22 September 2018 / 12 Muharram 1440
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The Cycles of Being, towards the Holy Months
- Written by Shafiq Morton
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WE always seem to recognise things around us in cycles. We have the cycles of life (the seven stages of man described by Shakespeare) and the cycles of the weather, today a big concern to us, due to global warming. Then we have the cycle of bear and bull markets, the ups and the downs, on the stock exchanges of the world.
In a sense, everything seems to return to itself. Even on a Deen level, we see the Qur’anic phrase “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un”, from Allah do we come and to Allah do we return.
The inherent wisdom in the above is that whatever we do on earth, our physical bodies will return to the earth, the very DNA, from which Allah shaped Nabi Adam [as]. Rich, poor, big, small, ugly or beautiful, we all have the same beginning, and the same ending.
This is one of the many aspects of life, which the Qur’an enjoins us to think about. We are given examples of peoples before us, and then exhorted to ponder on the consequences of their actions – in most cases, examples of their disobedience to Allah.
I am not here to preach. Therefore, I will leave the Qur’anic injunctions for us to read on our own. However, there are some life lessons that we can extract from above – especially with regard to one cycle of being – the cycle of poverty.
The beloved Prophet [SAW] has told us in Hadith not to fear physical poverty, as a fear of poverty can lead to questionable behaviour. Yet for many, poverty is undeniably a debilitating, disempowering and degrading reality. It is like being thrown into a dark hole of despair. There is no relief, and poverty – which is not a sin – is a self-perpetuating social cancer.
This exactly why the Prophet [SAW] was so merciful to the poor, why their du’ahs are answered first, and why they have been promised jannah before the privileged – and why the Prophet [SAW] said his home in heaven would be amongst the poor.
Out of all this, as we can see, there is much consolation. But Islam, as a Deen – a balanced way of being – is a proactive model of human existence, and for that reason, the Prophet [SAW] bequeathed us the institution of Zakah.
In our context here, we define it as communal alms, as a communal cleansing of our wealth. Put simply: it uplifts and balances society with compassion and wealth redistribution.
In South Africa, where we know the gap between the haves and have-nots is obscene, we enjoy a communal obligation not to alleviate, but to eradicate poverty. Modern governments are inherently self-seeking, corrupt and incapable of delivering anything, and so the responsibility falls chiefly on our shoulders.
This is why we have to treasure our NGOs, organisations operating on shoestring budgets bravely holding back the crumbling dam wall of social disintegration. Of course, we are busy. Not all of us will have the time to volunteer – which is a good option – and so it behoves us to reach into our pockets, be it sadaqah, lillah or Zakah – the various vehicles of outreach.
Islamically, in the cycle of our lunar months, it is now Rajab – a sacred month – and Ramadan is but weeks away. We have much to think about. The Prophet [SAW] once related that Allah, the Highest, said that Rajab was His month, and that Ramadan was the month of His community.
Indeed, we have to start turning to the month of community, the month of forgiveness, mercy and freedom from hellfire, not selfishly, but with a collective sense of awareness about others less fortunate than us.
It is such a cliché, and clichés are often based on repeated truths, but any donation – no matter how small – can make a huge difference to someone else. What may be trivial to us may be life changing for someone else.