Prevailing Through Pain
What to say? What to do? How to act?
Over the last few weeks, I've had a ton of thoughts swirling in my mind. I've consulted with lovely new friends that God has placed in my life. I've made dua. And yes, I've established a plan. Going totally offline is a big component of that. Part of this plan is to journal. To journal to learn and to reconnect with myself and a Quranically based spirituality.
This is important as I've been thinking about activism and and how to address problems that are both external and internal. In short--what to say to myself. What to say to the world. This word "say" made me think about the Quran verb "Qul," which means "say" in the imperative verb form. The word "Qul" is used 270 times in the Quran. Today I want to talk about its use in Surah al-Raad.
According to al-Zamashari, there is no consensus regarding whether or not this surah is Meccan or Medinan. I think this is important. I think it might mean that in terms of paradigms and applications, the message in this part of the Quran is timeless (most of it is, but in this chapter there are some real jewels).
The chapter begins with a discussion of the cosmos, of heaven and earth, God's wrath and God's forgiveness, the physical development of the human being, the moral development of a human, Qadar, self-scrutiny and the Quranic principle that God does not alter the outer reality of a person or a people until they alter their own inner reality. There is a plan in this order. There is a meaning in this order. And considering why I am now journaling, due to internal pain and grief that has built up over the years and recent events, this order, the meaning in this order is mind-blowing. I'm kind of like, "Woah...holy crap." This is the road map I need in order to do the heart work I've put off for way too long.
And then, as if the Quran was reading my mind and/or confirming it, I read 13: 12, which states, "It is He who shows you lightening, [causing] fear and hope, and generates heavy clouds."
Yeah...no kidding. Lightning strikes. Indeed this is the title of chapter 13: Lightening. Lightening here represents awareness. To develop self awareness, one must entire the dark cave of contemplation and introspection. It is a stormy place filled with fear and hope. It is yet another instance of Quran bi'l Quran in which the Quran is circling back and developing its own internal narrative. This sura began with the cosmos, heaven and earth, balance, rhythm, order. The cosmos is ordered this way, so must be our souls. Order. Keep hanging on to that point. Order. Order. Order as in a design, order as in a plan of action. Order as in a direct order.
13: 14 then says that "to God alone is the supplication of truth." In other words, contemplate then pray. Meaningful spiritual growth in a Quran sense is always contemplative. Next comes 13: 15. This verse is one of the Sajda Tilawat Ayahs in the Quran. A Sajda Tilawat is a verse that begins with a little sajdah marker and is mandatory to prostrate after reading it. Contemplate. Act. But the best of actions is always prayer. Pray. Submit. Humble yourself. NOW. Don't wait.
And finally, we arrive at those five "Quls." Here the first four "quls" make up three rhetorical questions. The last is the answer to those same questions. Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth? Have you taken, apart from Him, any other protectors? Are the blind equal to those who see?
Answer: God is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, al-Qahhar.
Here again, my mind was blown. The study Quran translates al-Qahhar as "the Paramount," but I think in this context, it is better to say, "the Prevailing."
Conclusion: heart work is the only solution to maintaining balance within and without. And the only way to do that is to realize that source matters. One's source for truth and sustenance cannot come from things that are fleeting and relative, like the various paradigms of politics or theory that generally shape our lives--especially those of us who are academically or professionally inclined. Identity should be spiritually based. Identity should come from contemplation. Prayer. Contemplative prayer.
Shortly after 13: 16, the Quran mentions a fuller plan of action: patience, prayer, charity (openly or secretly), and the repelling of harm and injustice. But none of that is possible with out contemplation. Contemplation is always the first course of action.
This course of action (think, pray, do--NOW) and these principles will inform my identity, my healing, my way of interacting with the world at large. Not some else's ideas. Not someone else's understanding of what it is to be a Muslim or a woman or a Sunni, a Sufi, hell, even a feminist or a what have you. Vertical identity first. Quran bil Quran. No other paradigm is as complete. The horizontal cannot be rectified if we don't align ourselves with the vertical. Which, like lightening, needn't be perfect to be vertical. Lightning is beautiful because it is jagged and wild and raw...but yes, vertical, connecting heaven to earth, earth to heaven.
Wa Allahu alim.
Ya al-Qahhar. Help us all prevail. And remember that our spiritual rectification is like the lightening bolt. It isn't meant to be perfect or clean or easy. But wow does it have power and wow, can it light the way.