I just finished The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, last of The White Queen series, and while it had been a while since I picked up this series again, it brought back the same feeling as when I read them from the beginning, with the perspective that only Qur’an can give.
The books start off in the 14th century, a time when women were valued only for their fertility and not for their opinion. They had no voice when it came to their matters or that of the country.
There is so much about that time that amazed me. It was a time when women of good breed were kept modestly – their hair always covered under a headdress, meant to be seen only by their husbands, their beauty not shown to strangers. Sound familiar?
They were loyal subjects to the king, whether they agreed with him or not. This book frustrated me because Henry VIII was a bit of a tyrant of a king, unreasonable and unpredictable. Many laws were passed in order to protect him, and so it was treason to even think about better days. And in all that, they kept silent, told him what he wanted to hear, and obeyed him in his ridiculous demands, as much as they didn’t want to.
What sort of slaves are we to Allah? Reading about them made me realise how unsubmissive we are, only because we have free will. They did too, but chose to remain in the king’s favour by whatever means because he was the richest man in the kingdom – and England being at the head of the world then, he had ultimate authority in their eyes. They lived for their lands and properties, in order to be able to pass it down to their children as their inheritance. A woman was considered valued for marriage based on how much dower she brought in, in the form of lands and houses. Your status was established along with your title based on how much wealth you had under you.
By the king’s whim, he could take it all away, and yet they still strived for it. Their punishment or gain was immediate – ie: in this world – and the difference between them and us is that we have no faith in our punishment or gain in the next life. The One in Whose Hands are our souls is The Supreme Ruler of the universe, The King of Kings, and yet we don’t obey Him the way these people obeyed their king. We don’t swallow our words of dispute and bow our heads humbly and follow orders like they did, as hard as it was for them to do.
There are certain rulings in Islam that we may not be able to understand, but we need to have faith and obey them anyway, because they came from the One Who knows us better than we know ourselves, and so has ultimate wisdom. I say this because human laws are imperfect and keep changing according to the desires of the rulers and the times. I came across a quote recently that is confirmed by an ayah:
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿١٠٤﴾
And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. (3:104)
This probably sounds a bit random, but there is a background to it, I promise.
You see, Henry VIII did not start off as a tyrannical king. He was much loved by the court and his people, and he did everything possible to keep it that way. He pardoned when people thought he would surely execute, gave out titles and riches, knighted those who were faithful to him, and was a merry king who brought light after the dark times. He is known today though for changing the laws of the Church and introducing Lutheranism in England, excommunicating from Rome and the Pope, and thus having six wives (divorce is not allowed under the Roman Catholic law) – divorcing two and killing two (one died naturally and the last one survived him). Scores of people were beheaded at his whim, some without trial or persecution, people in his favour one day would be hanged the next day, and general terror reigned due to his behaviour.
How did this come about? How did such a beloved man become so hated?
It happened because when he made changes that were unreasonable, no one had the courage to stand up to him and tell him he was wrong, and so he formed a bubble around him where he was untouchable. His world was as he made it.
This is a powerful realistic lesson in today’s world where corruption of all things pure has become so common, that few would still agree that it is corruption. The biggest example I can think of is nudity in all sorts and forms, and things that promote it, such that people actually go out in public nude and others say it’s fashion. Is anyone else thinking of the Last Signs?
Why is the world the way it is today?
Because when someone attempted to “try a fast one” as we would say culturally, there wasn’t enough done to stop it, and set an example in the process.
A classmate wrote about it so wonderfully that I must share. A lot of people think the punishment for cutting off the hand for stealing is harsh. But what happens when it isn’t carried out for exactly those sentiments?
A young Muslim man left behind his town
Moved to a new place, where he wasn’t recognized around
He was missing a hand!
People said he had come from an oppressive land
He had stolen some goods from a shop that was grand
They caught him, and decreed to CUT OFF HIS HAND!
Another man, in this same town, as sly as can be
He stole some valuables, when no one would see
But our young Muslim man caught him in the act
And the ruling he suggested, brought HIM only under attack!
All the townsfolk together, they screamed and shouted:
We’re not barbarians, DON’T CUT OFF HIS HAND!
The sly thief was encouraged
Instead of punishing him, people were outraged
What a foolish town, he thought
They let me go, after I was caught!
He wanted to steal again
But first he had to deal with the one who had said to CUT OFF HIS HAND
Our young Muslim man was found in a river, drowned
He didn’t even make a sound
And the thief pocketed all his belongings
But the truth is he was badly longing
For something bigger, better, richer
Now that there was no one to say, CUT OFF HIS HAND
A rich woman, she mysteriously disappeared
And the thief as a rich man, suddenly appeared
But the police investigated
And the thief for his crime, was implicated
Still all the townsfolk, together they screamed:
We’re not oppressive, DON’T CUT OFF HIS HAND!
The town’s mayor went missing one night
His prized million dollar painting was nowhere in sight
The thief was getting bolder, he even got married
To a woman who from her previous marriage, had a child she carried
Then he was caught again, yet again, but this time his wife
She pleaded his case, and cried: DON’T CUT OFF HIS HAND!
He took, he broke, he switched off the alarm
He stole, he killed, he maimed, he harmed
He went in to jail and out
But each time the people would shout:
Let him go, it’s ok, he will change…
DON’T CUT OFF HIS HAND!
Now the thief, in addition to stealing, had now begun to drink
And didn’t like the way his wife looked at her child, she didn’t even blink!
Driven with rage and jealousy
He slit the babies throat where it lay…
His wife begged for mercy, so he killed her too… and took all her jewels…
…And nobody screamed
…And nobody shouted
Because no one was left, TO CUT OFF HIS HAND.
And so we say again: the human mind does not have the capability to comprehend the wisdom of our Lord, but we do need to trust that everything is for our own good. Trust that the same way He gave you your comforts of this life, He will give you the comforts of the next. Trust that when you do something purely for His sake, the harder it is for you, the greater the reward. And trust that no matter how much you possess in this world, it is nothing compared to the treasures of the next.