18th June 1999
"Say: He is Allah, Absolute Oneness,
Allah, the Everlasting Sustainer of all.
He has not given birth and was not born.
And no one is comparable to Him."
I doubt whether there is anyone here who does not recite these ayats several times during the course of every day of their lives. We are utterly familiar with them and there is a danger that that very familiarity may cause us to lose sight of the crucial importance of their meaning to our lives. How many of us really consciously reflect on what these ayats actually mean or have they merely become a kind of formula we repeat by rote.
The Prophet, salla'llahu ďalayhi wa sallam, said that surat al-Ikhlas was equivalent to one third of the Qur'an because it encapsulates all the knowledge of tawhid to which one third of Allah's Book is devoted. But if we think of it, tawhid is in fact the foundation of our whole deen and not only of Islam, as we now know it, but also of all the past deens brought by all the previous Prophets and Messengers of Allah. So understanding of tawhid lies at the very core of human existence: if we grasp it we have got the point of what it is to be a human being; if we fail to do so we are no better than animals, in fact a good deal worse off.
The Prophet , salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, 'Do you know what Allah's right over His human creatures is? That they worship and do not commit shirk by associating anything else with Him.' As we know shirk, the failure to affirm Allah's unity, is the one thing that Allah cannot forgive and it is, therefore, absolutely vital for our well-being in both the dunya and the akhira to make sure that we really do understand what the kalimatu 't-tawhid, the words la ilaha illa llah, really signify.
The mutakallimun, the 'ulama 'of this science, have taken great pains to define tawhid for us in the most comprehensive possible way. Al-'Ashari, for instance, described the unity of Allah by giving us a list of Divine attributes derived from Suratu'l-Ikhlas and elsewhwere in the Qur'an. He said that Allah has existence which is pre-eternal and goes on for ever; that He has absolute independence; that He is disconnected from everything in-time; that He is One in His Essence, His Attributes and His Actions; and that He has Life, Power, Knowledge, Will, Hearing, Sight and Speech. The problem with this and similar descriptions is that, while it is true that if we do really grasp them we will be absolutely safe from committing shirk, language has become so debased for us that all too often the deep meaning of the definitions escapes us and they remain just words.
What they are in fact saying and what the Qur'an itself makes abundantly clear, time and time again, is that in reality nothing in existence has any power whatsoever except for Allah. La hawla wala quwwata illa billah. There is no power or strength except with Allah. La fa'il fi'l wujud siwa'llah. There is no active agent in existence apart from Allah. This is the truth and it means that everything which happens happens by Allah alone. The problem for us is that all of us, from a very early age, have had precisely the opposite drilled into us, that in the so-called real world Allah has nothing to do with what goes on and that, in fact, it is secondary causes which really make things happen. Do not underestimate how deeply the scientific materialist world view has penetrated into human consciousness, Muslim and non-muslim. It is a thorough and continual indoctrination process with which we are being bombarded every day of our lives.
Wind and rain are brought about by pressure changes in the atmosphere and the rain cycle; the cause of plant growth is the nitrogen cycle; flight occurs through the science of aerodynamics; our own birth is the result of the human conception and gestation process; illnesses are cured by the science of medecine; the examples are endless. But it is simply not true. It is not that these things do not take place. They do. But they are not the reason for anything; they are not the cause of anything. Nothing makes anything happen except Allah. Wa Huwa ladhi anzala mina's-sama'i ma'an fa akhrajna bihi nabata kulli shay. "It is He who sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind." He makes the rain fall; He makes the plants grow. Alam yaraw ila't-tayri musakhkharatin fi jawi's-sama'i ma yumsikuhnna illa'Llah. "Do they not see the birds suspended in mid-air up in the sky? Nothing holds them there except Allah." Flight is by Allah alone. Huwa ladhi khalaqakum min turabin thumma min nutfatin thumma min 'alaqatin thumma yukhrijukum tiflan. "It is He who created you from earth, then from a drop of sperm, then from a clot of blood, then He brings you out as infants." Allah is responsible for bringing us into the world. Wa idha maridtu fa huwa yashfin. "And when I am ill, it is He who heals me." Allah ta'ala is the curer of illness.
You may say, 'Oh yes, of course!' to these words but look into your heart to see what you in fact believe about how things come about. To what do you actually attribute things when they happen. Do you really see them as coming from Allah or does your conditioning get in the way so that you in fact ascribe them to the process by which they happen. We live in this world of secondary causes so it is natural for us to see existence in those terms. The difference between us and our forebears is that they were taught the truth, it was their bedrock, and it was, therefore, much easier for them to cut through appearances and see things as they really are. We, on the other hand, have been indoctrinated in a lie to the extent that it has become almost impossible for us to see things as they really are. Shortly after I became Muslim when I was living in Morocco I remember a man greatly respected for his knowledge saying to me, "The difference between you and me is that I believe that if I am given a cup of deadly poison and say Bismillah and drink it, Allah can protect me from harm, but you believe it is bound to kill you." The gulf between these two perspectives is very difficult to bridge.
