Saturday, December 30, 2006,3:13 am
A Broken Tasbih. . .
A tasbih (rosary) is a beautiful thing. One hundred beads strung together with a single string each representing one of the beautiful names of the almighty all the beads lined up shoulder to shoulder. One bead by itself is alone, insignificant and hollow. But when all the beads are joined together it is complete, strong and becomes an instrument for the dhikr(remembrance) of Allah (swt).

It was my mother who taught me how to pray. I would be lying beside her at night and would make me repeat verse after verse and surah after surah. I never forgot those Surahs. I never forgot those verses. And I never forgot my mother's favours upon me. And most importantly I never forgot the lessons she taught me.

When I was young, I would sit next to my mother as she prayed imitating her. One day I decided to grab the tasbih and put it around my neck as a necklace. She looked at me her eyes filled with a mother's love and said, "A tasbih is not something to play with. If it breaks it will bring bad luck." The next day again I was playing with the same tasbih again. Again my mother stopped me.

One day when my mother wasn't around I managed to get a hold of my tasbih and intended to play with it to my hearts content, but instead, the tasbih broke. I didn't know what to do. I did the only reasonable thing that came to my mind. I hid the beads and the string that held it together under my bed and hoped my mom wouldn't notice.

She did notice of course. She asked me how come my tasbih wasn't in my janemaaz. I pretended I didn't know why. I was scared to tell her. I knew I had let her down because I didn't listen to her advice. And my ego was preventing me from coming clean.

After a couple of days of feeling guilty I finally gathered the courage to tell her. And to my surprise she wasn't angry at me. If anything she was proud that I had decided to come clean. Afterwards she helped me put the tasbih back together again. We sat there together she showed me how to take the string and organize the beads one by one until finally once again it was whole. I felt much better. My tasbih was whole again. Did I learn a lesson? I think I did. I look back in retrospect and realize that my mother could have easily fixed the tasbih but she made me sit next to her and we both worked together. I dutifully handed her each bead one by one being careful that I didn’t break or lose one of them due to my negligence and she took the string and carefully linked them together.

I look at the Muslim ummah today fragmented into insignificant pieces. I read the verse of the Quran that declares Muslims as the best of nations. (Quran 3:110) I feel the same way I felt with the broken tasbih in my hands. I feel hopeless. I am just as much responsible for this as anyone else. After all, what have I done to unite Muslims? The answer for most of is not much at all.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned us repeatedly not to break up into pieces, not to hate our own brothers and sisters in faith and to hold on to the rope of Allah.

"And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; ..." (Quran 3:103)

And we let him down. There is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is there are many hindrances to Muslim unity. On the other hand, the good news is, if we try we can overcome these hindrances. The root of all these hindrances is a lack of understanding on our part of the meaning of unity.

The first and foremost problem towards Muslim unity is that we have an expectation of uniformity. Unity is the state of quality of being in harmony with each other. Uniformity on the other hand demands that we are the same as each other in totality. When we hear the word unity we are actually thinking of uniformity. This leads to the formation of the ‘other’. We like to think that the ‘other’ doesn't know what they are talking about and that it will be really easy to make them change. When this fails we get frustrated. To our surprise people behave rationally. They aren't just different for the sake of being different. Unity and uniformity are completely different ideas. The former is possible without having the latter. In other words, unity is not accepting the beliefs of the other sect, but rather working together for a common cause.

How do we deal with the other? Islam shows us the answer to this as well. In one of his letters Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) advises Malik al Ashtar how to deal with the other. He says, “Remember, Malik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those that have the same religion as you have; these are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you.” (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53) It is important to note that in order to co-exist peacefully as human beings he does not insist on having the same faith.

A second hindrance to Muslim unity is Ignorance. Not just ignorance of the other, but also ignorance of the self. We have stopped reading the Quran. We don't even know enough about ourselves and our own history and as a result if someone mentions something we have never heard of we immediately feel the need to repel. We don't take in to account our own ignorance in the field, nor do we take in to account that at least the other person has taken the time to look this up themselves. Imam Jafar as Sadiq (a) says in his description of ignorance, “The lowest quality of an ignorant man is that he lays claim to knowledge which he does not deserve; his most common characteristic is ignorance of his own ignorance, and the most extreme aspect of his ignorance is to reject knowledge.” (Lantern of the Path, Section 9)

There are some of us who are ignorant about the beliefs of others, yet we are accepting of the fact that we aren't knowledgeable and thus won't pass judgements on the faith of others. Yet there exist perhaps amongst us another class of people who are ignorant themselves, yet they refuse to acknowledge that ignorance and are quick to pass judgements on others. There is a story narrated about Uthman ibn Makhzun where a woman of the Ansar cried over his grave and said, “May heaven be pleasant for you!” Even though Uthman ibn Makhzun was an eminent man and the Prophet (pbuh) cried heavily at his death the Prophet (pbuh) was displeased by this statement. He turned to the woman with a displeased look and said, “How did you know? Why did you make a statement out of ignorance? Have you received a revelation or do you know the account of God’s creatures?”(Usd al Ghaba, under Uthman ibn Makhzun) A similar event is recorded regarding the death of Sa’d ibn Mu’adh in which Sa’d’s mother said a similar statement and the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Be silent; do not make a decision with certainty in God’s affairs.” (Bihar al Anwar, vol 3, p. 165) While this may seem like a small thing, instead it is something that is of great significance. Because we don't know our own beliefs fully we only notice the differences between us and the other. In reality, the number of similarities is far greater than the number of differences, but the problem is we lay emphasis on the differences and ignore the similarities.

