The Perfection of Gods Favour and The Search for Meaning
"This day I have perfected MY favor upon you (O Mankind) and chosen for you Islam as your religion!" Al-Qur'an
That statement was given to no other Prophet before Muhammad (saw), the final Messenger from God and the seal of all of the Prophets! And Umar (ra) on hearing this wept and said "After perfection there is decline".
Muslims have from that time been cautious, wary of any adding to or subtracting from that Divine Favour.
And rightly so, because if you were to do so, then in the words of Umar (ra) they would decline and go astray.
For how can you better perfection?
And therein lies our age-old dilemma, to live whilst retaining that moment. For life is movement.
And our dilemma is to live, move, do and achieve whilst trying to hang on to that moment of perfection, that was the life of Muhammad (saw) and the Qur'an that was sent down to him.
Many are the ways that people have sought to do that.
Imam Malik (rh)*1 believed to do so was to contain the acts, saying and customs of the Medinese. Others take different solutions to that dilemma, some emphasizing the spiritual aspects of the Tarikahs (sufism), and still others the juristic aspects of the schools of fiqh (law). But I believe that Muhammad (saw) left us a clear indication of how to hold onto that aspiration.
But first forget what I believe and examine with me carefully that statement of Allah t'ala that is the centre-piece our aspirations.
If you were to look at this verse solely within the context of the Qur'an that we read today, you could be forgiven for overlooking it and failing to be impressed by it.
Look for it now at the beginning of Surah Maida. Within it's textual context it appears insignificant, and can be easily overlooked.
In fact if you were to know nothing of it other than it was revealed to Muhammad (saw), you could rightly believe that it preceded some fundamental other revelation!
That Allah t'ala revealed just prior to it (on THE one and same day) something of such significance that warrants it's declaration!
What happened on that day?
The Farewell Pilgrimmage and Sermon
It was the day of Arafat, in the Holy month of Dhul-Hijjah, on the Holy plains of Arafat.
On that day Muhammad (saw) gave his farewell sermon to countless thousands of Muslims who had gathered to perform the Hajj with him. This is significant!
That Allah t'ala revealed this declaration to the whole of humanity after Muhammad (saw) taught us the rites of Hajj, after Mecca had been purified of idolatry, and after Muhammad (saw) had summarised our religion for us in his farewell address!
This shows us the intimacy between the revelation and the sunnah of Muhammad (saw). Scholars argue as to whether or not the Sunnah explains or can even abrogate the Revelation. This incidence explains the intimacy between the Sunnah and the Revelation and makes such questions irrelevant.
The Search for Meaning.
Just after that farewell address and at other times, both before and after, Muhammad (saw) commanded his followers "Those who are present, tell those who are absent...."
Of itself this command of RasulAllah (saw), which bore the command of Allah t'ala, would have been sufficient for us to know Muhammad (saw) to the very last detail as we do today. Because his companions took those words to heart and transmitted to us every last detail that was that phenomenal time.
However, Muhammad (saw) went further than that and he said:
"Those who are present tell those who are absent, perchance they may better understand..."
To live in that moment, the moment when both heaven and earth united in the revelation that came to Muhammad (saw), the messenger of God, who withheld naught of what he knew!
That is to live the Sunnah and to seek it's meaning for our lives that we lead, which are full of movement, motion, going to and fro, that is the way that Muslims are meant to be.
To remove the shackles of canon, of privilege, of man-made honour, of haughty pride and to go and seek the meaning of that Revelation, both Qur'an and Sunnah, and it's relevance for our own lives. To do so, is not to read a book, but is to live life to its fullest and to reflect on the life of Muhammad (saw) and the Qur'an, Allah t'ala revelation and speech and Muhammad's (saw) companion, constantly.
*1 Imam Malik is my Sheikh and Imam, may God be pleased with him (ameen)... I use his example in this blog to point to the variety of ways that people sought to hold onto that perfection!
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