The Parting of the Ways – Part 2 – In for a penny, in for a pound – Abdassamad Clarke

By , August 22, 2011 11:54 am

Part 1

We have, like the naughty child, taken hold of the thread and tugged on it and the garment has begun to unravel, the carefully knit garment of science, or, like the boy on the seashore, we have pulled on one piece of seaweed and out of the water a mass and a great tangle of seaweed has risen to the surface.
Foolish people, semi-educated journalists and pundits, say that his only miracle, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was the Qur’an. But if we were to try and count his miracles, we would soon grow tired. To approach this matter we must deal with another issue first: the question of how we know these things.
Now those same semi-literate pundits have called this process “Muslim tradition” thus contrasting it presumably against a rigorous and scientific process that really brings certainty. “Muslim tradition” is thus a kind of synonym for whimsical folkish stuff probably riddled with superstition. The contrary is the case. When we talk about the custodians and transmitters of this knowledge, we are talking about men and women whose intellect and probity are so soundly established, real historical people whose every doing is a matter of public knowledge, and we are talking about them transmitting as a body from generation to generation the history, the sayings and doings of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This is such a rigorous science in itself and it has since been subjected to centuries of critical examination by critics, both friendly and hostile, that there is nothing left to do for the envious orientalists or their protégés, their tame and docile Muslim PhD scholars.
So this rubric “Muslim tradition” is quite inaccurate and false. If even one of these people tell us something, we cannot help but believe him. However, if many of them in each generation report it, then we have nothing more solid to stand on, anywhere. No other epoch in history is recorded with such diligence and dedication and the reports scrutinised with such a critical faculty as the doings and sayings of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
From these men and women we have innumerable accounts, told in that matter-of-fact Arabic way that is quite opposite to the exotic way of the East, of the Persians, Indians and others. These down-to-earth Arabs tell of too many miracles for us to be able to disbelieve them. They are simply too well authenticated.
One category are those that are connected with water, either for drinking or for washing preparatory to doing the prayer. There are many instances in which while on a journey, supplies of water ran out, and the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, miraculously produced water for an entire army from out of a simple pot with its pint or two or out of a dried-out well. Too carefully established to question. Too many instances.
Another category is feeding many people from very little. There are simply too many such occurrences to not believe that it happened and that it happened a large number of times.
However, if this happened and happened on such a scale as to be unapproachable by anyone else, except that one famous miracle of Jesus, peace be upon him, nevertheless quite ordinary people have experienced something of this in their own lives. This writer has also seen quite small amounts of food feed and satisfy large numbers of people. The numbers were not large enough to qualify as a miracle, but from it one learns that there is an intangible matter that in Arabic is called barakah or blessing, which when present, people are able to eat less while becoming satisfied easier. Indeed, one can experience that fairly often, except that industrial processes and commercial distribution strategies have basically robbed almost all of our food-supply of any residue of barakah whatsoever. That delicious taste of a Cox’s Orange Pippin; where did it go? What we have instead is over-seasoned gourmet food from TV chefs that tries to make up for the lack of barakah with richness and cooking.
So the miracles associated with food and water around the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, have this important element of barakah but raised to a degree that is out of this world. They demonstrate his high position with Allah, but they do something else which is quite profound. They take away from us the anxiety about food that sees existence in terms of quantity. Neo-Malthusian thinkers have done all the sums about the world’s population and its requirements of nutrition and calories and they have shown that it is a logistical nightmare to try and feed all of these people. Conspiracy theorists are convinced that these people have plans afoot to reduce the global population severely by means which are none too pleasant. But that whole view of existence lies in tatters as is demonstrated by these miracles and by the experiences of the countless people who have followed in their footsteps and experienced that barakah can be in a little food, just as modern man experiences the torment that lies in a lot: obesity, physical and psychological collapse.
Then there are the plethora of other miracles, great and small, such as his telling people, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, of things they had said in privacy as was the case of his telling his uncle Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, things he had said in private in Makkah, or the Madinan man and his family who, in order to honour a guest, deceived him by dimming the lights and pretending to eat and to chew along with him because there was not enough food for him and for them, and so chose for his family and himself to stay hungry in the night. The Prophet, peace be upon him, told him the next day that Allah had been pleased with his chewing. Such stories are too common to enumerate. Then there is the man who came to ask him about two Arabic words, and the Prophet, peace be upon him, told him that he had come to ask about birr and ithm before he opened his mouth.
For a fuller treatment of these episodes one should consult the magisterial work of Qadi Iyad called ash-Shifa “Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah”.
And there is another lesson entirely that one takes from these great miracles that were played out in the full light of history. Just as they amply demonstrate the greatness of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and that he is the last Messenger to mankind from the Divine, they demonstrate something else: we are not tyrannised by the apparent determinism of the physical world.
Muslims indeed are the last people to be fatalistic, even though they are the most yielding to destiny, good or bad, when it happens, but modern man is in thrall to the central core of the now-outdated classical physics which Einstein and his coterie defended and are defending to their dying breaths, whose essence is that we are merely helpless parts in a vast machine that grinds on and about which we can do nothing at all. It is called determinism. The quantum discoveries showed that this is not the case, but they left us with a sense that we are not really equipped to understand this new world with the intellectual tools we have.
The miracles of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, demonstrate that the Lord of the worlds orders His creation directly and is open to the prayers of His slaves, no matter how undistinguished the slave or how exorbitant the prayer. And so the slave of Allah is no longer helpless in this world in quite the same way as the modern determinist. He has found a new helplessness before Allah, but Allah makes up for that helpfulness when the courtesies are observed.
Having now firmly established in our understanding the fact that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, had numerous miracles, we can turn to the greatest miracle, the Qur’an.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy