Thursday, April 7, 2011

Look and See

One of the most humbling and eye-opening points in my life was the day I helped elect Barack Obama despite going to the polls to vote for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.

Voter's remorse set in even before the results were in. While at the time I chalked up my last-minute change of heart to many things, including too many hours spent with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, I diagnosed my real problem later. I had been long on hope but short on insight (baseerat in Arabic).

Those endowed with baseerat, or the ability to see what's really going on, don't get confused and overwhelmed like I did. They can always see black and white where others see gray.

Those lacking baseerat, on the other hand, find themselves easily led astray, especially when bombarded by mixed messages from the media, family/friends and even religious leaders/organizations.

God warns us in the Quran against falling in the latter camp: "... they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones." (7:179)

Scholar-in-training Asad Jafri explains baseerat further:"Allah has bestowed inside the human being two sets of visions, eyesight and insight, the sight of the eyes and the sight of the soul within those eyes. The eye of the soul is known as baseerat and it is the only tool needed and required to fight today's fitna [disunity and confusion] and corruption."

To develop baseerat within ourselves we must first get rid of ignorance (ask questions, read, ponder, contemplate!) and doubt about our religion (ask questions, read, ponder, contemplate!). Then we have to work on increasing our taqwa (God-consciousness) and piety.

God says: "Surely those who guard (against evil), when a visitation from the Shaitan (devil) afflicts them they become mindful, then lo! they see."

Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (S), displayed impeccable baseerat throughout her life. Even in the Time of Ignorance she was a monotheist and known as the "Pure One." She never got confused, caught up or led astray. Most importantly, she had the insight to marry Prophet Muhammad (S) even though her friends were discouraging her from "marrying a poor, orphaned young man and lowering her personal status."

Indeed, we all need the baseerat of Khadija these days so we too can distinguish truth from falsehood and recognize, support and join those amongst us leading humanity towards peace, justice and prosperity for all.

According to twentieth century Muslim philosopher and poet Allama Iqbal, our future depends on it:

Khudaya, arzoo meri yahee hai
Mera noor-e-baseerat aam karde

Translation from Urdu:
God, it is my wish
that you make my light of baseerat
widespread among the masses