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Artistry in enmity

March 2, 2013



Islam teaches us that one of the vastest worldly blessings is a couple bonded by common commitment to the Dīn, and a family unit felicitously consequential on such a bonding.
Allah says in āyah 14 of Sūrah at-Taghābun: «You who have īmān! Some of your spouses and children are an enemy unto you, so be wary of them».
Our journey is from Allah to Allah, and our primary allegiance is to Him, not to any human being or to our love of love.
Love is not a divinity deserving of our worship.
Marriage is a potentially useful vehicle to reach Him in safeness, but the means can never be mistaken for the end. Intermediaries are sometimes a source of benefit and at other times a source of harm. Allah is the One Who confers benefits and Who inflicts harm. He is an-Nāfi` and ad-Dārr, Fa``āl li-Mā Yurīd.
Simply because a Muslim has pure intentions, and he enters the pure institution of marriage on that basis, is no guarantee that good, even as the prevalent norm in the relationship, is necessarily ensconced in it.
Man has no power in his own self and no volition independently of His will. He decrees no Decree.
We daily witness extremely devoted believers, especially among those who have entered Allah’s Dīn from a milieu of kufr, who invest time and energy in marital and familial life with the deep conviction that their ascension to His Presence will be facilitated thereby. They have a healthy zest for tasting Islam, and strongly feel that building it along with partners and supportive offspring will enrich it further.
They then find themselves drawn into a sequence or continuum of doleful, even excruciating tests from the closest quarters.
There is always a simple existential reason behind such ordeals:
Adherence to the tenets of Islam is lopsided. One party is moving in an opposite direction. The expected togetherness thus transmogrifies into lacerating rift.   
This cosmological truth is not gender-loaded, as highlighted by the like of Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī: It might be either the man or the woman whose throbbing passion for true Islam is opposed by his or her companion or progeny [Accordingly, the translation of azwāj as wives in the āyah is incorrect from both a linguistic and a principled viewpoint. Each spouse is called zawj in classical Arabic, the purest form of which is Qur’ānic Arabic].
We have also placed special focus, in these prefatory words of ours, on the Muslims of new coinage heading from secular backgrounds, because of their visible enthusiasm for enacting the Dīn of Allah which they have adopted amid hostility from relatives. The phenomenon, however, is by no means confined to such human exemplars.

Let us have a close-up look at the paradigmatic admonition in this regard, which is specifically addressed by Allah to people endowed with īmān:

«يا أيّها الذين آمنوا إنّ مِنْ أزواجِكم وأولادِكم عدوّا لكم فاحْذَروهم وإنْ تَعْفوا وتَصْفَحوا وتَغْفِروا فَإنّ الله غفورٌ رحيم

(You who have īmān! Some of your spouses and children are an enemy unto you, so be wary of them. But if you pardon and exonerate and forgive, Allah is indeed Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful)».
{The next Qur’ānic āyah says: «Your wealth and children are a trial» (Sūrah at-Taghābun: 15)}
Judge al-Baydāwī says in Anwār at-Tanzīl wa-Asrār at-Ta’wīl:
You who have īmān! Some of your spouses and children are enemies unto you: They engross you away from obedience of Allah, and antagonize you in the matter of the Dīn or the matter of the dunyā.
[S]o be wary of them: Do not, therefore, be safe from the calamitous havocs they wreak.
But if you pardon: Their sins, by refraining from exacting punishment for them;
[A]nd exonerate: By turning away and by avoidance of voiced reproof of those sins;
[A]nd forgive: By concealment of those sins and by putting forward excuses for them.

In terms of the immediate historical occasion for its revelation (the contextual “casing” of it which points to its appropriate sphere of relevance and application), Ibn Juzayy from Granada, in his phenomenal At-Tashīl li-‘Ulūm at-Tanzīl, mentions that the āyah «[y]ou who have īmān! Some of your spouses and children are an enemy unto you» was sent down because a group of people, who had embraced Islam, wanted to migrate to al-Madīnah. Their spouses and children, however, held them back from their intended migration, whereupon Allah warned them against obeying their spouses and offspring in that connection.
Another view which has been propounded regarding the cause of its historical revelation, Ibn Juzayy adds, is that it came down in relation to the Companion ‘Awf b. Mālik al-Ashja`ī [This view has been ascribed to the Follower ‘Atā b. Abī Rabāh]. When he, in fact, wanted to participate in armed warfare (jihād), his spouse and children got together and complained of his purported departure for the battlefield. He was swayed by pity for them and retraced his steps away from his original plan. He later regretted having succumbed to their emotional pressure, and resolved on chastising them on account thereof. The āyah then came down cautioning against the faith-testing ordeal represented by one’s (consorts and) children. Allah the Exalted deflected him away from his retaliatory plan by means of His additional statement: «But if you pardon and exonerate and forgive» until the end of the āyah.
In spite of the historical reason of its revelation, Ibn Juzayy goes on to clarify, the wording of the āyah is general, in the sense that it generally cautions the (believing) human being against inimical wives and direct descendants, irrespectively of whether their enmity is occasioned by the Dīn or connected to an aspect of this world.

