The danger of conjecture: answer the call

Hajj: Answering the Call – (Key Lessons From the Prophets) – YouTube

Who should tell the definitive story of humanity, the Creator or created?

[His father] said, “Have you no desire for my gods, O Abraham? If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so avoid me a prolonged time.”

[Abraham] said, “Peace will be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever gracious to me.

And I will leave you and those you invoke other than Allah and will invoke my Lord. I expect that I will not be in invocation to my Lord unhappy.”

So when he had left them and those they worshipped other than Allah, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, and each [of them] We made a prophet.

And We gave them of Our mercy, and we made for them a reputation of high honor.

And mention in the Book, Moses. Indeed, he was chosen, and he was a messenger and a prophet.

And We called him from the side of the mount at [his] right and brought him near, confiding [to him].

And We gave him out of Our mercy his brother Aaron as a prophet.

And mention in the Book, Ishmael. Indeed, he was true to his promise, and he was a messenger and a prophet.

And he used to enjoin on his people prayer and zakah and was to his Lord pleasing.

And mention in the Book, Idrees. Indeed, he was a man of truth and a prophet.

And We raised him to a high station.

Those were some of the prophets on whom Allah did bestow His Grace,- of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.”

Qur’an (19:46-58)

Borrowing Chimamanda Adichie TED talk

It is impossible to talk about faith without talking about power. One of the Names of God is Ad-Daarr. Whenever I think about the world’s power structures, I think about this name.

Imam Ghazali said, “Do not suppose that poison kills or harms by itself…. or that kings or men or satan, or any creature, are capable of good or evil, benefit or harm, by themselves. For all of these are subservient causes from which nothing proceeds except that for which they were utilized.”

We begin each morning and evening with the supplications:

  1. “I seek refuge in the Perfect Words of Allah from the evil of what He has created.”
  2. “In the Name of Allah, with Whose Name nothing on the earth or in the heaven can cause harm, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”
  3. “There is none worthy of worship except Allah alone. He has no partners. To Him belongs the Dominion, to Him belongs all praise and He is capable over all things.”

God’s attributes Ad-Daārr and an-Nāfi’ often acknowledge how balance and harmony are established and maintained in our world.

Nāfi’ (creator of good) is the opposite of Daārr (distresser).

These opposing attributes teach us that which is the sweetest nectar to one person may be bitter poison to another.

Such opposites help to make one aware of who is in power and that we are all subservient to the all-knowing hand of Allāh, through whom balance and harmony are created and maintained even if we don’t understand.

There is a Divine Plan beyond our human comprehension, and these pairs of opposites remind us to constantly focus our attention on His Glory, regardless of whether the situation is smooth and easy or rough and challenging.

Abu Hashim Madani said, “There is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on the path: virtue when he is conscious of God and sin when he is not.”

Listening to just one definitive story—one story about people of faith, the Prophet Muhammad, and Moses—risks a critical misunderstanding. The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie argued in her powerful TED talk that our lives and cultures are composed of many overlapping stories. She is correct that stories are dependent on power. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, and how many stories are told are dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell stories but to make them the absolute and definitive reality of humanity.

As Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and start with “secondly.” Start the story with the trial or tribulation, the fall, and not with the Divine Breath into Adam; you have an entirely different story. Start the story with evil and human suffering, and not with our turning away from God, and you have an altogether different story.

But it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a spiritual abuser, he was somehow representative of all people of faith. This is not because I am a better person than liberals, but because of the Quran’s cultural and powerful stories; I had many stories of people who represented God faithfully. I had many stories of the Prophets and the Righteous people. I had read about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings. I have read about Mary, Asiya, Fatima, Khadijah, Sarah, and Hajar, upon them peace. I did not have a single story of people calling to God, faithfully.

Some years ago, I learned that people of God were expected to have had a large following to be successful. Then, the stories of Abraham and Noah, upon them peace, and the many Prophets who did not have a large following centered us. 

These stories taught us lessons about resolve, patience, sincerity, and truthfulness. They faced significant trials while connected to God throughout. And most of all, how they met a kind of normalized political fear which invaded their lives then and invades our lives now.

These stories were the means to nurture and train the final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings. Yet, they not only developed him but also built stories of faith during his lifetime experience and nurtured and built the companions that surrounded him. Stories of conjecture contribute to social, mental, emotional, and psychological illnesses, and the problem with these illnesses is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. 

Of course, trials, tribulations, evil, and human suffering exists. But other stories are not about catastrophe, and it is vital, it is just as important, to talk about them.

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or person without engaging with all of that place’s stories and that person’s stories. The consequence of conjecture is this: It disconnects people from God. This results in spreading disinformation and misinformation. It makes our awareness and consciousness of God difficult. It emphasizes human suffering and evil rather than the many of God’s blessings.

So what if we learned about the life experiences of Prophet Abraham, his family, and how they lived their faith? What if we kept reviewing the life of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings and his companions? What if we had a network that broadcasts the diverse Prophetic stories worldwide? What the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe calls “a balance of stories.” What if people knew about Hajar, a strong and remarkable African woman who raised her child in the desert? Now, the conventional wisdom is that people don’t read such stories. But, there was no one in the desert of Mecca, when God told Abraham to call. Let God take care of bringing people to read and listen to the stories, and you call to them.

I often mentioned that the Prophets’ stories helped correct my perception of the world and strengthened my faith. I do believe they are also a source of healing.

What if our children knew about the Prophets’ stories more than contemporary musicians, talented people singing in English and Korean pop, Arabic and Spanish, and Ijo, mixing influences from Jay-Z to Fela to Bob Marley to their grandfathers?

What if they knew about how Asiya protected Prophet Moses, upon him peace within the kingdom of the Pharaoh? What if we learned about the many companions in the battle of Badr, full of faith fighting oppression in the face of insurmountable odds? What if Maryam, the mother of Jesus, story became prevalent to our girls growing up? Or Joseph to our young boys in the face of hyper-sexualization?

Whenever I am home, I am reminded of the usual sources of pain for most Muslims: our failed infrastructure, our failed governments, and the incredible resilience of people who thrive despite the government rather than because of it. I began to share lessons from the Prophets’ stories and reflect on God’s Most Beautiful Names, and I saw those lessons trickle through.

I self-published one book and am putting the final touches on another, sharing the numerous lessons that reshaped my worldview. Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and malign, but stories can also be used to nurture and ease our journey to God. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity and reconnect us to God.

Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, suffered much to receive the Quran from God, listen, obey, practice it and teach it to his companions. He put the Quran into practice to such a degree that he was described as the walking Quran. The companions did not sit around, reading the book themselves, but were nurtured to listen to its teachings and obey. I would like to end with this thought: When we reject conjecture, listen to the one calling us to faith, and answer that call, we are directed to the path that leads to paradise.

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, currently titled Love Is Deeper Than Words: Key Lessons from the Prophets.

Fadwa Wazwaz

Fadwa Wazwaz

| Fəd-wə Wəz-wəz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. She is an author of God Intervenes Between A Person And Their Heart: Key Lessons From The Prophets. Follow on Social Media

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