• Allah Honors Black People (February 17, 2017) Open or Close

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           February is Black History Month in America. The history of the African people and their freedom from slavery is commemorated and remembered during this month. The well known human rights activist Malcom X met his fate in the same month 49 years ago. He was martyred on February 21, 1965.

           Islam promotes absolute equality and fraternity among the human race regardless of one’s skin color or faith. The notion of equality and brotherhood is articulated in a very profound way in surat al-Hujurat, “O mankind! We created you (all) from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Surely, the most honorable among you with Allah is the most righteous. Verily, Allah is all-knowing, all-aware” (al-Hujurat, 49:13).

           In 1776 Benjamin Franklin and John Adams among other founding fathers of America asked Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence that defined America and what it stood for. After a few iterations and much deliberation, the released document opened up with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

           Thirteen years later, in 1789, the French revolution was set in motion. Peasants and laborers revolted against the bourgeoisie class calling for the abolition of feudalism raising the slogan, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”

           As recent as 1945, the Preamble of the United Nations Charter opens up with these words, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

           Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) reads, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood…” Yes, you read that right, “a spirit of brotherhood.”

           Article 2 reads, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status…”

           Not long after the release of the UDHR document in 1948, blacks in America revolted against the inhumane treatment and rancid racism that knew no end in sight. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s reshaped the laws and policies in place. Despite these changes, and in spite of the pleasantries one finds in the Declaration of Independence and the UDHR, blacks are still discriminated against.

           Twelve centuries before the French Revolution and the birth of the Declaration of Independence, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) not only preached the ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity, he (SAW) actually established these principles.

           Islam not only recognizes different people and languages but declared that all people regardless of their origin, skin color, ethnic background, faith, and gender belong to one family, the family of Adam (AS). All mankind are in essence, “Banu Adam” belonging to the first couple, Adam and Eve. Therefore, by birth, all people are equal before the Creator, Allah (SWT). “O mankind! We created you (all) from a male and a female” (al-Hujurat, 49:13).

           Naturally, it was Allah (SWT)’s will and decision to create people with different colors and nations. The fact that the ayah begins with “O mankind,” and not “O believers,” tells us that Allah (SWT) does not discriminate between his servants by skin color or what region of the world they belong to, or for that matter what they believe in.

           “And indeed We have honored the children of Adam” (al-Isra’, 17:70). With this ayah, Muslims acknowledge the honor Allah (SWT) bestowed upon Luqman before the dawn of Islam, the status of Bilal, the Prophet’s caller to prayer, and Allah (SWT)’s favor conferred upon Malcolm X centuries after the birth of Islam among many others. All of them, Luqman, Bilal and Malcolm X, were blacks of African descent.

           Bilal Ibn Rabah (RAA) was owned by Ummayah Ibn Khalaf and was among the first to pledge his faith to the Prophet (S) as a Muslim. His faith in Allah (SWT) was undeniably unshakable. Bilal (RAA) did not relinquish his faith despite being brutally persecuted. He insisted on repeating Ahadun Ahad, One, One. During the conquest of Mecca when the Prophet (SAW) returned to Mecca triumphant, he (SAW) was accompanied by Bilal (RAA) as they entered the Ka’bah and removed the idols and images displayed while repeating Allahu Akbar. The Prophet (SAW) then ordered Bilal to climb to the top of the Ka’bah and call the ‘Athan.

           Abu Dharr (RAA) was remembered for his strict piety. The Prophet (SAW) once said, “He who likes to look at the piety (asceticism) of Jesus the son of Mary, look at Abu Dharr.” Abu Dharr once slipped and called Bilal, “O son of a black woman.” Bilal complained to the Prophet and he (SAW) became angry. Not knowing that Bilal had complained to the Prophet (SAW), Abu Dharr came to him and the Prophet turned away from him. Abu Dharr asked, “O messenger of Allah, have you turned away because of something you have been told?” The Prophet replied, “Have you reproached Bilal about his mother? By the One who revealed the Book to Muhammad none is more virtuous over another except in righteous deeds. You have none but an insignificant amount.”

           One slip almost made all of Abu Dharr’s pious acts disappear. We must watch what we say and always be mindful of people’s feelings and sensitivities to racial among other slurs that might be offensive. The status of Bilal, the Ethiopian, among the companions was very high and equal to Abu Bakr’s status. He occupied a distinguished position among the companions of the Prophet (SAW). Omar (RAA) would often say, “Abu Bakr is our master and he freed our master.” Bilal would humbly reply, “I am only a man who used to be a slave.” His memory is still with us today whenever we hear the call to prayer. Bilal (RAA) was honored by Allah (SWT).

           Luqman the wise, a well-known sage mentioned by pre-Islamic poets, was also honored by Allah (SWT) at a time when slavery was the norm. An entire surah in the Quran is dedicated to Luqman. Ibn Abbass (RAA) describes him as an Ethiopian slave who worked as a carpenter. Other sahaba claimed that he was short with a flat nose and thick lips, and Allah (SWT) granted him wisdom but not prophethood. “And indeed, We bestowed upon Luqman wisdom: ‘Be grateful to Allah’” (Luqman, 31:12).

           Luqman was consulted by many people for advice. His golden advice to his son was, “O my son! Do not join others in worship with Allah, verily; joining others in worship with Allah is a great injustice (Zulm)” (Luqman, 31:13). He would counsel his son saying, “My son! Sit with the learned men and keep close to them. Allah gives life to the hearts with the light of wisdom as Allah gives life to the dead earth with the abundant rain of the sky.” Luqman was given abundant good. “(Allah) gives wisdom to whomever He will. And whoever is given wisdom has indeed been given abundant good. But only those with insight bear this in mind” (al-Baqarah, 2:269). The etched legacy of Luqman in the Qur’an will continue to be remembered and celebrated until the end of time.

           From the distant past to merely decades ago, a man from African descent by the name of Malcolm X was also honored by Allah (SWT). Malcolm was himself once racist against whites. He was taught that white men were evil – this was in retaliation to the centuries of humiliation blacks suffered from the institution of slavery that reduced a slave to 3/5th of a man.

           When Malcolm embarked on the pilgrimage to Makkah, his feelings changed as this spiritual journey changed his outlook and ultimately, his life. He saw with his eyes and felt with his heart the true meaning of equality and brotherhood. When he returned from this life altering experience, Malcolm said, “I met blonde-haired, blue-eyed men I could call my brothers.” The worldview, white men are evil, quickly changed and he had a message for all races. He became a well-known human rights activist and promoted equality and challenged the government’s racist stance. Allah (SWT) honored Malcolm X with martyrdom when he was assassinated on February 21, 1965 in New York City during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

           In 1975 Imam Warithuddin Muhammad (RA), the son of Malcolm’s mentor from the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, broke away and took with him a multitude of members from his father’s organization to form his movement that embraced mainstream orthodox Islam. We as Americans are all indebted to Malcolm X and Imam Warithuddin Muhammad as they helped influence and shape Islam in America.

           Those who fought for equality during the Civil Rights movement of the sixties led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. may have been victorious in achieving their objective of equality as a matter of law. In reality however, the fight for true equality is far from over. Black people are still discriminated against.

           Sadly, our community is not immune from this type of discrimination. The gap between the indigenous African American population and immigrant Muslims and their offspring needs to be closed. Imam Luqman (RA) of Masjid al-Haq in Detroit, shortly before he was killed, cried out to the affluent immigrant Muslims inviting their attention to helping and supporting the down trodden, deprived and disadvantaged brothers and sisters in Detroit rather than donating huge sums of money to Republican and Democratic politicians. His cries fell on deaf ears.

           He was entrapped by the FBI to purchase stolen merchandise. At the site where the exchange of goods was to take place, Imam Luqman met his fate. He didn’t need to resort to stolen merchandise to care for his community. It makes one wonder, are we living our faith? We preach equality, fraternity and brotherhood. Are we practicing what we preach? Only Allah (SWT) knows what would have been the outcome had the affluent Muslims in the suburbs paid enough attention to Imam Luqman’s cries and community needs.

           Another sad reality impeding our community is the use of abhorrent racial slurs. Sadly, racial slurs and name calling such as using the word abd (pl. abeed,) akata, adoon, jareer and/or kallu, are different words in Arabic and other languages that mean slave(s) or Negro. We must refrain from using these and other derogatory and offensive terms and be sensitive to the feelings of others.

           The challenge that lies ahead is tearing down the wall of discrimination against blacks and other races that separate and divide us. Muslims of all races and colors should be completely integrated to exhibit the true hue of Islamic brotherhood. Interracial marriages should be welcomed. Integration among the diverse Muslim community as we promote Islam in America is a must.

           Despite the prejudice, bigotry and discrimination that existed for decades in Arabia, Muslims came together whether they were white, black, Arab or non-Arab. Whether it was Suhaib al-Rumi, Bilal ibn Rabah, Abu Bakr or Salman al-Farisi, they were all considered equal before the law under Islam and became real brothers in faith. Islam didn’t just introduce and teach a concept, this revolutionary societal shift was practiced and established – a custom that has sadly escaped our community.

           The Prophet (SAW) in his farewell sermon sums it up as he says, “O people, your Lord is One and your father is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, and Adam from dust.” Let us come together as a community and truly work on eradicating divides between race and ethnicity as a single nation of brothers and sisters in Islam.

  • Muhammad (SAW) A Prophet for Our Time (Part 2) (January 10, 2017) Open or Close
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    More than fourteen centuries have passed since the departure of the last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (SAW) – a simple person who revolutionized the world and left behind gems of divine wisdom for us to uphold and pursue the true meaning of life and happiness. The ummah is entrusted with a gigantic task. Allah (SWT) is counting on us, believers, to assume the prophetic role of establishing Justice. Here we are fourteen centuries later and we find ourselves divided, helpless and hopeless. To improve our condition, we need to heed the saying of Imam Malik (RA). He stressed, “The latter part of the ummah will not be reformed except on the pattern in which the first part of the ummah (the first generation) was reformed.” 

    The first generation of Muslims under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) have achieved many accomplishments. The Prophet (SAW) laid down the foundation for Islamic work and dawah. The first and most important step toward social reform was purification of the soul. Undoubtedly, the Qur’an was the agent that changed and transformed the lives of the early converts to Islam. The Qur’anic passages that presented a different and unique worldview helped shape the minds and hearts of people. Purification of the soul through the Qur’an was the first step toward social reform. Thus, returning back to the Qur’an, particularly the Meccan passages, is the first and most crucial step toward fulfilling our duties assigned to us by Allah (SWT). An objective study of the sirah reveals the necessary steps toward social reform. 

    1. Self-Purification: Self-purification is a painstaking process. While Islamophobia is rampant and widespread, we as Muslims must remain resolute and strong. The Prophet (SAW) and the companions during the first 13 years of his mission were met with severe persecution. The challenges were endured with fortitude and patience. During such heightened Islamophobia 1,400 years ago, the companions never gave up. The process of purification took place simultaneously as they were taunted, resented and persecuted. The condition presented a golden opportunity for Muslims. They engaged in dawah, propagating and disseminating the pure message they received from the Almighty.

    The Prophet (SAW) taught, “Best among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others.” This brilliant advice, learn and teach the Qur’an, is meant to help us purify ourselves through its teachings before imparting its wisdom unto others, thus becoming a true beacon of light. They become the embodiment of the message they preach. The Qur’an wants to produce human individuals who revere God and simultaneously seek and uphold Justice. 

    2. Building Coalitions: In such turbulent and trying times, we learn from the sirah of the Prophet (SAW) that it is suggested to reach out to people of conscience regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation and work with them on social justice issues that are common to all.

    It must be clear that faith is a personal matter. Allah guides whom He wills. People make choices and we are not in a position to compel any of them in any way to embrace Islam. This free will is a privilege Allah gave His servants and no one is entitled to take that privilege away from them. People are free to choose whatever they want to believe in.

    All people regardless of who they are, Muslim or non-Muslim, Arab or non-Arab, white or black, are obliged to collectively work together to eliminate injustice. Discrimination against any person is discrimination against all of humanity. The Prophet (SAW) encouraged us to work with all people regardless of their creed or whatever they may choose for themselves as a way of life (deen) as long as our cooperation does not involve sin or enmity. “Cooperate with one another in righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression.” (al-Ma’idah, 5:2) While faith is a personal matter, the work for social justice is a collective matter.

    Hilf al-Fudul is a prime example of such cooperation. Various chiefs and members of tribes pledged to respect the principles of justice and collectively intervene in conflicts to establish justice. The pact became known as, “The League of the Virtuous, or Hilf al-Fudul.” The pledge was written and placed inside the ka’bah where the participants believed that it would be under God’s protection. This event was witnessed by the Prophet (SAW) when he was a young man. The Prophet (SAW) recalls the event, “I was present in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’an when a covenant was agreed upon, and I would not accept red camels in lieu of it. Had I been asked to uphold it today (in the days of Islam) I would have agreed.”  Decades later, the Prophet (SAW) still acknowledges the validity of the pact.

    His statement, ‘I would have agreed,’ meant that the Prophet (SAW) was not against cooperating with non-Muslims in upholding values that bring good to society. As long as we are not cooperating in sin and enmity, working with others on common causes is a must. Many organizations and groups would love to partner with Muslims. It is our responsibility to find them, build relationships with them and work together to uphold common and universal values that include freedom, equality and justice that are, in principle, Islamic values.

    Muslims should be at the forefront leading the social justice movement. The companions understood what it meant to struggle for and establish justice. An envoy by the name of Rib’i Ibn `Amir entered the court of Rustum, the Persian leader, who asked him, “What brought you here?” Rib’i said, “God sent us, to bring out people from the worship of man to the worship of God alone; from the narrowness (and oppression) of this world to its spaciousness (and freedom); and from the injustice of other religions (and systems) to the justice of Islam.”

    Rib’i (RAA) neither prepared his speech nor was he expecting such a question. His reply was very prophetic. This example should help us reflect on how the Qur’an helped shape the companions’ understanding of the world, people and justice. We have the legacy of the Prophet and that of his companions to learn from so we may walk in their footsteps for the pursuit of Justice. 

    The challenges we face worldwide is bigger than all of us. Muslims from all races and ethnic backgrounds have no choice but to come together, maintain unity, harmony and plan strategically to defeat the enemies of Allah and Islam.

    3. The Development of Islamic and Community Centers: Among many things the Prophet did during his migration from Makkah to al-Madinah was the establishment of masjid Quba’. Quba’ was the first masjid ever built for Muslims to freely worship Allah (SWT). He (SAW) later built his masjid, al-masjid al-nabawi or the Prophet’s masjid, in al-Madinah. The masjid was a welcoming masjid, a place where Muslims, males and females, would congregate to worship Allah. It was a place where all the affairs of the community were conducted. In other words, it was a true Islamic Center. It was a community center that catered to the needs of all people. It was a learning center in which great companions sought knowledge from who later passed on that knowledge to many generations across the globe. It was a court where disputes were settled. It was a place where marriages were officiated. In simple words, the Prophet’s masjid was the focal point of the community. It was the heart of the ummah. We must take lessons from our rich history and turn our masajid into complete Islamic and community centers. Our masajid must not only serve the rituals but also expand beyond that to fulfill the needs of the community. 

    4. Fraternity: The concept of brotherhood (Mu’akhat) was initiated by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) upon arrival to al-Madinah. The Prophet created a bond of brotherhood between the emigrants (Muhajireen) of Makkah and the helpers (Ansar) of al-Madinah. The bond of love, sharing and caring between people of different tribal associations and cultural traditions helped create a harmonious diverse community serving one cause, the cause of God. The effect of such brotherhood/sisterhood was profound. The level of love and commitment the Ansar had to help and assist the emigrants is unmatched.  

    A companion from al-Madinah, Sa’d Ibn al-Rabi’ah who was paired with a companion from Makkah, Abdul Rahman Ibn ‘Awf, addressed the latter, “My brother, among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you, and which of my two wives is pleasing to you and I shall divorce her for you.” This is the kind of love the companions had for one another. Of course, Abdul Rahman Ibn ‘Awf, who emigrated for the sake of Allah, leaving all his wealth and properties behind in Makkah didn’t take advantage of the generosity of his brother. He enquired, “Direct me to the market so that I may make my own fortune with my own hands.” The companions were self-reliant and brothers in faith.

    Both Sa’d and Abdul Rahman, among many other companions were committed to a common cause, the cause of Islam. We must learn from this unique experience and embrace each other with love, compassion and with a sense of commitment toward our faith regardless of who we are, emigrant or indigenous Muslim, black, white or brown, Arab or non-Arab. We Muslims, have a strong bond, “There is no god except God.” We can, on that basis, leave our differences behind and come together with a renewed commitment for the sake of God serving the cause of Islam. 

    5. Resolutions: It is noteworthy to learn how important it was for the Prophet (SAW) to find a way to bring all people together regardless of their faith or tribal affiliation seeking peaceful coexistence. He invited tribe and Jewish leaders who inhabited al-Madinah and its surrounding area to a pact that became known as the Charter or Constitution of Madinah. It is considered to be the earliest written constitution anywhere in the world. The Prophet (SAW) uprooted the tribal fanaticism and established a society based on mutual interest. This was indeed a breakthrough. First, the Prophet had to win the trust of both Jewish and pagan tribes. The challenge was to have them work with the new Muslim community in peaceful coexistence, respecting the lives, properties and places of worship of all.

    The covenant or constitution regulated the rights and responsibilities of the citizens. The charter documented by Ibn Ishaq, one of the early Muslim historians, contains forty-seven clauses. Among them, the security of God is equal to all groups. All citizens of the state, Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the same political and cultural rights. Non-Muslims shall have autonomy and freedom of religion. And no one group will meddle in the affairs of other groups. Non-Muslims will take up arms against the enemy of the nation, Muslims and non-Muslims are obliged to defend the nation, and share the cost of war. There is to be no treachery between Muslims and non-Muslims and Non-Muslims will not be obliged to take part in religious wars of the Muslims.

    Today, we face many challenges. Muslims are marginalized and are victims of hate and bigotry coming from a handful of very powerful people. Islamophobia is rampant and we must defend ourselves, building alliances and working with people of conscience at all levels, starting with the local government all the way to the state and federal government. Know that we, like all people, are protected under the constitution. We may learn from the prophet’s strategy and engage city councils in local cities, state and US representatives and senators among others to issue resolutions that honor the lives and worth of all people, grant them the right to live, work, go to school and worship freely without the threat of intimidation, discrimination or harm. 

