Allaah’s Favor

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It is a part of man’s nature to elevate some human beings over others. He likes to hold them in high esteem and prefers to follow them rather than make decisions on his own. This is a direct result of the fact that Allaah has favored some people over others, in various ways. Man has been placed over woman socially:

“Men are guardians of women by that which Allaah favored some of them over others”

“And men are one level over women.”

And some men have been placed over other men economically:

“Allaah has favored some of you over others with sustenance.”

The tribe of Israel was favored over the rest of mankind by divine guidance:

“Remember, Oh Israel, the blessing which I bestowed on you by favoring you over all mankind.”

The prophets were favored over all mankind by revelation and Allaah favored some of the prophets over others:

“Those are the prophets of whom We favored some over others.”

Yet Allaah has told us not to desire the things by which He has favored some of mankind over others

“Do not wish for that with which We have favored some of you over others.”

because these favors are tests which carry with them great responsibilities. They are not a result of man’s strivings, and, as such, should not be a source of pride. Allaah will not give us a reward for having them, although we will be held to account for how we used them. Thus, Allaah’s Messenger advised us, “Look at those below you and not those above you. It is better for you, so that you do not deny Allaah’s blessings on you.”

Everyone has been placed above others in some way or another, and everyone has certain responsibilities for which he will be held accountable. The Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Everyone of you is a shepherd, and everyone is responsible for his flock.” These responsibilities are the basic components of the tests of this life. If we are thankful to Allaah for His favors and apply them justly, we succeed; otherwise, we fail. But, perhaps the greatest test of responsibility is that of Allaah’s favoring man over all creation. This favor was confirmed by Allaah’s command to the angels to prostrate to Aadam and the responsibility is twofold:

a. It carries a personal responsibility of accepting Islaam: total submission to Allaah.

b. It also carries a group commitment of establishing Allaah’s law throughout the earth.

Thus, believers are far superior to disbelievers in Allaah’s sight because of their acceptance of their responsibilities. Allaah said:

“You (believers) are the best of nations brought forth for the benefit of mankind (because) you command the good, prohibit evil and believe in Allaah.”

Taqwaa:

Among the community of believers, some are superior to others; and this superiority is a direct result of their own strivings. It is a superiority linked to Eemaan, the strength and depth of faith. A living faith drives the one who possesses it to shield himself from whatever displeases Allaah. This shield in Arabic is called “Taqwaa.” It has been variously translated as “fear of God”, “piety”, as well as “God-consciousness”; and it carries all these meanings and more. Allaah clearly expressed the superiority of Taqwaa as follows:

“Verily the most noble among you Is the one with the most Taqwaa.”

Allaah is here saying that the only factor which makes a believing man or woman truly superior to another is the level of Taqwaa. It is this piety or fear of God which elevates man from the level of “thinking animal” to that of governor (Khaleefah) of the planets. The importance of the fear of Allaah in a Muslim’s life cannot be overstressed. Allaah mentioned Taqwaa and its derivatives 26 times in the Qur’aan, everywhere emphasizing that Taqwaa is the driving force behind living faith. Without it, faith is only a meaningless jumble of memorized words and phrases, and ‘righteous’ deeds only shells of pretense and hypocrisy. Consequently, piety is preferred over all other considerations in all of life’s transactions. The Messenger of Allaah (may Peace Be Upon Him) said: “A woman is married for four (reasons): her wealth, her nobility, her beauty, and her piety. Choose the pious one and be successful.” No matter how beautiful, rich or well bred a woman might be, if she is not pious, she is inferior to a pious, ugly, poor woman from a dishonorable family. The converse is also true, as the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) said, “If a man whose practise of the religion satisfies you, asks you for your daughter in marriage, you should marry them; otherwise there will be corruption in the land.”

The Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) once reprimanded Abu Dharr for derisively calling Bilal, ‘son of a black woman’, then he went on to say, “Look! Surely you are not better than a brown man nor a black man except by fearing Allaah more than them."This understanding was hammered home time and time again by Allaah’s messenger (may Peace Be Upon Him). Even in the Farewell Pilgrimage, done shortly before he died, he lectured the people on the insignificance of racial differences and the all importance of Taqwaa.