A third hindrance is the culture of hate. Instead of focusing on our own spirituality we feel it is necessary to dedicate their lives to proving others wrong. This is not to say that everyone is right and we don't need to do dawah to our own interpretation of Islam. Two things happen as a result of this; 1) we ourselves don’t develop in our spirituality and 2) we run the risk of offending or hurting someone who could be a true believer. The Holy Prophet [pbuh] said: "He who grieves a true Muslim cannot then compensate for it by offering him the entire world because it is not sufficient compensation (unless he repents and appeases the said person)." (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 75, p. 150) We need to learn to invite people to the religion without using words. How do you do that, you ask? It’s easy through our character and actions. Meaning that surely if you are on the right path, then you won't have to 'prove' the other person wrong with words. After all, actions speak much louder than words. A great man has said, "He who incites hatred amongst Shia and Sunni is neither Shia nor Sunni." While the quote refers to Shia and Sunni it can and should be applied to any other situations also.

The last hindrance which I will write about is this tendency we have to let others think for us. Too often we stop thinking for ourselves about what makes sense and let others do the thinking for us. This is particularly dangerous and something which is considered unislamic. If we look at the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) at the dawn of Islam in Arabia we see on one hand the people of the Jahiliyya insisting on the ways of their ancestors and on the other hand we see the Prophet (pbuh) repeatedly insisting on these people thinking for themselves. Many among the Quraysh would spread false rumors about the Prophet (pbuh) and we see the early converts were smart enough (and brave enough) to think for themselves. We accept without questioning sweeping generalizations which often hardly have any truth behind them. Things like, "they have twisted interpretations of the Quran." Islam holds the belief that every man and woman is born with the innate ability (fitra) to decipher what is good versus what is bad (right and wrong). The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "Every child is born on the fitra and it is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian.” (Muwatta Imam Malik, Book 16, Number 16.16.53) In other words we need to put aside our arrogance and learn to talk to talk out our differences.

The real accomplishment is to realize there are many truths but follow only one. The person in the other sect follows that sect because he/she sees a proof in that truth. It might be a higher truth than the one you are at or a lower truth. If indeed you are at the higher truth, then you should be able to understand the reality of the lower truth and be able to speak to people at this level so that they see that the level you are at is a higher truth without offending them or scaring them away. True guidance comes with total sincerity of the heart and divine succor.

The decision lies in our hand whether we want to be a slave to these hindrances or if we are willing to break past them. So let's take the first step to Muslim unity by first changing ourselves. The believers like the broken tasbih beads are useless when they are scattered. It is only when they hold on to the rope of Allah (swt) all together that they will succeed. Let's put aside our egos and return to the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so that we may remake this broken Muslim ummah. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said, "The one who got up in the morning without having any thought of other Muslims in his mind is not a Muslim." (Bihar al Anwar, Volume 74 Page 337) Let us make Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) proud when he mentions us us. Those are my followers. Look how they stand shoulder to shoulder. See how their hearts are tied together in brotherhood/sisterhood only for the sake of Allah (swt). Look how they too like the tasbih have become an instrument for the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (swt).

Acknowledgement: GTA Admin.
posted by Ya_Baqiyatullah
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  • At 1:53 am, February 08, 2007, Blogger blizs/ful


    that was a lovely piece, but very long! short of splitting it into sections i'm not sure what else you could have done: all of the content was balanced and to the point.

    perhaps next time i should just try reading your work when its not 1am :P

  • At 11:04 pm, February 09, 2007, Blogger Ya_Baqiyatullah


    Thanks for dropping by :)

    This was not written by me but by another bro I know. All credit goes to him for it :)

    Thanks again

  • At 4:19 am, April 09, 2007, Blogger thinker

    BismAllah ..

    Good work. Keep it up, comrade!

    Also, if you're interested in reading about the truth and originals of Islam, minus the later time innovations, check out Muslim Villa.

    This is a Quraan only place. The most authentic Sunnah of the beloved Prophet (pbuh) is constituted within the Glorious Quraan itself. Therefore, no need to seek sunnah from the 'ahadith' of Imams Sadek, Bukhari, Tirmidhi etc.

    Last but not least, sectarianism is totally against the dictates of the Glorious Quraan. Let's not forget, the beloved Prophet and his Household were neither Sunnis nor Shiias. They were just 'Muslims.' Hence, as true believers, as per the Quraan, we must promote unity and denounce divisions. Remember! United we rise and divided we fall. No wonder the present-day Ummah is falling and falling ..