I want to talk about ji’had (struggle), and I want to talk about it at its most basic elementary level to demonstrate how it relates to social justice, and, is essentially, at the core of striving toward it. And I want to do this by considering the configuration of human beings.
God began the creation of humankind
Out of but clay […]
And God proportioned humankind
and blew unto it
something of God’s spirit. (Qur’an 32:7—9)
The word spirit in Arabic is ruh, derived from the same root as rih meaning wind–which insinuates the quality of spirit: it is not something that is visible to the human eye, but like wind, is known through its effects, and fastens to the body in that it allows the body on every cellular level to live. The result is life, and God is the creator of life—spirit—and all life belongs to God, but although the characteristics of spirit are divine in that they are from God, they are not identical to God, just as angels are the radiance of God and not God Godself.
Angels are a kind of spirit (but not all spirits are angels) and are made of created light, the opposite of created darknesses. As mentioned in an earlier entry, all light is the radiance of God’s light, which is uncreated and has no opposite; —nothing can exist that is absolute darkness because nothing exists outside of the realm of God. Therefore, there is only one light that is uncreated (God) and many created darknesses that cannot hold together without the single reality of God’s light. What is distant from God is darkest, but must still possess some quantity of created light (God’s radiance) as it exists within the realm of God as God’s creation.
The opposites of created light are created darknesses, but there is no opposite to uncreated light—no opposite to God, and nothing like God. The characteristics of spirit are divine, but only as God’s radiance. And spirit is the single created reality that holds together many darknesses that are otherwise disunited. And it is the single reality that holds together the human body, which is a degree of darkness, unlike angelic bodies (and spirits) made entirely of light (and thus having no free will to employ evil). Without spirit to unite our bodies, they would crumble to reveal their true nature: nothing but earth and water.
The Qur’an states that the human body is made of clay, a combination of earth and water. Through an examination of these two components, we may understand the attributes of human nature: both earth and water are heavy, dull, and infinitely divisible, but water remains composed as a single form even as it divides. And while earth is dry and dark, water is penetrable by light. These attributes are the qualities of human beings: we are created of a substance that is heavy and dark but penetrable by light. We contain in our essence all the characteristics divinely denoted: compassion, power, patience, beauty, gentleness, yearning, mercy, love, generosity, justice, life. But we aren’t always these things, and that is because we are made of not only spirit but of body. And from our bodies come majesty, pride, distance, detachment, and severity.
But to be worthy of being a human being, of whom the best are said to surpass the status angels (and of whom the worst are said to be lower than dust and unworthy of the title of human), is not to become entirely of spirit, or become angelic, or to condemn the human body which God has created for us—but it is to constantly struggle in our duality, as souls borne from the joining of our spirit and body, and give precedence to attributes that are closer to God. To constantly struggle and give precedence to mercy over vengeance, to compassion over detachment, to beauty over cruelty, to intensity over severity, to modesty over pride, to desire over majesty. After all, we must have bodies in order to realize spirits. How can an angel become intense when there is no darkness to intensify its light, to perpetually overcome?
And if we need a little help, we can definitely learn from jinn: spirits whose bodies are made of fire, the most famous of whom is the devil himself, who—overtaken by arrogance—refused to bow. Don’t make the same mistake he did and think yourself better than other creatures. There is much we can learn from the good of their examples, and much we can understand from the composition of their beings. Fire is both incandescent and dark; a deceptive combination of light and shadows. It is luminous as it rises, but cannot escape what it needs to fuel it. It demands magnificence and destroys all others, and in that is it arrogant and envious, tempting humans to use the science of magic by which jinn are contacted and mistaken for the greatness of God. It burns with desire to be close to God, and in that it is pious and pristine, drawing itself toward angels with its luminous nature and impassioned devotion.
In becoming human, we maintain both dualities of the radiance of light and the darkness of bodies and constantly prefer the attributes that bring us closer to God—we are in a perpetual state of struggle and elevation. And we must be compassionate, knowing, desiring, loving, and just. And this, wrapped in the constance of our very being, is the most primary ji’had.