    The Qur’an and sirah of the Prophet (SAW) taught us at IONA the art of repelling evil with good and helped us overcome hatred and bigotry some Warren city officials and residents harbored toward Muslims. While facing fierce resistance in the City of Warren to establish IONA’s Masjid and Learning Center, the leaders of IONA built alliances with clergy from different denominations who showed support for our cause. Through patience and hard work and after years of promoting diversity, a resolution titled, “Re-affirming the American Core Values of Freedom, Equality and Justice” was unanimously passed by Warren’s City Council in 2010. It is through upholding such values and principles we can help shape and build strong communities.

    The Prophet built a complete civilized state in Arabia over 1,400 years ago, and so can we. Civilization is not just about building cities, institutions, keeping records and advancing in science and technology. If justice or the spirit of civilization is not present, it is not a civilization. If ethics, or the blood-life of civilization is not there, it is not a civilization.

    Muhammad (SAW), is a Prophet for our time and all times. He is our model and an exemplary one. “Indeed, the Messenger of God is an excellent model for those whose hope is in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” (al-Ahzab, 33:21) We the Ummah, are the prophet of our time. “You are the best ummah produced for (the good of) mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil and you believe in God.” (Aal Imran, 3:110)

  • Dawah with Insight – Part 17: Signs of the Day of Judgment (Part B) (August 19, 2016) Open or Close

    “It is God who has sent down the Book in Truth and (also) the Balance. You never know, the Hour may well be near. Those who do not believe in it seek that it should come soon, while the believers are fearful of it and know that it is the Truth. Unquestionably, those who dispute about the Hour have gone far, far astray.” (Fatir, 42:17,18)

    The Prophet (SAW) imparted numerous teachings regarding the signs of the Day of Judgment. An entire chapter is dedicated to such teachings in most books of ahadith under the heading, “Kitab al-Fitan, The Book of Trials.” Many of the signs have come and gone while some are currently occurring and will continue to occur. There are also trials known as “the Major Signs” that have yet to occur.

    Sincere believers are those who mend their way and are critical of the wrong trends of the society that reflect many of the signs of the Last Hour. Some of the signs below were previously mentioned and there are others worth mentioning before discussing the major signs. 

    The appearance of the false messiahs

    Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (SAW) once said, “The hour will not come until nearly thirty false messiahs (dajjals) appear, each one claiming to be a messenger of Allah.” Another narration related by Thawban further explains that, “There will be 30 dajjals among my Ummah. Each one will claim that he is a prophet; but I am the last of the Prophets and there will be no prophet after me.”

    Among such self-proclaimed prophets is Musailamah bin Habib known as Musailamah al-Kaddab, or Musailamah the Liar. He was the first one to claim prophethood during the time of the Prophet (SAW). Tulayha was another one as well as Sajah al-Kahinah. Before she declared prophethood she had a reputation of being a soothsayer, thus Sajah al-Kahinah or Sajah the Soothsayer. She had a large following. Another person by the name of Aswad Ansi from the al-Ansi family, better known as Abhala bin Ka'b who lived in Yemen, proclaimed his prophethood towards the end of the Prophet’s life.

    Among the recent false messiahs is Mirza Husayn Ali known as Baha’ullah. He is the founder of the Baha’i faith founded in the 19th century in Persia. He claimed to be a messenger from God and alleged that he is the prophetic fulfillment of Babism. Babism is from “Bab” or the Gate. Sayyid Mirza Ali Muhammad, a young man from Shiraz, Persia, claimed to be the promised Mahdi (redeemer), prophesized by the Prophet (SAW), taking the title Bab or the “Gate.” He was opposed by the clergy and executed at the age of 30. His followers were also killed. The Baha’i World Center or headquarters and shrine is near Acre, Israel.

    Similarly, Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (d. 1908) of Indian origin claimed to have been divinely appointed as the promised Messiah and Mahdi. He is the founder of the Ahmadiyyah movement. The Ahmadiyyah movment was founded in Punjab, British India in Qadian. The followers of the movement are known as Qadianis. The 1974 Declaration of Muslim World League among other fiqh councils declared them a non-Muslim minority, by stating, “All the Muslim countries must impose restrictions on the activities of the claimant of Prophethood Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani’s followers; must declare them a non-Muslim minority must not entrust them with any post of responsibility in any Muslim country.” Mirza Gulam Ahmad would often refer to himself as nabi, prophet and rasool, messenger when in fact Muhammad (SAW) is the seal of all prophets as well as all messengers of God.

    There are many others who professed prophethood; the last of these false messiahs yet to come is al-Dajjal. The Prophet (SAW) informs, “Verily by Allah, the Last Hour will not come until thirty dajjals will appear and the final one will be the one-eyed false messiah.” This is considered to be one of the major signs.

    Honesty will be lost and power and authority will be given to the wrong people

    In his reply to a question about the Hour, the Prophet (SAW) said, “When the affair is entrusted to the wrong people, then expect the Hour.” While the Prophet (SAW) was addressing a gathering, a Bedouin came and asked him, “When will the Hour come.” The Prophet (SAW) ignored him until he finished his talk. He then answered the Bedouin, “When honesty is lost then wait for the Hour.” The Bedouin enquired, “How will that be lost?” The Prophet (SAW) replied “When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour.”

    It is a known fact, to a large degree, that the affairs of Muslims in Muslim lands are in the hands of corrupt leaders. They have forsaken the trust of authority Allah (SWT) entrusted them with. They neither serve the interest of their people nor the interest of Islam. In truth, they serve the interest of imperial powers. This condition can only be reversed when Muslims end the pursuit of dunya (the world of matter) and focus on the world to come serving the Master, Allah (SWT) and His cause.

    The Prophet (SAW) also prophesized our present condition. He (SAW) says, “Soon the nations will gather against you, just as people are called to a feast.” He was asked, “Is it because we will be few at that time, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “On the other hand, at that time you will be numerous, however, you will be (useless,) like the scum of the sea. And surely, Allah will remove the fear from the hearts of your enemies and He will certainly throw wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “And what is wahn O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied, “Love of dunya and hatred of death.”

    As we have forsaken our obligations and duties toward Allah and the deen in pursuit of the dunya, Allah (SWT) allowed our enemies to attack us, usurp our rich resources and exploit the corrupt Muslim leaders. The trust or amanah, is indeed in the wrong hands. We are undoubtedly closer to the Hour than one may think and unless we reform ourselves and our families and dedicate our lives for the sake of Allah and Islam, our condition will only worsen.

    The following hadith [2] refers to many current events and trends. Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, a prominent companion of the Prophet (SAW), narrates, “I said, ‘O messenger of Allah! Does the hour have a sign you can know it by?’” The Prophet replied, “Yes, O Ibn Mas’ood! There are signs and indications of the Hour and of its signs.” The Prophet (SAW) mentioned 16 things. “One, children will become filled with rage. Two, the rain will be very hot. Three, evil people will be widely spread. Four, the treacherous will be trusted while the trustworthy will be distrusted. Five, the dishes will be communicating continuously. Six, people will sever their family ties. Seven, every tribe (or nation) will be ruled by hypocrites and the wicked will control the market places. Eight, the mosques will be beautified with ornaments and the hearts are destroyed. Nine, the believer will be more humiliated than the ugly goat. Ten, you will see homosexuality and lesbianism widespread. Eleven, you will see young people having massive wealth. Twelve, movements to corrupt women. Thirteen, there will be plenty of Mosques and the pulpits are raised higher. Fourteen, the civilization that destroys the world and the destruction of (real) civilization. Fifteen, musical instruments (music), pride and arrogance as well as intoxication (drinking, drugs, etc.) will be widespread. Sixteen, many children will be born out of wed-lock.”

    How can we deny these signs as we witness the alarming behavior of young children who are filled with rage? Could the sign that predicts “rain will be very hot” mean acid rain, rain that burns and harms the environment including animals and humans?  History is filled with tales of evil and wicked people who caused havoc, destruction and loss of lives. The world will never forget Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini among others who were responsible for the deaths of millions of people. What to speak of the Muslim dictators who ruthlessly ruled Muslims for decades and continue to do so in so many Muslim lands. Such evil people have no regard for people’s safety or welfare. Of course, the countless wicked people who spread corruption and immorality are included in the prophecy, “evil people will be widely spread.” The prevalence of such evil is indeed a sign of the coming of the Hour.

    In his predictions, the Prophet (SAW) mentioned, “the treacherous will be trusted while the trustworthy will be distrusted.” Indeed, this is another sign that has come to pass. In our time, people have a tendency to regard trustworthy people as liars and sadly liars are considered trustworthy. It is too common and of no surprise to know that some allegedly trustworthy people commit all types of deceit and fraud; yet another sign of the Day of Judgment.

    “The dishes will be communicating continuously, “Tawasul al-Atbaq.” This astounding prediction makes one’s faith in the Prophet (SAW) more firm. Who would, 14 centuries ago, predict such a reality other than the Truthful one, Muhammad (SAW)? The word, “Tawasul” can only mean continuous communication and the Arabic word “Tabaq, pl. Atbaq,” means a plate, a serving dish. The way we communicate with one another through the satellite and dish communication system that revolutionized the world is another sign of the Hour. With the advent of such technology including smart phones and apps people are no longer interested in traditional social gatherings where humans interact with humans. Smart phone technology is the main cause for extreme social disintegration. Family structures that form the basis of society is undermined. People are no longer interested in visiting their relatives and strengthening family ties. The prediction, “People will sever their family ties” is now a reality and a reflection of the way we live today.

    Regarding the prophecy, “Every tribe (or nation) will be ruled by hypocrites and the wicked will control the market places,” people are no longer trusting the promises made to them by their rulers. This phenomenon is not only applicable to rulers in the Middle East or in Muslim Lands. It extends to Western leaders as well. Let us not forget the Enron scandal or the 2008 financial crisis that affected the lives of thousands of people. How about the American International Group, aka AIG; instead of imposing severe punishment on the CEO and managers of AIG insurance company who were responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and meltdown, our government used our tax dollars and handed them a bailout of billion. What is more upsetting is that AIG mangers among others received millions of dollars in bonuses that were publicly announced. These are only a few examples of many one may cite. Indeed, the Prophet spoke the truth, “the wicked will control the market places.”

    In terms of our houses of worship, signs of the Hour indicate, “The mosques will be beautified with ornaments and the hearts are destroyed,” and, “There will be plenty of Mosques and the pulpits are raised higher.” These two prophecies resonate with another hadith that says, “There will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Qur’an except its script. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but devoid of guidance. Their scholars will be the worst people under the sky; strife (fitna) will emanate from them and return back to them.”  This disastrous awful condition of Muslims has unfortunately arrived. There are many mosques around the world that would dazzle one’s eyes by its fancy decorations and expensive ornaments. Despite this, unfortunately, salah as it ought to be performed with humility and khushoo’ is turning into a mere ritual rather than serving as a means to purify one’s soul and make genuine connection with God. This sad condition reminds us of how close the Hour is.

    Near the end of time, the Prophet (SAW) predicted, “The believer will be more humiliated than the ugly goat.” How often a Muslim who reverts to real faith, adheres to the basic tenets of Islam, grows a beard or decides to wear a hijab, is ridiculed and mocked, called a fundamentalist and backward. Unfortunately, it happens quite often.

    Homosexuality has existed for centuries, however, the prophet predicted that, “Homosexuality and lesbianism will be widespread.” Aside from the nation of Lot, never before in the history of mankind have Homosexuals and Lesbians gained so much power and legal recognition than today. In America as well as many countries in the world, same sex marriage is legal and worse than that it is being taught in school as though it is the norm. Think of the devastating effect this could have on posterity and the psychological consequences on our children and grandchildren.

    Another prediction is that, “You will see young people having massive wealth.” It is common today to see young people become millionaires before turning 30. A quick search on Google will reveal how common it is among teens to amass wealth. Dozens of young people are taking advantage of the internet using their creative ideas and generating large sums of money. At age 32, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is one of the wealthiest people in the world, worth around billion.

    Another prophecy is, “Movements to corrupt women.” Women at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had more rights than women of the 20th century in the Western world among other countries. The right to an education, inherit, keep her maiden name, divorce, own a business, own property and political participation are but a few examples. The success of the Western feminist movement of the 60’s in achieving reforms, powers and freedoms was unfortunately followed by sexual perversion and exploitation of women. Modesty has disappeared and gender roles were altered. Young children raised by other than their mothers are deprived from the innate motherhood instincts of love, care, affection and much more. The sexual revolution that taught women to ‘free their bodies’ has only resulted in further exploitation and commodification of women.

    In terms of sexual perversion, the theory by Sigmund Freud that sexual drives are the primary motivational forces of human life helped create a movement that made illicit sex widespread. The sexual revolution also known as the sexual liberation of the 60’s has resulted in public nudity, pornography, premarital sex and homosexuality among other potent vices. While the concept of marriage is fading, the practice of cohabitation is on the rise. There are more people today who prefer to cohabit or live together without being married, and without any sense of responsibility or obligation. The sexual autonomy women demanded also resulted in more abortions and children born out of wedlock. Recent statistics broken down by ethnic groups are alarming; 17% of Asian Americans, 29% of non-Hispanic whites, 53% of Hispanics, 66% of American Indian and Native Alaskans and 73% of non-Hispanic blacks were born out of wedlock. [1] These statistics are nothing but a confirmation of the Prophet’s prophecy, “Many children will be born out of wedlock.”

    Another prophecy is that “Musical instruments (music), pride and arrogance as well as intoxication (drinking, drugs, etc.) will be widespread.” Prophecy fulfilled. In another prediction, the Prophet (SAW) said, “People from my ummah will drink (wine-khamr, alcoholic drinks) and call it a different name (spirits), musical instruments and female singers will be pounded on their heads. God would cause the earth to swallow some and turn others into apes and pigs.”

    No one can argue the impermissibility of alcoholic beverages as well as any kinds of drugs or intoxication that becloud the mind. Music on the other hand, is, admittedly, an ambiguous subject regarding halal and haram. Regardless of which opinion one follows and we do need to respect all opinions, the message regarding music in the above prediction, and God knows best, refers to listening to very loud music, loud enough to deafen one’s ears, be it in the car, in stadiums or through headphones where people sway their heads back and forth in the rhythm of super loud music that has a profound effect on the person and culture. Unfortunately, this culture has invaded the entire human race through the innovations of today’s gadgets. Such gadgets are like a double-edged-sword, they can have favorable and unfavorable consequences.

    The triad, music, sex and drugs have a tendency to encapsulate humans inside the three sides of the triangle and turn them into mere animals, even worse than animals, i.e. modesty disappears, while pride and arrogance sets in.

    The Prophet (SAW) also predicted the rise of, “The civilization that destroys the world and the destruction of (real) civilization.” Climate change is among the leading factors contributing to the destruction of the world. It appears that all natural ecosystems, including forests, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. are threatened. Contamination and pollution are affecting the water, land and air we breathe. This civilization of the destruction of the world began with the emergence of the industrial revolution that took place a couple of centuries ago. Another threat that may contribute to the destruction of the world is nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. God forbid, we engage in nuclear Armageddon, the radiation of which would cause millions of deaths. Lands would become contaminated and unfit for agriculture. Billions of people would die from famine. Human civilization would never be able to recover. These are all man-made disasters that may contribute to the destruction of the world.

    All these signs have or are occurring and are clear indications of the Hour. The Hour is real and near. May Allah (SWT) protect us and our children from such trials, ameen.


    [1] Although the hadith is graded as a weak hadith, the subjects mentioned can be traced in other hadiths.

    [2] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jul/29/don-lemon/cnns-don-lemon-says-more-72-percent-african-americ/

  • Dawah with Insight – Part 17: Signs of the Day of Judgment (Part A) (August 12, 2016) Open or Close

    Undoubtedly, the journey of man on earth will one day end and the divine project will be realized. Hence, the Last Hour is sure to come and it is near. “People ask you (O Prophet) about the Hour, say, ‘God alone has knowledge of it. You never know, the Hour may well be near.’” (al-Ahzab, 33:63)

    This is a clear indication that with the advent of Allah’s final Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad (SAW), the coming of the Hour is closer to humanity than ever before. This belief has been confirmed by Muhammad (SAW). In an authentic hadith, he (SAW) informs, “I and the Hour were sent like this,” and he joined his index and middle fingers, showing how near the Hour is.

    One may wonder and ask, is it really near, considering that it has been more than fourteen centuries since the arrival of Muhammad (SAW). The answer is yes. Time is relative, a day on earth per our calculation is 24 hours, however, a day with Allah is equal to 1,000 years of our counting. “And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of your count.” (al-Hajj, 22:47) Consequently, 1,400 years is hardly a day and a half according to Allah’s calculation. On the other hand, it may be only moments according to another method of calculation, The angels and the spirit ascend unto him in a Day which is equivalent to fifty thousand years.” (al-Ma’arij, 70:4) Indeed the Hour is near. “They see it as far away. But We see it (quite) near.” (al-Ma’arij, 70:6,7)

    We are indeed approaching the Last Hour and the end of the world is looming, “The Event ordained by Allah will come to pass, so seek not to hasten it.” (al-Nahl, 16:1) Surely, the time of “Their account has drawn near for the people, yet they are heedless (of it and) turning away.” (al-Anbiya, 21:1) Indeed most people are heedless of the greatest event to occur, al-Sa’ah. People live its signs yet they turn away from it. “So are they waiting for The Hour to come upon them suddenly? Its signs are already here, but once the Hour has actually arrived, what use will it be then to take heed.”  (Muhammad, 47:18) The prophet (SAW) did inform that on that day all people will believe, however, their belief will not be accepted on that day. It will be too late.

    The signs of the Last Hour may be divided into two types, minor and major signs. Among the minor signs there are some that have already past and some that have occurred and will occur again. There are some that have not occurred yet.