Nevertheless, while circumspection against hostility from within which has a potential to generate disasters even in worldly affairs is no doubt a laudable requirement, the genesis of its revelation lies in a trial born out of animosity towards choices associated with the Dīn, which is what specifically concerns us here.  
If, for instance, the head of the family or the mistress of the household wants to establish the foundations of a salutary Islam, by avoiding the bondage of indebtedness to usurious masters, or by engaging in a profession which is apt to enable time, energy and a relaxed mind to the pursuit of useful Islamic activities, or by ensuring that the necessary standard of moral decency is observed across the family nucleus, and so on, Allah has put him or her on guard against relenting in favour of what earns His displeasure while buying the transient approval of a belligerent spouse or child.

The masterful mufassir from nearby Sevilla, Judge Ibn ‘Atiyyah, reminds us in his potent Al-Muharrar al-Wajīz that the segment of the sūrah from «[y]ou who have īmān! Some of your spouses and children are an enemy unto you» until the end of at-Taghābun is unanimously agreed to be part of the Madinan Qur’ān, i.e. whatever in the Book succeeds in time the Migration to al-Madīnah: Enmity is therefore an enmity vis-à-vis the perfected Dīn in its settled Madinan reality, which comprises the legislation of sharī`ah rulings and the ordering of Muslims’ socio-political affairs.
Ibn ‘Atiyyah informs us that, according to those who link the revelation of the āyah to a group of people who, having brought īmān, were prevented by their family from relocating to al-Madīnah as they had envisaged, that group only succeeded in joining the emigrants to the Illuminated City at a later stage.
They were fortunate because, having erred through misplaced preference for fellow humans’ pleasure and approval, they were then afforded a second chance by their merciful Lord. It was no foregone conclusion that another opportunity would be presented to them by Destiny. Even then, as Ibn ‘Atiyyah pointedly elucidates, when they eventually shook off insider resistance, they found Muslims who had preceded them to the blessed city of the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, having already gathered profound understanding of the Dīn. Extensive portions of divinely allotted good had blessed the brave coreligionists who had generally stuck to the correct choice or had done so in spite of familial contrariness, so the hesitant group of late comers felt the pain of grieving remorse and self-deprecation. That is when, overcome by guilt and despondency, they formulated the desire to castigate the very family members who had urged them onto disobedience and the loss of worldly and otherworldly boons arising from their deferred hijrah.
Ibn ‘Atiyyah’s peer from his home town, Judge Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī, recorded in his lucid Ahkām al-Qur’ān that one component of that group of late Muslim emigrants said about the family members who had retarded his Islamic growth, ‘I am verily going to kill them’, while another one bitterly commented, ‘For sure, if I go back (to Makkah, then under idolatrous rule) they shall receive no good from me ever.’ Allah then revealed «[b]ut if you pardon and exonerate and forgive, Allah is indeed Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful».
This is something serious.
If you love the Dīn out of your ardent longing for the Real, you cannot but be vehemently upset by your own wife and children turning into the major adversaries of such noble project.
Although pardoning self-restraint is recommended, since it represents an act of self-adornment with beautiful Attributes and Names of the very Lord you aspire to serve and reach, dissatisfaction with internal treachery far outweighs irritation caused by anticipated opposition from self-declared unbelievers.
Just as much as this Divine reminder fosters wariness about the noxious effects of treacherous familial enmity, it is also a stern admonition to spouses and children not to submit to devilish temptations in that regard.
The āyah, moreover, does not enjoin upon the believers thus warned not to feel aggrieved about home-brew animosity or entertain at some stage a humanly understandable impulse for retributive justice.

Our last stop consists in the earlier parts of the commentary of the relevant āyah as found in the aforesaid Andalusian masterwork Ahkām al-Qur’ān.

