Be Fair and Generous
During our meeting in New York City on June 27th, 2016, we discussed Chapter 37 of The Quran and the Life of Excellence book by Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed. The chapter is based on the following aya:
Sura 16, Aya 90
Behold, God enjoins justice and the doing of good, and generosity towards people and He forbids all that is shameful and that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; and He exhorts you repeatedly so that you might bear all this in mind
These ayas indicate a series of characteristics that should manifest within believers as well as a series of characteristics that believers should work on eliminating within themselves. We are constantly being asked by God to exert ourselves in the cause of justice by being just ourselves first of all, and then by demanding justice of and for others. We are constantly being asked by God to do good deeds and if we read the Quran carefully, we will notice that every time God lists characteristics of those who can hope for His kindness and forgiveness, He lists belief in the first place, and then He lists the characteristic of doing of good deeds before He continues to list any other characteristics. Doing good is therefore extremely important.
Then we are told of the negative traits that we should work on discarding because they stand in the way of spiritual growth and attainment of a purer state of ourselves, which is every believers aim. We should avoid acting shamefully, which means that whatever our conscience considers to be shameful, we should avoid because sooner or later it will degrade us and cause us mental suffering. We are also asked not to do things that are counter to reason, one of the most important exhortations in the religion of Islam. It should be viewed as an exhortation to free our minds from oppressive thoughts and ideas as they are most likely oppressive because we haven’t consciously examined their source and reasoned our way through them. This is also one of the most important exhortations precisely because using our reason means applying our thinking process.
Our process of thinking leads us to examine ourselves and our beliefs and through it, we discard superstitions and cultural influences and stand firmly in our faith before God who is now showing us the faith that He contemplated for us and is making us His agent here on Earth. We will also notice that God mentions envy often and that He would like us to resolve that issue within ourselves because there will always be people who will have more than us and people who are better than us. Envy, like any other negative human characteristic, spreads “toxins” throughout our bodies and we “emit” the same energy around us. By its nature, it stands in the way of our continuous work of self-improvement.
While we all know that it is easier to say things than to do them precisely because we all come with our own deep-rooted set of beliefs and ideas as well as our subconscious which has been absorbing much of what we have been experiencing throughout our lives, God is here to remind us and encourage us to keep working on ourselves to discard as much of what is bad for us as possible, knowing that it is one of the hardest things to do. Some of the hardest things we will ever do in our lives is continually monitoring our thoughts and keep asking for forgiveness and guidance in removing what’s shameful and envious but as we all know, nothing that will benefit us in the long run and is worth our while is ever easy to do. Only those who actually go through the process achieve permanent success and change for the better. We need to genuinely want to do this.
Some of the thoughts expressed by those present during this class state that we decide that we will start behaving differently but there is inner resistance which is where the difficulty lies – breaking through that wall of resistance through genuine desire to change is the key; Spiritual growth means that we were in a certain way, living under the influence of inferior choices but we consciously decided to change ourselves and live under the influence of better choices.
Spiritual growth occurs when we learn what is taking place inside of us and we decide to change; The Prophet spent a large part of his day in contemplation; We need to spend some portion of the day sitting quietly in order to notice what patterns run through our minds and then we become aware of what we think; Once we are aware of what we are thinking we should decide to change those thoughts that we want to change; We need to be aware of our rules of living and choose what we want/don’t want; This is a central struggle in a lot of people’s lives; People want to be certain way but they are not able to do it easily because of their inner patterns; In a state of low self-awareness, people look outside of themselves and blame others for what happened to them. We learn the best and the most lasting lessons from the most difficult people.
Summary by Alma Subasic