Diamonds in the Rough


By: Amin Tomeh

It is now October (Zul-Qa’da), and Ramadan is behind us by a little over a month. We’re blessed to have completed one of the most enriching and sustained acts of worship, namely al Seyam or the fast of Ramadan al Mubarak. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says in the Glorious Quran, in surat al Baqara, verse 183:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

[O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (attain) God-Consciousness.]

Two things are gleaned from this beautiful verse; one pertaining to the continuity of Allah’s guidance and revelation; and, the second pertaining to the purpose of this important obligation (fasting). This ayah addresses the intellect not the body. Allah addresses al Mu’mineen (those who are actively faithful) not al Nas (humanity in general). Faith is a psychological act in the first degree. The Ayah (verse) ends that this fasting will result in Taqwa or attaining God-Consciousness. And now that we have completed our exercise, and have insha’Allah followed it with optional fasts of the month of Shawal , have we found Taqwa?

When one attends a lecture, a seminar, a class, a training session, one often asks “what did I get out of it?”. What benefit did I derive from my investment – an investment of time, comfort, money, effort, etc. The same question applies at the heels of Ramadan, but al Hamdulilah, the criterion, or the yard stick has already been provided, namely, al Taqwa. So, we are able to make a self-assessment as to whether the intention, or the derived benefit from fasting during the month of Ramadan, has been achieved. Did we perceive or notice a change in our character, in our ability to deny the self, the ego, al Nafs, its whims, desires and wants? Did we notice that we have drawn nearer to Allah during and after this wonderful act of worship? Did fasting alert us to the embedded and the innate, abilities that we have allowed to be obscured by following al Hawa (caprice), or the desires of the self? Did fasting uncover the “diamond in the rough” obscured by earth, and the other rocks in our lives? Did we catch a glimpse of that diamond within ourselves, namely our human superiority when we are obedient to Allah? Obedience which elevates us, above the angels, according to God’s muster?

Did fasting make us more compassionate towards our fellow human beings? Consider the following statistic: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates more than 1.1 Billion people in the world today do not have enough to be healthy or to lead active lives. That is 1 out of every 6 human beings on earth today who are in abject poverty and in utter need. In Pakistan today, due to the worst disaster in recent recorded history to ever befall humanity, 21 million human beings have been displaced and rendered without shelter. These are our brothers and sisters. Could we fall asleep at night knowing that an immediate family member is hungry or needy? Could we – knowing of the pressing need and hunger within our human family?  The afflicted people in Pakistan are our extended family members in humanity and in faith.  And,  the tragedy continues. In Sha’Allah fasting had softened our hearts, sharpened our contemplative intellect and connected us with God and with our fellow human beings, whether in worship or in compassion towards their condition.

In another Sura from the Glorious Quran, Allah speaks more specifically about the nature of the human being; about the potential of the human being, and indeed the destiny of the human being. A destiny that is proportional to the human being’s own actions.

Allah (swt) tells us in surat al Tin (the Fig):

وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ

By the Fig and the Olive,

وَطُورِ سِينِينَ

And the Mount of Sinai,

وَهَذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ

And this City of security,-

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.

فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِالدِّينِ

So what yet causes you to deny the Recompense?

أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَحْكَمِ الْحَاكِمِينَ

Is not Allah the wisest of judges?

In this beautiful chapter, Allah (SWT) uses four symbols to elucidate a point, the Fig, The Olive, Mount Sinai, and the City of Security, Makkah. For some commentators the Fig and Olive connote or draw attention to the location where they predominantly grow, namely in the lands of northern Arabia, in the Holy lands of Jerusalem and its surroundings where Allah revealed his guidance to humanity through his prophets and messengers. Herein again, another reference to the chain of Guidance that Allah bestowed upon humanity. Mount Sinai draws attention to where Allah revealed his guidance and gave the Law to Moses (pbuh). And the sacred City of Makkah connotes of course the place where Allah gave His final guidance and revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is; therefore, these chronological events that best equip the human beings to reach their highest potential, embodying the best of moulds that Allah describes in the noble verses above.

Other interpretations that are more figurative in nature and contemplative in substance connote the Fig to represent the Human being and the soul. The Andalusian philosopher Muhamad Ibn Al-Arabi compares the Fig to the Heart wherein it does not have a Core, or Nawa, because the Fig like the Heart is indeed The Core in and of itself. Abdullah Yusuf Ali and others, in his commentary compares the Fig to the entire Human Being wherein if the former is left uncultivated growing in the wilderness, it could become the worst of fruits, full of maggots, worms, sour taste and nothing nutritious. Conversely, if the Fig is cultivated and cared for, it becomes amongst the best of fruits on earth full of goodness and nutrition. Yusuf Ali further theorizes that the Olive symbolically connotes the guidance and Nur (light) of God. Reference is made to Surat Al Nur (surah 24, verse 35) which compares Allah’s Nur to the Mishkat or the lantern that is lit from a Sacred Tree, namely the Olive Tree.

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونِةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُّورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاء وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

[God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is (enclosed) in glass, the glass (shining) like a radiant star: (a lamp) lit from a sacred tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west the oil whereof (is so bright that it) would well-nigh give light (of itself) even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! God guides unto His light him that wills (to be guided); and (to this end) God propounds parables unto men, since God (alone) has full knowledge of all things.]

Mount Sinai, figuratively points to the intellect, according to Ibn Al-Arabi. The intellect (or the brain) that elevates high above the ground (or that which is lowly) in a human body much like a mountain towers above the earth. The Sacred City of Makkah or the City of Security refers to the complex being that is the Human. Although the city and its inhabitants collectively had received guidance through Sayedna Ibrahim, and his son Ismail (pbut), the city abased itself to the lowest of low by adulterating its monotheistic beliefs with idolatry and concocted intermediaries to God. Much like those human beings who while exposed to the truth of God’s guidance knowingly choose to debase themselves to reach the lowest pits.

Parables or Amthal are abound in the Quran, with most pointing to how Allah created us in the best of Moulds, equipping us with the capability to rise above the Angels in his obedience or to fall to stations that are below the animals in our behavior and transgressions. In Sha’Allah the month of fasting has exposed to us the rough diamonds that innately exist within each one of us. Diamonds which, once polished, elevate us to become better human beings, more obedient towards our Creator, our Benefactor, and Sustainer – Allah the Exalted.

Published in: on October 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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