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His Concerns and Mine

Consider an ancient and very valuable historical artifact. Its owner went to great lengths to acquire it and spent exorbitant sums of money. It is something priceless to him and he would not part with it for any sum.

Now imagine someone knocks it down and shatters it – whether intentionally or by mistake – how will its owner feel about that person?

No doubt, he will be stricken with severe grief and pain seeing what it had taken him years to acquire destroyed in a matter of seconds. He had placed great emphasis on this thing that he possessed. Who can blame him?

This is the intensity of feeling that can be inspired by such a small event. Someone who does not see any value in that artifact might even laugh at what happened. He might even think it silly for a person to have so much concern over such a trinket.

The person stricken does not see it that way at all. He can feel nothing less than loathing for the one who did it, and will most surely have at least harsh words for him and demand compensation. How could it be otherwise?

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No matter how good-natured, tolerant, and magnanimous the owner of the artifact might be as a person, it will be hard for him to simply forget the destruction of his precious treasure in front of his own eyes. His concern is real and tangible. However, it is still a secondary concern.

We wish to shift the focus of our concerns to what is more important – Islam and the affairs of the Muslims. We need to feel the same grief – nay, even greater sorrow – for the sake of Islam. Our sorrow, however, must inspire us to action, not to wallow in despair.

This is an issue of where our loyalties lie. It is right that our concern for Islam and the Muslims and our anger at the attacks upon them and upon their beliefs should be less than the concern that the man had for his artifact? Should our dislike for those who attack Islam with their tongues and their deeds be less than his dislike for the person who destroyed his property?

Anything for which a person makes sacrifices becomes precious to him and holds a very high status in his mind and his heart. There are many other examples that we can give for this besides the man and his artifact.

We can consider the money that a person saves up for years, pinching pennies and dollars and working many long nights to attain it.

We can think about a promotion that an employee waits for with every ounce of his patience while doing everything in his power to get it. We can imagine what his attitude would be towards anyone who would try to prevent him from getting that promotion.

We can think of an only child who is the apple of his parents’ eyes, and we can think of thousands of other examples where a person’s concern will be great indeed.

Some of the concerns that people have may be permissible and others may be sinful. However they all share one common quality in that, which is that no matter how great they may appear and no matter how much they might fill up our hearts and distract our sights, they are all subsidiary to the most important concern that we should have.

Consider the case of a researcher who has expended all of his life’s efforts in his research. Quite likely, it has taken hold of his heart to an unjustifiable degree. He might, on account of the efforts that he has expended, become overzealous about his conclusions that he loses his objectivity, pushing his own evidence to the limit while rejecting and criticizing any evidence to the contrary.

No one should ever think to dispense with all the various the concerns that people have and try to convert them all into a single concern. This goes against human nature. Indeed, such a notion goes against the requirements of Islamic Law which came to put all affairs in their proper place. No one can be criticized for giving due care and concern to various matters in his life. In fact, he is wrong if he does not give certain matters the care that they deserve and he may be sinful for his neglect if the matters are duties that Islam holds incumbent upon him.

However, we can all see that the most important concerns deserve more care and attention than less important ones. Personal concerns are not as important as ones that concern the whole family. Family matters are not the same as those that affect society, the nation, or the whole world. All matters and their subsidiary concerns have their own degree of importance depending on their magnitude, the scope of their effect, and their degree of indispensability.

The major Islamic concerns have to hold their proper place in our hearts, our minds, and our sentiments. These concerns must be reflected in the way we live our lives. This is the proof of our faith. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The believers, in their love, their mercy, and their feelings for one another are like a single body. If one limb feels pain, the whole body is beset by restlessness and fever.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:

“A believer towards another believer is like a building in which each part supports the others.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

It is this focus that imbues the heart, the mind, and the intellectual life with a balanced approach to all other concerns, so that no concern will completely overwhelm a person’s life, misdirect his efforts, or blind him to other matters of importance. This is one aspect of the justice that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) command us with.

It is a gross injustice for a person to become incited at some small transgression against his person, his wealth, his family, or his industry – or what he perceives to be a transgression – and respond with a massive retaliation against society at large or against its people, its heritage and its institutions. How could such conduct ever be justified?

Alas, some people have been created with small minds and even smaller hearts, and cannot see beyond their own personal concerns. Nothing else can move them. There is nothing for it but to realize that this is a handicap. When people of sound reason see them, they say:

“Praise be to Allah who has spared me what he has tried you with and has favored me above many whom He has created.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

Our natural concerns for ourselves, our spouses, our children, our wealth, and our status can be tied in with our most important concern. They can be as tributaries that feed into the larger sea. This is the reality for those who have good intentions and who bring forth these intentions in every aspect of their lives. Their daily habits become in this way acts of worship, whether they are engaged in research, busy in their shops, or at their office desks, or in their beds, just as much as when they are at the mosque.


About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.