    Among the minor signs that have occurred and ended are:

    The advent of Muhammad (SAW) and his death: As mentioned earlier, the Prophet (SAW) said, “I and the Hour were sent like this.” Anas (RA) a prominent companion of the prophet (SAW) said that one day, when the sun was about to set, the Messenger of Allah gave a speech to his Companions, saying, “By He in whose Hand is my soul! Not much of this world is left compared to what has already passed of it, except as much as what is left in this day of yours compared to what has already passed of it.” Anas said, “We could only see a small part of the setting sun at the time.” These couple of minutes from the time the sun was setting to seeing part of the sun that has set, indicate that not much time has left for the Hour to come. Keep in mind, when one considers the age of the world at billions of years old, 1,400 years since the arrival of Muhammad (SAW) is an insignificant amount of time.

    The splitting of the moon: The miracle of the moon split into two parts attests to the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW) and is one of the signs of the Hour when the present world ends and the Hereafter begins. Anas bin Malik (RAA) said, “The people of Makkah asked the Messenger of Allah to produce a miracle, and he showed them the moon split into two parts and they saw (the mount of) Hira’ between them.” According to the report of Jubayr Bin Mut’im (RAA), “The Prophet said to us, witness this, witness this.” Of course the disbelievers denied the miracle and accused the Prophet of performing magic. The miracle occurred before migration and is confirmed by Allah (SWT), “The Hour has drawn near and the moon is split (in two). And if they see a sign, they turn away and say, ‘same old magic.’” (al-Qamar, 54:1,2)

    Among the signs that have occurred and will occur again are:

    The End of the Rightly Guided Caliphs: Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari (RAA) narrates that one night they prayed salatul maghrib (sundown prayer) with the Prophet (SAW) and then they decided to wait and join him for the Isha prayer. When the prophet (SAW) came out, he exclaimed, “You are still here.” They informed him that they wished to pray salatul Isha with him. He (SAW) said, “Good for you.” He then looked up to the sky and many of us also looked up and he said, “The stars are trust-keepers for the heaven, and when the stars wane, the heaven is brought what was promised (i.e. of the corruption of the world and the coming of the Day of Judgment); and I am a trust-keeper for my companions, so when I go my Companions will be brought what was promised them (i.e. of fitna and division); and my Companions are trust keepers for my community, so when they go my community will be brought what was promised to you.”

    “Indeed, that which you are promised, will surely come to pass, and you cannot escape.” (al-An’am, 6:134) In other words, the Hour that you are promised will surely come. The Rightly Guided Caliph era of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali was short lived; hardly 30 years. The Prophet (SAW), however, prophesized the good news that near the end of time, there will come a time when vicegerency in the pattern of prophethood (caliphate) will once again return. This will be the last chapter of human history where people will live in peace under the divine system of justice.

    In this prophecy according to al-Nu’man Ibn Bashir (RAA), the prophet (SAW) predicted five periods of history starting with his own time. The first period was his prophethood. He (SAW) informed his companions that prophethood will remain with them until Allah (SWT) ends it, i.e. he (SAW) expires. The second period predicted was a system of caliphate on the methodology and prophetic way and that will eventually come to an end. We know this second period as the period of the four rightly guided caliphs that came after the Prophet’s demise.

    According to the prophecy, the third period of Islamic history is that there will be a period of cruel kingship or Mulkan ‘Adodan, literally, biting kingship. This is the period of the Umayyad and Abbasids where simple life and just rule were replaced by dynasties, lavish living and kings rule with an iron fist i.e cruel kingship, although there were brief periods of just rulers such as Umar bin Abdul Aziz (the great-grandson of the second rightly guided caliph Umar bin al-Khattab). The Prophet (SAW) predicted that this period will also come to an end and be followed by the fourth period which is imposed kingship, Mulkan Jabriyah. Contemporary scholars such as Dr. Israr Ahmad (RA) interpret this to mean the colonial power that ruled after the abolishment of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924.

    In the fourth period of our Islamic history, the Islamic empire that stretched from east to west was divided into small nation states. Nationalism replaced religion. The cruel kingship of Muslim rulers was replaced by the imposed kingship of the British, French, Italian and Dutch rulers among other Western powers. The Prophet (SAW) predicted that this period will eventually come to an end if Allah wills.

    The last and final period prophesized by the Prophet was the return of the Islamic Caliphate on the pattern of prophethood. It has been almost a century since the abolishment of the Ottoman Caliphate. The nation-states gained independence from the colonial powers and the direct rule has come to an end. Muslim countries, however, are still under the influence of the West, indicating that this period has not ended completely. We are living the last days of Western domination in Muslim lands and are awaiting a leader that will restore the Islamic Caliphate and rule according to the divine system of justice. When this period comes it will mark the end of times because according to the narrator of the hadith, the prophet (SAW) after enumerating the five periods of our Islamic history kept silent indicating that it will be the end of the world.

    Groups like ISIS among other groups who allege to be the group that will establish Islam on the prophetic way are far from the truth. Their barbaric actions that range from killing Muslims, beheading innocent people, destroying mosques, churches and temples, selling young captive girls and slaying religious leaders among many other tragedies are absolutely contrary to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Their actions disqualify them to lead the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. 

    Indeed, the emergence of al-Mahdi and the return of Jesus (AS) are among the prophecies the Prophet (SAW) predicted near the end of time. The mission of Jesus upon his return is to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. He will be assisted by the Mahdi and both be helped by the believers. The false messiah, al-Dajjal who will have much influence over many people will eventually meet his fate. Jesus (AS) will kill al-Dajjal by Allah’s leave and will rid the world of evil. During such time justice will be established and peace will be restored. This will be the period of Caliphate in the pattern of prophethood.

    Daughters become Mistresses and the Poor Arabs would Compete in lofty Buildings: Among the many questions Jibril (AS) asked the Prophet (SAW) in the famous hadith was, “When will the Hour come?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “The one who is questioned knows no more than the questioner.” Jibril then inquired, “What are its signs?” The Prophet (SAW) gave two signs, “When the female slave (of Allah) gives birth to her mistress, and when you see the poor, naked, barefoot shepherds compete in building lofty buildings.”

    Factually, no one can deny the occurrence of these two signs. We are living this reality every day. In the first instance, mothers give birth to daughters expecting that when they reach the age of puberty mothers will be treated kindly, gently and respectfully. Instead, mothers have to deal with an attitude that is repugnant to Islamic teachings. The relationship between the mother and daughter will be reversed. Instead of the usual custom where mothers guide and tell their daughters what to do, daughters disrespectfully while raising their voice boss their mothers. Unfortunately, daughters get their way and mothers eventually surrender. In other words daughters become the mistress and mothers become subordinates.

    In the second instance, the Prophet (SAW) informed that there will come a time when the poor and destitute Arabs become very rich. They will in essence, abandon their religious duties and compete with one another in constructing tall buildings. Prophecy fulfilled. One may look at the lofty buildings that have been erected in the last couple of decades in the Arabian deserts. The desert of Dubai became a miniature New York with its iconic tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Other Arab states compete. Saudi Arabia will soon surpass Dubai as it plans to build yet a taller tower in Riyad. This competition is an all-out race to bring about the Final Hour. The Prophet (SAW) said, when these signs come to pass expect the Hour. We are indeed living the end of times leading up to the coming of al-Dajjal.

    Before the Hour comes, knowledge will disappear and there will be much bloodshed: The Prophet (SAW) in one of his authentic traditions informs, “Before the Hour comes there will come a time when knowledge will disappear and ignorance becomes prevalent and there will be much harj.” Upon inquiry, the prophet (SAW) explained what harj is; it is bloodshed. On another occasion, the Prophet (SAW) mentioned harj and one of the companions commented, “O messenger of Allah each year we kill so many idolaters (in battle fields).” The Prophet (SAW) said, “No, you will not be killing idolaters, rather you will kill one another, until a man will kill his neighbor, his cousin and relatives.”  Some of the people said, “O Messenger of Allah! Will we be in our right minds during that time?” He (SAW) replied, “No, reason and intellect will be taken away from most of the people at that time, and there will be left the insignificant people who have no brain.”

    Certainly the knowledge of the signs of the Hour have been ignored, our heedlessness of such signs have led us to killing one another be it in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or elsewhere in the Muslim world. Expect the Hour.

    One may ask, what must we as believers who frequent mosques and are certain about the hereafter do about all this? We must rectify ourselves and invest in the life to come. While some believe this is the only life to live, we must pay heed to the constant reminders Allah (SWT) repeats in the Qur’an.

    “And they (the deniers of Truth) say, ‘There is nothing beyond our life in this world, and we will not be raised (from the dead).’” “And if you could only see, when they are made to stand before their Lord, (and) He will say, ‘Is this not real?’ They will say, ‘Yes indeed, by our Lord.’ He will say, ‘Taste then the torment as a result of your disbelief.’” “Lost indeed are those who belie the meeting with Allah until, when the Hour suddenly comes they say, ‘How regretful we are for ignoring it.’ And they will be carrying the burden of their sins on their backs. How awful those burdens will be!” “The life of this world is nothing but a play and a distraction; and certainly the abode of the Hereafter is far better for those who are righteous. Do you (O people) not understand?” (al-An’am, 29-32)

    The time has come to, “Rush towards your Lord’s forgiveness and a garden as vast as the heavens and earth prepared for the righteous.” (Aal Imran, 3:133)

    Conscious believers migrate from all that Allah (SWT) dislikes and struggle against their passions, lusts and desires as well as wrong trends of society while patiently enduring the current trials, for the Hour is real and near. May Allah (SWT) save us from such trials, ameen.

  • Dawah with Insight – Part 16: The Hour (July 22, 2016) Open or Close

    As the human experience continues on planet earth, the time will come when the entire universe will become extinct. The term for the end of the world according to the Qur’an is al-Sa’ah or The Hour. The Hour of each person occurs at time of death where the soul is transitioning from one medium of life to another called al-BarzakhAl-Barzakh or the world of the grave is what separates the world of matter (this world) from the world to come. The barzakh is a barrier that lies between the temporal and eternal place.

    Allah (SWT) repeatedly reminds us, “Every soul shall taste death, and then you will be returning to Us.” (al-‘Ankabout, 29:57) The decreed time for each person is determined by Allah and when the time comes no one can delay it nor advance it. If God were to take people to task for the evil they do, He would not leave one living creature on earth, but He delays them until an appointed time. When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward.” (al-Nahl, 16:61)

    A similar ayah affirms this notion, “God takes the souls of the dead and the souls of the living while they sleep. He keeps hold of those whose death He has ordained and sends the others back until their appointed time. Truly, there are signs in this for those who reflect.” (al-Zumar, 39:42) The appointed time, in Arabic ajal, is known only to Allah.

    There are three other types of ajal, pl. aajaal, for a total of four types of periods where only Allah knows their end. The ajal of a baby in the womb of its mother is the second type, “And We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for a specified term.” (al-Hajj, 22:5) Indeed, no one knows exactly when a mother delivers her baby except Allah (SWT).

    The third type is the end of nations. The ajal of a community or a nation is the time of respite Allah grants to it before sending His punishment. “For every nation there is a set time, and when (the end of) their term comes, they can neither delay it by a single moment, nor can they hasten it.” (al-A’raf, 7:34) Communities and nations of the past such as the nation of Nuh, ‘Aad, Thamud and Lut, among other nations of the past met their fate by utter doom and destruction.

    Finally, the final appointed time is the ajal of the whole world commonly referred to as al-Sa’ah, The Hour. “They ask you (O Prophet) about the Hour, ‘When will it come to pass?’ Say, ‘Verily! The knowledge of it is with my Lord. He alone will reveal it when its time comes,’” (al-‘Araf, 7:187). Allah (SWT) confirms, “Verily, Allah (alone) has the knowledge of (when the last) Hour (will come).” (Luqman, 31:34)

    What is the Hour? Generally speaking, the Arabic word sa'ah signifies a short period of time or a short duration. However, sa’ah is a unit of time. An hour represents a period of time equal to 60 minutes which occurs 24 times a day. Time is relative. An hour on the moon is not equal to an hour on earth. Once every 24 hours the earth makes one full revolution as it takes 24 hours to rotate once on its axis. The duration from sunrise to sunrise on earth is 24 hours. Therefore, sa’ah in the nakirah form (without the definite article ‘the’ (or ‘al-’ in Arabic)), means ‘a short period of time’ as cited in the Qur’an. On the Day He gathers them (the people) together it will be as if they have stayed (in the world) no longer than a single hour of the day.” (Yunus, 10:45)

    On the other hand, al-Sa’ah, in the ma’rifah form (with the definite article ‘al-’), is The Hour referring to the Last Hour of existence, as well as for the day when all creation shall be revived and presented before the Lord of all creation.

    Al-Sa’ah, The Hour, is ‘the short period of time’ when earth-shattering and catastrophic events take place causing the world to end. It is the last hour before the end of the universe when the serial time ends. Physicists refer to it as the Big Crunch.

    In scientific terms, the Big Crunch is a contraction of the universe to a state of extremely high density and temperature, hypothesized as a possible scenario for its demise. The Big Crunch is one of the theories predicted by scientists regarding the possibility of the end of the universe.

    This theory is mentioned in the Qur’an as a fact; one based on unseen knowledge. As we know, there are two types of knowledge, acquired and revealed knowledge. The discourse on the Hour is based on Qur’anic and prophetic prophecies that are based on unseen realities. The first trait of a true believer as described in the beginning of surat al-Baqarah which states that they, “believe in the unseen,” (2:3) vis-à-vis revealed knowledge. In other words, they believe in the things that are beyond the reach of human perception.

    In fact, this Big Crunch scientists speculate is mentioned in the Qur’an. Unfortunately, They do not measure Allah with His true measure. On the Day of Resurrection, the whole earth will be in His grip and the heavens (the dimensions of the universe) will be rolled up in His right hand. Glory be to Him! He is far above the partners they ascribe to Him.” (al-Zumar, 39:67) Certainly, some people have underestimated the power of Allah (SWT).

    The word al-Sa’ah appears in the Quran a total of 39 times. There are countless sayings that mention the hour. All prophets of Allah warned their people about the Hour. This illustrates the importance of the subject. Certainly Musa (AS) and all the prophets after him talked about the Hour. While conversing with Musa (AS), Allah informed him “Verily! The Hour is coming. I have willed to keep the time of its coming hidden.” (Taha, 20:15)

    Not one verse can be found in the Old Testament that mentions the word the hour, however, the word hereafter, akhirah, is mentioned four times in the Old Testament, (Isiah, Ezekiel and twice in Daniel) and ten times in the New Testament. On the other hand, the word The Hour is mentioned in the New Testament mainly in the four gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John (13 times). It is also mentioned in Acts and twice in Revelation. But not as frequently as one may find in the Qur’an.

    The Prophet (SAW) in a hadith stated, “Indeed from among the signs of al-sa’ah (the Hour) is that knowledge will be taken away, and ignorance will prevail.”  Indeed, the knowledge about the Hour has disappeared. To most people, the topic of “the Hour” is science fiction, thanks in part to secularism.

    People throughout the ages asked, when is the coming of the hour? The Jews used to challenge Allah’s last and final Prophet and Messenger. They would ask him about the Hour, the spirit (ruh) and Zul Qarnain. The Quraish of Makkah, by way of mockery, would also ask the Prophet (SAW) when the Hour of doom was to occur of which he used to warn them so often. “They ask you (O prophet!) ‘When will the hour be established?’ Say, ‘My Lord alone has knowledge of it. He alone will reveal it when its time will come.’” (al-‘Araf, 7:187) Similarly, one finds in surat al-Nazi’at, “They ask you about the Hour, ‘When will it come?’ In what (position) are you that you should mention it? The ultimate end of it is (known only) to your Lord.” (79:42-44) “Surely, Allah (alone) has the knowledge of the Hour.” (Luqman, 31:34)

    Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the famous hadith, hadith Jibril, he was asked by angel Jibril himself who came to him in the form of a man, when is the Hour to occur? The Prophet replied, “He who is questioned knows no more than the questioner.” There are those who spend time searching for the exact timing of the Hour. In essence they are speaking on behalf of Allah without confirmed knowledge. How can they predict what an archangel like Jibril (AS) and Muhammad (SAW), the last messenger of Allah, did not know?

    What we know is that the Hour is coming. “The Hour will come without a doubt, and God will raise those who are in the graves.” (al-Hajj, 22:7) A confirmation with stronger emphasis is found in surat Ghafir, “Verily! The Last Hour is for sure coming without a doubt. Yet most people don’t believe (it).” (40:59)

    When the Hour comes, “It will lay heavy on the heavens and the earth.” (al-‘Araf, 7:187) It will be demanding and burdensome on the heavens, earth and the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth.

    When it comes the sky will be ripped apart, “When the sky is torn apart”[1] and “When the stars are scattered (in disorder)”[2] “When the sun is shrouded in darkness, and when the stars are dimmed.”[3] Similarly, the Hour will lay heavy on the earth, “When the seas burst,”[4] and in another place, “When the seas boil over”[5] and “When the graves turn inside out.”[6] Imagine how burdensome these events are going to be on the heavens and the earth that served man for centuries.

    The Hour will also lay heavy on the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth including angels, humans and jinn. Everything will perish, angels as well as humans and Jinn. All forms of life will expire and all of creation will cease to exist. “All that exist (in the universe) shall perish. And all that remains is the Face of your Lord, full of majesty, and Glory. ” (al-Rahman, 55:26)

    When the Hour occurs it becomes heavy on the hearts of people just as a person dying of cancer or other disease feels the weight of death. It will become evident that the Day of Judgment is near and that we will be meeting our Lord. On that day, “Each soul will then know what it sent forth and what it left behind.” (al-Infitar, 82:5) Every person will acknowledge their good and evil deeds.

    The coming of the Hour is going to be dreadful, shocking and frightful. “O people! Be mindful of your Lord, verily, the earthquake of the Hour will be a mighty thing.” (al-Hajj, 22:1)

    Consider this fearsome scene, “On the day when you see it, every nursing mother will neglect her suckling baby and every pregnant woman will miscarry. You will see people drunk when they are not drunk. Then again Allah´s torment is severe.” (al-Hajj, 22:2) It becomes apparent that we will be heading toward Judgment Day, the day of reckoning.

    The earth as we know it will change as will the sky. His promise will be fulfilled, “On the Day when the earth will be replaced by another earth and so will the heavens and (all people) shall appear before God, the One, the Irresistible.”(Ibrahim, 14:48)

    Unquestionably the hour is coming, “The Final Hour is sure to come, without doubt, but most people do not believe it.” (Ghafir, 40:59) One may ask, are we ready and prepared for it? God-conscious and God-fearing people know very well that no advance notice will be given when it occurs. “It will not come upon you except suddenly.” (al-A’raf, 7:187) It is a divine secret which shall disclose itself unexpectedly.