The most pious individuals are only known to Allaah, because the seat of Taqwaa is the heart. Man can only judge people by each other’s outward deeds which may or may not be misleading. Allaah made that abundantly clear in the following verse:

“There is among people in this life, he whose speech will dazzle you. And he will call on Allaah as a witness to what is in his heart; yet, he will be among the most vicious of enemies.”

Therefore, it is not permissible for humans to designate certain people as being particularly saintly and pious to a degree beyond the reach of ordinary humans. The Prophet Muhammad (may Peace Be Upon Him) specified among his companions (Sahaabah) some whom he gave glad tidings of paradise in this life. However, such pronouncements were based on revelation and not his own ability to judge the hearts. For example, when the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) said concerning those who make a pledge of allegiance known as Bay’ah ar-Ridwaan, “No one who made the pledge beneath the tree will enter the hellfire,” he was confirming the Qur’anic verse revealed to that effect:

“Allaah is pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you beneath the tree...”

Similarly, he judged some whom everyone thought were destined to paradise to be among those destined for the hellfire. All such judgements were based on revelation. Ibn ‘Abbaas said that he was told by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab that on the day of (the battle) of Khaybar, some of the Prophet’s companions came and said, “So and so is a martyr and so and so is a martyr,” but when they came to a man about whom they said, “So and so is a martyr,” Allaah’s messenger declared, “By no means! I have seen him in hell in a cloak which he took (from the spoils) dishonestly.” Allaah’s messenger then said, “Go, Ibn al-Khattaab, and announce among the people three times that only the believers will enter paradise.”

In Christian tradition down through the ages, some individuals were highly praised for their supposed spiritual achievements. Miracles were attributed to them and the rank of “saint” was bestowed on them. In pre-Christian Hindu and Buddhist tradition, teachers who were supposed to have climbed the ladder of spiritual excellence and who had performed supernatural feats were also given titles like Guru, Avatar, etc., indicating spiritual superiority. These designations have led the masses to either seek intercession through them or to worship them as gods. Consequently, these religious traditions have lists of saints to whom the masses fervently pray. Islaam, on the other hand, opposes even the excessive praise of.Prophet Muhammad (may Peace Be Upon Him) who said, “Do not praise me excessively as the Christians did to ‘Eesaa ibn Maryam, verily I am only a slave, so call me instead the slave of Allaah and His messenger.”

Walee: The “Saint”

The term saint has been used to translate the Arabic word Walee (pl. Awliyaa) which Allaah used, to designate those who are close to Him. But, a more appropriate translation is “close friend” because Walee literally means an “ally.” Allaah even uses it to refer to Himself in the verse:

“Allaah is the Walee of those who believe and takes them from the darkness into light.”

He also uses it to refer to Satan as in the verse:

“Whoever takes Satan as a Walee instead of Allaah, has clearly lost all.”

This term also means “close relative” as in the following verse:

“We have given power to the Walee of whoever is wrongly killed, but do not be excessive in the execution (of the murderer).”

It is also used in Qur’aan to indicate closeness between men, for example,

“The believers should not take the disbelievers as Awliyaa instead of other believers.”

But the usage which concerns us most is “Awliyaa-ullaah” close friends of Allaah. In the Qur’aan Allaah has designated among mankind certain types of individuals whom He considers especially close to Himself. AIlaah’s description of His Walees can be found in Soorah al-Anfaal where Allaah states:

“Verily His (Allaah’s) Awliyaa are only those with Taqwaa, but most people do not realize that.”

And Soorah Younus:

“Behold! Certainly no fear nor grief shall overcome the Awliyaa of Allaah, those who believe and have Taqwaa.”

Allaah explains for us that the criterion for “Walaayah” (divine friendship) is Eemaan (faith) and Taqwaa (piety) and these qualities are shared by all true believers. Among the ignorant masses, the main criterion for Walaayah ("Sainthood") is the performance of miracles which are commonly called Karaamaat to distinguish them from the miracles Mu’jizaat of the prophets. To most who hold this belief, the faith and practise of the “miracle” worker are of no consequence. Hence, some who have been designated “saints” held heretical beliefs and practises, while others were known to have abandoned the religious rituals, and, yet others were even involved in licentious and vulgar behavior. However, nowhere has Allaah made the working of miracles a stipulation for being His Walee. Therefore, as earlier stated, all believers who have Eemaan and Taqwaa are Walees of Allaah and He is their Walee, as Allaah Himself said,

“Allaah is the Walee of those who believe.”