Mas’alah 1

We have elucidated the meanings of enmity and its opposite, friendship, in our book Al-Amad al-Aqsā [a yet unpublished treatise on Allah’s Names] as well as other writings of ours. Therein, we established the truth that friendship is nearness, and enmity is remoteness. We further clarified that nearness and farness denote literal realities when it comes to measurable spatial distance, but their literal application is impossible in respect of the Deity. They might also indicate nearness or farness in the realm of affection and rank. This latter, non-literal import can legitimately be used when describing the Deity.
It is permissible to define creatures by both the literal and the metaphorical significations of the said pair of terms.
What is intended by enmity in this āyah is remoteness from affection and distance in rank.
A person’s wife, in fact, is ostensibly near, and so, too, is one’s child, by virtue of their ordinary physical association and companionship.
From another perspective, however, wife and child might be near as a result of pleasant intimacy and amiable cohabitation one experiences with them, in which case they are friends, or distant as a result of their aversion and loathsome conduct, whereupon they are enemies unto him.
It is remoteness from this perspective that Allah, glory be to Him, has informed about, cautioned and warned against.

Mas’alah 2

[Judge Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī reported the immediate occasion of the revelation of the āyah, which as we said related to a group of Makkans who were eager to join the Islamic polity in al-Madīnah]

Mas’alah 3

This historical context explains the nature and sphere of operation of the enmity in question: The insider enemy is not hostile in his essence. He is so in his action. If, therefore, a wife or a child engages in an action which is characteristic of one’s enemy, he is an enemy. There is in truth no more repugnant act of disruption than one which erects a barrier between the slave and obedience of Allah.
In Sahīh Muslim we find a narration to the effect that the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “Verily, the Shaytān lies in ambush for the son of Ādam along the path to īmān. He says at that initial stage to him, ‘Are you bringing īmān and thereby giving up your previous dīn and your forefathers’ dīn?’. The son of Ādam nevertheless resists him and brings īmān. The Shaytān then lies in ambush for him along the path to the hijrah, and says to him, ‘Are you going to make hijrah and leave behind your family and wealth?’. The son of Ādam nevertheless opposes him and makes hijrah. The Shaytān once more lies in ambush for him, this time on the path to jihād, saying, ‘What? Are you going to fight and kill yourself, so that your women are married by someone else and your wealth is apportioned between alien hands?’. Still, the son of Ādam contradicts him and participates in the jihād, with the result that he is killed. Allah’s solemn promise that he shall enter the Garden is then proven true in his regard.
The Shaytān’s lying in ambush for the Adamic creature occurs in two ways:
1.    By whispering into his heart directly.
2.    By causing his spouse, offspring and friendly associate to second what the Devil wishes to accomplish. Allah, glory be to Him, has said: «We have assigned close comrades to them who have made what is before them and behind them seem good to them» (Sūrah Fussilat: 25). We also have a wise aphorism related from ‘Īsā, peace upon him, where he said: ‘Whoever takes a wife, gathers wealth and begets children is bonded as a slave to the dunyā.’

The authentic hadīth-literature contains a report shedding light on an even lower state of being the slave of Allah sinks into. The Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “The slave of the gold coin is ruined. The slave of the silver coin is ruined. The slave of the garment with emblazoned badges is ruined. The slave of the dress trimmed with fringes is ruined (…)”.
No worst vileness than adoration of gold and silver coins might be conceived, and no yearning lowlier than one which is elevated by no more than a new set of clothes”.

Iblīs is a patent enemy of the human creature. He is so universally, in anything but a metaphorical sense, regardless of whether his target is rightly-guided or not, with all that potentially every human can be steered to the guidance of truth. His enmity is exacerbated by the slave’s choice of correct belief.
The blessing of īmān is the loftiest and most far-reaching of all blessings, as it entrenches success in both Abodes. Iblīs resents the slave earning this supreme booty. He is deadly bent upon subtracting it from his enjoyment.
Allah acquaints us with the perennial truth that the mu’min might be too strong to be dissuaded by whisperings directed at his heart. Being a social creature, however, he is generally surrounded by wife and children he is bonded to by feelings of sympathetic devotion. Sayyidunā ‘Īsā (peace upon him) alluded in the aforesaid saying to this perpetual trigger of potential bondage. Iblīs, conscious of his fondness for them, lurks in wait along that most exploitative route, in the hope that they might turn into tools for the indirect accomplishment of his design, which is always to spoil his happiness, better still if that includes his happiness in the Afterlife.
They are, in other words, perfectly positioned pawns in the Devil’s deviant game of chess. That is why the main textual authorities of Islam, the Book and the Sunnah, have extolled the worth of a pleasing obedient wife and a virtuous child who prays for his deceased parent.  
Islam is a sapient balance of Dīn and dunyā. Especially when the Shaytān has caused one’s spouse or descendants to be incongruously tilted to the side of this fleeting existence and self-gratification, he secures an entry point for his evil machinations. The devout mu’min is then assailed from the very source from which he would envisage support for the paramount project of worshipping his Creator, and thus the wholehearted engagement in the absorbing life transaction which is Islam.
The more authentic and consistent is his engagement in that transaction, the more virulent is the Devil’s envy of what Allah has regaled him with. That is something people who embrace Islam in this age are particularly destined to face.