    The Prophet (SAW) said, “The Hour will start suddenly for the people while one is mending his watering hole, giving water to his cattle, setting his goods in the market or lowering his scale and raising it.” It is clear from this hadith that the Hour will occur suddenly among people who are going about their daily affairs. It will come so sudden the Prophet (SAW) swore, “I swear by the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the Hour will commence while a man has raised his hand with a bite to his mouth, but will not eat it.”

    Allah made it very clear, “Verily! The Hour is coming. I would keep it hidden so that each soul may be compensated according to the measure of its endeavor.” (Ta Ha, 20:15)  Perhaps the wisdom behind keeping it hidden is to keep us in a state of suspense and anxiety. A feeling only a believer understands. A true believer is always fearful of its dreadful events and consequences, thus rushing into performing good deeds. Indeed, only they are in awe of it. “Those who do not believe in it seek that it should come soon, while the believers are fearful of it and know that it is the Truth. Unquestionably, those who dispute about the Hour have gone far, far astray.” (Fatir, 42:18)

    We may once again ask ourselves, are we ready for the horrors of the final hour? 


    [1] Al-Inshiqaq, 84:1, Al-Infitar, 82:1

    [2] Al-Infitar, 82:2

    [3] Al-Takweer, 81:1,2

    [4] Al-Infitar, 82:3

    [5] Al-Takweer, 81:6

    [6] Al-Infitar, 82:4

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 15: The World of the Grave (Barzakh) (February19, 2016) Open or Close

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    The World of the Grave (Barzakh)

    The World of the Grave (barzakh) is one of the last stations in our soul’s journey. The soul begins its journey from the world of spirits or the world of command to the world of creation; the world that is witnessed by humans, i.e. the present world. Both worlds belong to Allah (SWT), “His is the creation and His is the command. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (al-A’raf, 7:74)

    Our spirit and body come together in one form to inhabit planet earth. This phase of our existence is most important. We are informed that Allah (SWT) is the One “Who created death and life that He may test you (to see) who among you is best in conduct (and deeds). And He is the Almighty, the Forgiving.” (al-Mulk, 67:1-2)

    The only way to pass this test is to recognize the Creator, know our purpose and surrender to Allah (SWT) unconditionally. This test gets harder the closer we get to Him and the examination ends at our death. Unlike the first experience humans undergo in the womb of their mothers where the spirit is joined with the body, at death the spirit is separated from the body. 

    This phenomenon of separation of body and spirit happens daily in our present life. The spirit of every person ascends to heaven every night as we sleep. For some their spirits return upon waking while others’ spirits are kept with God, and death arrives in his or her sleep. The Qur’an explains this fact. “It is Allah who takes the souls at time of death and those that do not die (He takes) during their sleep. He then keeps those whom He had decreed death and returns the others back for a specified term. Verily in this are Signs for a people who reflect.” (al-Zumar, 39:42) 

    We experience what is called ‘minor death’ every day. Every day we wake up, we are given yet another chance to do good and succeed. This phenomenon continues until our appointed time comes when we permanently depart from this world, making our journey to another world called al-Barzakh, otherwise known as the world of the grave. Death as we know it is not pure annihilation. It is a transition from one world to another, i.e. from the present world to the world of the hereafter. The intermediary cycle between the two worlds is al-barzakh.

    Linguistically, the barzakh is simply a barrier or partition according to the Qur’an. “The two seas (of fresh and salt water) He released meet each other. There is a barrier (barzakh) between them they do not cross.” (al-Rahman, 55:19,20)

    The Qur’an describes the concept of the barzakh in connection with those who deny the hereafter. “Until, when death comes to one of them, he cries, ‘My Lord send me back that I may do good in that which I left behind.’” God replies, “‘Nay! He is only saying these words.’ And a barrier (barzakh) separates them until the day they are resurrected.” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:99,100)

    The body of every person, whether buried, drowned or cremated returns to the very same source it came from, the earth. “From it (the earth) We created you, into it We shall return you, and from it We shall raise you once again.” (Ta Ha, 20:55) Our bodies will eventually decay, decompose and return to dust while our spirits await Judgment Day. 

    One may wonder what happens to the spirit at the time of death. The angel of death dispatches his troops to take out the souls of the dead, “When death overtakes any of you, Our messengers take his soul. They never fail in their duty.” (al-An’am, 6:61) The souls of the wicked will be harshly extracted while the souls of pious people will come out gently. God swears, “By the (angels) who forcefully pull out (the souls of the wicked); and by the (angels) who gently take out (the souls of the righteous).” (al-Nazi’at, 79:1,2)

    We are informed that at time of death the unseen world becomes visible. “Certainly you were heedless of this, but now We have removed from you your veil, so your sight today is sharp.” (Qaf, 50:22) This phenomenon is similar to one who is asleep and dreaming. The dream ends upon waking up. Similarly, when the eyes close for good, one’s dream-world ends and the state of wakefulness begins. At that time one is able to recognize the realities of the hereafter. According to Ali Bin Abi Talib (RAA), “People are asleep, when they die they will wake up.” 

    No one has claimed to have risen from the grave and shared their experience. The knowledge of the supernatural realm is confined only to Allah (SWT). Through revelation and inspiration, the Prophet (SAW) brings to us the news of that domain. We have a complete account from the Prophet (SAW) regarding the journey of the spirit and the reality of the grave. A noble companion by the name of Al-bara’ Bin Azib (RAA) narrates:

    “We went out with Allah's messenger (SAW) to the funeral of a man of the Ansar (a native resident of Madinah). We came to the grave and the niche in the side of the grave (Al-Lahd) had not been dug out yet. So Allah's messenger (SAW) sat and we sat around him as if we had birds upon our heads (an expression that meant, we were still and very alert) and he had a stick in his hand with which he would poke the ground. He then raised his head and said, “Seek refuge in Allah from the punishment of the Grave,” two or three times. 

    Then he said, “When the believing servant departs this world and is about to enter the next life (the hereafter), angels with bright faces, as if their faces were the sun, descend upon him. With them is a shroud from Paradise and perfume for embalmment from the fragrance of Paradise. They sit away from him at a distance the eye can see. The angel of death (AS) then comes and sits by his head and says, ‘O good soul, come out to forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure.’ So it comes out (smoothly) just as a drop flows out from the spout of a drinking vessel, and he (the angel of death) takes it and does not leave it in his hand even for a blink of an eye until they place it in that shroud and that perfume, and a smell emanates from him like the smell of the best musk found on the face of the earth.” 

    The Prophet (SAW) continued, “So they ascend with it (the soul) and they do not pass by any group of angels except that they say, ‘Who is this good and pure soul?’ They reply, ‘So and so, son of so and so,’ using the best of his names which he used to be called by in this world. When they reach the lowest heaven, they ask for permission to enter and so the gates open for them. The angels of each heaven escort him to the next heaven until they reach the seventh heaven. Allah the Mighty and Magnificent would say, ‘Write the record of my servant in Illiyyeen1 and return him (the soul) to the earth (to his body) for I created them from it and to it I return them and from it I shall raise them once again.’” 

    The Prophet (SAW) continued, “So his spirit is returned to his body and then two angels come to him and make him sit up. They will then say, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He replies, ‘My Lord is Allah.’ They ask, ‘What is your Deen (religion)?' He replies, ‘My Deen is Islam.’ They ask, ‘Who is this man who was sent to you?’ He replies, ‘He is Allah's Messenger.’ They ask, ‘How did you know that?’ He replies, ‘I read the Book of Allah, and I believed in it and confirmed it.’ Then, a voice from heaven is heard declaring, ‘Indeed my servant has spoken the truth, so furnish a place for him from Paradise, clothe him from (the garments) of Paradise and open a door to Paradise for him.’ And so its gentle breeze and fragrance will be felt by him and his grave is expanded for him as far as he can see. A handsome, well-dressed man smelling good comes to him and says, ‘Receive good news that please you. This is your day which you were promised.’ He (the righteous soul) asks, ‘Who are you? For your face is a face of one who brings good news.’ He replies, ‘I am your good deeds.’ He (the good soul) will then say, ‘My Lord! Establish the hour so that I may rejoin with my family and wealth.’” 

    The Prophet (SAW) continued, “And indeed when a disbelieving servant departs this world and is about to enter the next life (the hereafter,) angels with dark faces descend upon him, with them is a coarse sack-cloth, and they sit at a distance from him as far as the eye can see. Then the angel of death comes and sits by his head and says, ‘O foul soul, come out to Allah's displeasure and anger.’ So the soul clings to his body, and he (the angel of death) pulls it out just as a pronged roasting fork is pulled out from wet wool. And so he takes it and does not leave it in his hand even for a blink of an eye until they place it in that coarse sack-cloth. And an offensive stench emanates from him like that of the foulest smelling rotten corpse on the face of the earth.

    The Prophet (SAW) continued, “So they ascend with it (the soul) and they do not pass by any group of angels except that they say, ‘Who is this foul soul?’ They reply, ‘So and so, son of so and so,’ using the ugliest names which he used to be called by in this world. When they reach the lowest heaven, they ask for permission to enter and it will not be opened for him. And then the messenger of Allah (SAW) recited, ‘For them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter paradise until a camel passes through the eye of the needle.’ (al-‘Araf, 7:40) Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent then says, ‘Write his record (of deeds) in Sijjeen within the lowest earth.’ Hence, his soul is fiercely flung down. He (SAW) then recited, ‘And whoever ascribes partners with Allah, it is as though he had fallen from the sky and snatched by the birds or blown by the wind to a far-off place.’ (al-Hajj, 22:31) And so his soul is returned to his body and two angels come and make him sit up. They will then say to him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ He replies, ‘Ah, Ah, I do not know.’ They ask, ‘What is your Deen?’ He replies, ‘Ah, Ah, I do not know.’ They ask, ‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’ He replies, ‘Ah, Ah, I do not know.’ Then, a voice from heaven is heard declaring, ‘He lied, so furnish a place for him from Hell, and open for him a gate to the Fire.’ And so its scorching heat and flame will be felt by him and his grave is compressed on him to the extent that his ribs interlace. Then a man with an ugly face wearing unsightly clothes smelling awful comes to him and says, ‘Have the news of that which will grieve you. This is your day which you were promised.’ He (the wicked soul) would then ask, ‘Who are you? For your face is a face of one who brings bad news.’ He replies, ‘I am your bad deeds.’ He (the bad soul) will then say, ‘My Lord! Do not establish the hour.’”

    A true believer will have an easy time transitioning from the present world to the next. While in the grave, Allah (SWT) will give the true believers the ability to answer the fundamental and most important questions. It is inevitable that they will succeed, “Allah will strengthen those who believe with the firm Word in the life of this world and in the life to come (the hereafter) and Allah sends astray the unjust ones. Allah does whatever He wills.” (Ibrahim, 14:27) 

    Allah (SWT) affirms that during death (and while alive), the angels will certainly support the believers who are on the straight path, “Surely those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then remain steadfast, the angels descend upon them (saying), ‘Have no fear or grief, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise which you have been promised. We are your allies in this world and in the world to come, where you will have everything you desire and ask for as a welcoming gift from the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful One.’” (Fussilat, 41:30-32)

    On the contrary, the experience of a disbelieving soul is quite different at the time of death. “If you could only see the wicked in the agonies of death as the angels stretch out their hands (saying), ‘Release your souls. Today you will be repaid with humiliating torment for saying things about Allah that is not true and for arrogantly rejecting His revelations.’” (al-An’am, 6:93)

    And thus the angels convey the news to the departing souls. Good news of paradise to the believers and disappointing news of wrath and punishment to the disbelievers. And unlike living above ground in beautiful homes and palaces, the deceased dwells in a tiny pit dug underground. For a believer, the grave is a garden of the gardens of Paradise and for a disbeliever; the grave is a pit of the pits of the Hell Fire.

    A believing soul will enjoy the comfort of their grave anxious to be raised and admitted to their final abode that is beyond description. In a sacred tradition where the Prophet (SAW) speaks in his own words on behalf of Allah (SWT), he said, “Allah said, ‘I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and no heart has conceived.’” The narrator, Abu Hurairah (RAA), then said, “Recite if you will, ‘And no soul can comprehend what blissful delights has been kept hidden for them as a reward of what they used to do.’” (al-Sajdah, 32:17) 

    The disbelieving soul, on the other hand, will be tormented in their grave. Regarding hypocrites who are worse than disbelievers, Allah (SWT) asserts, “We shall punish them twice and then they will be returned to a severe punishment.” (al-Tawbah, 9:101) The hypocrites will suffer misfortune in this world, be tormented in the grave and severely punished in Hell. 

    In the world of barzakh, the fire will be displayed before the disbelievers. “And a terrible torment engulfed Pharaoh’s people; they will be exposed to the fire in the morning and in the evening and on the day the hour shall come to pass (Judgment Day) (it will be said), ‘Admit Pharaoh’s people to the worst punishment.’” (Ghafir, 40:45,46) 

    The grave or the barzakh is the first station in our journey toward eternal life. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Indeed, the grave is the first station of the stations of the hereafter (akhirah). Hence, whoever is successful, then what comes after will be easy for him and whoever fails, ahead is only hardship.” 

    The state of the dead in the world of barzakh is very similar to our experience of having pleasant dreams or nightmares while asleep. The punishment in the grave is so real the Prophet himself sought refuge in Allah from the torment of the grave at the end of every prayer. 

    May Allah (SWT) save us from the torment of the grave and the Hell Fire, ameen.

    End.

     


    1 A place in the seventh heaven beneath the Divine Throne where the souls of the believers and their registers of deeds are kept.

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 14: Death the Inescapable Reality (February 05, 2016) Open or Close

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    Death the Inescapable Reality

    This synopsis will briefly cover the last two stages of “The Soul’s Journey from Inception to Eternity” with emphasis on the fourth stage, “Death, the Inescapable Reality.”

    The five periods of our existence start with the spirits that were originated by the command of Allah (SWT) and the heavenly covenant of “Alast” He took from them. The second period is the spirits’ first experience with death. Thereafter, Allah (SWT) creates the universe and all living things including humans whose bodies are joined with their assigned spirits that are dormant.

    The third period is the first life on earth. A lengthy discourse was presented on Adam, his creation, role and mission as well as his descendants and the struggle between good and evil. We also learned about the three types of souls, the inciting soul (al-nafs al-ammarah), the self-accusing soul (al-Nafs al-lawwamah) and finally the contented soul (al-nafs al-mutma’innah).

    The fourth period is the second death or the earthly death, the undeniable reality. And finally, the last period is the second experience of life that is yet to come, the life of the hereafter. Allah (SWT) informs, “Every soul shall taste death, then to Us you will be returned.” (al-‘Ankaboot, 29:57)

    If anything is certain in this life, it is death. It is inevitable and unavoidable. Every second of every day a person dies somewhere in the world. No soul can deny Death, the inescapable reality.

    Death is a subject people often avoid, much less remember. The Qur’an confirms in many places, “Each soul shall taste death.” This repetition is used to remind the believers of this reality allowing them to reflect on their present lives and the life to come. Conscious believers who are firm on their belief in the hereafter will take heed of these reminders and prepare themselves for that moment of truth.

    Every living soul shall go through this phase and there is no way out, “Say (O Prophet), ‘the death you are running away from will come to meet you and you will be returned to the One who knows the unseen as well as the seen and He will then inform you of what you used to do.’” (al-Jumu’ah, 62:8) More emphasis is made in the following ayah, “Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you are inside lofty towers.” (al-Nisa’, 4:78)

    The Messenger of Allah (SAW) in his first public speech reminded his people of this fact. He (SAW) stressed, “By Allah! You will die just as you sleep, and you will be resurrected just as you wake up from sleep. You will be recompensed on account of what you do, earning good for good and evil for evil. Verily, it is either Paradise for eternity or the Fire for eternity.”

    The process of death begins with the angel who is assigned this duty. Along with archangels Jibril, Mika’il and Israfil, the archangel of death is ‘Izra’il according to Islamic traditions. The Qur’an refers to him as “The Angel of Death” or “Malak al-Mawt.“Say (O Prophet), ‘The Angel of Death put in charge of you will reclaim you, and then you will be brought back to your Lord.’” (al-Sajdah, 32:11)

    Some die suddenly while others undergo pain and suffering. According to prophetic traditions, sickness is a source of mercy and a chance for forgiveness. In one saying Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says, “For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief or hurt that afflicts a believer – even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn – God wipes off his sins and his sins fall away from him as leaves fall from a tree.” This is God’s gift to the believer. 

    Unfortunately, many people are heedless of death. The attraction of this world keeps them busy making money, competing for fame and seeking earthly pleasures. This tragedy leaves the soul hopeless and helpless. This weakness was profoundly expressed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in a hadith when he warned the Muslims of a time when Allah (SWT) would cast “wahn” in their hearts. When he was asked about the “wahn,” the Prophet replied, “Love of the present world (dunya) and hatred of death.” Unfortunately, most people are deceived by the present life as Allah (SWT) recounts, “But you prefer the life of this world. While the hereafter is better and everlasting.” (al-‘Ala, 87:16,17)

    But what is life? Philosophers and thinkers have grappled this question since the beginning of time. Rather than discussing their speculative thoughts, it is best to know what God Himself says about life. “Know (O people) that the life of this world is (nothing but) play and amusement, an adornment and boasting among you, and an increase in wealth and children…” This is generally, the reality of man’s perception about this worldly life, whether that person is a Muslim, a follower of another faith tradition, an agnostic, or even an atheist. This life, Allah (SWT) describes, “Is like plants that grow after rain; (their growth) delights the tillers, but then you see them wither away, turn yellow and become stubble…”

    Indeed, Allah (SWT) spoke the truth. We are born into this world as babies wanting only to play and have fun, compete with our peers in our teenage years, reach the prime of our youth, obtain a career or establish a business and spend the rest of our lives making money and children until we become old, frail, sick and eventually die. What has one done for the next life, the real eternal abode? In continuation of the ayah above, Allah (SWT) then stresses, “There is terrible punishment in the next life as well as forgiveness and pleasure from God…” And finally, He (SWT) declares, “The life of this world is only an illusory pleasure.” (al-Hadid, 57:20) If only people understand.

