Saturday, October 12, 2013

Digging Down into the Depths of the Deen

Have you ever considered a deep rooted tree? No matter what the elements throw at it, it holds its ground. In the winter it shrivels and becomes leafless, but come spring, the deep roots it has are enough to help revive it so that it flourishes and gives fruit and shade. The Prophet (SWAS) uses the similitude of such a tree to describe true believers.

Ibn Umar reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) one day said to his Companions: Tell me about a tree which has resemblance with a believer. The people began to mention (different) trees of the forest. Ibn 'Umar said: It was instilled in my mind or in my heart and it stuck therein that it implied the date- palm tree. I made up my mind to make a mention of that but could not do that because of the presence of the elderly people there. When there was a hush amongst them (after they had expressed their views), Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: It Is the date-palm tree. (Sahih Muslim)

What distinguishes a believer from a disbeliever is that his worldview is formed based on the Truth and Reality, whereas that of a disbeliever's perspective is distorted and based on delusions and doubts. Allah (SWT) contrasts them in the following verses

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills. (Ibrahim 14:24-27)

It is the Sunnah of Allah (SWT) that he tests humanity time and again. Just like a tree suffers from the elements, man also undergoes punishment and trials from Allah (SWT).

Alif-Lam-Mim. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: 'We have faith', and will not be tested? And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make known, those who are true, and will certainly make known those who are liars. (29:1-3)

Scholars say when someone undergoes bad times he can judge whether it is a punishment from Allah (SWT) or a test from Him (SWT) by studying his reaction to the ill he undergoes. If his problems cause him to become rebellious and his devotions to Allah (SWT) decrease, know that it is a punishment. If he becomes repentant and becomes closer to Allah (SWT), know that it is a test and it is beneficial for him.

The question arises as to how a person can prepare himself to withstand the tests of life? The answer is to establish stable foundations for himself, just as the good tree has deep roots to stabilize it. That foundation for a believer is sound and deep knowledge of the deen which he must constantly endeavor to pursue. Allah (SWT) says:

But those firmly grounded in knowledge among them and the believers believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you. And the establishers of prayer [especially] and the givers of zakah and the believers in Allah and the Last Day - those We will give a great reward. (Nisa 4:162)

The above verse shows the excellence and importance of being firmly grounded in knowledge. It indicates that to protect a person’s eeman and help him stay firm in the trials and tribulations, which are inevitable, he must dig down to the depths of the deen, by constantly seeking knowledge of Islam. Realize that the pre-requisite of faith is knowledge, so it you feel spiritually weak, the remedy is to engage in seeking knowledge. In Islam, faith is not blind short-lived enthusiasm, rather knowledge leads to faith which leads to good works which leads to success in this world and the next.

The pursuit of knowledge must begin with the basics. The first type of knowledge that is essential is the knowledge of the Quran. That means that the Quran should not only be learnt to be read, but also its meaning should be understood. Its worldview must be known and implemented. This knowledge is just the basic. Next comes the knowledge of the Sunnah. After these two come other branches of Islamic knowledge like Fiqh, Aquida and Seerah.

It is inconceivable that the life of this world will not have problems. Allah (SWT) has promised us that He (SWT) will definitely test us. We should use the bounties and resources He (SWT) has bestowed us to prepare for those tests. The best preparation is to constantly keep learning the knowledge of the deen starting from the basics and endeavoring to go deep down. Only with deep knowledge we would be like the deep rooted tree which can withstand severe weather which is bound to come, sooner or later. A wise person will use the opportunities in life to prepare for bad times.

The Prophet (saw) advised to: Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death. (Al Hakim)