The Challenge of Nakba: Surahs al-Haqqah and al-Furqan on the Role of Truth and Justice

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Jan 1, 2009      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share


by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Basking Ridge Mosque, New Jersey
Khutba for Jumu’a Salat, January 2, 2009

Part One, The Challenge

Surah al An’am 6:115
Wa tama’at kalimatu rabika sidqan wa ‘adlan
“And the Word of your Lord is completed and perfected in truth and in justice”

The challenge of Nakba is the challenge of holocaust.  Nakba is the closest Arabic equivalent to the Greek word holocaust.  The term holocaust comes from the Greek word holos meaning “completely” and kaustos, which means “burnt.”  The Arabic verb nakaa means “to cause outrageous harm” and can also mean “to incinerate.”  It is similar to the Arabic term hiraba, which is the Arabic equivalent of the English term “terrorism.”  In classical Arabic, those people of whatever nationality or religion who are guilty of terrorism or of terroristic counter-terrorism are called muharibun.  Extremists in the Holy Land share the same identity, regardless of which “side” they are on.

In modern parlance the term holocaust has been restricted for political reasons to the Nazi campaign during the 1940s to destroy Judaism as a religion and all Jews.  Similarly, the term nakba has been restricted to the events of 1948 when Golda Meir called for a final solution to the injustice of the holocaust in Europe.  She called for the purification of Palestine, which she defined as a “land without people” divinely intended for a “people without land.”

The minority of radical Israeli Jews are now pitted against the minority of equally radical Palestinian Muslims who are both committed to the elimination of the other as allegedly the only realistic strategy for survival.

Two days ago, very few Palestinians rang in the New Year by celebrating on New Years Eve.  Last week, the six month truce between the legitimate government of Palestine and the government of Israel ended after the Israeli government failed to observe its two preconditions, which were the release of Hamas prisoners and a halt to the construction of settlements on Palestinian land.

In response, the militant wing of Hamas resumed the launch of symbolic rockets toward their usurped property as a means to demonstrate that Palestinians would never be intimidated into abandoning their dignity as human beings.  During the run-up to a hard fought national election, all the contending parties in Israel tried to trump the others by competing in the vehemence of their support for an all-out war against Gaza, which soon may deserve to be called the “Second Palestinian Nakba” or “Nakba Two”.

The immediate casualties were Arabs who insisted on their inalienable human rights to live as equals with the Jews in the Holy Land and those Jews who lost their humanity by denying these rights.  A longer-run casualty may be the political feasibility of a hudna or permanent truce designed to build an Abraham Federation as a better grand strategy for a just peace than can ever be the utopian strategy of radical Jews and radical Muslims to protect or obtain their own human rights by insisting on a sovereign state with exclusive power over part or all of the Holy Land at the expense of everyone else.

The ultimate casualty of utopian reliance on establishing a religious state may be the loss of a chance by both Jews and Muslims to build economic and political justice through faith-based reconciliation and faith-based cooperation.  As I have indicated in many of my writings, Ibn Taymiya died in prison because he insisted that the exclusivism of a religious state and especially the political pretensions of a so-called Islamic caliphate are among the worst abominations known to man.  He taught that every community can be Islamic only to the extent that it is based on a moral consensus among the spiritual leaders and scholars about the nature of truth and justice.  The ultimate nakba in the current Second Palestinian Holocaust, which could affect the rest of the world, may be rejection of the very principles emphasized throughout the Qur’an as the only true source of peace, namely, truth, referred to as al haqq, and justice, referred to as al ‘adl.

Two and a half years ago, Ahmad Yousef, who is the principal foreign policy adviser of the Palestinian Prime Minister Isma’il Haniya, asked me to prepare position papers on a hudna or permanent truce as a grand strategy for the long-range future of the Holy Land so that the more enlightened members of those who live in the Holy Land could begin to pursue faith-based reconciliation and faith-based cooperation in developing a single federation of two nations.

A dozen of my papers on an Islamic hudna were published before, during, and after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon during the summer of 2006.  These position papers called for a paradigmatic shift in foreign policy of all countries from the paradigm of peace through power to the paradigm of peace through justice, in recognition that justice based on truth is the ultimate power in the world.

The Qur’anic basis for this paradigm shift is the topic of my khutba today, which is one of a series presented by the Basking Ridge mosque on the ninety-nine attributes or names of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an.  The two names that I have chosen for today are reflected in the two most pertinent surahs of the Qur’an, namely, Surah al Haqqah, which is the 69th of the 114 surahs, and Surah al Furqan, which is the 25th.