    Allah (SWT) gives people chance after chance. “If God were to take people to task for the evil they do, He would not leave one living creature on earth, but He defers them to an appointed time: when their time comes they cannot delay it for a moment nor can they advance it.” (al-Nahl, 16:61).

    Although death is certain and inevitable, people tend to live as if they will exist forever. Death knows no age. Often times it comes suddenly. Scores die in the prime of their youth. The term of one’s life is predetermined before birth and is known solely by Allah (SWT). Only He (SWT) knows when and where each person will expire.

    The mystery of life and death is not without purpose. The life of this world is a test from God. Humans are tested on the basis of the heavenly covenant Allah (SWT) took from them in the world of spirits. “Blessed is He in Whose hand is the dominion (of the universe), and He has power over all things. The One who created Death and Life that He may test you (to see) which of you is best in deed: and He is the Almighty, the Forgiving.” (al-Mulk, 87:1,2) People are constantly put to all types of tests. “Every soul is certain to taste death. We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us you will all return.” (al-Anbiya’, 21:35)

    Believers are urged to be patient while facing trials and tribulations. “O you who believe! Seek help through patience and prayer, for God is with the patient.” (al-Baqarah, 2:153) Believers throughout their entire lives anticipate hardships and difficulties. They are aware of Allah’s promise, “We shall certainly test you with fear, hunger, loss of property, lives, and crops. But, give good news to those who are patient.” (al-Baqarah, 2:155)

    Believers do not complain but resign themselves to God’s will. They remain patient in the face of adversity knowing that they belong to God and to Him they will return. “Those who, when inflicted with a calamity say, ´We belong to God and to Him we will return.’ Those are the people who will have blessings and mercy from their Lord; they are the ones who are guided.” (al-Baqarah, 2:156,157) Believers are not afraid of death.

    What is the reality of death? When it occurs, the spirit (ruh) leaves the body. We learn through prophetic traditions that a good soul comes out of the body with ease, while an evil soul, which resists leaving the body is taken out harshly by the angel of death. The two types of souls are accordingly honored and dishonored in their respective journeys to the heavenly dimensions and back to the grave when they are questioned.

    Good souls will make their journey to their Lord receiving the good news of Paradise. While the wicked souls, “To those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, the gates of Heaven will not open for them, nor will they enter Paradise until the camel passes through the eye of a needle. Such is Our reward for the criminals.” (al-Araf, 7:40)

    The souls will return to the grave for the final exam. A good soul will have no problem answering simple questions such as who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your Book? As simple as they may sound, a wicked soul that lived in rebellion against Allah (SWT) will have a terrible time in the grave and will not be able to answer the posed questions. May Allah (SWT) bestow His Mercy upon all of us, ameen.

    We must recognize that people take nothing with them to their graves. We learn through a prophetic saying, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things, perpetual charity (Sadaqah Jariyah); knowledge which is beneficial; or a righteous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).”

    Such admonitions remind us that we should hasten in performing good deeds lest our time expire and our book of deeds be closed forever. The Prophet (SAW) in a hadith said, “An intelligent wise person is one who controls his desires (nafs) and works for that which come after death.” The following admonition speaks volumes, “O you who believe! Be mindful of God, and let every soul look to what it sends for tomorrow (Day of Judgment) and fear God, for God is well aware of everything you do.” (al-Hasr, 59:18)

    Indeed,Every soul shall taste death and you will be paid in full (but) only on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is kept away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise will have triumphed. The present world is only an illusory pleasure.” (Aal Imran, 3:185)

    Death is an inescapable reality that everyone must acknowledge. What are we to do about it? How are we going to prepare for it? We should be ready for what is to come after death i.e. the akhirah, resurrection, and Judgment Day. May Allah (SWT) make our good deeds heavy on the Day of Judgment and bestow His Grace and Mercy on us all, ameen.

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 13: Know Thyself (January 29, 2016) Open or Close

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    Know Thyself – The Islamic View on the Human Psyche

    Adam and Eve settle on earth and begin the human experience. Through them, the process of procreation begins and the human race is born. “O people! Be mindful of God who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate and from the two spread a multitude of men and women.” (al-Nisa’, 4:1)

    We find ourselves born into this world having no choice in the matter. If the goal in life is success and happiness, the goal for the next life, for a believer, must be salvation. What must we then do to attain salvation?

    We must begin by knowing ourselves, knowing our real selves – according to the Ancient Greek aphorism, “Know Thyself.” “O You who believe! Be mindful of God, and let every soul look to what it has sent forth for tomorrow; and fear God, for God is well aware of everything you do. And do not be like those who forget God, so God made them forget themselves (their souls): they are the rebellious ones.” (al-Hasr, 59:18,19)

    The basic philosophy of the Qur’an regarding the human individual, as we learned, is that the human personality is a composite of two components, the animal and the spiritual components. Two fully conscious and independent beings, the animal being and the spiritual being, mysteriously joined together to form the human being or the human soul. In other words, man is a composite of a body and a spirit.

    On the one hand, we have animal characteristics. All the instincts found in animals are present in the human being. Self-preservation and preservation of the species are common to both animals and humans. Just like animals, humans have the innate desire to stay alive and an instinctive tendency to preserve their own species. Two basic and important necessities for self-preservation are food and water. A human being cannot survive without these two essentials. Similarly, the innate attraction between the opposite sexes is put in place for the continuation of the human race, i.e. preservation of the species.

    In every human being there are animal characteristics and a divine spirit. This concept is explicated in the Qur’an, “And mention (O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create a mortal (bashar) out of dried clay, formed from dark mud.” (Al-Hijr, 15:28) This is the human body or the animal aspect of man. The next ayah presents the other aspect, the divine spirit, “And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration!” (Al-Hijr, 15:29) The Qur’an calls this aspect of the human personality the spirit (ruh). Philosophers call it “the Self” thus “Know Thyself.”

    It is this soul people have a tendency to forget, “And do not be like those who forget God, so God made them forget themselves (their souls).” The entire philosophy of the self of Sir Muhammad Iqbal (Philosopher/Poet of Islam) is based on this ayah.

    One may ask, does anyone forget his own body? Does anyone forget to eat? The requirements of the body are always fulfilled. When the body falls ill, we seek treatment. In truth, no one is unmindful of his or her animal existence. It is the inner self, the real self, or the spirit (ruh) within them that they have forgotten. It is the spiritual aspect of our being that is ignored.

    Man’s essential nature is divine. It is lost due to his animal inclinations and ignorance. As described by ancient philosophers and sages, “Man in his ignorance is wrapped in the material sheaths that encompasses the true self.” It is on the basis of this reality Adam became the vicegerent (khalifah) of Allah (SWT) and the angels were commanded to prostrate before him. 
    They prostrated before him because of the divine spirit that was breathed into him. All angels, including Jibril, Israfeel, Mika’il and Izraeel, fell down in prostration honoring this unique creature that possessed the divine spirit.

    As mentioned above, both the human spirit and the human body make the human soul or al-nafs. The Qur’an identifies three types of souls, 1) The inciting soul (al-Nafs al-ʾAmmārah), 2) The self-accusing soul (al-Nafs al-Lawwamah); and 3) The contented soul (al-Nafs al-Muṭmaʾinnah). 

    Modern psychology concurs with the fourteen-century-old concept of the human psyche or human personality. Sigmund Freud, who is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, articulated the above mentioned three types of souls as the id, ego and super ego, all developing at different stages of our lives. According to Freud, “The personality of the newborn child is all id and only later does it develop an ego and super-ego.” 

    According to the Qur’an, the lowest of these souls is the inciting nafs (al-Nafs al-ʾAmmarah), the soul that incites us to commit evil. This type of soul is directly related to the lower baser self of the human personality. It requires immediate sensual gratification. The instincts for survival are blind and demand instant fulfillment and satisfaction. This is what modern psychology calls the id. The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche that responds directly and immediately to the instincts.1

    An example of the id in action is the story of Yusuf (AS) when he met the wife of al-Aziz, the chief minister of Egypt. Upon first sight of Yusuf (AS), she immediately fell in love with him and ultimately seduced him, although her attempts at seduction were thwarted. The Qur’an describes the intense love and lust the wife of al-Aziz had for Yusuf, “And she, in whose house he was (living), sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, ‘Come to me.’ He replied, ‘God forbid! He (your husband) is my master who has made my stay honorable. Truly, wrongdoers will never prosper.’” (Yusuf, 12:23 )

    The lustful desire and sexual appetite is so compelling that it spares no one except those upon whom Allah (SWT) bestows His Grace, “And indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire had he not seen the evidence of his Lord. Thus (it was), that We might turn away evil and fornication from him. Surely, he was one of Our sincere slaves.” (Yusuf, 12:24) 

    A prophet of Allah (SWT) who was spared from such an act does, however, admit how potent the sexual urge is. He confessed, “I do not claim to be innocent myself. Verily, the human soul is inclined towards evil, save those upon whom my Lord bestows His grace. Verily, my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful” (Yusuf, 12: 53). The human “self” is not invincible against temptation. It certainly inclines to commit evil. 

    We must not forget that prophets are also humans. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was asked to explain this fact, “Say (O Prophet) I am a human being (bashar) like you, (but) revelation has come to me that your God is One God” (al-Kahf, 18:110). The strong connection and constant communication with their Lord enabled them to curb their carnal desires. 

    The second type of soul is the self-accusing soul (al-Nafs al-Lawwamah). This is the soul that is conscious of its imperfections. At this stage the conscience is awakened. The giant spirit within is stimulated and the self accuses the soul of its intended evil actions. The soul is reproached and scolded when an evil act is committed. Hasan al-Basri (RA) said, “You always see the believer censuring himself and saying things like ‘Did I want this? Why did I do that? Was this better than that?’” 

    We are reminded by this type of soul in surat al-Qiyamah when Allah (SWT) swore by the anticipated Day of Resurrection, “Nay, I swear by the Day of Resurrection; and nay! I swear by the self-reproaching soul.” (al-Qiyamah, 75:1,2)

    This is the stage wherein the self is fully aware and cognizant of its reality. The knowledge of good and evil is infused in the human soul from inception, “(Consider) the human self, and how it is formed. And how it is inspired with (the consciousness of) its evil and its self-righteousness” (al-Shams, 91:7,8). The soul recognizes its weaknesses and desires perfection. The soul of a believer always repents and seeks forgiveness from God.

    At this stage there is an inner struggle between the lowest soul and the self-accusing soul. The closer one is to God the more difficult the struggle becomes. It is for this reason Muhammad (SAW) called it the supreme jihad. It is the clash between the animal instincts “al-nafs al-Ammarah,” the commanding or passionate soul that incites people to evil, versus the desire to obey and please God. The Prophet (SAW) was once asked, which jihad is most supreme? He (SAW) replied, “To strive against your own soul in order to obey God.”

    This is the supreme jihad. It is that inner battle against all evil forces that prevent one from achieving the higher goal. Those who resist, struggle and wage jihad against their passion, urges and desires in order to obey God’s commands are promised guidance, “As for those who strive hard (jahadu) in Our cause, We shall certainly guide them to Our paths, for God is indeed with those who do good.” (The Spider, 29:69)

    It is through individual development (tarbiyah) and purification of the soul (tazkiyah) as well as the frequent remembrance of God (zikr), one may reach the next and final stage, the soul that is at peace.

    The third type of soul is the self-contented soul (al-Nafs al-Muṭmaʾinnah). This is the stage of maturity in belief. At this level, one’s entire life is dedicated to serving God. They declare what Muhammad (SAW) was instructed, “Say, ‘Verily, my prayers and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, Lord of the worlds.’” (al-An’am, 6:162)
    At this level, one is firm in their faith. They are in total control of their animal instincts. They are beyond the world of matter, focused on the next world to come and are absolutely satisfied with the Will of God. The soul is at peace even at times of hardship and adversity. In praising such people, the Prophet (SAW) says, “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” (Muslim)

    The soul is no longer in search of the Truth. It finds Him and longs for departure, “O you tranquil soul! Return to your Lord, well-pleased (with Him), well-pleasing (to Him). Enter, then, with my (true) servants, enter My Paradise” (al-Fajr, 89:27-30). This is the basic philosophy of the human soul according to the Qur’an.

    In conclusion, there can be three possibilities concerning the animal and the spiritual being of man. One, either the body overtakes the spirit fulfilling only the demands of the carnal desires allowing the soul to commit evil (al-Nafs al-Ammarah), or, two, the body and the spirit are at par with one another. The soul is in a tug of war between the body and the spirit. The soul is in a constant struggle between fulfilling the demands of the body and the demands of the spirit. This is the status of the self-accusing soul (al-Nafs al-Lawwamah). The third possibility is that the spirit overwhelms the body and rises above the animalistic nature of man. The process of the purification of the soul continues until it reaches the status of the self-contented soul (al-Nafs al-Mutma’innah). 

    Comparing the three states of souls with the three levels of our faith; Islam, Iman and Ihsan, one may conclude that each of those souls correspond to a particular level of faith. Muslims just like any other humans share the same carnal desires and unless one possesses real faith (iman), we fall victim to our passions and find ourselves subdued by our evil inclinations ((al-Nafs al-Ammarah). Once one attains the level of real faith, the soul begins to censure the individual toward inclination to commit evil (al-Nafs al-Lawwamah).

    The last level of faith is Ihsan, which is the highest level one may attain. It is, according to Muhammad (SAW), “To worship God as though you see Him, and while you don’t see Him, then indeed He sees you.” It is that inner dimension of faith that helps the soul become at peace (al-Nafs al-Mutma’innah).

    Those who are concerned with their status and are willing to reach the stage of a self-contented soul may ask, how do I get there? The answer is given to us by Allah (SWT), “Those who believe and do good deeds will not be blamed for what they have consumed [in the past], so long as they have taqwa (are mindful of God), believe and do good deeds, then they have (more) taqwa (awareness of God) and believe, then they have (even more) taqwa and devoted themselves to excellence (in worship-Ihsan). And God loves al-Muhsineen (those who reach the state of spiritual excellence).” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93). Thus, God-consciousness (taqwa) is the only driving force that can help us endure the struggles in this world and draw us close to Allah (SWT) satisfied.

    In the end, one only suffers when falling prey to one’s carnal desires for temporary worldly pleasure through illicit means. According to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “An intelligent and wise person is the one who subdues his soul (al-Nafs al-Ammarah) and does noble deeds to benefit him after death.”

    Salvation in the hereafter is reserved for those who purify their soul, “Successful indeed is the one who purifies his whole self” (al-Shams, 91:9). May Allah (SWT) help us attain the status of the self-contented soul (al-Nafs al-Mutma’innah). Ameen.

     


     

    1 http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 12: Adam (AS), The First Prophet and Khalifah (January 01, 2016) Open or Close

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    Adam (AS), The First Prophet and Khalifah

    Adam concludes his training in the Garden. The stage is now set for Adam to assume his duty and play his role as Allah’s first khalifah, vicegerent on earth. Adam (AS) is also the first Prophet of Allah (SWT).

    Adam and Eve’s experience in the garden taught them to always be cognizant of their Creator. They also learned that one must do their very best to obey Allah (SWT)’s commands, and that in the event one errs or disobeys God while feeling remorse for what he or she has done, the recourse then is to repent and ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness. They also learned that one must at all times be mindful of Iblis and his deceitful tactics.

    Upon concluding the training, “(Allah) said, ‘All of you descend with mutual enmity to each other. And you shall have on earth settlement and provision for a while.’” Allah (SWT) concludes the ayah by mentioning the last three stages of our life-cycles, life on earth and the earthly death, which are irrefutable; and resurrection, “He (further) said, ‘In it you will live; in it will die; and from it you will be brought out” (al-A’raf, 7:24, 25). 

    By way of admonishing the descendants of Adam, Allah (SWT), reveals immediately after this ayah, “O Children of Adam! We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; however, the garment of righteousness (taqwa) – That is best. That is from the signs of Allah, so that people may take heed” (al-‘Araf, 7:26). 

    The admonition serves as a reminder to us all. Recall when Iblis enticed our parents, Adam and Eve, which caused them to be stripped naked exposing their shame. This is the very same Iblis who is also made to inhabit the earth and is given respite until the end of time, who will do his very best to expose our shame. 

    The admonishment is followed by a clear warning, “O Children of Adam! Do not let Satan seduce you, as he did your parents, causing them to leave the Garden, stripping them of their garments to expose their nakedness to them. He and his forces can see you from where you cannot see them. We have made evil ones allies to those who do not believe” (al-‘Araf, 7:27).

    As promised, Iblis will adorn the path of evil with the aim of stripping people naked through illicit sexual behavior among other immoral acts. Such deeds that once upon a time used to be private and were considered an abomination, are deemed normal today particularly in the West including America. Iblis has succeeded in stripping away the cloak of righteousness in the public square exposing our collective shame. What was once a vice is now a virtue and the converse holds true. Such social evils have contributed to the increase of widespread mischief and corruption. The only recourse to covering the shame of our society is through the garment of piety and righteousness (taqwa), and that is the best of all garments. 

    The message is very clear. Just as Allah (SWT) forewarned Adam and Eve, He (SWT) has forewarned the children of Adam of Iblis. Anyone who does not protect him/herself from the influence of satan has indeed been deceived by Iblis and his forces of Jinn and humankind. Adam and Eve were deceived, many of their descendants throughout history have been deceived and many more will continue to be deceived. So we must take heed.

    Allah (SWT) did not create us perfect like the angels who constantly celebrate the praises of Allah (SWT). As humans, we have free will and are prone to err and sin. As conscious believers, it behooves us to remember the story of Adam and learn from his great experience in the Garden when he and his wife committed a major sin.

    The Prophet (SAW) informed us, “All children of Adam are sinners and the best of sinners are those who repent.” The way to expiate our sins is by, first and foremost, returning back to Allah (SWT) with utmost sincerity as Adam and Eve did begging for His forgiveness, “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves and if You don’t forgive us and be merciful to us, we shall certainly be among the losers” (al-‘Araf, 7:23). This is the cloak of righteousness (taqwa). 

