Fatma Bayram on Not Knowing What to Say

In daily life, we may face objections and questions having to do with religion that are not well-intentioned. Don’t object immediately thinking, “How can you know someone’s intentions?” What gives people with such attitudes away are their expressions, their raised eyebrows, a belittling and mocking tone, and instead of the usually intrigued wide eyes, there are half-closed  eyes that seem like they are doing you a favor -- and many other details give this mindset away. These are the type of questions asked by a person who is sure that they know everything best and are merely asking you questions in order to correct you; these are questions which have already been dictated.

These intentional questions are often about speculative matters which have been discussed by scholars for centuries, are of concern to everyone and matters which have not been resolved with a definitive conclusion. They are not issues that have clear cut answers and pertain to indisputable facts. You will not know what to say on these matters, because nobody else ever has.

For example, they never care about the paths which will lead one to paradise or how things in paradise will be. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t affected when one of them said that the narration of the Qur’an regarding Heaven explaining ‘endless shades’ was only really a reward for those who live in the scorching hot desert of the Arabian Peninsula, and not a reward for those living on the sunshine-free lands of the north – for them, this is hardly enticing (hereby they hoped to convince us of the historical and local context and limitations of the Holy Qur’an).

Because I really don’t take well to not knowing what to say, I thought for a good long time about this issue. It was following 'Asr (midafternoon) on a summer afternoon (my favorite time of day) when I was looking at the expanding shadows that the answer came to me and said “I found it!” like Archimedes and that answer stayed with me (this is where I differ from Archimedes). In order for there to be a shadow, there first needs to be sun. The sun exists, but it does not burn, so this means that you are in endless shade and hence the “deep shadows” (dhillan dhalila) are a blessing of Allah for those living in the desert as well as those living in the poles. Ever since that I hold that “not knowing what to say” is not always related to a deficiency in knowledge, but rather to the insufficiency of the mind in surrendering to revelation and our readiness to hold doubts. 



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