Consequently, Muslims are not allowed to designate certain believers as being Awliyaa of Allaah and not others. In spite of this clear Islamic position, a hierarchy of so-called Muslim saints has become a prominent feature in Sufi circles and among the masses who blindly follow them. In ascending order of merit they are: the Akhyaar (chosen) who number 300; the Abdaal (substitutes) numbering 40; the 7 Abraar (pious); the 4 Awtaad (pegs); the 3 Nuqabaa (watchmen), the Qutb (pole) who is considered the greatest saint of his time, and at the top of the list is the Ghawth (Succor), the greatest of Saints, who is believed, in some circles, to be capable of taking on his shoulders a portion of the sins of the believers. According to the belief of “mystics”, the saints of the top three classes are present invisibly in Makkah at the hours of prayer. When the Ghawth dies, the Qutb replaces him and there is a moving up all through the series, the purest soul of each class rising to the next degree. This body of mythology has been borrowed from Christianity, just as Dhikr beads were adopted from the Christian rosary, and Mawlid from the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Fanaa: The Union of Man With God

A close look at various lists of the most prominent so-called saints, reveals names like that of al-Hallaaj who was publicly executed as an apostate for daring to openly claim divinity in his infamous pronouncement “Ana-al-Haqq” ‘I am the Reality’ when Allaah already said:

“That is so, because Allaah is the Reality and it is He who gives life to the dead.”

What led this deranged individual to make such a pronouncement was his belief in a principle very similar to the ultimate state of being in Buddhism known as “Nirvana.” In this state, according to a branch of Buddhist thought, the ego disappears and the human soul and consciousness are extinguished.

This concept also forms the core of a philosophy known as “mysticism”. Mysticism is defined as an experience of union with God and the belief that man’s main goal lies in seeking that union. The origins of mysticism can be found in the writings of ancient Greek philosophers like Plato’s Symposium in which mention is made of various ladders of ascent, composed of steep and hard steps, whereby a union of the soul with God is finally attained. A parallel concept can also be found in Hinduism’s identification of Atman (human soul) with Brahman (the impersonal Absolute), the realization of which is the ultimate goal or release from existence and rebirth. Greek mystic thought blossomed in the Gnostic Christian movements which, like that of Valentinus (c. 140 CE), reached their peak in the second century CE. These trends were combined in the third century with Platonism by the Egypto-Roman philosopher, Plotinus (205-270 CE), to form a religious philosophy known as neoplatonism. Christian anchorites or hermits of the 3rd century CE, who began the monastic tradition in Christendom by withdrawing into the Egyptian desert, adopted the mystic goal of union with God as it was propounded in neoplatonic thought at that time, within a framework of meditative and ascetic practises of self-denial. Although it was “St.” Pachomius (290-346 CE) who established the first set of rules for Christian monasticism and founded nine monasteries in the Egyptian desert; “St.” Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE), in developing the Benedictine Rule for the monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy, came to be regarded as the real founder of Western monastic order.

The mystic tradition kept alive in monastic Christianity began to find expression among Muslims from about 8th century CE, a century after the borders of the Islamic state had expanded to include Egypt and Syria and its major centers of monasticism. A group of Muslims who were not satisfied with what the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law) had to offer, developed a parallel system which they named the Tareeqah (the way). Just as the ultimate goal of the Hindu was unity with the world soul and of the Christian mystic union with God; the ultimate goal of this movement became Fanaa, the dissolution of the ego, and Wusool the meeting and unification of the human soul with Allaah in this life. A series of preliminary stages and states which had to be attained were defined. They were called Maqaamaat (stations) and Haalaat (states). A system of spiritual exercises was also designed for the initiate in order to bring about this “meeting.” These exercises of Dhikr often involved head and body movements and sometimes even dance, as in the case of whirling dervishes. All of these practises were attributed to the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) through chains of narration in order to validate them, but there does not exist any authentic support for them in any of the classical books of Hadeeth. A multiplicity of systems evolved, and orders, similar to those among Christian monks, appeared named after their founders, like the Qaadiri, Chishti, Nakhshabandi, and Teejaani orders. Along with that, volumes of legends and fairy tales were spun around the founders and the outstanding personalities of these orders. And, just as Christian and Hindu monks chose special isolated structures (i.e. monasteries) in which to house their communities, the Sufi orders developed similar housing schemes called Zaawiyahs (lit. corners).