    Now is the time to repent to Allah (SWT) sincerely and ask for His forgiveness. Those who persist on sinning will have to admit their guilt and sins on the Day of Judgment and will wonder if they can do something about it, “They will say, ‘Our Lord, twice You have caused us death and twice You have brought us to life. Now we confess our sins. Is there any way out?’” (Ghafir, 40:11). There will be no way out.

    It is we who write our own destiny. The decision is ours and has been so from day one. Allah is not an unjust or unkind God. He created us and provided us with all the means to succeed. It was made very clear to Adam and by extension his progeny from the very beginning. “We said, ‘Get out, all of you! But when guidance comes to you from Me, as it certainly will, there shall be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38).

    Everything Adam, Eve and their descendants will need for survival; such as food, water, shelter and clothing, is made available to them by the grace of Allah (SWT). The entire planet earth and what it contains were created to serve man. Unlike the garden where everything was there for Adam to enjoy without having to labor; on earth, we have to work hard for our livelihood. 

    As Allah (SWT) promised, those who adhere to His guidance while on this journey will always be in a state of complete contentment and satisfaction. Allah (SWT), in surat Ta Ha reminds, “He said, ‘You two (the human kind – Adam and Eve, and the Jinn kind Iblis), descend from here (the Garden) as enemies to one another. Nonetheless, Guidance shall most certainly come to you from Me, and he who follows My guidance will not go astray nor suffer misery’” (Ta Ha, 20:123).

    On the flip side, Allah (SWT) promises, “And whoever turns away from My remembrance (guidance) indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” On that day he will complain, “He will say, My Lord, why have you raised me blind when I was able to see?” Allah will swiftly answer, “Just as Our revelation came to you and you forgot (ignored) it; and thus today We ignore you" (Ta Ha, 20:124-126).

    From the first day, Allah (SWT) never left humanity stranded without guidance, from Adam (AS) to Muhammad (SAW). “And We sent Our messengers in succession” (Al-muminoon 23:44). According to a prophetic tradition, Abu Dharr (RA) asked the Prophet (SAW) how many prophets were sent to the people. He (SAW) replied, “124,000 prophets and 313 messengers.”

    All of God’s prophets and messengers preached one common message, “Worship Allah (alone), you have no other deity besides Him.” Nuh (AS) warns his people from a ghastly day, “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him. I fear for you the punishment of a dreadful day!” (al-‘Araf, 7:59)

    “And indeed, to every community We sent a messenger (entrusted with this message), ‘Worship God, and shun false gods’” (al-Nahl, 16:36). Each prophet of Allah (SWT) from Adam to Jesus, may God’s peace and blessings be upon all of them, was sent to his own people and nation addressing them, “O my people,” “O my nation.” 

    Muhammad (SAW), on the other hand, was chosen as God’s final messenger sent to all of humanity. “We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as a universal (Messenger) to all mankind, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most people do not know” (Saba’, 34:28). His universal message echoed his predecessors. Muhammad (SAW), while addressing humanity, preached,O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), who created you and those who came before you so that you may be saved” (al-Baqarah, 2:21).

    As humans’ intellect matured, Allah (SWT) sent Scriptures that contain divine law (shari’ah); in other words, guidance in the form of Books. Abraham (AS) was the first messenger to receive the scrolls (suhuf), Moses (AS) received the Ten Commandments followed by the Torah (al-Tawrat), commonly known as the five books of Moses. The written law, also known as the Jewish Pentateuch. The Psalms (al-Zaboor) of David (AS), is a collection of hymns and poems praising God. The Gospel (al-Injeel) was given to Jesus (AS) and finally, Allah’s final Scripture, al-Qur’an, was revealed to Muhammad (SAW). 

    All of God’s scriptures are meant to guide people to the right path, the path to salvation. According to the Qur’an, the Torah contains guidance and light, “Surely, We sent the Torah, therein was guidance and light,” (al-Ma’idah, 5:44) and so did the Gospel, “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We gave him the Gospel, therein was guidance and light” (al-Ma’idah, 5:46)

    The Qur’an, the epitome of all scriptures, was revealed to Muhammad (SAW) as God’s final Book of guidance overruling all previous scriptures, “And We sent to you (O Prophet) the Scripture with the truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it, and with final authority over them” (al-Ma’idah, 5:48). A final messenger sent to all mankind brought a final scripture to all of humanity for all time to come, “Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was sent down, as a guide to mankind, and a clear proof of that guidance, and as the criterion (by which to discern right from wrong)” (al-Baqarah, 2:185). The Qur’an is the latest and last edition of Divine Guidance. 

    The scriptures, former editions of this very book, went through a process of evolution side by side with the psychological, intellectual and social evolution until the advent of Muhammad (SAW). “It is He (Allah) who sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with the Guidance and the true deen (system of Justice) to make it prevail over the whole deen (manmade systems of life), however hateful this may be to those who ascribe partners (with Allah). (al-Saff, 61:9)

    An open invitation is issued to the recipients of former scriptures, the people of the Book (Jews and Christians), “O people of the Book! Believe in what We have sent down, confirming that which is with you (Old and New Testaments).” (al-Nisa’, 4:47)

    The Qur’an is the last edition and final Book of Divine Guidance that will never undergo revision. “The Words of Allah shall not change” (Yunus, 10:64). Allah’s favor upon humanity is complete. “When guidance comes to you from Me, as it certainly will, there shall be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38). 

    End

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 11b: Adam in the Garden (December,18 2015) Open or Close

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    Adam in the Garden – Part2

    The nature of Adam’s training in the garden was one of obedience. Allah (SWT) instructs, “O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Garden and both of you eat from it as you wish, but do not go near this tree, lest you be among the wrong doers” (al-Baqarah, 2:35). It was made clear to him that satan, Iblis, who refused to honor Adam, is an open enemy to him and his wife. In spite of this warning, Adam (AS) fell into the trap of satan and so Adam and Eve both ate from the tree and thus disobeyed their Lord. A complete account of this event can be found in surat Ta Ha and al-‘Araf.

    “And mention (O Prophet) when We said to the angels prostrate before Adam and so they did except Iblis, he refused. And then We said, ‘O Adam! This is an enemy to you and your wife, so do not let him drive you out of the garden and be miserable. You will never feel hungry in the garden nor be naked; you will never be thirsty or suffer the heat of the sun’” (Ta Ha, 20:116-119).

    The first thing we notice here is that Allah (SWT) addressed Adam directly, “O Adam!” which indicates that from the dawn of humanity the husband is considered to be the head of the household and is responsible for meeting the essential needs of his wife and the welfare of the family. The physical labor required to earn a living in order to support a family is the responsibility of the husband alone. The wife plays a supportive role. This notion is made clear in the Qur’an, “Men are the maintainers of women, because Allah has preferred the one above the other and because they spend (on them) from their wealth” (al-Nisa’, 4:34).

    Adam was forewarned. Satan who vowed to sit on their straight path and promised to attack them from the front, the back, the left and the right, is clearly an open enemy. It was made clear that satan is not only his enemy but also his wife’s and by extension, an enemy to all his descendants, “O Adam! This is an enemy to you and your wife.” The warning was clear. Should Adam and Eve become heedless of Allah’s command and succumb to the tricks of satan, they would be expelled from the garden and be in a state of distress and misery. Allah (SWT) warned, “Do not let him drive you out of the garden and be miserable.”

    Adam was assured that as long as he obeys his Lord’s commands, they will enjoy everything they need to sustain their life. The four basic needs of human life are food, water, clothes and shelter. All these necessities were provided for in the garden without labor or toil. Should satan trick them and drive them out of the garden, Adam would then have to earn his living by the labor of his hands and the sweat of his forehead. He would, in the heat of the sun, have to till and plow the land, grow trees, fetch water and seek other provisions. He would build his own dwelling and sew clothes to cover and protect themselves. Adam was spared from all this hard work so long as they could honor Allah’s commands, otherwise they forfeit all these gifts and comforts.

    In reality, satan caused them to slip out of the garden and be removed from the condition in which they had been. Satan, the master of tricks and deception, was able to deceive Adam and Eve when he succeeded in getting them out of the Garden. How was satan able to deceive them?

    Satan first approached Adam, “And so satan whispered to him and said, ‘O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?’” (Ta Ha, 20, 120). It appears that Adam didn’t pay much attention to satan. Adam must have thought to himself that he is already in a blissful place that will never perish nor will he be in a state of distress as long as he doesn’t come near the forbidden tree.

    Satan, who is adamant on misguiding them, now approaches Adam and his wife Eve (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them), and, “Satan whispers to them to make apparent to them that which was concealed from their private parts” (al-A’raf, 7:20). Satan’s plan is to humiliate Adam as he was humiliated in front of all the angels. The idea is to expose their shame and strip them of their modesty (haya) through repeated and endless suggestions as well as attractive propositions that would lead them into committing sin. If only they knew how to seek refuge in Allah (SWT) from the accursed satan, “Who whispers into the hearts of people” (al-Nas, 114:5).

    Satan’s strategy is to influence them to disobey Allah (SWT). “And he said (to them), ‘your Lord did not forbid you this tree except that you become angels or become of the immortal’” (al-A’raf, 7:20). One may wonder, how did satan speak to them? He must have appeared before them in some form or another.

    There is sound evidence from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that, under certain conditions, the jinn may appear in the form of a human being or an animal. In fact, when the believers fought in the battle of Badr, Iblis was on the side of the idolaters and it is narrated that he assumed the form of Suraqah Ibn Malik and urged the disbelievers to move forward to the battle saying, “There is none who can overcome you today” (al-Anfal, 8:48). Of course, when satan saw the angels fighting alongside the believers, he fled running.

    Jinn or demons may also appear in the form of snakes, scorpions, camels, sheep, mules, donkeys, black dogs, black cats, etc. It is possible, according to the biblical account found in Genesis chapter 3, that satan appropriated and used the body of a serpent to carry out his clever idea of tempting Adam and Eve to sin. In truth, God knows best. However, one thing is for sure, Iblis did speak to both of them.

    Not only did Iblis introduce the idea of becoming like those angels who are closest to Allah (al-Mala’ikat al-Muqarrabun) and that they will live for eternity, “he swore (by Allah) to them, ‘I am a sincere well-wisher for you both’” (al-A’raf, 7:21). Some scholars suggest that Iblis was asked by Adam to swear by Allah that he is telling the truth. Iblis, who is already condemned to hell has no problem taking an oath while lying. Being his first experience, Adam believed him. And, “So he misled them with deception” (al-A’raf, 7:21). Ibn Abbass (RAA) believes that Iblis deceived them by his oath. How many people are deceived by others who take false oaths?

    “So he misled them with deception, then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden…” (al-A’raf, 7:22). Mission accomplished. Iblis succeeded in tricking them while exposing their shame.

    Satan was successful in trapping them. Adam and Eve were lured, ensnared and deceived. Suddenly they found themselves naked. Humans have a tendency to immediately cover their private parts when exposed in public as part of the intrinsic modesty built in human nature. According to Ibn Abbass (RAA), Adam and Eve began covering themselves with fig leaves (God knows best). One may appreciate Allah’s reaction when “…their Lord called out to them (saying), ‘Did I not forbid you both from that tree and tell you, you two, that satan is an open enemy to both of you?’” (al-A’raf, 7:22).

    Adam should have known better. Iblis, in the presence of Adam, made it clear to Allah (SWT) that he would sit on their straight path. In other words, Iblis would do his very best to deceive Adam and Eve as well as his descendants by whatever means possible, lawful or unlawful, to make them slip and disobey Allah (SWT). “And so the two ate from it. They became conscious of their nakedness and began to cover themselves with leaves from the garden. And Adam disobeyed his Lord and was led astray” (Ta Ha, 20:122).

    Unlike Iblis who was arrogant and chose not to admit his mistake nor seek forgiveness from Allah (SWT), Adam regretted what they did and was in a state of utter disappointment and complete remorse. Being his first experience Adam did not know how to express his regret. He could barely identify things by their names. But, “Later his Lord brought him close…” (Ta Ha, 20, 123). “Then Adam received from his Lord words…” (al-Baqarah, 2:37). Both Adam and Eve, in unison, prayed, “Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and if You do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we shall be among the losers” (al-A’raf, 7:23). Allah (SWT) “…accepted his repentance and guided him” (Ta Ha, 20, 123). Yes indeed, “He accepted his repentance. For verily, He is the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful” (al-Baqarah, 2:37).

    Adam’s training in the garden has come to an end. Adam, although still in his primitive stage, is now ready to assume his role as Allah’s khalifah or vicegerent on earth. “He said, ‘All of you descend with mutual enmity to each other. And you shall have on earth settlement and provision for a while.’ He (further) said, ‘In it you will live; in it will die; and from it you will be brought out” (al-A’raf, 7:24, 25).

    The enmity between Iblis and Adam or more broadly between good and evil will never go away. The struggle between good and evil shall continue until the end of time. Humans among other creation of Allah (SWT) will soon perish. We will all die, some sooner than others but all people will eventually die on the same earth we were created from and made to settle in. Thereafter, the process of resurrection begins and all people shall find themselves standing before their Lord on the grand day of accountability. Some will win and some will lose.

    One important lesson we learn from the story of Adam is that, although both Adam and Eve disobeyed Allah (SWT) and both are accountable for their disobedience, Adam is to be blamed, not Eve, simply because, being the head of the household, he made the wrong decision. It is possible Eve may have helped him arrive at the decision however Allah himself testifies, “And indeed, We commanded Adam a while back, but he forgot and We didn’t find him resolute” (Ta Ha, 20:115).

    As much as we detest it, the fact remains that satan will make forbidden things attractive to us and will influence people to disobey Allah (SWT). Imagine that Iblis did not exist; obedience to God would be second nature so long as our desires are in check. What makes our servitude to God exciting and meaningful is when our desires or the whispers of satan lure us to commit sins and we find ourselves going through an internal struggle to resist evil and remain faithful to Allah. The story of Adam is the story of each one of us.

    May Allah (SWT) make us of His faithful and obedient slaves, ameen.

    End

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 11a: Adam in the Garden (November 20, 2015) Open or Close

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    Adam in the Garden – Part1

    In continuation with the “Dawah with Insight,” theme or “the Islamic Worldview” based on the ayah, “Say (O Prophet), ‘This is my path, I and those who follow me call unto (the path) of Allah with insight’” (Yusuf, 12:108), this part discusses “Adam in the Garden.”

    The nature of man, his role on earth, and the relationship between Iblis and Adam, among other subjects were discussed under the heading, “The Souls’ Journey from Inception to Eternity.” It was the divine will for Adam to assume the role of Khilafa or vicegerency on earth. Adam, after being honored while recognizing that Iblis is his archenemy, is now ready to receive his training before he assumes the mantle and becomes the supreme leader of the world and universe.

    Allah (SWT) sends Adam and his wife to a magnificent place surrounded by beautiful trees and scenery. It was the “Jannah.” Surat al-Baqarah presents a quick synopsis of the events that took place in the “Jannah.” “And We said, ‘O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Jannah and both of you eat from it as you wish, but do not go near this tree, lest you be among the wrong doers.’ But Satan made them slip, and removed them from the state they were in. We said, ‘Get out, (all of you) as enemies to one another. And you shall have your abode on earth and your livelihood for a while!’ Then Adam received some words from his Lord and He accepted his repentance, He is the Accepter of Repentance, the Most Merciful. And so We said, ‘Descend from it all of you, and when guidance comes to you from Me, then there shall be no fear upon those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve’” (al-Baqarah, 2:35-38). The details of this event are mentioned in Surat al-Araf and Ta Ha.

    The account begins with, “O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Jannah.” One may ask, what was it? Some scholars refer to the “Jannah” as the Paradise while some exegetes of the Qur’an say it was a garden located on earth. Before deciphering which of the two it was, the word “Jannah” appears in the Qur’an in numerous places and refers to both, Paradise and simply a garden on earth.

    The ayat that contain the statement “Gardens (Jannat) beneath which rivers flow” describe the reward believers, who have performed righteous deeds, receive in the hereafter. It is the abode of reward (Dar Al-Jaza’) or simply Paradise. Ayah 111 of Surat al-Tawbah avows, “Verily Allah purchased from the believers their souls and possessions in exchange for Jannah.” The Jannah that is promised is the Jannah of reward or Paradise.
    The counterpart to that is the same word, “Jannah” that is used in the Qur’an to describe a garden on earth. For example, “Indeed! We have tried them as We tried the owners of the Jannah (garden) when they vowed that they would pluck its fruit the next morning” (al-Qalam, 68:17). One may find many ayat of such nature. Therefore, gardens full of trees bearing fruits are in paradise and also on earth.

    The Jannah Adam and Eve were made to dwell in could not have been the Jannah of reward, or Paradise for the following reasons. One, Allah (SWT) informed us that Adam and Eve, in the “Jannah,” were instructed to eat from it as they wish and were warned to not approach a particular tree. In other words, they received commands (Awamir) and prohibitions (Nawahi). In this instance only one prohibition was mentioned. It is common knowledge that in the garden of reward or Paradise nothing is forbidden for a believer. Everything is permissible and believers will have whatever they may desire (41:30-31). Therefore, one may posit that the Jannah Adam and Eve resided in could not have been Paradise.

    Secondly, in Paradise there is no accountability or takleef. In the story of “Adam in the Garden” we find that Adam and Eve were held accountable for their actions when they tasted from the tree as we shall soon study. Third, as we delve into the story, we learn that it was Iblis who tempted them to eat from the tree. Again, it is common knowledge that Iblis was condemned to hell and is forever deprived from smelling the scent of Paradise what to speak of residing therein.

    Finally, it makes perfect sense that Adam be trained in the place where he is to assume his duty. Allah (SWT) made it very clear when He informed the angels, “I am making a vicegerent on Earth” (al-Baqarah, 2:30). Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Adam’s field of training was on earth.

    The site of the garden, according to classical interpretations, was on the Mount of Arafat. Other interpretations claim that the place was on an elevated place somewhere on earth. Adam and his wife resided in a garden that was surrounded with trees, a green belt and thick foliage.

    Regarding the tree, there have been attempts by people of knowledge among others, out of curiosity, to uncover the mystery of the tree. It is absolutely irrelevant to the moral of the story to identify exactly what type of tree it was. Was it a fig tree? Was it an apple tree? Was it an orange tree? Only Allah (SWT) knows. Had it been important for us to know what kind of tree it was, Allah (SWT) in His infinite Wisdom would have informed us. What is important is that Adam and Eve were given a choice. The training was purely on resisting the choices that contravene divine laws. But the choice is ours. There is no compulsion in making choices.

