Taraweeh Reflections - Night 24
Posted: 23 Ramadan 1434, 1 AuguSt 2013
Here are selected verses from the taraweeh recitation for each night with lessons for our lives today.
Juz 25 - Surahs Shura and Zukhruf
The Purpose behind Economic Scarcity
وَلَوْ بَسَطَ اللَّهُ الرِّزْقَ لِعِبَادِهِ لَبَغَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ مَّا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ
For if God were to grant [in this world] abundant sustenance to [all of] His servants, they would behave on earth with wanton insolence: but as it is, He bestows [His grace] from on high in due measure, as He wills: for, verily, He is fully aware of [the needs of] His creatures, and sees them all. (Shura, 42:27)
Economics is the science that deals with the issue of scarcity. However it cannot see the Divine plan behind this scarcity and therefore leads to the same wanton insolence that is meant to be avoided through it. Scarcity of provisions leads to interdependence and makes the working of the human society possible. It also makes us realize our limits and keeps us from being haughty. The result is that we are thankful for the bounties we receive and patient over wants that go unfulfilled.
But when this understanding is not there then it results in exploitation and oppression. We want to have monopoly over the limited resources and use that monopoly for unfair advantage.
That is why Islamization of Economics, and other social and physical sciences, is so important for the welfare of humanity.
Shura versus Democarcy
وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
Those who hearken to their Sustainer, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance; (Shura, 42:38)
This ayah highlights the importance of Shura or the system of mutual consultation for the running of all collective affairs, whether in the family, in a small group or at the highest levels of the Islamic state. When carried out properly, the system shows that the power of the group is much more than the sum of its members. The group benefits from the best of individual resources, talents and ideas. The process of consultation also brings its members closer together, cementing the group. A hadith promises Allah’s succor to those practicing shura.
Sometimes people mention Islamic Shura as another name for democracy. This is a dangerous oversimplification and ignores the gulf of difference between their philosophical underpinnings. Democracy is not a system of mutual consultation, but a system of negotiation between divergent interests. Each constituency on this negotiating table seeks to gain at the expense of others and will do whatever it can get away with --- from vote rigging and gerrymandering to manufacturing consent through slick propaganda campaigns. The division of the community into political factions is part of the blueprint of democracy, as is the permanent division between the ruling and opposition groups.
All of these are the exact opposite of the spirit and purpose of shura, where everyone is working towards the same goals and seeks the greatest benefit for the entire group.
The centrifugal tendencies of democracy require some organizing principle to keep the group together. Hence territorial nationalism and the nation-state, which has done much harm to humanity. It is no accident that the rise of democracy and the nation-sate has been simultaneous. Needless to say that Islam stands in total opposition to territorial nationalism. It is worth noting that philosopher and poet Muhammad Iqbal blasted both of them—nation state as well as democracy --- as they were emerging a century ago.
Regarding the nation-state he said:
ان تازہ خداؤں میں بڑا سب سے وطن ہے
جو پیرہن اس کا ہے وہ مذھب کا کفن ہے
The biggest of the newly minted gods is the nation-state. What it chooses for its cloak is the burial shroud of religion.
Regarding democracy he said:
جمہوریت اک طرز حکومت ہے کہ جس میں
بندوں کو گنا کرتے ہیں تولا نہیں کرتے
Democracy is a system of government in which opinions are counted not weighed.
And he says this on secularism.
جلال پادشاہی ہو یا جمہوری تماشہ ہو
جدا ہو دیں سیاست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگیزی
Whether it is the majesty of monarchy or the show of democracy, when religion is removed from politics, what is left is barbarism.
The Perils of Affluence
وَلَوْلَا أَن يَكُونَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً لَّجَعَلْنَا لِمَن يَكْفُرُ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ لِبُيُوتِهِمْ سُقُفًا مِّن فِضَّةٍ وَمَعَارِجَ عَلَيْهَا يَظْهَرُونَ . وَلِبُيُوتِهِمْ أَبْوَابًا وَسُرُرًا عَلَيْهَا يَتَّكِئُونَ . وَزُخْرُفًا ۚ وَإِن كُلُّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمَّا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَالْآخِرَةُ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
And were it not that [with the prospect of boundless riches before them] all people would become one [evil] community, We might indeed have provided for those who [now] deny the Most Gracious roofs of silver for their houses, and [silver] stairways whereon to ascend, and [silver] doors for their houses, and [silver] couches whereon to recline, and gold [beyond count].... Yet all this would have been nothing but a [brief] enjoyment of life in this world – whereas [happiness in] the life to come awaits the God-conscious with thy Sustainer. (Zukhruf, 43:33-35)
This is a perspective on the perils of gold and silver that is totally ignored today both by the experts and the laymen.