Al Haqq is the Qur’anic term for the Being of Allah as the ultimate truth, as well as the term for the human responsibilities and rights of transcendent justice that derive from this absolute truth.  Al Furqan is the Qur’anic term for the criterion to decide between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, between justice and injustice.  This guide to understand what lies before and beyond either relativistic or totalitarian man-made law consists, first, of the Qur’an itself, which is known as Haqq al Yaqin, and, second, of the natural laws of the universe, including human nature, known as ‘Ain al Yaqin, and, third, of enlightened human reason to understand the first two sources, which is known as ‘Ilm al Yaqin.

As I indicated in my khutba here in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, shortly after this mosque was formed, Allah makes the source and importance of justice clear throughout the Qur’an.  In an amazingly little cited ayah, Surah al An’am 6:115, Allah informs us that, “The Message of Your Lord is completed and perfected in truth and in justice” (wa tama’at kalimatu Rabika sidqan wa ‘adlan).  Referring to those who manifest taqwa in their loving awareness of Allah and in their submission to Allah because He alone deserves it, Allah says in Surah al Ma’ida 5:8,“And do not let hatred of a people divert you from the path of justice. Be just as it is closest to excellence in piety” (A’diluu, huwa aqrabu li al taqwa).

The best discussion of the nexus between truth and justice may be found in Professor Hossein Nasr’s article, entitled “The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam.”  This appeared last month in a special issue of the popular journal Parabola devoted to the concept of justice in all of the world religions.

He writes, “To be fully human is to have an innate sense of justice and a yearning for justice. … We have the intuitive sense of putting things aright and in their appropriate place, of re-establishing a lost harmony and equilibrium, of remaining true to the nature of things, of giving each being its due.”  Professor Nasr continues, “If justice means to place everything in its place according to its nature and in following divine cosmic and human laws, then the Divine Nature is pure justice in the highest sense, being the One without any parts that could be out of place.”

As all wise people in every religion attest, in the words of Professor Nasr, “In all traditional religious and sapiential traditions justice is associated with truth, while truth itself is reality in the metaphysical sense.  Again, this fact is made clear in the double meaning of the Arabic term al-haqq, which means both truth and reality. To be just is to conform to the nature of the Real, and not to the transient and illusory.  In a sense it might be said that injustice is related to ignorance of the truth and real nature of things, while the practice of justice is impossible without truth, which would enable us to know beings in their reality.  And since that is not possible in this period of history to achieve by itself, revelations have been sent to guide man in the understanding of truth, of what is real, and of justice.”

This same profound insight explains why Allah revealed in Surah al Furqan 25:52 the only jihad specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, namely, the intellectual jihad.  This term furqan refers to a criterion not independent of Allah but inherent in Allah as one of the 99 Divine Names or attributes of the divine Nature.

The greatest challenge for Muslims is not only to purify ourselves individually through tazkiyah or “remembrance of Allah” in the jihad al akbar or “greatest jihad,” but to wage the third jihad, the jihad al kabir or “great jihad” called for in Surah al Furqan 25:52, we jahidum bihi jihadan kabiran.  This can be translated as “concentrate your efforts on it [Divine Revelation] in a ‘great jihad’.”  This is the intellectual struggle to apply the message of the Qur’an in intellectual discourse as a means to shape humankind’s civilizational future, so that in the third millennium after Christ there will be no more Dar al Harb or Lands dominated by enemies of Islam, and therefore there will be no need for activists in Muslim-majority countries, known collectively as Dar al Islam, to wage the jihad al saghir or Lesser Jihad to defend human rights by countering force with force.

The intermediate zone, known as Dar al ‘Ahd or Lands of Treaty Partners, will continue to exist as emphasized in the Qur’an as part of the divine plan for human diversity.  This should provide an opportunity for competition in doing good, as called for in the Qur’an, so that cooperation can be the norm and conflicts can be resolved by peaceful reconciliation, peaceful engagement, and faith-based cooperation.


Wa minma halaqna unmmatun yahduna bil haqqi wa bihi ya’adilun,
“Among those We have created is a community that is guided by truth and applies it in the form of justice”

One can argue that those who are optimistic about the pursuit of peace through justice are just as unrealistic and utopian as those who pursue peace through brute power.  It is easy to perceive that the sky is falling, predict the worst, and act accordingly.  Predicting the future, however, is playing God, which is why the mathematical modeling that helped drive Wall Street into the current financial nakba was and still is polytheistic.  Forecasting the future, however, through the use of such qualitative techniques as scenario building with consideration for a power greater than the human can inspire by posing and perhaps ranking alternative futures.  Since reality exists in quality more than in quantity, quality usually drives quantity over the long run.  Since the present is bound by the past, but the future is not bound by the present, pessimism is unnecessary.

