This is the first installment in a two part contribution by Prof Aslam Fataar of Stellenbosch University
It is a truism that the weather plays an influential role in our daily lives; it directly affects our cleanliness and ablutions habits, dress, daily commutes, domestic living arrangements, and our time schedules.
It also affects our senses and our aesthetic appreciation; what we eat and how we observe the world, its colours, sights, smells and sounds.
The weather, wind, sunshine, cold, drought or rain,affects our immersion in the sibghah of God, in other words, the daily hues, colours or influences in which Allah’s overwhelming presence manifest in our lives.
We are inspired by Allah’s influences, which shape the daily contours of our lives. Allah declares in Surah Bakarah:
[Say: “Our life takes its] hue (colour) from God! And who could give a better hue [to life] than God, if we but truly worship Him?” – 2:138
This verse underlines the majestic influence of worshipping Allah who is ever present in shaping our lives and destinies. Living in Allah’s presence means that we are repositories of Allah’s divine qualities.
We are imbued with divine qualities such as beauty (jamal), mercy (rahma), creativity (ibda’), and excellence (ihsan). Living in the presence of the divine means making these qualities an active part of our lives, in the big and small aspects of our lives, be it our relations with our body, our interactions with our families and neighbours or in our educational institutions or working lives.
It is in the relationships that we establish with ourselves, others and the inanimate world that we attain Allah’s sibghah, Allah’s majestic impact on our being.
The nature of our relations with each other are as important as the moral activity that we become involved in. In other words, it is how we do what we do, how we relate to other people and our environment, that defines our daily practices.
The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declares in a hadith, ‘Al-dinumu’amalat’: that, ‘the salvational quality of life lies in human transaction or relations’ with others and the world around us.
Human fellowship, taking care of others, and displaying compassion towards each other are the fulcrum of our projects in this world and our salvation in the hereafter.
This khutba reminds us that showing gratitude (shakir) is one of the most important conditioning qualities of our mu’amalat, our relations and transactions.
Our experiences with the recent drought is an example of gratitude at work. Whereas just a few weeks ago we prayed for rain, today the dam levels are approaching 50%.
And, now we’re struggling with the devastating effects of flooding in the low laying areas of the city. We are being challenged to extend our compassion to a situation where the poorest of the poor are hit hardest by rains.
Our adaptations to the drought taught us many lessons. The drought affected all classes of people of the city, forcing us to adapt to water scarcity, how to our use water sparingly, how a city and its people rally together to address impending human catastrophe.
We refused to be cowered by impending gloom; instead we adapted, developed new environmental norms, and importantly we adopted new behaviour, which has now lodged in our consciousness.
In addition to a greater awareness of the sustainable and sparing use of water, we have placed ourselves in a position to extend our ethical behaviour to broader ecological concerns, addressing poverty alleviation in the city, and developing fellowship and cooperation around on going spatial and other injustices in the city.
We thank Allah for blessing us with the current rains in full awareness of putting our gratitude to good use and moral repurposing.
Allah declares in Surah Ibrahim (Q14, V7)
And when your Sustainer made this promise know: “If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more; but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!
Gratitude for Allah’s ni’mah (favours); being grateful, giving thanks, and a disposition of thanksgiving, are qualities that stand at the centre of Islam’s ethical vision.
In the case of the drought, for us, being grateful to Allah as an ethical disposition, translated into life affirming practical action.
It is clear that accessing Allah’s sibghah, the hues, or Allah’s manifest qualities, lies in translating Allah-ordained dispositions such as mercy, gratitude, creativity and excellence into ethical practices, amal-al-salihat, that advance the common good.
Such ethical practices vest our existence in awareness of Allah’s presence, practices trumped by values of sharing, caring and being properly human.