Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 4: Seeing Reality as It is, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf
Continuing on this exploration of the word taqwa from the Qur’an because Ramadhan is really a school of taqwa. In fact, the qur’an says that fasting was prescribed in order that you might acquire taqwa. So again, the prayer (sholah) is really a practice of taqwa; fasting is a practice of taqwa; zakat comes out of taqwa; and certainly hajj is a great personification of taqwa because we enter into the ihram and then we are very limited in what we can actually do when we are in ihram state. So taqwa is really about disciplining the soul, about aligning oneself vertically with our Lord. Most of the people are living on this horizontal plain and forgetting that there is actually another plain. There is another plain that penetrates this plain, and that is the vertical plain of reality. So trying to get to the point of where we have the sun of reality is directly above our head and the shadow disappears, that’s the essence of what taqwa is.
One of the things that qur’an says: take isti’anah (help) with God or through God (i.e. get your help through God) and patience (QS Al-A’raf: 128). Qur’an is also telling us that the earth is God’s and He gives it to whomever He pleases. Allah SWT is the possessor of all dominion and he gives it to whomever He pleases. So Pharaoh can rule Egypt and Moses can be the one who is oppressed in Egypt, but that dominion is from Allah SWT. This is the reminder of the Qur’an. Not to be deluded by the outward; not to fallen to this false perception of reality, where you think that the people in power are in power independent from God. No. They are only there because Allah SWT has enabled them to be there. When He removes their power, their power goes and can go in one night. It can go in one heartbeat. All of their power’s gone. It can go with a stroke. Allah SWT can reduce the most powerful human being to a murdering idiot. This is the reality of life on earth. So the people of taqwa are the people who do not seek their help in the outward illusion of the world. They seek their help from the source of the world. From what’s behind of the world, which is Allah SWT. For this reason, their heart can’t never be conquered. Their body can be conquered; they can be enslaved; they can be in worst condition; but their hearts are for God. This is the reality of the people of taqwa. So we are reminded that the earth is God’s but then that He gives it to whom He pleases (yuritsuha man yasya min ibadihi, QS Al-A’raf: 128). Again, min ibadihi. So it does not matter who they are. They are still in servitude of Allah SWT. But wal ‘aqibatu lil muttaqin, despite all of that, the ‘aqibah (end affair) is for the people of taqwa.
There is another verse in QS Al-Hajj: 41, “those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” Those who have been established in the earth, what do they do once they get into power? This is the difference between the people of pharaoh and the people of Moses. Once they are in power, the people of Moses: they establish the prayer, they take care the poor people. Pharaoh does the opposite. Pharaoh makes people worship him and then he exploits the poor people. The people of taqwa are the people whom when they are established in the world, they establish the prayer, they do taqwa, do amr bil ma’ruf and nahi ‘anin munkar. They command others to virtue because they are practicing it. They are not hypocrite that just commanding people to do virtuos thing without them practicing it. They also prohibit the munkar, something that are vow, vulgarity. One of the hallmarks of our current civilization is its vulgarity. Rasulullah SAW despised vulgarity. He despised vulgar language. He said the believers are not fahas. He said one of the signs of the latter days are you’ll see obscenity manifests and you’ll see people being obscene for fact (not because they’re sad, in frustration, but just for the sake of saying bad words). They’re purposefully using obscenity. This is a very bad sign. One of the interesting words in Greek language is the word for vulgarity: apeirokalia, which means inexperienced in things beautiful. So the Greek understood what vulgarity was, i.e. those who do not understand what beauty is; because beautiful language never uses vulgarity. Words do have reality. People said what’s the big deal about that bad/swear word. No there is a big deal about that word. It has a reality. It has an impact. It has avowedness. People of virtue are people that are behaving beautifully and commanding others to behave beautifully. They are avoiding munkar, the vow things. Things that are not supposed to be seen or heard. Those are the people that Allah SWT said the end affairs is for them.
Allah also reminded us, to be patient and that the end affair is for the people of taqwa (QS Hud: 49). This reminder is constant in qur’an. The reason for that is because “truth is for scaffold, wrong is for the throne”. This is the nature of dunya. Difficult for people to understand that. This place is place for tribulation. If truth is on the throne in the dunya, where’s the tribulation? Tribulation is in difficulty. The religious teaching that empower people on this thing is the most powerful teaching on this planet . That’s why they’re so dangerous. These are extremely dangerous doctrine because people that understand them never be fooled by illusory power of Pharaoh and his minion. Pharaoh has power in this world, but does not have power in the next world. His power is completely obliterated in the next world. In fact, Rasul said, the tyrant will be raised up as ants. They are going to be stepped on by vast majority of humanity because they’re nothing. This is the difference between people of taqwa with the people who are deluded by power. It’s an empty power, does not exist. Only God exists. This is what the people of Allah SWT knows. They know that Allah SWT in the end will rectify every wrong, will straighten every crookedness, will elevate every abased, will abase every elevated in this dunya. That’s the nature. This is what we believe and what we accept. This is what we will be raised up on. May Allah SWT give all of us taqwa in our heart to see the reality as reality. Rasul said in a beautiful du’a: Allohumma airini haqqa haqqa warzunqni ittiba’ah wa airini bathilan bathila warzuqni ijtinabah: O Allah shows me truth as it is and give me the ability to follow it and show me falsehood as it is falsehood and give me the ability to avoid it.