Rabbee Zidnee

"And convey to my servants that surely I am the Ghafoor (the Forgiving) and the Raheem (the Merciful)". -- Suratul Hijr, Verse 49

Saturday, January 01, 2005

What is the first moral lesson of the Qur'an?

In His Name, the Most High

If we approach the Qur’anic chapters in order, what is the first moral lesson that Allah teaches us? From the story of how Iblis refused to submit to the order of Allah to bow before Adam, we learn the powerful lesson of not doing takabbur. Takabbur literally means considering oneself greater than someone else. The opposite of takabbur is tawadu`, which means considering one’s self as lower and insignificant compared to someone else. In this context the Shaytan considered himself and his own desires, inclinations, and pretenses of greatness more important than the command of Allah. That this moral lesson appears first in the Qur’an indicates how important it is to submit to Allah’s commands over our own inclinations in all moments of our life.

Let us make the idea of takabbur more concrete by looking at an example. If we were to associate takabbur with a position in traditional society, the high king of society would be most deserving of this role. In an Islamic society, however, the high king is none other than Allah (swt). We call upon Allah's help in Surat al-Nas by saying maliki-n-naas, meaning Allah is the king of humanity. A human being who perceives Allah’s absolute authority and governance will have no courage to have an ounce of takabbur within himself. Every thought, belief, and action of his will be that of a slave who does tawadu` in front of the High King.

In Suratul Naml, Bilqis (the Queen of Sheba who eventually became the wife of Sulayman) says إنّ الملوك اذا دخلوا قرية أفسدوها و جعلوا أعزّة أهلها أذلة. [Indeed, when kings enter a city, they turn it upside own and they make those of consideration and esteem among the people lowly and submissive]. Normally, if kings invade a town for the purpose of conquering it, they don’t care much about the masses. Rather, they quickly subdue those people who are respected leaders among the people so that the masses will follow suit. Similarly, when the presence of the King of kings (Allah) enters someone’s heart, he ought to be subdued and not have any takabbur because of the presence of Allah. And if we see someone who thinks himself as greater than others, it means that he has not yet entreated Allah to enter his heart.

-- From a short lecture by a teacher at Madasah al-Mahdi, 1/1/05.