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Looking and Seeing…

The Critical Difference

By Mirza Yawar Baig

We look with our eyes but we ‘see’ with our knowledge. We look at a man with sunken cheeks, walking bent a little forward and say to ourselves, ‘He must be poor and hungry.’ A physician looks at him and knows that it is not hunger that bent him forward and but asthma. The sunken cheeks are a sign of labored breathing.

People all over the world are watching the volcano in Iceland spewing ash, steam and smoke; its fire blasting its way through the covering of ice of the glacier above it, melting the ice and flooding the land. Some call it ‘nature’s fury’. Some call it ‘natural phenomenon’. Some call it a calamity and others call it a tourism opportunity.

But we call it an Ayât of Allah – a sign of the Creator. Sign of what?
Allah said, "Evil (calamities) has appeared on the land and the sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allâh may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allâh, and begging His Pardon)." [Ar­Rum 30: 41]

42. Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Travel in the land and see what was the end of those before (you)! Most of them were Mushrikûn (the disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, polytheists, idolaters, etc.)."

We look at the volcano in Iceland, not with our eyes but with our knowledge and we ‘see’ the reality of what is happening. Allah is showing us the result of our actions. He is showing us how truly helpless we are and how empty all our loud mouthing about our technology, military and wealth is. None of it can do anything to stop this volcano or to neutralize its effects. And it is just one small volcano. There are millions of others. The only way to escape this and more to come is to bow in submission to the only one who has the power to protect us. But will we accept?

Ask what happened to Pompeii? Ask why?

The problem is that when one looks at things without the light of the knowledge of the Revelation, then one is blind to the reality of what is happening. One gets stuck in the ‘How’ of it – fissure in the earth’s core caused the volcanic eruption, movement of tectonic plates caused the earthquake which caused the tsunami and so on – all speaking about the mechanics, the HOW something happens. All very well. But does it tell you WHY it happened? The PURPOSE of the event? Our knowledge does not go that far. So when you ask any of our worldly people who refuse to recognize Allah, they simply repeat the same words for HOW even when we ask WHY.

My question is: How can you give me the same answer for HOW and WHY? One is asking the method or mechanics of something and the other is asking the purpose. How can both be answered the same way?

For the WHY we need to ask the One who orders it to happen. Only the Revelation can tell us why something happens. It is the knowledge of the Messenger which can tell us the reason (WHY) for so­called ‘natural’ events. But if we don’t want to listen to the message, then who is to blame?

Allah spoke about so­called ‘natural calamities’ that struck the people of Firaun when their oppression of the Bani Israel reached a climax and Musa (AS) had completed his Da’awa. Allah said: [Al A’araf 7: 133] "So We sent on them: the flood, the locusts, the lice, the frogs, and the blood: (as a succession of) manifest signs, yet they remained arrogant, and they were of those people who were Mujrimûn (criminals, oppressors)."

134. "And when the punishment fell on them they said: "O Mûsa (Moses)! Invoke your Lord for us because of His Promise to you. If you will remove the punishment from us, we indeed shall believe in you, and we shall let the Children of Israel go with you."

135. "But when We removed the punishment from them to a fixed term, which they had to reach, behold! They broke their word!"

136. "So We took retribution from them. We drowned them in the sea, because they belied Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and were heedless about them."

If you consider the Egyptians, they were one of the most advanced civilizations that the world has ever known; highly intelligent and educated people, steeped in the life of the world and totally oblivious of the life of Al Aakhira – steeped in polytheism and refusing to believe in Musa (AS) and Islam which he preached. They looked at these ‘natural’ phenomena with their eyes but since they did not have the knowledge to see their reality and the power of their Creator behind them, they remained lost in their worldly focus refusing to see the many warnings that were coming their way, warning them to take heed, leave their lives of crime, oppression and sin and to turn to Allah in repentance. In the end came the final ‘natural’ phenomenon which ended their rule and reduced them to nothing, leaving their signs as a warning to those who have the knowledge to take heed. The pyramids always make me wonder how people who were intelligent enough to build them could be so stupid at the same time in their inability to recognize Allah. But then it is not lack of intelligence I believe. I believe it was arrogance.

See a comment from the article about the volcano in Iceland:

Is there a possibility that this volcano could shoot out diamonds from deep below the earth's surface?

What does this tell you about the ability of the individual to see the power of Allah and His warning for us to change our ways? Total blindness which will lead to total destruction.

You see, it is only the knowledge of the Revelation (Qur’an and Sunnah) which can guide us to the reality of events. Without it we are blind and will remain blind until we recognize the Hand of Allah in His Creation. In Islam, we believe that conditions come as a result of our actions not as a result of our wealth or power or technology. All these are tools for us to live by and use. Conditions (Ahwaal) come as a result of action. A’amaal influence and bring about corresponding Ahwaal. We know this because Allah told us so and we believe that nothing happens without His command and without His knowledge. He said: [Ar­Rum 30: 41] "Evil (calamities) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allâh may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allâh, and begging His Pardon)."

Good actions bring about good conditions. [An­Nahl 16:97] "Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (Muslim) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter)."

And bad actions bring about bad conditions… [Al­Baqarah 2:85] …"Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allâh is not unaware of what you do."

Allah warned those who continue to disobey Him and deny His sovereignty and refuse to worship Him alone without ascribing partners and shareholders and said: [Al­Anaam 6:42] "Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad SAW). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility."

43. "When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not believe with humility? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaitân (Satan) made fair seeming to them that which they used to do."

44. "So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows."

45. "So the roots of the people who did wrong were cut off. And all the praises and thanks be to Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alamîn (Universe, all that exists)."

I would like to draw your attention to the Ayaat above which describe the sequence of what happens when our transgression increases. First come hardships, then come calamities. Then when we continue to rebel and refuse to obey Allah, suddenly all that stops and all sorts of ease, wealth, power, fame and glory comes our way. Then suddenly in the midst of all our rejoicing and enjoyment, we are caught and destroyed and left in utter despair. And our very roots are cut off.

Is this what we want to be a part of? Remember this happens both at an individual level as well as at a collective level. That is why islamically speaking when we look at someone who has wealth and power and fame, we must look further to see how that person is in Deen. If his Deen is strong and he is obedient to Allah then his wealth and so forth is a blessing from Allah. But if we see that he or she is disobedient to Allah, makes fun of the orders of Allah, is rebellious of the Sunnah of Rasoolullah and seeks to misguide others as well, then we should remind them that perhaps the Adhaab of Allah has already begun in their case. Imaam Sha’afaee gave this answer when someone asked him this question about those who are disobedient yet they live in the midst of plenty.

Unfortunately today there is no shortage of examples both at an individual and collective level among Muslims and non­Muslims of blatant corruption, disobedience, defiance and mockery of Allah and His Messenger and of the Message of care and concern that is Islam. Let them laugh, because the last laugh will be of their Creator.

Meanwhile O Muslims, take heed and don’t look at these phenomenon in the way the ‘blind’ see them. Blind not because of a lack of eyesight but blind because their hearts are blind.

[Al­Hajj 22:46] "Have they not travelled through the land, and have they hearts wherewith to understand and ears wherewith to hear? Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind."

Take heed before it is too late. I ask Allah to put blessing in what I have said and to forgive you and me from the evil of our actions and to open our eyes to His Majesty before it is too late.

Was salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah


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