During our meeting in New York City on February 22nd, 2016 we discussed what the Sura 16, Ayas 10-18 mean or say to us.
This Sura reads as follows:It is He who sends water from the skies; from it you drink and so do the plants which your cattle eat.
With it He causes crops to grow and olives and dates and grapes and all the fruits. Surely, in this there is a message for people who think.
And He has made the night and the day and the sun and the moon subservient to you; and the stars are subservient by His command. Surely, in this, there are messages for people who use their reason.
And what He created on the Earth has many shades of colors. Surely, in this, there is a message for people who reflect.
And He it is who has made the sea subservient, so that you can eat fresh meat from it, and take from it ornaments you wear.
And on the sea you see ships going through the waves, so that you may seek to enrich yourself of His Abundance, and thus may be grateful.
And He has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you, and rivers and roads, so that you can find your way, as well as many landmarks: and by the stars people find their way.
Is, then, he who creates like one that cannot create? Do you not consider this?
For, should you attempt to count God’s favors, you could never exhaust them.
Dr. Abdulhameed’s commentary on the above Sura states that our lives are shaped by perspectives we adopt. One view of nature is that it is vast and that it works by its own rules, irrespective of our existence. Another view of nature is expressed by admiring its beauty. Another view is that the physical world is a source of danger and hardship for us. The quoted ayas allow for a perspective that nature is subservient to our needs and that we can use it for our benefit by finding creative ways as to how to make it benefit us. It is of great importance that we fully realize within ourselves that nature has resources that sustain us, enrich us, and guide us because we can then live with an attitude of appreciation and gratitude. This helps us in two ways: it teaches us the benefit of positive thinking and it allows us to live in harmony with the creation, which, in turn, allows for a continuous flow of goodness to come our way. At any moment we can encounter events and situations that cause fear and frustration but we do have an option of shedding such thinking and asking ourselves what benefit can be derived from such a seemingly harmful event/situation. If we ask this question and are serious about finding an answer to it, then we are sure to find it.
Another very important aspect of the ayas quoted above points to inherently human qualities that when employed the way we are asked to employ them, should guide us in the direction of a better understanding of our existence and ultimately to what God is trying to teach us. Namely, we are being asked to reflect, to think, to use our reason, and to consider. By reflecting, thinking, and considering we are able to understand how we can make our lives better as these ayas were a source of inspiration for early Muslims who explored nature and became leaders in science and technology. And at the same time, as with anything else that God said and created, there are multifunctional aspects to each and every word and to each and every made thing, and that is that in addition to using our human faculties of refection, thinking, and reasoning in order to find ways to better our lives, we are reminded to use those faculties to deepen our faith in Him so that we can act decisively, bravely and at the same time conscientiously in the process of our doing anything as we move through the world and attempt to achieve a happy state here as well as in the next life.
Some of the thoughts that came to mind to us, personal growth seekers, as we worked through this chapter stated that the same exact thing can be seen as bad or as a source of benefit and that it depends on how we look at it. Idea is for us to realize that as we try to realize the benefit in something seemingly bad, we are thinking deeply, hopefully unlocking our own unique and true spirit of creativity as we do it. If we passively accept everything, then there will be no benefit to discover for us or for anyone else. Said in a different way, if we look at things superficially, we are not aware that there are deeper possibilities in what we are looking at. Our world is inexhaustible in its richness; it is about how much creativity we bring to what we see. Obstacles and resistance is within and without each of us; it depends on how we look at them. There is a spiritual dimension to it all. The idea is to come to the point where it becomes natural to say that God is great and for us to be truly grateful, reflecting back to the idea of the multi-functionality of every word He said and of every thing He made.
At the end of each discussion, Dr. Abdulhameed provides an exercise that can be used to help us think more deeply about what has been discussed and reflect back on the quoted ayas. The exercise for this chapter states:
1) Think of an aspect of your life which you perceive as limiting or unpleasant. It can be in your environment or in your personality. Think of how it can be made into a source of benefit for you.
2) Recall an experience in which you acted creatively; you found a solution to a problem, or you had a new idea, or you made a drawing or a painting, or you wrote a piece you liked. Think of how good it feels to be creative, and ask how you can find time to be more creative in the future.