Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: Guppies in a bowl know nothing about the ocean

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We are all striving very hard to become servants of Allah (ﷻ), and to leave all those matters that make us “something” in the world, that give us status. Nothing else is going to matter in the long run; not our offspring or our bank accounts or our titles and qualifications. Eventually the only thing that is going to matter is the extent of our servitude. Part of this striving has to do with Truth – living in terms of the Truth of Islam, striving in the implementation of this Truth, and associating with those who personify this Truth. Allah (ﷻ) says in the Qur’an:

يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ ءَامَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللهَ وَ كُوْنُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِيْنَ

O you who believe, fear Allah and be with those who are truthful (9:119).

At a very simple level we should all try, at least, to speak the truth in our daily association with others. Many of us see little wrong in bending the facts, or only giving part of the facts, or breaking appointments, or not carrying out our promises. We need to examine what we say, and measure what we say in terms of what is true.

There is another part to all this. It is important for all of us, whenever we have the opportunity, to speak the truth with regard to our Islam and all the social activities associated with that Islam. And we should do this even if others disapprove. We should strive to be right by God, not to be “in the good books” of our friends and neighbours. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

Let not any one of you belittle yourself.” They asked: “O Messenger of Allah, how can anyone belittle himself?” He replied: “He finds a matter concerning Allah about which he should say something and he does not say it, so Allah (Mighty and Sublime is He) will say to him on the Day of Resurrection: What prevented you from saying something about such-and-such a matter? He will say: It was out of fear of people. Then Allah (ﷻ) will reply: It is I whom you should properly fear.”

Not speaking out against untruths and being untruthful have become characteristic of so many of us. Allah (ﷻ) says in the Qur’an:

وَلْتَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُوْنَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ زَ يَأْمُرُوْنَ بِالْمَعْرُوْفِ وَ  يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُوْنَ

Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong.  They are the ones to attain felicity (iii:104).

We must be careful about ourselves. We should not strive to be socially acceptable by others. We should strive to be acceptable by Allah (ﷻ). And if in the process of doing this, people are unhappy, then rather their unhappiness than our dishonesty.

We must remember that we are like little guppies swimming around in a small bowl of religious knowledge and understanding, and some of us pretend to know and to have access to the meanings of the endless oceans of religious knowledge. Allah (ﷻ) has made available to us a grain of all knowledge and we see the grain as the entirety of what there is to know. We know so little of the little that is available, and we pretend to be great scholars and give ourselves grandiose titles. If we bring together everything that all of humanity knows, then it is still a minor fraction of the grand total of all available knowledge.

Many of the great scholars of Islam have gained access to parts of these endless oceans by walking a path of intense remembrance of the Divine, and in the process He had inspired them with knowledge from His Presence. They did not gain this knowledge by pouring over books, but by opening their hearts to His Divine Lights. And when they speak, the knowledge flows almost endlessly from their hearts. The intellectual miniatures who criticize these scholars only repeat what others had said or written. Nothing flows from their hearts. There is nothing there. They swim about arrogantly in the bowl unaware of the ocean.

These great scholars of Islam all walked the path of Tasawwuf, conscious of the ever-Presence of their Lord, and when they walked, they did so in the company of other intensely pious people. We ask Allah (ﷻ) for such company for us, amin.

[Unpublished 2012]


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