Questions & Answers

  • Issue 108 / November - December 2015



    What needs to be overcome for people of will

    The Fountain

    QUESTION: The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, "The things I fear most for my community are: large stomachs, excessive sleep, idleness, and lack of certainty." What is meant by these weaknesses? Are they interrelated?

    Large stomachs means heedlessly eating a lot, taking eating and drinking as the purpose of life, and, if you will, living to eat and, consequently, an obese person. This is the first characteristic of those for whom the Prophet was concerned in their worldly and other-worldly lives.

    Excessive sleep is a relative issue. Both medical doctors and spiritual guides advise not to sleep more than necessary, which is for some five hours, for others a bit more. It is important to regulate sleeping hours for a healthy body and a healthy soul. Yet, this would not be easy for a person who has not disciplined his or her eating and drinking habits.

    Large stomachs means heedlessly eating a lot, taking eating and drinking as the purpose of life, and, if you will, living to eat and, consequently, an obese person. This is the first characteristic of those for whom the Prophet was concerned in their worldly and other-worldly lives.

    Excessive sleep is a relative issue. Both medical doctors and spiritual guides advise not to sleep more than necessary, which is for some five hours, for others a bit more. It is important to regulate sleeping hours for a healthy body and a healthy soul. Yet, this would not be easy for a person who has not disciplined his or her eating and drinking habits.

    Idleness is a grave condition to be in. At the heart of Islamic philosophy lies dynamism and motion which is manifest in every part and every layer of the universe. Islam intervened in anything that was contrary to this philosophy of dynamism; in other words Qur'anic worldview tried to recharge any inaction to constructive and beneficial actions. For instance, land that was left uncultivated and idle was distributed under the condition that it be revived and cultivated. It compelled the saved and idle wealth which had not been circulated through business or trade, as a serious spiritual threat to the rich, and this is why idle wealth is also included in the money from which obligatory charity is calculated. Islam's viewpoint towards indolence and those idle people is no different than its conception of idle wealth or idle land; on the contrary, it is even more intolerable.

    Lack of certainty in faith is one of the gravest of matters to be feared from. There are different degrees of certainty; first, that which comes from knowledge (ilm al-yaqin); second, which depends on seeing and observation (ayn al-yaqin); and third, that which comes from direct experience (haqq al-yaqin). This means that if a person does not truly understand what they believe to be the truth relative to their knowledge, then they have no certainty or true understanding. If a person's faith in God, the scripture as well as the other essential tenets of belief have not been induced or based on knowledge, on the evidence drawn from the phenomena in the universe and these evidences are not related to one's inner spiritual discernment, then this is not because of limited certainty; rather, such a person has no certainty at all. Certainty begins with knowledge; anything less is the lowest level of human understanding and life.

    Knowledge is the first step to certainty. The book of the universe displays its wonders and miracles to the extent that scientists, artists and many other persons of knowledge have arrived at the conviction that such magnificence, orderliness and harmony in existence necessitates an All-Knowing and All-Wise Creator, and through such conviction have come to form the connection between the scripture and the universe. It is here when no doubt is left in one's mind about the All-Existent One that the first stage of certainty, that of knowledge, occurs.

    The certainty of knowledge is the level at which one recognizes the manifestations of God, the Manifest One on all entities, when they have an understanding and full awareness that the universe with all its contents are all creations of God. This is the level at which a genuine and purposeful appreciation of all our surroundings awakens in one's consciousness and heart. The blooming of flowers, the singing of birds, the fruit-offering branches of trees opening to the skies and the sound of the gushing water of the river, those pure creations continue their search for their Creator like that of Majnun for his Layla, thinking that every shadow, vision or sign he saw was what he was in search of.

    One achieves the certainty of faith by reaching a peak in faith at which one lives by the instructions of his Creator, when sincere comprehension that existence comes from God takes place.

    The truth of the matter is that all of these levels of certainty are interconnected; they support and compliment one another. If we were to draw a pattern and connect the major themes of this hadith, then it can be ascertained that certainty of faith becomes almost impossible to attain if eating and drinking becomes the major goal in life. Certainty is granted for those who live in awe and sheer wonderment about the finest fruit of universe that is called life; it is for those who regulate their consumption patterns for the sake of living not just for pleasure.

    To emphasize the magnitude of this subject the Prophet of God imparted that: "The son of Adam fills no vessel that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls to keep him alive. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air."

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