Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Breaking the Chains

Breaking the Chains: The Shahaada of Bilal ibn Rabah

Muslim Scholars have maintained that the Shahaada, the testimony of faith, is emancipation from servitude to men to the worship of God alone.

The testimony begins with a negation of all false gods and affirms that the only One worthy of worship is Allah, Creator and Sustainer.

The testimony is liberating. It liberates one from all forms of psychological bondage; from all forms of ancient or cultural baggage and establishes a new paradigm for those who profess it with deep conviction. It also shatters the illusion of power that some hold over others and dispels the myth that lesser men may be beholden to their “benefactors” for the rest of their lives. It restores dignity to the human soul and embellishes it with a radiance of faith that cannot be extinguished.

Bilal Ibn Rabah is a powerful symbol of such liberation. A slave of Abyssinian origin, he was tied to Umayyah ibn Khalaf in slavery. His strength and loyalty were great assets to the Makkan chieftain, until the day when his heart received the message of Islam.

The testimony of faith was an inner revolution for him. Now he knew who the real Master is, and that the men who hold sway over his life are mere mortals, even despised because of their rejection of the truth.

The Shahada that he pronounced liberated him even before Abu Bakr bought him his freedom, for when Umayyah came to know of his Islam, and subsequently tortured him to recant his faith, his gaze was firmly fixed to the One above, and his only pronouncement was “Ahad, Ahad”.

It is this specific aspect of the Shahada, the emancipation from bondage, that is relevant to us today.

The bondage that we speak about is not the one that Bilal experienced; nor is it the one that the idolators of Makkah were subjected to in the form of idols made of stone or wood.

In keeping with our times, these demi- gods have become more sophisticated and more difficult to identify, let alone defeat.

Like Bilal ibn Rabah, when we become convinced of the truth of the Shahaada, false gods will become manifest to us and we will immediately reject them.

Whether they are our own unrestrained carnal pleasures, or some misguided concept of divinity; whether they are in the realm of "hawaa", or in the time consuming rush of modernity, we give our body and souls to these gods, sometimes unwittingly.

Bilal has shown us that acceptance of the truth may come at a cost - in his case the brutal reaction of a man with a beastly nature. But this brutality pales in comparison with the sweetness that Tawhid brings, and freedom of the soul to seek its Maker.

Let the Shahada emancipate us..one slave at a time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For those who strive in our paths, we shall indeed guide them to Our Ways."

11:53 AM  

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