In time, a body of heretic creeds developed out of the mystic “union-with-God” belief. For example, most orders claimed that Allaah could be seen when the state of Wusool (arrival) was achieved. Yet when ‘Aa’eshah asked the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) if he saw Allaah during Mi’raaj (ascension) he replied that he had not. Prophet Moosaa was also shown that neither he nor any man could withstand seeing Allaah in this life by Allaah revealing some of His being to a mountain which crumbled to dust during the revelation. Some Sufi adepts claimed that when the state of Wusool was attained, the mundane obligations of Sharee’ah like five times daily Salaah, were no longer obligatory. Most of them prescribed that prayers to Allaah could be sent through the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) or through the so-called saints; many also began the practice of making Tawaaf, animal sacrifices and other acts of worship around the shrines and tombs of the saints. Tawaaf can be observed today around the grave of Zaynab and Sayyid al-Badawi in Egypt, around the tomb of Muhammad Ahmad (The Mahdi) in Sudan, and around the Darghas of countless saints and holy men in India and Pakistan.

The Sharee’ah came to be looked at as the outer path designed for the ignorant masses, while the Tareeqah was the inner path of an elite enlightened few. Opinionated Tafseer (Qur’anic commentary) appeared in which the meanings of the Qur’anic verses were bent and twisted to support the heretical ideas of the mystic movement. Greek philosophical thought was also blended with fabricated Hadeeths to produce a body of inauthentic literature which challenged the early Islamic classics and eventually displaced them among the masses. Music was introduced in most circles and drugs like marijuana could be found in others as a means of heightening the pseudo-spiritual experience which they all sought. Such was the legacy of the latter generation of Sufis which had been built on the false premise that union of the human soul with Allaah was attainable. The early generation of pious individuals, like ‘Abdul-Qaadir al-Jeelaani, and others to whom some orders were attributed, clearly understood the importance of distinguishing between the Creator and the created. The two could never become one, as One was Divine and Eternal, while the other was human and finite.

The Union of God With Man

Nothing escapes Allaah’s knowledge, therefore, the wise are those who act accordingly. They feel His presence at all times. They carefully perform all their obligatory (Fard) duties, then they piously try to make up for any of the inevitable deficiencies by doing a host of voluntary acts. These voluntary acts help to protect the obligatory duties. For example, during times of weakness or spiritual lows, one may become lax in fulfilling one’s religious duties. However, those who had voluntary practices would likely neglect some of their voluntary practices, while keeping their obligatory duties intact. If they did not have a protective shield of voluntary acts and they fell into a period of spiritual laziness, some of their obligatory duties are likely to be discarded or neglected. The more someone strengthens his obligatory practices by performing voluntary acts, the more his life conforms to the Sharee’ah, the will of Almighty Allaah. Allaah conveyed this principle through the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) in a Hadeeth saying: “The most beloved thing with which My slave may come close to me is that which I have made obligatory (Fard) on him. My servant will continue to come closer to me by voluntary acts (of worship) until I love him. If I love him, I will be his hearing by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he grasps, and his foot by which he walks. If he asks Me anything I would give it and if he seeks refuge in Me I would protect him.”

This Walee of Allaah would only hear, see, grasp and walk to what is Halaal (lawful), while conspicuously avoiding all the Haraam (prohibited) as well as that which leads towards it. This is the only true goal worthy of dedicating one’s life. Its attainment is the perfection of man’s dual role as servant of God and governor of the world. But, it cannot be reached except by the route prescribed in the Hadeeth. First the compulsory duties have to be completely established, then the prescribed voluntary acts of worship have to be performed consistently and according to the Sunnah. Allaah emphasized this fact by telling His Prophet to inform the believers:

“Say, if you love Allaah, follow me (Muhammad) and Allaah will love you.”

