99 Names Series: Al-Fattah (The Opener)
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but every time I read a book or attend a lecture on the life of the Prophet and his Companions, I can’t help but feel that we Muslims are the undeserving inheritors of a great legacy; one built on nothing more than an uncompromising faith in the Oneness of Allah.
I believe we are often guilty of relegating this real golden era of Islam to ancient history, assuming it irrelevant to modern living. We trivialize the effect Islam had on these desert nomads, how it transformed idol-worshipping, murderous, cold-hearted men to become the best of people, with the best morals, who then carried the message of Islam to the far corners of the globe.
To the Orientalist, this conquest was the result of Arabia being a vibrant trade center, open to a rich exchange of ideas. That Islam united the warring tribes of Mecca and Medina, giving them the impetus to spread the message of the Prophet to the surrounding regions.
To the believing Muslim, these victories from the initial forays into enemy territory, and the subsequent rule of Islam which stretched from Northeast India, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pyrenees, was proof of Divine help, concrete evidence of Allah as Al-Fattaah, The Opener. How else would a band of humble bedouins engineer the fall of mighty kings?
The answer is as simple as it is clear. These believing men and women understood their roles as slaves of Allah perfectly, a slavery that inadvertently freed them from the slavery of the world itself. They realized with absolute certainty that you didn’t need anyone, or anything, except your Creator.
It was a freedom that paved the way for a fairer, more just society, a society where both the leaders and the followers, the rich and the poor, held themselves to the highest account, weighing their every action, before these actions were weighed against them.
Before NLP, Adam Khoo and Stephen Covey were all the rage, the Companions would spend a portion of each day contemplating their good and bad deeds. They would thank Allah (instead of congratulating themselves) for the good they were able to do, and admonished their selves for whatever bad they had committed. They were highly-disciplined in improving their spiritual selves, and persevered towards the cause of their deen.
In such a society, meritocracy would take on a whole new meaning, different from the shade of elitism rampant in our country today. The ones who were successful and well-endowed, in commerce, in academia, in the sciences, would see the opportunities that opened to them as blessings from Allah Al-Fattah, instead of products of their own determination.
This did not negate the need for hard work, but gave those who were successful a perspective few people at the top today have. They were not arrogant, self-conceited people, but compassionate and kind, especially to those at the bottom. Their wealth and power would often be used for the good of the masses, instead of being hoarded in exclusive circles. They understood that Allah’s blessings were a sacred trust or amanah that could not be violated, and that they would one day be questioned on how they had spent that which had been given to them.
A society like this, built upon the bedrock of belief in Allah and the Hereafter, would never be overruled. Except that it did. We know the narrative of the Islamic caliphate only too well. As Allah opened more doors for the Muslims, some grew greedy and over time, the enemies of Islam found ways to undermine the strength of the ummah.[box_light]The Prophet saw said, “The People will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their food.” Someone asked, “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied, “No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be froth and scum like that carried down by a torrent (of water), and Allah will take the fear of you from the breasts (hearts) of your enemy and cast al-wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is al-wahn?” He replied, “Love of the world and dislike of death.”[/box_light]
Today, almost a century since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, we are often told to taper our expectations in our practice of Islam, especially in secular countries like Singapore. We have to accept reality, some lecture us. It’s not possible to do this and that.
Perhaps we have forgotten, of Allah’s attribute as The Opener, He who Opens doors for his faithful servants. May Allah swt save our society from such ignorance.
Shahnawaz Abdul Hamid
The writer blogs about being a Muslim in Singapore at www.hayatshah.com.