Mas’alah 4

Just as a man might discover that his wife and child are enemies unto him, so can a woman be confronted with the scenario where her child and husband are enemies of hers, based on the selfsame reasons applying to the opposite gender which we have observed.
The generality of His statement «[s]ome of your spouses» (إنّ مِن أزواجِكم) encompasses both the masculine and the feminine, as is the case with every other gender-generic āyah of the Book.

Mas’alah 5

His statement: «[S]o be wary of them».
Its meaning is: So be wary of them as regards yourselves, and for your own sake.
Being actively wary as regards one’s own self is required in two instances: a) The infliction of bodily harm; b) The infliction of harm to one’s Dīn.
Harm to the body is connected to this world, while harm to the Dīn is connected to the Hereafter. Allah accordingly cautioned and admonished the slave with regard to that all”.


Cancerous growth is not so easy to detect, and it ravages the organism more fiercely, rapidly and comprehensively than external ailments.
The human being in the present epoch, and that is even truer in the case of one whose Islam is of recent coinage, is often isolated and removed from tightly knit ethnical communities.
A multitude of Islamic talents find themselves trapped by feelings of dutifulness to wives and children, and hijacked by the latter’s vociferous personal aspirations clashing with those talented Muslims’ allegiance to the normative prescriptions of the Dīn as their central life vocation.
Those counter-aspirations are mainly material, egotistical and destructive, and instigate increasing retreat from strict compliance with His commands and prohibitions. Unhealthy compromises to keep the peace at home exponentially compromise the Islamic bases of a salubrious life.
Rarely do outsiders (local teachers, community leaders, relatives, many of whom are not even Muslims, well-meaning mediators or advisers, and so on) intervene to address the voice of internalized enmity in effective ways, or to wisely empower masculinity when the belligerence is leveled at the husband and / or father.
The Prophetic anticipation of an age where lightness of one’s back (from marital discomfort and the burden of dependants) will become one of the most previous assets a gifted Muslim might own is gaining in relevance daily.
It might not be a generalized solution (the ummah has to survive and expand), but it is fast asserting itself as the optimal individual solution for many a dedicated Muslim.
Giving in to unmotivated familial dissent so as to broker a fragile truce is no cure for the disease. The goal is only one, Allah. The cure is to try and redirect the farness of hostile associates to the nearness of friendly empowerment of wisdom. The therapy can only work, however, if Allah has willed healthful change for the friends-turned-foes. If that is not the case, one has to be cruel to be kind, as the proverb goes, for too many valuable casualties are daily falling by the side in devilishly inspired internecine conflicts; conflicts, that is, which are devilishly inspired inside the homes of prospective vanguards of resurgent Islam.  

One thing is clear: In no way are these demonic infiltrations confined to close family members whose dīn is other than Islam. The greater a person’s eagerness to embrace Allah’s Dīn as a full way of life, the more perfidious, variegated and insistent are the wily schemes the Shaytān deploys against him.

Being in the active company of mature believers who can advise on the best counter-attack strategies is a must. Once you are segregated from assistance by the learned and the generous, you are half-doomed.

In addition, this blessed Qur’ānic āyah is a key lesson not only for the victims of those Satanic exploitations of marital or parental tenderness (and its correlated weaknesses), but also for the human beings who end up being (actually or potentially) an extension of his enmity as implements wielded by his filthy claws. 

A shared affinity for the Dīn is the indisputable cornerstone of every prosperous family structure.
That theme would serve as the ideal bridge to another subject which is similarly dear to our heart, namely, the wisdom underpinning the Mālikī position that, safety from material bodily impediments apart, the only element the Law pays regard to in determining compatibility between two prospective spouses is the Dīn = sameness of belief and matching levels of virtuous adherence to its teachings.
Time constraints in the form of a scheduled tour, however, impel me to reserve treatment of that topic for a later occasion, Allah the Exalted willing.


Ustādh Thomas Bradiperr
Alberonia, 01/03/2013


P.S.: A string of bizarre interferences stood in the way of publication of this article.
The site’s project manager repeatedly refused to accept the text without any intelligible reason; the computer switched off shortly before the process of uploading was finalized; the Internet server failed to respond and resisted simple commands; and gripping psychological strain was experienced, along with similar amenities across the valley of shadows.
Naturally, we have the choice to become fashionable rationalists and configure the Shaytān as a sinister existent worth philosophizing about but somehow disconnected from the daily arena of life’s struggles.
Present-day Jews and Christians, after all, have conceptualized a Creator largely unconcerned with human affairs.



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