    It was obvious that Adam and Eve were both aware of the kind of tree they were prohibited to approach. When Allah (SWT) addressed both of them, He said, “Don’t come near this tree” as if Allah (SWT) was pointing at the forbidden tree. Had the command been, “Don’t come near that tree,” such ambiguity may have misled Adam and Eve. They however knew precisely which tree they were prohibited from approaching, thus both were given a choice. And both chose to violate Allah’s command.

    Another point worth considering is, Allah (SWT) did not say, “Do not eat from this tree,” rather the command is quite clear, “Do not come near this tree.” There is a world of difference between the two. The directive, “Do not come near this tree” is at a higher level of prohibition, than just simply commanding, “Do not eat from this tree.” The following two examples illustrate this point.

    The first example is the prohibition of intoxicants and gambling. Allah (SWT), in His infinite Wisdom, informed us that their harm is greater than their benefit (2:219). In His final judgment, He (SWT) commanded, “O you who believe, intoxicants and gambling, idolatrous practices, and [divining with] arrows are abominable acts of Satan’s handiwork. Avoid them so that you may prosper” (al-Ma’idah, 5:90).

    The command “avoid” which linguistically means to keep away from, declares that not only is it forbidden to drink or gamble but one must also stay away from the places where such practices are observed. Had Allah (SWT) declared such practices to be plain forbidden (haram), then one may argue that they can work in a bar serving alcohol, or in a casino. As long as they are not drinking or gambling one may justify such actions.

    It’s no secret that in 1920 there was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Sadly, thirteen years later in 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the prohibition that was ratified by the 18th Amendment.

    It is common knowledge that excessive and habitual use of intoxicants can lead to violence, aggression, overt sexuality, and the loss of the cognitive ability to judge, among other things. Many souls have been lost due to driving under the influence of drugs and intoxicants. Human life is sacred and too precious to waste. Saving one soul is like saving the entire human kind. It is for this reason, Allah (SWT) instructed us to avoid them and to keep away from such acts.

    The same goes for fornication and adultery, Allah (SWT) in His command, “Do not come near zina (fornication/adultery)” (al-Isra’, 17:32), clearly means that one should stay away from lustful attractions to the opposite gender. The Prophet (SAW) considers gazing at the opposite sex with lustful eyes as zina, what to speak of committing the act.

    President Jimmy Carter, a righteous man, confessed to this fact. He was quoted as saying, “Christ said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.’ I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.”1 This is very candid statement that many men can identify with. It is for this reason the Islamic dress code for both men and women and injunctions relating to the mixing of the sexes were initiated in the Qur’an and Sunnah – to reduce the possibility of one committing such immoral acts.

    It was not long ago when the Sexual Revolution of the 1970’s ripped into the sanctity of human decency, modesty and morality. The sexual perversion is in fact an attempt to send us back to the stone age. One may then appreciate the command, “Do not come near zina.”

    Allah (SWT), our Maker, who created us with such desires and urges knows what is best for us and so He (SWT) commands us to avoid intoxicants and gambling and to not come near indecent and immoral acts such as zina. All humans including the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, feel the irresistible temptation toward committing prohibited acts in order to satisfy the overpowering urges and desires. Simply put, human beings cannot control their baser urges in spite of climbing the ladder of civilization and evolution. Because of our so-called “freedoms” in the modern Western society, we are not taught how to control our baser urges (mostly in relation to sexual acts), which can be extremely harmful if not controlled.

    Allah (SWT) the All-Wise tells us how to control such potent urges. He says, “avoid them,” “don’t come near them.” The idiom, “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. Allah (SWT) instructed Adam and Eve, “Do not come near this tree,” in other words, stay as far away from it as you can because if you come near it you will be tempted to taste it and if you two do, which they did, you are then sinners – you have crossed the limits and boundaries of Allah (SWT) and will have to face the consequences for breaking a divine law. Allah (SWT) in a couple of places instructs, “These are the limits set by God, so do not go near them,” and, “These are the limits set by God, so do not overstep them” (al-Baqarah, 2:187, 229).

    Sad al-Zarai’ (سد الذرائع) (Blocking the means or prevention of evil before it materializes), is a jurisprudent axiom in Islamic law that implies, “All means that lead to haram is haram.” Thus the wise prohibition, “avoid” or “do not come near,” which is at a much higher level of prohibition.

    The divine guidance that started with one prohibition continued to expand. The restrictions increased proportionally over time to meet the people’s intellect as we experienced the intellectual and social evolutions. The divine guidance reached its apex in the final book, the Qur’an – meant to guide humanity for all time to come. “This day I have perfected your religion, completed my favor upon you and am pleased with Islam as your way of life” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3).

    One lesson we learn from the story of “Adam in the Garden” is, whenever Allah (SWT) orders His servants, “Do not come near” (whatever the command may be), we must understand that it is not sufficient that we do not commit the act but rather to avoid and stay as far away from it as possible. The aim is to be protected from evil actions and their consequences. As a vicegerent of God I must not go against Allah’s wishes and commands. If I fail, then I am among the wrongdoers.

    As the story goes, Adam and Eve were tempted by satan and did taste from the tree and were among the wrongdoers. They recognized their mistake and were in search for words to say to show their remorse. Allah (SWT), out of His mercy, taught them what to say. In repentance they together in unison repeated what they were taught to say, “Our Lord we wronged ourselves. If you don’t forgive us and be merciful to us we will be among the losers.” And so Their Lord accepted their repentance.

    May Allah (SWT) protect us from the temptations of satan and help us to be among the righteous and obedient servants of His.


     

     http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1859513_1859526_1859518,00.html

     

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 10: Iblis, The Avowed Enemy (September 4, 2015) Open or Close

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    Iblis, The Avowed Enemy

    The story of Adam and Iblis is mentioned in seven places in the Qur’an. One such ayah is found in almost the exact middle of the Qur’an; part 15, ayah 50, “And (mention) when We said to the angels prostrate yourselves to Adam and so they did except Iblis, he was from the Jinn and he disobeyed the command of his Lord. Would you then take him and his progeny as your friends besides Me and they are to you an enemy? How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!” (al-Kahf, 18:50). “Iblis, the Avowed Enemy” is a continuation of the story of Adam and Iblis which is part of a series on “Dawah with Insight, The Soul’s Journey from Inception to Eternity.”

    Previously, we learned that Iblis arrogantly refused to honor Adam. His refusal was based on an unfounded argument put forth due to his pride and vanity. In fact, the cause of this pride was pure jealously of Adam. “He said, ‘What! Why should I prostrate to someone You created from Mud?”Iblis continued, “He said, ‘tell me, is this the one whom You have honored above me?” (Al-Isra’, 17:61,62). One may read this declaration as if to say, “And You, O Lord, preferred this insignificant, foolish bashar (Adam) made out of mud over me? How can that be?”

    What usually appears from passionate jealousy is retaliation. Iblis, hoping to be granted respite until doomsday revealed his plan, “If You were to give me respite until the Day of Resurrection, I shall most certainly, cause his descendants to follow me blindly except a few of them” (al-Isra’, 17:62). In other words, Iblis promised to subdue and overpower the children of Adam. His intent is to misguide, control and destroy his offspring.

    Iblis’s rage became more intense. Acting disgracefully, “He said, ‘Now that You have misled me, I shall most certainly lie in ambush for them on Your Straight Path, and I shall come at them from their front and their back, and their right and their left and You shall find most of them ungrateful’” (al-A’raf, 7:16,17).

    Iblis blames his failure on God, “because You misguided me” he exclaims. Unfortunately, when misfortune ensues, many people are quick to blame their woes on Allah (SWT) or on others, when in reality our pain and misery may be attributed to our own actions. “Why me O Allah?” We cry. Allah (SWT) informs, “Whatever calamity befalls you is a consequence of what your hands have done and He pardons much” (al-Shura, 42:30). Iblis was doomed because of his own actions of foolishness, stubbornness and arrogance when He refused to obey His Lord’s command.

    Despite this, Iblis had the audacity to vow his revenge and made two promises. The first promise is, “I shall most certainly lie in ambush for them on Your Straight Path.” The interpretation according to classical exegetes is, “As You caused my ruin, I will sit in wait for your servants whom You will create from the offspring of the one You expelled me for.”[1] And so Iblis pledged to sit on their straight path.

    In a hadith found in the collection of Imam Ahmad, the Prophet (SAW) reported to have said, “Satan sat in wait for the Son of Adam in all his paths. He sat in the path of Islam, saying, ‘Would you embrace Islam and abandon your religion and the religion of your forefathers?’ However, the Son of Adam disobeyed satan and embraced Islam. So satan sat in the path of Hijrah (migration in the cause of Allah), saying, ‘Would you migrate and leave your land and sky? But the parable of the emigrant (muhajir) is that of a horse in his stamina.’ So, he disobeyed satan and migrated. So satan sat in the path of Jihad, against one’s self and with his wealth, saying, ‘If you fight, you will be killed, your wife will be married and your wealth divided.’ So he disobeyed him and performed Jihad. Therefore, whoever among them (Children of Adam) does this (disobeys satan) and dies, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If he is killed, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If he drowns, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise. If the animal breaks his neck, it will be a promise from Allah that He admits him into Paradise.[2] Ibn `Abbas while commenting on the ayah says, “A promise from Allah is if you disobey satan while on the straight path, you are guaranteed Paradise.”

    As for the second promise, Iblis vowed to attack us from all directions. “And I shall come at them from their front and their back, and their right and their left and You shall find most of them ungrateful.” In other words, Iblis will surround us and will not miss an opportunity to misguide us. He will raise doubts in our minds regarding the very essence of our existence and the hereafter. His strength is the ability to recognize our weaknesses and exploit them.

    Most people are vulnerable except the few who have strong faith and firm resolve to remain connected with their Creator, Allah (SWT). Such people who perpetually stretch out their hands toward heaven above reaching out to Allah (SWT) for His help while frequently performing salah and sajdah glorifying their Lord, the Most High are protected from Iblis. He can neither attack them from above nor below. Those are the very few who are grateful to their Lord and Iblis has no control over them. And perhaps that is why Iblis did not mention these two directions in his pledge.

    To seek protection in Allah (SWT), the Prophet (SAW) taught us to say, “…O Allah, guard me from what is in front of me and behind me, from my left, and from my right, and from above me and I seek refuge in Your Greatness from being struck down from beneath me.”

    In a similar fashion, in surat al-Hijr, Iblis pledged to adorn the path of evil to the offspring of Adam and make the world seem attractive, glamorous and irresistible with the overarching aim to deceive and misguide them. “He (Iblis) said, ‘O my Lord! Because you have misled me I shall most certainly lure mankind on earth and mislead them all except Your devoted servants’” (al-Hijr, 15:39,40). Contrary to his statement, “And You will not find most of them grateful,” Iblis admits that he cannot have control over Allah’s sincere and devoted servants.

    Allah (SWT) replies, “He said, ‘This (devotion) is a Straight Path to Me’” (al-Hijr, 15:41). Indicating, devotion to Allah and the path of righteousness is what leads to Him and His good pleasure. He (SWT) made it very clear to Iblis, “Surely you have no authority over my servants except over those who (choose to) go astray and follow you” (al-Hijr, 15:42). In other words, the humble and sincere servants of Allah (SWT) are protected from Iblis. He cannot attack them, as Allah (SWT) declared war on those who are enemies to His friends, the faithful servants (awliya’).

    This fact is explained in the hadith qudsi narrated by Abu Hurairah in Sahih al-Bukhari. According to the Prophet (SAW), “Allah the Most High said, ‘Whoever acts with enmity towards a friend (wali) of Mine, I will indeed declare war against him.’” Who is this wali? The hadith continues, “My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than performing what I have made obligatory upon him. And My servant continues to draw closer to Me with supererogatory (nawafil) (acts of worship) until I love him. And When I love him, I shall be the hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his feet with which he walks. And if he asks (something) of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant it to him.”

    Therefore, one may choose to become a friend of Allah by submitting willingly and unconditionally to Allah (SWT), and adhering to His commands and injunctions while committing to serve Him and His deen faithfully. It is that mutual friendship (wilaya), mutual love, and mutual remembrance of one another that entitles one to become a sincere devoted slave of Allah who is exempt from any harm that might come from Iblis or his agents. A fact acknowledged by Iblis himself, “except Your devoted servants.” A statement repeated in surat Sod for emphasis, “He (Iblis) said, ‘By Your Honor, I shall most certainly misguide them all, except Your sincere (and loyal) servants” (Sod, 38:82,83). One must keep in mind, however, that a wali of Allah, as much as he/she is protected by Allah (SWT), does go through severe trials.

    Indeed, “Surely you (Iblis) have no authority over my servants except over those who (choose to) go astray and follow you” (al-Hijr, 15:42). As for those who choose to follow him, their promised abode is Hell. “And verily, Hell is the promised place for them all. It has seven gates, each gate having its allotted share of them” (al-Hijr, 15:43,44).

    Allah (SWT) challenged Iblis, “He said, ‘Go away! For whoever of them follows you, then indeed Hell will be the recompense of you all, an ample recompense. And entice whomever you can from among them with your voice; rally your cavalry and infantry against them; share their wealth and children with them; and make promises to them.’ And satan promises them nothing but delusion”(al-Isra’, 17,64).

    So Iblis, through his agents of humans and jinn, will entice the people with his voice. According to early exegetes such as Ibn Abbas, a prominent companion of the Prophet (SAW), “his voice” means through musical instruments and the noises of fun and games. Not all music is bad. Certainly, music that is seductive, vulgar, and profane or that which leads to sinful activities such as the use of drugs, intoxication and unlawful sex is indeed the works of satan and it appears that the overwhelming music and music concerts today fit that profile. The noises of slot machines in the casinos among other noises are also considered the “voices of Iblis.” These are all noises he employs to tear people away from the path of truth.

    Regarding, “rally your cavalry and infantry against them,” this refers to satan’s troops from men and jinn who engage in unlawful and unjust wars causing much bloodshed and havoc. Satan and his troops helped assist the polytheists in their fight against the believers at the battle of Badr[3]. Today, we witness this phenomenon in the use of sophisticated weaponry such as drones, missiles, bombs, and other lethal weapons of destruction used by oppressive powers to subjugate nations and kill innocent people.

    As for, “share their wealth and children with them” again, according to Ibn Abbas, refers to wealth and property acquired by false, impermissible and unlawful means including usury and interest or wealth spent on what is unlawful. As for the sharing of satan in children, it could be through having children out of wedlock. It could also be through giving such names to children that are suggestive of polytheistic attributes such as Abd al-Shams, etc. The superstitious practices of making children wear charms and beads to ward off evil are also among the ways to let satan share in one’s children. It could also mean to nurture and bring up one’s children through unlawful sources of earnings.

    Iblis will never stop making false promises, “And satan promises them nothing but delusion.” In spite of all these challenges, Allah (SWT) insists, “Surely, you shall have no authority over my (true) servants. And sufficient is your Lord as a Disposer of affairs” (al-Isra’, 17,65).

    The story of Adam and Iblis is a very important story to learn and reflect on. It helps us understand the genuine struggle between good and evil. Only sincere and devoted slaves of Allah (SWT) come out victorious. The sad part is that Iblis is quite successful in deceiving people, as Allah informs us, “And indeed Iblis was correct in his assessment of them, for they all followed him except a group of (true) believers” (Saba’, 34:20).

    This implies that the vast majority of people have either been fooled or deceived. They have become victims of satan consciously or unconsciously. It must be noted that no matter the circumstance, people exercised their own free will when performing sinful acts. It will become manifest that Iblis truly had no authority over them. Only true believers, the awliya’ and sincere servants of Allah who consciously choose to be on the side of Allah (SWT) will be spared from satan’s influence and power. Iblis has no authority over them.

    In the end, Iblis will take his abode in Hell along with those who deserve to dwell with him. The people whom he deluded and misguided will then realize they were his target. They will avenge Iblis and rush toward him to seek revenge, but he will push them aside and deliver his final speech, “And satan will say, when the matter is decided, ‘Surely, Allah promised you the promise of truth and I too promised you but I failed you. I had no power over you except that I called you and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ Verily, the evildoers will have a painful punishment” (Ibrahim, 14:22).

    Iblis is our greatest trial. “And he had no authority over them except that We might know those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it. And your Lord observes everything” (Saba’, 34:21).

    We must take away the following from the story of Iblis; envy and jealousy are forbidden in Islam. (According to a prophetic tradition, one may only envy someone who is given knowledge of the Qur’an or wealth spent for the cause of Allah.) We must never blame the misfortune we create on God. We must remain zealous and endure the hardships while on the straight path. Remember that the path of righteousness is a thorny path. We must never lose focus on Allah and the hereafter as our target. We must remain faithful and be among the sincere and devoted slaves of Allah (SWT).

    Finally, we must always be cognizant of the whisperings of satan. “And should satan entice you with temptation then seek refuge in God. He is the All Hearing and the All Knowing” (Fussilat, 41:36). “And say (O Prophet), ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with You from the whispers of the devils, and I seek refuge with You lest they come near me’” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:97,98).



    [1] Ibn Kathir
    [2] ibid
    [3] Al-Anfal, 8:48

  • Dawah with insight - Part 9: Iblis, the Devil (August 21, 2015) Open or Close
    Iblis, the Devil

    In a special ceremony, Adam (AS) was honored by all the angels. In an act of obedience to Allah’s command, without hesitation, they all fell in prostration before Adam (AS). Iblis refused.
    And (mention O Prophet) when We said to the angels prostrate yourselves before Adam. They did except Iblis, he refused” (al-Baqarah, 2:30).

    One may ask, why did Iblis refuse to prostrate before Adam? And, is Iblis an angel? If not, why was he in the company of the angels?

    Indeed Iblis was not an angel. He is from the Jinn kind. Surat al-Kahf explains, “And when We said to the angels prostrate yourselves before Adam, they did except Iblis. He was from the Jinn” (al-Kahf, 18:). The Jinn kind are creatures whose origin is from fire and they were created far before mankind who were created from clay. “And indeed We created man from dried clay out of dark mud, and the Jaan (Jinn kind) We created before from the fire of scorching wind” (al-Hijr, 15:26,27).

