“A nation on to himself”


By: Amin Tomeh

In a wonderfully eloquent hadith, mentioned in al Tirmizi’s collection, narrated by Huthaifa ibn Al Yaman, that the Prophet (pbuh) said:

لا تَكُونُوا إِمَّعَةً ، تَقُولُونَ : إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَحْسَنَّا ، وَإِنْ ظَلَمُوا ظَلَمْنَا ، وَلَكِنْ وَطِّنُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ ، إِنْ أَحْسَنَ النَّاسُ أَنْ تُحْسِنُوا ، وَإِنْ أَسَاءُوا فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا

The hadith is ranked as weak or even strange according to some sources. However, the wisdom that the hadith carries is ageless and indeed a wonderful basis for establishing a cogent intellect and maintaining the proper course in life. The hadith roughly translates into:

Do not be (blind) followers. Do not say: If people did good, we would do good, and if they transgressed, then we would as well. But establish in yourselves that if people did good, you would, and if they misbehaved you wouldn’t transgress.

The Arabic narrative uses the word “Ima’ah” which in some ways takes its root from the word “ma’a” ((مع or to be with someone. Ima’ah is an exaggeration of the word ma’a or a person who perpetually adheres to others’ thoughts and actions. The Arabic word is very apt, concise and descriptive of a state of being, wherein a person simply looks at the stock market of opinions and actions; whatever people are buying into, (s)he would also rushes to buy into the same. Contrast such a disposition with the following verse from the Quran from Surat al Nahl that describes our father Ibrahim (pbuh):

إن إبراهيم كان أمة قانتا لله حنيفا ولم يك من المشركين

“Indeed Ibrahim was a “nation or a model of virtue or within himself combined all virtues” turning away from all that is false, and not being of those who ascribe divinity to anyone beside God.”

Ibrahim is being described with a curious, even strange, reference “Umma”. Contrast being described as a nation onto yourself with a person who is described as a blind follower. Which would you rather be? And as with most things important, the latter, or that of being a follower, is indeed the path of least resistance. Let others do the thinking for you, chew the great decisions for you, and give you the fruit of their labor. You simply ascribe your thoughts onto other’s labor and ijtihad and the dependency grows exponentially. An Ima’a who is lazily reliant on others, has placed himself or herself into a path that continues to weaken one’s intellect and God’s command to use the blessing of contemplation (tafakur), and cognitive discernment (al aqul). The solution to counter such a predicament is in the same referenced hadith in the wonderful term “watino” or to establish, as it has been translated. But the word is worth another examination.

Watino derives its root from watan, the noun, meaning a place of belonging. Watten, the verb, means establish (one could also say residency). If a person istawtan a place, it means they took up residency there. They settled there. The hadith says “watino la anfusikom”, or establish for yourselves, the inner self, that self that has been described as amarra bil sou’, or commander to do evil.  Choosing residency for that self, is in our hands, and that’s what the hadith is illuminating. Allowing the self (or our whims) to run our lives is an excuse but never a foregone conclusion. And in Saydina Ibrahim and Saydina Muhammad and the other great Prophets (Peace be upon them) are the best of examples. Saydina Ibrahim equates to an entire nation by himself – he possessed the same self that we all do, yet he was able to turn it into a nation onto itself.

Watinno could also be interpreted as establishing the framework within which the person could grow. Consider your life choices; some of them occurred deliberately such as your education, your career, your relationships and friendships, etc. You will notice, if one contemplates in retrospect, that these choices have had a very important impact on their lives. Consider, even the smaller habits that we pick up in some cases unintentionally, or gradually, when one considers their cumulative effects, one will see the huge impact it has on our character and behavior.

Some of the ways that could create the fertile ground for ourselves to grow positively and beneficially is to improve our learning skills. To not be wholly reliant on others to do the thinking for us. This is valid on any front not just a particular field or area. Let our interaction with others be they friends, acquaintances, or the various media outlets “informative” but never “instructive”. Allow yourself to be informed but never fall under the influence of others to do the thinking for you. The so-called modern day “thought leaders” are in most cases highly intellectual individuals who offer great insights into various fields and arenas. Never allow them to be YOUR thought leaders.

Another humble recommendation is to vary your sources. Make those you associate with or those who inform you a tapestry of diversity; a diversity in opinions, positions, and outlooks much like there are great signs or Ayat in the variation of the night and day as Allah describes in the Glorious Quran in many references, from which I chose:

و اخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِنْ رِزْقٍ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ آَيَاتٌ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

“And in the succession of night and day, and in the means of subsistence which God sends down from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and in the change of the winds: [in all this] there are messages for people who use their reason.”

So too are great ayat and benefits in the variation of opinions and resources. Contrast is often a great natural clarifier of ideas. So, leverage it.

I close by reminding myself and you of the catchall aya, that best captures the decorum that Allah wants us to be in:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقَيرًا فَاللّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

“O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!”

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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