he shall die. Verily Allah is Knowing, Aware”
He (the narrator, Abu Hurayrah) said: Then the person stood up an (made his way). The Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) said: Bring him back to me. He was searched for, but they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) could not find him. The Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) thereupon said: He was Gabriel and he wanted to teach you (things pertaining to religion) when you did not ask (them yourselves).[Muslim, Chapter 2 Book 1, Number 0006]
[4] Piety that generally require acts of the body to perform: Shahadah (The Twin Testimonial: No Diety save God and Mohammad is the Messenger of God), Fasting, Zakat, Haj and Prayers
[5] Jihad al-nafs: The struggle to purify oneself from diseases of the heart (lust for power, honor, and greatness, greed ...)

[Excerpted with modification from IslamiCity - published on 5/16/2009 - Religious - Article Ref: IC0410-2493]

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