By Nadine Miville
(July 7, 2009) – Humans are contesting creatures.
We fight all orders, commands and guidance even if it comes for our benefit.
God has given us a mind to choose freely, to think and to question, yet our primary way of response to this blessing is dispute.
When we are commanded to submit our beings to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, we ask why?
When the answer is given – because He has created you so as to worship Him – we again ask, why?
When the response is given – so that we may know Him – we refuse submission and our relationship with Him is suspended.
Who in this life is able to live without knowing Him, Allah, the Almighty, Rabbul Alamin?
In our superficial understanding of this life, we constantly look for approval from the outside world, we look for acceptance – we are needy creatures by design.
But, our neediness is misunderstood in the life of this world.
I know this first hand.
My life was one of neediness – great neediness – I confess to this.
However, it may not need be a confession because it is an innate response to our Creator, Rabbul Alamin, albeit misplaced.
Yes, needy for approval from others, needing to be wanted and loved at all moments in life, forgetting love for oneself.
The soul is an enigmatic thing, it makes you believe that that which you seek for yourself you will get it from others, yet it knows that it can only come from the Creator, Rabbul Alamin.
And so we contest.
We refuse His existence, we fight hard not to believe in Him.
But sooner or later, our lives lack meaning, they come to a standstill, our temporal goals are met, and we stand still.
Our dialogues become silent, the world around us seems to disappear and we are faced with ourselves.
When that moment comes, fear penetrates the soul.
This fear is accompanied with a feeling of being lost and desperate, without purpose, without end.
Our sufferings seem unbearable and the only solace we seem to find is in sleep, an alternate version of death.
Yet sleep, like death, comes when the mind is uneasy, or the soul is lost, and it is plagued with the same feelings as in our waking hours.
And so we fear death, yet somewhere, something tells us that death is a release from our pains and sorrows, but another half strongly disagrees with this strange logic.
So we cry.
We contest and we cry.
But our crying softens our hearts and opens the windows of our souls.
Our crying is a tunnel of dialogue, where our pains and fears are most intense and are heard out loud.
Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem… The answer comes.
How can I submit my being to something I do not know nor understand, yet suddenly I feel need for?
The window of submission opens and light floods in.
Submission without challenge.
Because once we contest, the light is lost.
Answers follow, yet the initial step must be done from the soul and the heart.
These are our gateways to light, but when we block them with dispute, they are darkened and we remain in a state of loss.
Something must be given to gain, and this is our disputing nature as human beings.
There is no need to forget reason; there is no need to dismiss logic.
But they come next.
And so it is that Allah warns us of this harmful human insistence, in numerous accounts in His revelation.
The story of the Qiblah is one which is particularly relevant as it was a test for the believers in the realm of ultimate submission without contest.
The Muslims, during the time of revelation, were the ultimate example of submission.
Through submission one gives only to the Creator of the universe.
The direction of the sacred ritual of prayer from the time of the Jews was Jerusalem.
The Qiblah of the Muslims, however, to distinguish themselves from the Jews was the sacred Kaba in Mecca.
The true test of submission was when Allah commanded the Muslims to change their Qiblah to the direction of the Jews, Jerusalem.
It was for a period of 16 ½ months that the Muslims prayed to the Holy city of Jerusalem.
Which of those Muslims asked why they could not pray to the Holy city of Makkah?
Who withstood the taunting of the Jews as they ridiculed Allah’s command to pray to Jerusalem?
Which one of us would readily follow this new revelation without immediate understanding?
Yet Allah tells us in His revelation that there is wisdom in all commands which He decrees.
“To Allah belong the East and the West: He guideth whom He wills to a Way that is straight” (Qur’an 2:142).
Who will be guided by Allah to the way that is straight?
He who contests immediately or he who follows without doubt that there is wisdom within?
“And We appointed the Qiblah to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels. Indeed it was momentous, except to those guided by Allah. And never would Allah make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people Most surely full of Kindness, Most Merciful” (Qur’an 2:143).
Which one of us lets go?
Which one of us lets go to the point that we feel the gentle touch of Allah on our lives, guiding us to the right direction and to peaceful submission?
This test of the Qibla was indeed an opportunity for the believers to receive mercy and kindness from Allah.
It is that which separates the muslimoon (those who submitted) from those among us who contest.
So let us ask ourselves if we would have changed the direction of our prayer, whilst in prayer, in an ardent desire to follow Allah’s commands through our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him?
That is why Allah makes our tests momentous.
Situations arise in which we must make quick moral choices, choices of obedience or choices of contest.
Because our reason, our logic cannot respond spontaneously, our minds require time; time to look at the full image, to gather facts and information to paint a larger picture.
This cannot provide immediate result; therefore our hearts and souls must be in a state of submission, ultimate submission to our Creator in order to take those immediate measures, those acts of faith.
The heart and the soul are our minds in those moments, untrained and uncultivated, surely they fail the test.
Nevertheless, Allah never orders something without wisdom within it, this we know for certain.
In fact, the following verse reveals how the Qiblah was returned to the Holy center of Islam, Makkah after the testing period:
“Know well that that is the truth from their Lord, nor is Allah unmindful of what they do” (Qur’an 2:144).
Allah is not confined to one earthly center; the Qiblah story beautifully illustrates this.
Allah is neither contained in the East nor in the West of this world, as He is the Lord of the universe, He who contains all, yet nothing contains Him!
It is not Allah Himself in the center of Makkah, may Allah forbid Muslims from ever believing so, no, it is unity in submission to Him, calling upon Him, that we must all face one single direction.
Whether it was in the East or in the West, Allah tells us it does not matter, it is through His wisdom that He has tested the Muslims through the Qiblah and a lesson to be learned for the rest of us.
The destructive nature of those people who existed before the final revelation is clearly illustrated in this story as well, as Allah tells us:
“Even if thou wert to bring to the people of the Book all the signs (together), they would not follow thy Qiblah; nor art thou going to follow their Qiblah; nor indeed will they follow each other’s Qiblah. If thou after the knowledge hath reached thee, wert to follow their (vain) desires – then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong. The people of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know” (Qur’an 2:146-146).
Who do we want to be like?
We are constantly contesting and disputing as those whom Allah exposes.
It is wrong to believe that this message is not to us Muslims!
Beware of the trappings of our nafs! – the one who is always looking at others’ faults and elevates himself in the shadow of their downfall.
We are guilty, first and foremost, just as we find those faults we detest in others in ourselves, the warning is one to all.
Constantly arguing, despite our knowledge of the Truth and our deep down understanding of the Truth, we conceal it from our actions and our tongues.
Why such a disconnect between our hearts and our actions?
Our hearts know the Truths, yet our actions act as though there is something worth fighting against.
This is our submission in action.
The lines between heart and action are clear and open, never intercepted with our worldly desires to please others or even to follow others.
Which one of us will past this test?
Truly wisdom comes from Allah Almighty in multi-layered forms; it is a duty upon us all to look inside our hearts and our souls before looking at others.
Self- purification is a necessary life process for success in this life and the next.
This message I give to myself before anyone else, for surely I am most in need of such.
Nadine Miville is a thinker, researcher, and advocate for Muslim women’s rights and currently living in Ottawa, Ontario. She has an MA in International Development Studies.