By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
The first duty of love is to listen.
There is a narration on the Prophet’s cousin, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, who was fighting an enemy with his sword ready to deal the final blow, then the enemy spit in his face. Ali refused to continue the battle as the fight became personally motivated.
We learn from this incident – that whether in battle or in discussion, when conflicts or a fight becomes poisoned with personal angst – the wisest thing to do is to ground oneself and remove the personal angst. Until the personal angst is removed, then the discussion can continue.
There are many roads in the valley of impotence in the face of adversity, and many lead to loss and perpetual suffering. At times, we find ourselves at a junction where many voices are giving us advice, however, all these voices lead us astray. There is the road of guidance which is a steep road, but first we must acknowledge that we do not know and seek guidance.
At times, voices that validate our pain and suffering seek to manipulate one in their most vulnerable state when a person is hurting and unaware. Whereas voices of guidance seek to center and ground you so you can see the roads ahead and choose the road to travel with wisdom and reflection. It is for this reason that God guides us to show patience in times of adversity, so we can reflect and follow the road of guidance and not one of the seductive roads of validation or conformity.
I like to emphasize listening, but not to validate the one speaking but if our aim is to guide another or receive guidance, then we must find where we are emotionally, mentally, spiritually on the map before we can guide each other appropriately. Giving people advice based on conjecture, false assumptions or projections of our own internal issues can lead to many misunderstandings and name-calling.
In a previous blog, I mentioned that one of God’s names is As Sami, or the one that listens to all. God doesn’t just hear what the lips say, but beyond that. He hears our thoughts, our feelings in our hearts, and even our emotions which at times we struggle to put in words. Furthermore, the beauty of God is that He listens to us before He asks us to listen to Him.
“I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way” (Qur’an 2:186).
At times because we feel heard by God, we assume our feelings and views are then correct and God is on our side. Yet, God listens to all of us, even if we are wrong and misguided. We fail to go beyond being heard by God, to listening to God with humility. Hence, to love God is learning to listen to Him.
Many religious people from all faiths, myself included, are very good at speaking to God and speaking for God without His permission. We end up seeing, hearing and experiencing the false image of faith. But real faith requires us to go beyond our blabber and challenges us to embrace humility and listen to God. Listening to God, means finding the courage to ask God – am I wrong? It is when we learn to with a will listen to His call and trust in God, that we are guided to see, hear and experience the reality of faith, hence walk in the right way and learn to co-exist in peace with one another.
Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, was known to have this quality of compassionate listening to others. He was mocked for this quality by his adversaries.
“Among them are men who abuse the Prophet and say, ‘He is (all) ear.’ Say, ‘He listens to what is best for you: he believes in Allah, has faith in the Believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe.’ But those who abuse the Messenger will have a grievous penalty.” (9:61)
As we engage in discussion on racial bias or islamophobia – it is important that we take a moment to challenge ourselves to listen to the other, but also and more importantly to turn to God and ask Him – am I wrong, then listen to God. The road ahead is a challenging one given our experiences, but we have the potential to rise to the challenge.
This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, currently titled Reflections of Faith: Lessons from the Prophets.
Church of the Epiphany Episcopal Church in partnership with SPIN, and the Islamic Center of Minnesota invite those eager to understand racial bias in new ways on Sunday, September 27, 2015 from 4:00-7:00pm at Church of the Epiphany, 4900 Nathan Lane in Plymouth.
Consulting both a panel of west metro youth for their experiences with racial bias AND a panel of experienced voices this event examines realities about racial bias, challenges and opportunities to move toward racial reconciliation and healing. The evening includes a meal (no payment required/free will offering only, please rsvp via link below) and small group discussion of the topic.
Reservations for the event are not required but are strongly suggested and very helpful because of the meal being provided. Please RSVP here and let us know today!
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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