Monday, June 10, 2013

Paradox and Tawil

Surah 18 verses 78-82  Al Kahf

78. He answered:"This is the parting between me and you: Now I will tell you the interpretation of (those things) over which you were unable to hold patience."

79. "As for the boat, it belonged to certain men in dire want: They plied the water: but I wished to render it unserviceable, for there was after them a certain king who seized on every boat by force."

80. "As for the youth, his parents were people of faith, and we feared that he would grieve them by obstinate rebellion and ingratitude (to God)"

81."So we desired that their Lord would give them in exchange (a son) better in purity (of conduct) and closer in affection.

82. "As for the wall, It belonged to  two youths, Orphans in the town; There was beneath it a buried treasure, to which they were entitled; Their father had been a righteous man: So your Lord desired that they should attain their age of full strength and get out their treasure---a mercy and a favor from your Lord. I did it not of my own accord. Such is the interpretation (of those) things over which you were unable to hold patience. 

This story begins with verse 60 and from the start it is full of mystery and symbolism.  The story centers around a "servant of God" and his conduct in 3 encounters. In the first encounter, he destroys a boat, in the second he kills a youth and in the third he rebuilds a wall. The observer in all this is Prophet Moses (pbuh) who is puzzled and disturbed by what he sees.

But then he had been warned---(verse 68) "For how can you have patience about things which are beyond your knowledge?". Yet Prophet Moses promises to have patience and the journey begins.

Tawil is to "lead back to the origin" and leads to a wholistic interpretation of Divine will. What seems disturbing, puzzling, paradoxical becomes whole, and harmonious when understood in light of the compassion and mercy of God.

Actions that at first seem harmful, wrong and puzzling become a mercy and a favor in light of the whole. In the first event, a boat is damaged. When we see only the literal event. we can only see the harm it has caused to the owners of the boat. Yet, through this trial, God most, compassionate, most merciful, has bestowed unseen Grace. Perhaps, the souls of the boat owners have been saved from the oppression of their means/options becoming too limited. Likewise, trials that happen to us may destroy a material aspect of our lives, yet, surprisingly, new hope, and spirituality can also spring forth.....opening up our options/choices.

In the second event a youth is killed. This is horrifying and wrong. How can God, most compassionate, most merciful, destroy human life?....Yet, death is an inevitable part of "life". All of us are born by God's will and will die by God's will. It is his right to give life when he pleases and to take it back when he pleases. Both life and death are a grace and mercy from God. Life offers us opportunity for repentance and reform thus helping us grow in spirituality, and death saves us from committing sin and error thus preventing us from staining our souls. 
Likewise, in those instances when God, most compassionate, most merciful, has interfered in human affairs and destroyed a community, saving those who were good, he has bestowed unseen grace. Preventing  the bad from oppressing and overwhelming the good, he has provided space for goodness to take root and grow. 

In the third event a wall has been restored in an uncivil and ungrateful community. This is puzzling. The restoration of the wall prevented the treasure from being discovered too early---thus possibly preventing it from being stolen or misused by the community.  What appears to be a blessing to the undeserving is actually a balancing of the degree of blessing by God most compassionate, most merciful. From this good action, the rightfully deserving will be able to receive blessings. However, this is not just a mercy, but a favor and a favor entails a responsibility. The orphans must choose to use their wealth for good and refrain from using it for harm. 

"A true journey isn't in visiting new places, it is seeing with new eyes"---unknown
"I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart"--al Hallaj

"Good fortune or bad fortune is unimportant. The vicissitudes of life are but the means to shape your character. If you suffer adversity and react in the proper way, in the long run you will be benefited as fully as though you had good fortune." ----unknown

"Good rests on bad. 
bad hides within good.
who knows where the turning point is:" 
---Tao-te Ching

1 comment:

  1. Hi kat,

    Nice post! Surah 18 (The Cave) is one of my personal favorites, especially 60ff.

    It is so good to see you writing again; hope to see more in the near future.

    Grace and peace,