What skeptics might consider to be counter-intuitive optimism, known also as naivete, is legitimized by the Qur’anic principle known as “facilitation.”  According to Qur’anic teaching, God facilitates both the downward spiral known as istidraj, from which at some point there can be no return, and the upward spiral known as yusra, which is found, for example, in the phrase ma’ al usri yusra, “with every difficulty there is relief,” Surah al Inshirah 94:5.  This is designed to teach us that we have the free will to determine our own future both as persons, as nations, and as entire civilizations.  There is no excuse for pessimism, because Allah is beyond time and space and therefore knows the future, which includes our free will to determine it.

Pessimism is the ultimate kufr, because it results from reliance on ourselves as the only power in the world.  Optimism is the product of taqwa, which results from divinely given awareness and love of God and leads to our reliance on a transcendent power beyond ourselves, which is the very definition of Islam. 

We should be aware that the most desperate of all people really are those, like the Likudiks in Israel and dysfunctional global strategists in many Washington think-tanks, who are trying merely to survive in the face of global chaos by pursuing the status quo with all of its injustices.  Since this is inherently impossible, they have reverted to the law of the jungle.

Muslims become desperate only when they have no faith in themselves or in Islam or in any religion and instead worship themselves by resorting to totally useless and terribly immoral acts of terrorism.  We should respond to all extremists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, by offering the wisdom of Islam and cooperation with every other world religion in pursuing peace, prosperity, and freedom through the classical or traditionalist Islamic paradigm of compassionate and faith-based justice, buttressed by specific implementing policies of both institutional and substantive change.

Furthermore, we should be concerned about others, not merely about ourselves as Muslims.  Islam will always be and so will Muslims, bi ithni Allah.  Our ultimate goal should not be merely to survive as Muslims but to fulfill our amana from Allah as stewards of creation to pursue peace, prosperity, and freedom through transcendent and compassionate justice for every person and every community in the world (and perhaps throughout the cosmos).  This is our real identity.  Therefore, our task, in sha’a Allah, is to become what we are.  If Muslims cannot help lead America in this quest from chaos to cosmos on earth, then there may be no future for human civilization.  Islam is indeed the answer, but that is easier said than done.  To be emotionally despondent is human, but to be discouraged from seeking constructive answers and from taking action is un-Islamic.

As I reminded the readers at the end of my book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, published more than a decade ago, if we think we are the only answer to a problem, then we are denying Allah.  In Surah al Baqara 2:243, 249, 251, we read, “Did you not turn by vision to those who abandoned their homes for fear of death, though they numbered in the thousands?  Allah said to them, ‘Die!’ (Baqara 243).  “But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah said, ‘How often, by Allah’s will, has a small force vanquished a big one?  Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere’.” (Baqara:240)  And if Allah did not check one group of people by another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief, but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.” (Baqara 251)

Again and again we read in the Qur’an, “Allah creates what He wills.  When He has decreed a plan, He but says, ‘be,’ and it is,” Surah Ali Imran 3:47, Surah al Nahl 16:40, and Surah Miryam 19:35, “Kun fa yakun.”  “And [the unbelievers] plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah,” Surah Ali Imran 3:54, Surah al Anfal 8:30, and Surah al Ra’d 13:42.  And again in Surah Ali Imran 3:26: “Say, ‘O Allah! Lord of Power, You give power to whom You please, and you strip off power from whom You please.  You endow with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom you please.  In Your hand is all good. Verily over all things You have power.”

The strategy called for in my book on Shaping the Future is not “peaceful coexistence” through tolerance, which is defensive and self-defeating, or even acceptance of diversity by a higher level of understanding through “peaceful engagement,”  Rather the most effective strategy is action in solidarity to overcome the barriers to cooperation in the pursuit of truth and justice.

The true power of faith-based reconciliation and faith-based cooperation in the pursuit of transcendent justice does not lie in think-tanks created to wage mimetic warfare at an intellectual level, or in lobbying organizations designed to penetrate the existing power structure, even though they are essential for success.  Real success in tackling the challenges of nakba wherever they confront us can come only from reliance by large organized communities of people on the power of God.