Therefore Allaah’s love can only be attained by strictly following the directives (Sunnah) of His Apostle (may Peace Be Upon Him) and by carefully avoiding all innovations in religious matters. This formula is contained in the following Hadeeth in which the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) was reported by Abu Najeeh to have said, “Keep to my Sunnah and that of the rightly guided caliphs. Bite on to it with your molars. And beware of innovations, for verily they are all heresy (Bid’ah) and heresy is misguidance which leads to the hellfire.”

One who strictly follows this principle will only listen to what Allaah wishes for him to listen to. For Allaah said describing the righteous:

“And when the ignorant (mockingly) address them, they merely say: ‘Peace’”

Elsewhere in the Qur’aan He also said,

“He has already revealed to you in the Book, that when you hear the signs of Allaah denied and ridiculed, you should not sit with them unless they change the subject. If you did you would be like them.”

By him listening only to what Allaah wishes for him to hear, Allaah has metaphorically become his hearing. In a similar way, Allaah becomes his sight, hands and feet.

This is the correct interpretation of the previously mentioned Hadeeth in which Allaah states that He will become man’s hearing, sight, hands and feet. Unfortunately, this Hadeeth has been misinterpreted by mystics as support for the concept of union with Allaah - May Allaah forbid.

Roohullaah: The “Spirit” of Allaah

Support for the mystic belief in the re-unification of the human soul with Allaah has also been falsely deduced from some of the verses of the Qur’aan itself. The following verses in which Allaah said:

“Then He (Allaah) fashioned him (Aadam) and blew in him from His spirit.”

and

“When I fashioned him and blew into him of My Spirit...”

have been used as evidence for the belief that every human being contains within his body a part of God. The portion of Allaah’s “spirit” which Allaah breathed into Aadam has supposedly been inherited by all of his descendents. Reference has also been made to Prophet ‘Eesaa about whose mother Allaah said,

“She was chaste, so We blew into her from Our Spirit...”

Thus, it is believed among mystics that this divine eternal spirit within man yearns to reunite with its origin from whence it came. However, this is not the case. Possessive pronouns (my, your, his, her, our) in Arabic, as in English, have two general meanings depending on the context in which they are used. They may describe an attribute or a possession which is or is not a part of its owner. For example, in Allaah’s command to Prophet Moosaa (Moses)

“Put your hand inside your shirt and it will come out shining unharmed...”

both the “hand” and “shirt” belonged to Prophet Moosaa but his hand was an attribute which was a part of him, while his shirt was a possession which was not a part of him. The same is the case relative to God with regards to His attributes and His creation. For example, in the case of divine mercy wherein He says:

“Allaah gives His mercy specifically to whomsoever He wishes...”

Allaah’s mercy is one of his attributes and not a part of His creation. On the other hand, Allaah sometimes refers to created things as “His” to emphasize the fact that He created them. Yet others are referred to as His to indicate the special position of honor with which He views them. For example, with respect to the She-Camel sent as a test to Prophet Saalih’s people, the Thamood, Allaah quoted Prophet Saalih as saying,

“This is Allaah’s camel sent to you as a sign. So allow it to graze in Allaah’s earth.”

The camel was miraculously sent as a sign to the Thamood who did not have any right to deny it from grazing, because the whole earth belongs to Allaah. Similarly is the case of the Ka’bah about which Allaah made a covenant with Prophets Ibraaheem (Abraham) and Ismaa’eel (Ishmael):

“That they may purify My house for those who circle it, cling to it, bow down prostrate (near it)”

and paradise in the case of the righteous who on the Day of Judgement will be told by Allaah “Enter My paradise.”

As for the spirit (Rooh), it is one of Allaah’s creations. Allaah states in the Qur’aan

“They ask you concerning the spirit, tell them the Spirit is from my Lord’s command; and you have not been given except a very small amount of knowledge.”

Elsewhere in the Qur’aan He said:

“If Allaah has decided a thing, He only has to command: Be, and it is.”

And He also said:

“He (Allaah) created him (Aadam) from clay then said: Be, and he was.”