We are in fact in grave danger because by attributing effects to their apparent causes we are giving effective power to something other than Allah which is clearly shirk. We may have the formulae of tawhid on our tongues but do their meanings actually penetrate our beings; is it in the light of them that we really perceive the world. We must beware of having tawhid in the head but not the heart. A story is told by the people of Allah of a terrible man who spent his life indulging his appetites and committing every kind of wrong action. He gave instructions that when he died his body should be cut up into small pieces and each piece separately burned and all their ashes scattered in a different areas so that Allah would find it all but impossible to put him together again and he might by doing that avoid the punishment of the Fire. On the Last Day Allah will, of course, have no difficulty in restoring him to life and he will be brought before his Lord in a state of abject terror. But Allah will say to him, "Because of your absolute belief in the reality of My Power, I have Today forgiven you so enter My Garden with those who enter it."
We do not ask you for provision.
We provide for you.
And the best end result
is gained by taqwa.
One important way in which knowledge of tawhid directly impinges on our day to day lives is in the whole matter of rizq provision. Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala is ar-Razzaq the Provider. He alone continually nourishes and sustains everything in existence including us. This means that the energy we expend to gain a livelihood, whatever form that may take, is not in reality the cause of our getting what we need. It is Allah who provides for us. It is vital for us, as Muslims, to understand the implications of this.
The culture we live in, and it is now clear that the kuffar have created a system which covers every part of the globe, is completely governed by the economic imperative. As we know, this present of kufr system, which is certainly more wide-spread and dominant than any previous version of kufr in the whole of human history, has gained its hold by the unscrupulous use of usurious financial techniques which have now enmeshed the whole world in a web of banks, markets and financial institutions in which both nations and individuals are trapped in a spiral of unpayable debt. As a direct consequence of this human life everywhere in the world is now basically defined in economic terms and human aspiration in terms of ecomic goals.
Children are taught at school that their career, their future employment, is the only thing in their life that really matters and their whole education is geared towards that end. And the result is that anxiety about employment or lack of it, about income or shortage of it, is what in fact occupies most people's hearts and minds and what forms the subject matter of much of their conversation. And the whole way the kafir system has been able to hold everyone Muslims as well as non-muslims in its thrall is by convincing them that their livelihood is entirely dependent on the system as it is set up. It is only the sword of tawhid which can slice through the smothering web and set us free. We simply have to remember that our livelihood is dependent on Allah alone and on nothing else whatsoever. As the ayat I started with makes clear, we do not have to worry about getting what we need, that is Allah's business. What should concern us is our taqwa, our awrenes of and our obedience to our Lord.
At this point I can already hear people saying, 'Yes, but! What about...?" and talking about tethering camels and about not forgetting our portion of the dunya etc. etc. But in my experience this reaction , in the vast majority of cases, is due to the very anxiety we are trying to escape from. I am not saying that we should not work or do what ever is necessary to obtain what we need to feed ourselves and our families. What I am saying is that we must be aware in the very depths of our beings that doing that is not what brings us our provision. Only Allah does that. In fact the truth is the opposite of what most people think. Far from lying back and doing nothing, the people I have known with the deepest knowledge that Allah alone is their provider have been more active in worldly terms than anyone else I can think of.
The difference between those who really know that Allah is their Provider and those who don't is basically a hidden one although it is pretty well bound to make itself manifest at some point. Nevertheless it is what separates the true mumin from someone subject to hidden shirk and its crucial importance to our lives, and indeed to our destinies, is made very clear to us by what happened at the expedition of Hudaybiya. When the call to go came the muminun had no hesitation in dropping everything at a moment's notice and setting off with the Messenger of Allah. But what did those who did not go say? Shaghalatna amwaluna wa ahluna. 'Our wealth and families occupied us.' We should not be too quick to put ourselves with the first group because I have certainly heard many people say, when the call to go out fi sabili'Llah has come: 'I'm afraid I've got to stay and take care of business and look after the family.' And as Allah makes clear a few ayats later the fate of such people is one we should do anything to avoid.
No, our job as Muslims is to worship Allah and to establish His deen; any other project we have at work or at home must be subsidiary to this. If we do it, Allah will take care of our needs as He took care of the needs of all those who preceded us, when they undertook this task. But we will never be able to do this until and unless we really grasp and embody the meaning of la ilaha illa'llah, until and unless we really do come to depend on Allah alone and are able to say hasbunallahu wa ni'ma'l-wakil. 'Allah is enough for us and the best guardian,' from the very bottom of our hearts. But do it we will, by Allah's permission, for He has promised to preserve His deen till the Last Day and I ask Him to make us people whom He chooses for this task, which is the only object truly worthy of human aspiration and in which true human fulfilment and happiness alone lies.
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