Let’s face it— we’re not living in an ideal world, and neither are we ideal people. A man can be jealous of the attention his wife showers on their children, at his expense, he believes. A woman can be jealous when her husband looks at a woman who hasn’t earned his attention the way she has. An ambitious student can feel jealous of another student for whom all things seem to come easily. Some people appear to deliberately provoke jealousy to get attention, proving to themselves and others that they’re worthy of love.
What is jealousy? Simply put, it’s an emotion based on a belief that someone else has something or is getting something that you deserve. This could be attention, resources, even abilities and achievements.
According to the Message, the worst and least forgivable form of jealousy is that jealousy we feel when we think Allah is showing more favour to someone else, someone we think doesn’t deserve it the way we do. This is a feeling behind much of extremist hatred directed at Israel and the West.
As the Quran tells us, jealousy about the revelations sent to individual persons is behind much of the divisions in the one religion— the religion that Allah gave us from the beginning. Sadly, competition among scholars and religious leaders soon rendered the religious blind and deaf to each other.
“Why did Allah send that revelation to him and not to me? I’m smarter and far more righteous. I just won’t listen what he has to say!”
Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves . . .[Quran, 2:213]
This aya clearly applies not only to followers of Mohamed but to all those whose roads lead to Allah. Sadly, it sometimes looks like the only thing that people of all faiths can agree on is the existence of Allah!
How many times have you watched chasms grow between Muslims because of disagreements about how to dress, eat, or wash? How many times have you heard Muslims from one country condemn Muslims from another country for being either too strict or too lenient in their deens?
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by disgreements in the ummah or between Muslims and non- Muslims, try this simple mental experiment. Instead of focussing on the differences of belief, look for the common ground.
The Swiss-Egyptian Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan, in his wonderful book The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, presents us with the wonderful analogy that we are in a huge building, each with our own room and one window to look at the same lake. What if we were to quit our little rooms and look at the lake together?
We might find that leaving our petty disagreements behind will transform our experience of Allah and create greater unity in the Ummah, which in turn will create a welcoming atomosphere for those longing to join us.
May your mind be opened and your heart enriched,
The Understand Quran Academy Team