Archive for August, 2016

Secular historians do not believe that Noah existed, upon him peace. There is no evidence for his existence other than the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. As such, Hindus and Buddhists also have little reason to believe in him. But the Qur’an narrates his story on many occasions.

I used to think that historiography was about proof – hard, tangible proof. But I realize now that, as a Muslim, it is more about faith. I believe in Noah, upon him peace, and I hope to meet him in the next life, by the Mercy of God. That distinguishes me from many billions of human beings living now on the face of the Earth.

Of course, there are also Jews and Christians who still believe in Noah, due to his critical role in the Bible. But due to the quasi-historical format of the Bible, many from these communities have lost faith in Noah once they have come to believe that the Bible is a flawed document. If the Bible is the only basis to know Noah, then if the Bible cannot be trusted, then the story of Noah cannot be believed.

But faith in Noah based on the Qur’an is different. It is not a faith based on historical proofs, but simply trust that Muhammad was the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. So if a man who lived in the 7th century preached that Noah was one of the Messengers who came before him, even if it was tens of thousands of years before, that is enough.

That fundamentally changes our understanding of how history works.

And what it is the story of Noah, upon him peace? At its base, is the story of the interplay of God’s Mercy and Justice. Unlike anyone else in the Qur’an, we hear of Noah’s unnaturally long life:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ الطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ

“We sent Noah to his people and he lived among them for fifty short of a thousand years; then the deluge overtook them, for they were wrongdoers.” (29.14, Wahiddudin Khan translation)

For so long, God put up with disbelief and disobedience. All they had to do was attach themselves to God’s Messenger:

قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَطِيعُونِ

“And so he said, ‘My people, I am here to warn you plainly. Worship Allah, and fear Him, and obey me.'” (71.23,  Abdel Haleem translation)

And yet they did not. So then God’s justice came, and only those who had stuck with Noah were saved. Even his own son was drowned for his unwillingness to heed his father’s advice.

This is a paradigmatic moment in human history that can only be perceived with faith. It was so central that the Qur’an made it a point to attach Abraham to it, peace be upon him, even though he was not directly connected to it historically.

وَإِنَّ مِن شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْرَاهِيمَ

“and surely Abraham was one of [Noah’s] shi’a.” (37.83, my translation)

The word shi’a can justifiably be translated as “partisan,” “adherent,” or “follower.” It brings to mind the idea that Abraham was on the same path of guidance as Noah, upon them both peace. Although Abraham did not face the Flood, had he been there, he would have succeeded. In short, the spirit of “submission to God (al-Islam)” was the same, although the context differed.

And just as Abraham’s time was different from Noah’s, our time is different. But the spirit of al-Islam is the same. We have to be willing to attach ourselves wholeheartedly to guidance. For if we had faced the Flood, would we have succeeded had we been tested in that way? Would our hearts have been full of enough faith to board the Ark? Or would we have wanted to do things our own way, like the son of Noah?

But there was only one way – to be from the shi’a of Noah. When he said to board the Ark, one must board the ark. When he said to get off, one must get off.

When I reflect on that spiritual legacy today, I marvel at the Mercy of God that holds back the proverbial floodwaters that surround us, and I fear the inevitable manifestation of Divine Justice in this world and the next.

May God prepare us, despite our weaknesses and doubts, to board the Ark when we are commanded to do so.

To be from the shi’a of Noah, like Abraham before us, peace upon them both.




Read Full Post »

there you are, moon

i see you with my own eyes

filling the dark with light

“and by the moon as it follows it” (91.2)

“by the moon when it becomes full” (84.18)

“and has made the moon a light therein” (71.16)

you are surely one of the great signs of God

and by you we determine two pillars of worship

My Lord!

I have made pilgrimage to Your House in Makkah.

“The first House [of worship] to be established for people was the one at Mecca. It is a blessed place; a source of guidance for all people” (3.96)

I had no authority here on Earth to determine the time of the Hajj. Others who control Makkah determine when the Hajj began, and so I went to fulfill my obligation and left aside that which I had no control over. But You placed the moon in the sky to determine its beginning!

“They ask you [Prophet] about crescent moons. Say, ‘They show the times appointed for people, and for the pilgrimage.’” (2.189)

Please accept from me my worship! I am ignorant and sinful, but You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy! I tried my best to fulfill my obligation – please accept, my Lord!

And I fast during the month of Ramadan! And it is the moon that determined its beginning.

“…So those of you who witness the month must fast in it….” (2.185)

My Lord!

I am so sick of the words of human beings, even my own. I wish I did not have to write this. But I find no other vehicle to express myself other than these words. But it is not words that I want. It is what the words point to.

I want the moon.

How many conferences of human beings are filled with words about the moon?! How much contention and wrangling in human hearts is manifested in speech about that which You have created beautiful and pristine?!

“We gave them clear proof in matters [of religion]. They differed among themselves out of mutual rivalry, only after knowledge came to them: on the Day of Resurrection your Lord will judge between them regarding their differences.” (45.17)

My Lord!

No one controls the moon but You. Those with the most billions to spend cannot stop its phases. Someone who has published 200 books cannot make it rise in the horizons other than where You have decreed it to be.

I want the moon.

I want the sign in the heaven that speaks to me with the pure voice of Your Oneness. Far away from the prattle of nervous minds and bookish tendencies.

Yes, my Lord, the moon is not You. It is created.

“And when he saw the moon rising he said, ‘This is my Lord,’ but when it too set, he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me, I shall be one of those who go astray.’” (6.77)

But it rises high above this world, where our folly has yet to touch, reminding us to fast for You in the month of Ramadan, and to travel to Makkah for You in the month of Dhu’l-Hijja.

I am a Muslim, my Lord, because I believe in You, and want the way back to You.

“This is a reminder. Let whoever wishes, take the way to his Lord.” (76.29)

I am searching for those things that are beyond doubt to lead me on that way, my Lord.

Muhammad looked to the same moon.

‘Ali looked to the same moon.

Husayn looked to the same moon.

And that gives comfort to my broken heart.

اللهم صل على محمد و آل محمد


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: