May 22, 2009 - guest blogs    3 Comments

On Love, Pride & Prejudice and Islam (guest blog by Br Khalid)

pandp

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

On Love, Pride & Prejudice and Islam


by Br Khalid


Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness to my poor sister. Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express.”

“I am sorry, exceedingly sorry,” replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, “that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted.”

“You must not blame my aunt. Lydia’s thoughtlessness first betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.”

“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

Many of you will recognise the above as the conversation between the two main protagonists in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice before Darcy proposes marriage to Elizabeth for the second time in the book.

As we all know, the answer he obtains at this juncture is markedly different from the response he receives during his first rather feeble attempt.

Pride and Prejudice is considered a classic in English literature and, following the BBC adaptation of the book in the 1990s, has risen incredibly in popularity fueling an amazing spin off industry of its own.

From an Islamic point of view, however, why should we care?

Isn’t it just another boy meets girl–boy falls for girl–boy loses girl–boy gets girl back-kind of story which is so prevalent in modern day Hollywood?

That may well be the case but I have always been of the opinion that there are some very strong Islamic themes which can be identified from the novel, with the paragraph quoted above being just one typical example.

Repentance


It is said that repentance in Islam is composed of three things:

1.   Knowledge of one’s wrong actions

2.   Remorse over one’s wrong actions

3.   Resolution not to return to those wrong actions as well as a resolution in redressing any wrongs associated with the past

As Imam Ghazali says in his Ihya:

As long as man knows not that transgressions are the causes from the remoteness of the Beloved, he will neither regret nor grieve over his travelling on the path of withdrawal. As long as he is not grieved, he will not turn back, retreat being abandonment and determination.

Could we argue that only when Darcy was deep into the writing of Elizabeth’s letter, detailing his behaviour and role in the break up of Bingley and Jane, that he finally started to see the error of his ways?

Did this lead to remorse and an attempt to rectify previous wrongs?

If so, what does that say about us as Muslims in this day and age? Do we really know enough about ourselves and our religion to able to identify whether we are transgressing or not?

Or are we simply amongst those people who think we are doing nothing wrong and are perfectly fine but then discover to our horror that the following verse may actually apply to us:

Say: “Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds?-

“Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?”

One can’t repent if one is in a state of ignorance over one’s own transgressions.

This is why the acquisition of knowledge is paramount no matter who or where we are in the world, and, possibly why, in the absence thereof we are commanded to constantly seek Allah’s forgiveness.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

I heard Allah’s Apostle (s) saying.

” By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.”

[Bukhari]

Sincerity


When Darcy asks for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage for the second time, he prefaces his proposal by his resolve in only helping Elizabeth’s family for her sake alone and for no one else.

“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

In Islam, the Qur’an constantly reminds us about sincerity and that our worship and servitude should only be ‘for Allah’

Verily it is We Who have revealed the Book to thee in Truth: so serve Allah, offering Him sincere devotion. Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due?…

…Say: “It is Allah I serve, with my sincere (and exclusive) devotion…

..Call ye, then, upon Allah with sincere devotion to Him..

…He is the Living (One): There is no god but He: Call upon Him, giving Him sincere devotion…

Of course sincerity is linked to repentance since one cannot really truly resolve to abstain from wrong if one is not sincere in that claim. As such, Allah addresses the believers in this regard:

O ye who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance..

There could be an argument made here that one of the reasons why we constantly fail in our endeavours is because of a lack of sincerity in our actions and in our intentions.

The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His Messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere.

The indication from the above verse is that sincerity is not merely a passive belief in Allah and and His Messenger but also involves an *active* effort in terms of striving and self improvement.

Would Elizabeth have been so impressed with Darcy’s actions if he had not personally sought out Wickham and Lydia rather than just sending a servant to conclude the agreement?

Love


What is love?

What does love mean?

How does one fall in love?

All good valid questions but do we have any corresponding good valid answers?

Well from the preceding discussion, it can be seen there is some type of link between sincerity and love. Interestingly enough, a heart is the most commonly used symbol for love in the world today and the scholars of Islam agree that sincerity emanates from the heart which is the seat and place of intentions.

Does that mean someone who says ‘I sincere you’ is telling you that he or she loves you?

Although both maybe completely heartfelt statements, it just doesn’t sound quite right does it?

So what *do* we know about love?

Well, we know that love is something which is a gift given to us from Allah, as one of the most oft repeated verses from the Qur’an on this topic indicates:

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.

But rather than just being a blessing given to us, an element of striving also results in our receipt of love from Allah:

On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (God) Most Gracious bestow love.

One of the Names of Allah is Al Wadud which is often translated as The Loving or The Loving Kind.

Indeed Imam Ghazali says the following on this Name in his book on The Ninety Nine Beautiful Names of God:

Its meaning is close to ‘The Merciful’, but mercy is linked with one who receives mercy, and the one who receives mercy is needy and poor. So the actions of The Merciful presupposes there being one who is weak to receive mercy, while the actions of The Loving Kind do not require that. Rather, bestowing favours from the outset results from loving kindness

Hence love is bestowed without any pre existing conditions and such unconditional love is rare if not extinct amongst mankind today.

Imam Ghazali goes on to say that man’s share in this Name is the ability to ..desire for God’s creatures whatever he desires for himself.. and that a higher degree still are those who prefer God’s creatures over and above themselves.

He continues by saying:

The perfection of that virtue occurs when not even anger, hatred and the harm he might receive can keep him from altruism and goodness.

As the Messenger of God (s) said when his tooth was broken and his face was struck and bloodied:

‘Lord, guide my people, for they do not know’.

Not even their actions prevented him from intending their good

Such are those who have the capacity to love!!!

That capacity is something that takes time to nurture and build since it requires strength of will on our part together with resolve and determination. This process of Tazkiyah or the purification of the self (or soul) is often likened to a journey whereby the servant starts with repentance and proceeds to purify his heart through acts of obedience to his Lord such that any remnants of previous misdeeds are washed away.

This is alluded to in the following verses of the Qur’an:

”There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of the standing forth (for prayer) therein. In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loveth those who make themselves pure.”

“For God loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”

And in the famous Hadith Qudsi as related by Imam Bukhari

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Apostle (s) said, “Allah said,

‘I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (Refuge), I will protect him; (i.e. give him My Refuge) and I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death, and I hate to disappoint him.”

What I find so interesting about this is the level of involvement we have in determining the love that Allah shows for us. Rather than being a mere passive bestowal, we can play an active part in receiving the love of Allah by striving in his path and performing righteous deeds. Obviously the more one does along this path [in terms of extra voluntary deeds], the greater the reciprocal reward.

What is equally fascinating, however, is that this love which comes with one’s struggle and one’s efforts also begins to emanate from the creation as well as from The Creator.

Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Messenger (s) said:

When Allah loves a servant, He calls Gabriel and says: Verily, I love so and so; you should also love him, and then Gabriel begins to love him.

Then he makes an announcement in the Heaven saying: Allah loves so and so and you also love him, and then the inhabitants of the Heaven (the Angels) also begin to love him and then there is conferred honour upon him in the earth;

and when Allah is angry with any servant He calls Gabriel and says: I am angry with such and such and you also become angry with him, and then Gabriel also becomes angry and then makes an announcement amongst the inhabitants of heaven: Verily Allah is angry with so-and so, so you also become angry with him, and thus they also become angry with him. Then he becomes the object of wrath on the earth also.

[Muslim]

Hence the process of purification can not only increase one’s capacity *to love* but also increases the capacity of *being loved*!!

Conclusion


For those faithful, sincere and purified servants of Allah, there are at least two rewards which await them.

The first relates to Satan’s promise that he would mislead the son of Adam after being banished from the heavenly realm:

(Iblis) said: “O my Lord! because Thou hast put me in the wrong, I will make (wrong) fair-seeming to them on the earth, and I will put them all in the wrong,

Except Thy servants among them, sincere and purified (by Thy Grace).”

Thus they live in the world with the protection, love and grace of Allah such that Satan and his cohorts no longer have the ability to affect them. In itself, what a reward indeed!!

The second relates to the Hereafter:

And the Garden will be brought nigh to the Righteous,- no more a thing distant.

A voice will say: “This is what was promised for you,- for everyone who turned (to Allah) in sincere repentance, who kept (His Law),

Who feared (Allah) Most Gracious Unseen, and brought a heart turned in devotion (to Him):

“Enter ye therein in Peace and Security; this is a Day of Eternal Life!”

May Allah grant us the ability to be people of repentance and sincerity who struggle with might and main in His cause, such that we become of those who are pure and beloved by our Lord.

And Allah knows best.

Wasalaam
Br Khalid

3 Comments

  • as salaamu alaykum,

    that was very cool on many levels :)

    one of my favorite things about the story is how Darcy responds to his rejection (like you mentioned in the section on repentance) – instead of blaming and hating Elizabeth, he looks at his own faults, tries to rectify them, and then goes out of his way to show kindness to her and her family! It really reminds me of the quote, “May Allah have mercy on the one who gives me the gift of seeing my own faults”. There are few people who see things that way.

    may Allah reward you for an interesting and insightful post :)

  • Vah! (desi style!) – That was brilliant – was looking forward to seeing this after the the board discussion/post. Again, so wonderfully constructed and combining two things that we love dearly, P&P and our beloved al-Islam – the latter of which I think we can agree, needs more of that love. As BrKhalid’s argument implies – we need to nurture our Faith more to put it less elegantly, – that collectively, we may be too passive in our “Muslimness” and subsequently to our duty to the ultimate Object of our Affection: the Creator.

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan dear BrKhalid. Awesome stuff.

  • love this article…

    :)