Absolutely lubb-ly 💡

INsights 035, Friday 24th February 2023

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Assalamu-alaikum. Peace be upon you.

Do you want to be one of the ulul-albab?

You really should! 

They are mentioned 16 times in God’s final revelation to human beings, and it’s clear that they represent both a high standard and a special place with their Lord. 

The ulul-albab are people of understanding, reason and insight.

The second part of the phrase – albab – is the plural of lubb, which means the core or kernel. In turn, the word kernel can refer to the softer part of a nut or a fruit-stone, or more generally the most important or central part of something. 

Interestingly, in the context of computers, the kernel is a programme at the core of the operating system. It generally has complete control over everything in the system. It is the portion of the operating system code that is always resident in memory and facilitates interactions between hardware and software components.

This is a great way to appreciate how important it is for us to think about our own albab – our internal operating systems – as human beings and as believers.

  • Are we people of curiosity? Of reason? Of understanding? Of insight? Of intellect? Of wisdom?
  • Do we look beyond the surface? Do we consider different possibilities?
  • Do we look after and update our internal systems just as we need to do with our devices to keep them functioning well?

All these are considerations and concerns of the ulul-albab or, as I prefer to translate the term simply, the people of insight.

Ramadan is coming up. It’s the month of revelation and a month of transformation.

So let’s take a look at some of the verses mentioning the people of insight to understand who they are and to motivate ourselves to become one of them.

Full of remembrance and reflection

There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, for people of insight, who remember God standing, sitting, and lying down, who reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth: ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose — You are far above that! — so protect us from the torment of the Fire.’ (3:190)

The people of insight aren’t people who simply rely on their own intelligence. They aren’t self-serving. They are bound by their commitment to God, and so they complement their use of reason with His constant remembrance.

They could be standing and walking, sitting and talking, lying down and resting, and in all situations the vertical connection would be present. Remembering God constantly is to be mindful of His expectations, which in turn requires careful thought and consideration before coming to decisions and conclusions.

The people of insight are curious and reflective. Observing the heavens and earth is not a momentary affair. It’s a lifelong endeavour and with every observation there is the discovery of significance, meaning and purpose.

Just as God acts purposefully at a grand, macro level, He does so similarly at a micro level. Those purposes are there for us to discover and to help us continue to refine our minds and hearts.

In history as in geography, in science as in psychology, in law as in sociology, there are signs upon signs for us to deliberate over, repeatedly proclaiming the greatness of our Lord and spontaneously breaking out into supplication.

Immersed in revelation

This is a message to all people, so that they may be warned by it, and know that He is the only God, and so that people of insight may take heed. (14:52)

This is a blessed Scripture which We sent down to you, for people to ponder its messages, and for people of insight to take heed. (38:29)

Just as there are multiple layers of significance and symbolism in creation, there are layers upon layers in revelation.

We might be tempted to think of the Qur’an as a static text whose meanings and interpretations have been decided upon long ago.

That’s not the way the ulul-albab see it...

1. They see their relationship with revelation as one that is dynamic and fresh.

They know that a timeless, universal text will speak differently to different people at different times. They consider language, historical and contemporary context, relevance, applicability, the order of priorities, and a whole host of other factors. 

2. They seek truth, knowledge and certainty whilst remaining comfortable with ambiguity and diversity.

They aren’t dogmatic or shocked by new perspectives. Neither are they gullible or unprincipled. They remain curious and open-minded. 

3. They’re not just theorists, rather they seek practical solutions to real problems...

...hoping to internalise and convey authentic, relevant guidance to help bring everyone from darkness into light. They have a soft core but they’re also cutting edge. 

None of this is easy.

If ignorance is bliss, then knowledge can be pain.

4. But people of insight want the approval of God alone and so they persist, they pray and they purify themselves from all other objectives other than pleasing Him.

They know that in submitting to God alone, in keeping an open mind and in doing their very best, they can be hopeful of guidance and good news:

There is good news for those who shun the worship of false gods and turn to God, so give good news to My servants who listen to what is said and follow what is best. These are the ones God has guided; these are the people of insight. (39:17-18)

An exclusive group that you can join

A quarter of the references to the ulul-albab mention them in an exclusive manner. They achieve something special that others don’t.

Can someone who knows that the revelation from your Lord is the Truth be equal to someone who is blind? Only people of insight will take it to heart. (13:19)

[…] Those firmly grounded in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it: it is all from our Lord’ — only people of insight will take heed — ‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us. Grant us Your mercy: You are the Ever Giving. Our Lord, You will gather all people on the Day of which there is no doubt: God never breaks His promise.’ (3:7-9)

What about someone who worships devoutly during the night, prostrating, standing in prayer, ever mindful of the life to come, hoping for their Lord’s mercy? Say, ‘How can those who know be equal to those who do not know?’ Only people of insight will take heed. (39:9)

He gives wisdom to whoever He will. Whoever is given wisdom has truly been given much good, and only people of insight achieve realisation. (2:269)

You might think that this station is beyond you. 

But it isn’t.

Wherever you are in your journey, you can make progress. 

You should view both revelation and creation in similar terms. They are there for you just as much as they are for anyone else. So read, observe, ponder and question whilst you continue to pray, supplicate and be mindful of God.

Sincerity can be achieved, critical thinking can be sharpened, perspective can be refined. 

It’s not about reaching a fixed state. It’s about cultivating a state of mind. 

It’s not about getting to a particular destination then stopping. It’s about continuing to make progress on the journey to God until He decides that time is up. 

When that time comes, the body falls away but the soul continues to travel in the same direction that it was always going: to paradise and to God. 

[…] So, you people of insight, you who believe, be mindful of God. He has sent you the Qur’an and a messenger — reciting to you God’s revelations that make things clear — to bring those who believe and do righteous deeds from darkness into light. God will admit those who believe in Him and do righteous deeds into gardens graced with flowing streams, where they will remain forever — He has made good provision for them. (65:10-11)


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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.

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