The command is “be” for all of creation. Therefore, the spirit is created by Allaah’s command. Islaam does not consider God to be an incorporeal Spirit, as do some religions like Christianity. He has neither corporeal body nor is He a formless spirit. He has a form befitting His majesty, the like of which no man has ever seen or conceived, and which will only be seen (to the degree of man’s finite limitations) by the people of paradise. Consequently, when Allaah refers to the blowing of a spirit from Himself into prophets Aadam and ‘Eesaa, special honor is given to their created spirits due to the prominence of Prophet Aadam’s position in relation to the rest of mankind and to clarify the confusion concerning Maryam’s virgin birth of Prophet ‘Eesaa. Even Allaah’s attribution of the act of blowing to Himself is, in fact, a clarification of His will and supreme power, for it is the angels who actually insert and extract the souls into man. This fact is evident from the following Hadeeth of Ibn Mas’oud who reported that Allaah’s Messenger said, “Verily your creation is combined in your mother’s womb for forty days in the form of an oily fluid, then as a leech-like clot for a similar period and as a clump of flesh for another similar period. Then an angel is sent to him to blow the spirit into him...” Thus, Allaah has the spirit blown into every human by one of His angels. By saying that ‘He blew’, Allaah in fact reminds us that He is the primary cause of all that takes place in creation, as He said:

“Allaah created you and whatever you do.”

Just prior to the battle of Badr the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) threw a handful of dust at the enemy ranks assembled hundreds of yards away, but Allaah caused some of the dust particles to miraculously reach all of the eyes of the enemy. Allaah referred to the Prophet’s action as follows:

“It was not you that threw when you threw but it was Allaah who threw.”

Thus, by attributing the Spirit to Himself, Allaah simply gave it a special place of honor among the spirits which He has created. Not that He, Allaah, has a spirit and blew off a piece of it into both Prophet Aadam and Prophet ‘Eesaa. To further emphasize that point Allaah also refers to the Angel sent to inform Maryam as “His spirit”:

“So we sent to her Our Spirit who took the appearance of a well formed man.”

The Qur’aan is a totality. Its verses explain themselves and the sayings and practices of the Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) further clarify its meanings. When verses are taken out of context, the meanings of the Qur’aan can easily be distorted. For example, verse four of Soorah al-Maa’oon reads:

“Woe be on those who make prayer (Salaah).”

This verse by itself is in total contradiction to the rest of Qur’aan and Islaam. Salaah has been made obligatory throughout the Qur’aan, For example, Allaah said:

“Verily I am Allaah, there is no god besides me, so worship me and establish prayer (Salaah) in order to remember Me.”

Yet this verse curses those who make Salaah! However, the verses which follow it clarify the intended meaning as:

“Those who are negligent in their Salaah, who do it to be seen. Yet they refuse even the simplest of kindness.”

Thus, Allaah’s curse is on the Salaah of the hypocrites who pretend belief and not on all who make Salaah.

A more meaningful translation of the verse “Then He fashioned him (Aadam) and blew into him from His spirit,” would be “Then He fashioned him and caused one of His (noble) spirits to enter him.” Consequently, there is no basis in the divine scriptures for the mystic belief in the uncreated soul of man, yearning to re-unite with its origin, God. In Islaam, there is no distinction between the Arabic terms Rooh (spirit - pl. Arwaah) and Nafs (soul - pl. Anfus) with respect to man except that when it is connected to the body it is usually referred to as a Nafs. In the Qur’aan God states:

“It is Allaah who takes the souls (Anfus) at death and those which do not die (He takes) during their sleep...”

The Prophet (may Peace Be Upon Him) was reported by Umm Salamah to have said, “Verily, when the spirit (Rooh) is taken the eyes follow it”

The successful souls will be made to enter paradise as Allaah said to the righteous souls

“O soul (Nafs) at peace, come back to your Lord pleased with yourself and pleasing to Him. Enter among My devotees. Enter My paradise.”

Thus, in the end, the righteous human soul will not become extinguished in God nor unite with His supreme being, but will remain a finite spirit reunited with a finite body enjoying the pleasures of paradise for as long as Allaah wishes.

source: islamic network

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