    Just as humans evolved through stages of the clay substance, the Jinn kind whose essence is fire went through similar stages. Surat al-Rahman explains yet another stage of the evolution of the Jinn, “He created man from dry clay like (that of) pottery and He created the Jaan (Jinn kind) out of a fusion of fire (or smokeless fire)” (al-Rahman, 55:14,15).

    According to some commentators, the word “Jaan” refers to the father (ancestor) of the Jinn just as Adam is considered the father of humans (abu al-Bashar). Iblis was a descendant of Jaan. According to Aisha (RAA), the messenger of Allah said, “The angels were created from light, Iblis was created from smokeless fire (or pure fire), and Adam was created from that which has been described to you (i.e. clay, a mixture of dirt and water)” (Muslim).

    Therefore, it is an established fact that Iblis was not an angel. The ayah regarding the command of prostration, “they all did except Iblis refused” may indicate that Iblis is an angel. Even though “Light” from which angels are created, and “Fire” have similar properties, they nevertheless are different. Iblis is from the Jinn kind and not the angelic type. One may then ask, why blame Iblis for not responding to the command of Allah (SWT) when He was clear in His instruction, “And when We said to the Angels prostrate to Adam…” Another important question is, what was Iblis doing with the angels?

    To answer the questions we need to learn more about Iblis. Who is Iblis? First of all, Iblis, a name given to him by Allah (SWT), which comes from the trilateral root “Ba La Sa or Balasa” means to despair. Iblis is the most frustrated one, one who is hopeless and one who is in despair. Prior to becoming Iblis he was known as Azazeel. Because of his extraordinary piety, he was elevated to the rank of the angels as their equal even though he was from a different kind, the Jinn kind. According to biblical traditions, Azazeel was one of the leaders of the angels.

    Because of his position among the angels he was called, “Tawus al-Mala’ikah” or “The Peacock among the Angels.” Perhaps because in the kingdom of birds, peacocks can be spotted quickly. And so Azazeel (being from the Jinn kind) can easily be distinguished from all angels. His distinction is due to his personal choice to obey Allah (SWT) unconditionally.

    Muhammad bin Ishaq (RA) reported that Ibn `Abbas (RAA) said, "Before he undertook the path of sin, Iblis was with the angels and was called Azazeel. He was among the residents of the earth and was one of the most active worshippers and knowledgeable persons among the angels. This fact caused him to be arrogant. Iblis was from a genus called Jinn.''1 It was mentioned that he was the most honorable, most learned and most pious and that Iblis had been the head of the angels in the worldly heavens according to a group of prominent companions.

    These traditions narrated by Ibn Abbas (RAA) among other companions are typically borrowed from the Isra’iliyyat (reports narrated from Jewish sources) and may not be reliable. Although the Prophet (SAW) encouraged the companions to relay the Jewish traditions, one must be careful. The Jewish sources, for example, believe that Iblis was an angel, thus the concept of the “Fallen Angel.” Muslims cannot accept that claim simply because it contradicts the Qur’an. In brief, Iblis was created from fire, possessed free will and because of his excessive piety he was elevated to the ranks of the angels.

    Now that Iblis enjoys the company of the angels, by default the command of prostration was directed at him as well, for two main reasons. One, generally speaking, statements or commands that are general in nature would include only individuals of the same kind, type, class, etc. The Arabs, however, utilize what is called “al-taghleeb” or the Rule of Preference in the fiqh (rules) of the Arabic language,2 which indicates that in certain cases, general statements may include other kinds that have a relationship with the original kind.

    And two, when superior beings like angels were required to honor Adam, inferior beings like Iblis who happened to be in their company must be included in the command. Take for example, the President of the United States walking into Congress to deliver a speech. Out of respect, everyone is expected to stand up for him, not only congressmen and senators but also their aids, secretaries and whoever else may be present who is lower in status than congressmen and senators.

    By the same analogy, Iblis who was in the company of the angels should have responded to the order of Allah (SWT) and fallen in prostration along with the angels before Adam. However, he consciously decided to disobey. One reference in the Qur’an affirms that Iblis clearly disobeyed the command of his Lord, “And when We said to the angels prostrate yourselves before Adam, they did except Iblis. He was of the Jinn and he disobeyed the command of his Lord.” (al-Kahf, 18:50). The word “disobeyed” in the ayah is fasaqa which renders a more accurate meaning of rebelliousness.

    The following ayah clearly demonstrates that Iblis was indirectly ordered to prostrate before Adam (AS), “God said, ‘What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you’” (al-A’raf, 7:12). Clearly, Iblis was commanded and required to obey his Lord as all the angels did.

    Angels could not have disobeyed Allah, because they have no free will. Iblis, on the other hand who possesses free will, chose to disobey. Surat al-Isra’ says, “…they all fell in prostration except Iblis” (al-Isra’, 17:61), “…they all fell in prostration except Iblis, he refused” (Ta Ha, 20:116), “…except Iblis, he was not of those who fell in prostration” (al-A’raf, 7:12), “Except Iblis, he refused to be among those who fell in prostration (al-Hijr, 15:50), “…except Iblis, he was arrogant and became one of the disbelievers” (Sod, :74), and finally with the addition of “he refused,” in surat al-Baqarah, “…they all fell in prostration except Iblis, he refused, was arrogant and became one of the disbelievers” (al-Baqarah, 2:30).

    These ayat demonstrate that Iblis was determined to disobey his Lord’s command. The stubbornness of Iblis and refusal to obey his Lord made him a disbeliever. According to shari’ah, giving up an obligation ordained by God is a sin and transgression that can be repaired. It does not constitute Kufr or disbelief. However, to reject a command of Allah (SWT) (small or big) amounts to Kufr and places one outside the pale of Islam even if they consider themselves Muslims..

    Iblis became a disbeliever (kafir) because he defied and challenged a divine commandment. In Iblis’ opinion, Adam (AS) was not worthy of being honored. He flatly refused to pay respect to him and instead argued his superiority over Adam, “(Iblis) said, ‘I am better than him, You created me from fire and him from clay’” (al-A’raf, 7:12).

    Ibn Jarir (RA) reported that Muhammad Ibn Sirin (RA) (famous for his book on dreams) said that the first one to reach a conclusion by reasoning was Iblis. Reason (of the mind) without the pure fitrah (pure intrinsic nature humans are born with) can be fatal. Unlike Christians who are discouraged from using reasoning in theological debates, reasoning is not only allowed in Islam, it is encouraged. We, humans, are the only species with the faculty of intellect and it must be utilized to the fullest extent, but with wisdom and the requisite knowledge.

    Reason of the mind without the pure intrinsic nature (fitrah) humans are born with can be fatal. Muslim students of humanities and social sciences among other disciplines in the West must be very careful. They are taught concepts based on pure reasoning. Using our intellect without Divine Wisdom may lead to ruin. Indeed the Qur’an is the climax of wisdom.

    To Iblis, he used pure reasoning to conclude that fire is superior to clay and indeed this is true. Iblis examined only the animal side, and the material aspect of Adam and ignored the other facet. As a matter of fact, not only is Adam superior to Iblis, he and his progeny stand at the top of Allah’s creation simply because of the imbedded Divine spark, the spirit (ruh) that came from His Divine Essence. That, Iblis could not accept. Because of his pride and vanity, Iblis acted like an arrogant fool and was deprived from Allah’s grace.

    There are some who defend Iblis and propose that the reason he did not prostrate to Adam is because he prostrates only to Allah and will not prostrate to any other than Him. Had this been the case Iblis would have argued as such. On the contrary, Iblis himself tells us why he refused to prostrate. “(Iblis) said, ‘I was not to prostrate to a bashar (human) whom You created out of dried clay from dark mud’” (al-Hijr, 15:33). In reality, the real reason is as he insisted, “I am better than him.”

    Iblis who was in the company of angels was well aware of the event to come, i.e. the special ceremony honoring Adam. Therefore, it was not an instantaneous command where Iblis was taken by surprise and acted spontaneously. His rebellion was well thought out and Iblis out of his pride and arrogance knew exactly what he was doing. Perhaps that explains the idiom, “as proud as a peacock,” which means to be excessively proud or to possess an overly high opinion of oneself.

    Upon the disobedience of Iblis, Allah (SWT) not only demoted Iblis, He expelled him from the blissful place and company of the angels, “God said, ‘Get down from here! You have no reason to act so proud about it. Get out; You will be among the humiliated’” (al-‘Araf, 7:13). This moment was indeed a dark moment in the life of Iblis. Thereafter, his destiny became hell, yet he requested respite, “(Iblis) said, ‘Reprieve me until the day when they are raised from the dead.’ God replied, ‘You are reprieved’” (al-‘Araf, 7:14,15). While Allah (SWT) granted Iblis his wish, He (SWT) gave him respite only until a time determined by Allah (SWT), and not necessarily on Iblis’ terms, when all shall be raised from the dead. Iblis thought he could bypass death but time will prove that he is foolish.

    “God said, ‘Get out of here, you are an outcast, for you are accursed. And a curse shall be on you until the Day of Judgment.’ (Iblis) said, ‘Then, O my Lord, grant me a respite until the day when all shall be raised from the dead!’ (God) said, ‘then indeed: you shall be among those who are granted respite until the day of the appointed Time’” (al-Hijr, 15:34-38). The knowledge of the ‘appointed time’ is known only to Allah (SWT) and may come as a surprise to Iblis.

    The rebellion of Iblis is repeated and emphasized in seven places in the Qur’an. This event in the history of creation is very important for us to understand and we must be cognizant of it and learn from it. Iblis plays a major role in the theatre of life and unless we know enough about him and his agents we will not be able to fulfill our purpose as humans created solely to worship and obey Allah.

    No one should think that he or she is immune from the influence and whispering of Iblis. He vowed to destroy us and is our avowed enemy. We must never underestimate his ability to lead people astray.

    Therefore, one must never reject any command of Allah (SWT) be it big or small. Our attitude must always be, “We listen and we obey” no matter how weak our faith might be. Secondly, humility toward Allah (SWT) and people is essential to receive Allah’s Grace. Stubbornness, pride and arrogance are traits of Iblis. Thirdly, one must refrain from boastful phrases with the word “I” in pride as Iblis bragged, “I am better than him.” One should never consider himself better than anyone particularly when it comes to matters of piety/taqwa, race, class, gender, ethnic background, skin color, etc.

    Furthermore, we must keep in mind that the quantity of deeds may not save one from doom on the Day of Judgment. It is the quality of deeds and the intention behind them that count. Deeds are weighed not measured. “We will set up scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection so that no one can be wronged in the least, and if there should be even the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it out- We take excellent account” (al-Anbiya, 21:47). The enormous good deeds of Iblis will be outweighed by the one single misdeed he committed.

    Last but not least, one must never despair from the Mercy of Allah (SWT). The Prophet (SAW) was instructed, “Say, O My servants who transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of God’s mercy, for God forgives all sins. He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful” (al-Zumar, 39:53). It was not the act of disobedience that made Iblis hopeless, it was his stubborn refusal and arrogance.

    May Allah (SWT) protect us from Iblis and all acts of evil, Ameen.


     

    1Ibn Kathir
    2For example, the word “Abawayn” in Arabic literally means two fathers in masculine dual tense. However,
    although it is masculine, the term includes both genders, the father and the mother. The historical preference
    with Arabs are males, so they use the masculine gender to include the feminine gender in statements that are
    general.

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 8: A Special Ceremony for a Special Man (July 24, 2015) Open or Close

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    A Special Ceremony for a Special Man

    This is part eight of a series on “The Islamic Worldview,” part of a larger theme, Dawah with Insight. Learning about the Islamic Worldview is important for two main reasons. One, most Muslims who are born to Muslim parents and to a lesser degree converts are unaware of the Islamic worldview. Our understanding of Islam is limited to the articles of faith, modes of worship and some social customs.

    Since the subject matter, by and large, is not taught in Islamic schools, Sunday schools nor in the home, one finds most Muslims have little understanding as to why we exist, who we really are, or what our relationship is with the Creator, among other basic yet pertinent questions. The sermons under the main heading “Dawah with Insight” are meant to help us understand our worldview and thus improve our worship (Ibadah) to Allah (SWT).

    Learning about the Islamic Worldview is also important because it is our duty as Muslims to share our faith with the rest of world until the end of time. We will begin to understand the propagation (dawah) from where the Prophet (SAW) started preaching in Makkah.

    The first ten years of the Prophet’s preaching, where most of the Qur’an was revealed, did not include any legal injunctions. In fact, the five daily prayers were not prescribed to the believers until the tenth year of prophethood, what to speak of jurisprudence.

    One might ask, what message was the Prophet (SAW) then preaching? In summation, “La Ilaha illa Allah, there is no god but God,” also known as “The Islamic Worldview.” Hence, the need to learn the subject thoroughly in order to be effective in our dawah efforts and make an impact on people’s minds and hearts.

    Previously, subjects that dealt with the creation of the spirits, angels, the grand heavenly covenant of Alast1 , the creation of the universe and man (a composite of body and spirit), and his journey from inception to eternity, were discussed.

    And of His signs is that He created you from Dust and then you became bashar (sapiens) spread far and wide” (al-Roum, 30:20). Out of this species, the bashar, Allah (SWT) selected one, blew His spirit into him, and he became Adam, the man, the homo-sapien; the human being.

    The purpose of this creation, Adam or man in general, as we have been instructed by Allah (SWT), is to represent Allah on earth. In other words, our purpose is to be Allah’s vicegerent on earth; not to be sovereign, rather to be the viceroy of the Sovereign, Allah (SWT). This is the ultimate Ibadah, “And (mention O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels I will place a khalifah (vicegerent) on earth” (al-Baqarah, 2:30). A vicegerent was appointed to keep order on earth and to establish divine laws and Justice.

    Adam was taught everything he needed to know to assume his role on earth, “And He taught Adam the names of all things” (al-Baqarah, 2:31). Adam, having the divine spirit impregnated in him and possessing special knowledge while granted free will was soon to be honored. “And (mention O Prophet) when we said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam’” (al-Baqarah, 2:34). This special tribute was an affirmation of the superiority of Adam over the angels.

    Humans are considered to be Ashraf al-Makhloqat, i.e. the most honored of all creatures. “We have indeed honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea; We have provided for them wholesome provisions; and We have preferred them greatly over countless other creatures We created” (Al-Isra 17:70).

    The angels anticipated this inauguration when Allah (SWT) revealed His plan regarding the special creation that possessed the divine spirit long before the creation of the bashar, “(Mention O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create a bashar from clay, and when I have formed him fully and blown into him from My Spirit, (I want you to) fall down in prostration before him” (Sod, 38:71,72). And they did.

    Surat al-‘Araf, al-Baqarah, al-Isra’, al-Kahf, and Ta Ha declare that the angels indeed prostrated themselves before Adam, “And they fell down in prostration.” Further emphasis is found in surat al-Hijr and Sod, “And so all angels fell down in prostration, all together” (Sod, 38:76).

    Regarding the prostration of the angels, it is important to note that their prostration to Adam was out of obedience to Allah (SWT) and was not a gesture of worship to Adam. Surely no one is to be worshipped besides Allah (SWT) and the angels are fully aware of that.

    Angels, possessing no will power, are created solely to obey Allah (SWT). “They do not disobey any command of Allah and do execute His commands” (al-Tahrim, 66:6). Allah (SWT) commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam and they responded positively.

    This is akin to us prostrating before the Ka’bah during our daily prayers. We don’t actually prostrate to the Ka’bah, rather to the Lord of the Ka’bah. We make sajdah toward the Ka’bah because we are commanded by Allah (SWT) to do so. “So turn your face (O Prophet) in the direction of the Sacred Mosque (Ka’bah) and wherever you (believers) may be, turn your faces toward it” (al-Baqarah, 2:144). Hence, we perform sajdah before the Ka’bah out of worship and obedience to Allah (SWT).

    Another point to bear in mind is that sajdah has always signified honor and respect. Before the advent of Muhammad (SAW), prostration before a person indicated a great deal of respect and honor. The Qur’an explains this point when Yusuf (AS) brought his parents and brothers to Egypt and in adoration they fell in prostration before Yusuf (AS). “And he (Yusuf) raised his parents to (his) throne, and they (all) fell down in prostration before him” (Yusuf, 12:100). This was a tradition that denoted respect.

    Their prostration did not signal worshipping Yusuf, rather it was the fulfillment of his dream he related to his father long before he was sold to al-Aziz of Egypt when he was a child. “Yusuf said to his father, ‘O Father, I dreamed of eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them all prostrating before me,’” (Yusuf, 12:4).

    Until the advent of Muhammad (SAW), the sajdah, regardless of whether it meant bowing or prostrating, was a sign of respect and honor; a greeting not ibadah. However, since the dawn of Islam, these two gestures, bowing and/or prostrating, are now practiced exclusively toward Allah (SWT). “O you who believe! Bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord.” (al-Hajj, 22:77).

    When Mu’az Bin Jabal visited Syria (al-Sham), he found people prostrating before their bishops. When he returned (to Al-Madinah), he prostrated before the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet asked, “What is this, O, Mu`az?” Mu’az replied, "I saw them prostrating before their bishops and you are more deserving to be prostrated before O messenger of Allah.” The Prophet said, “If I were to order anyone to prostrate before anyone else (among the creation), I would have ordered the wife to prostrate before her husband because of the enormity of his right on her.”
    According to Anas Ibn Malik (RAA) in the hadith collection of Ibn Majah (RA), “We asked, ‘O messenger of Allah! Should we bow to one another?’ He said, ‘No.’ We said, ‘Should we embrace one another?’ He said, ‘No. but shake hands with one another.’” Therefore, bowing and/or prostrating to anyone or anything is forever gone. Islam instructed prostration exclusively for Allah alone, the Exalted and Most Glorified.

    Lastly, as mentioned in surat al-Hijr and Sod, “And so all angels fell down in prostration, all together” at the same time. This incident is from the unseen knowledge of Allah (SWT). Scholars of Islam deliberated on the question; did all the angels created by Allah (SWT) make sajdah before Adam or only those who are associated with Adam and the universe?

    Some scholars believe only those who are associated with Adam or man and the universe made sajdah to Adam. They are those who write down our good and bad deeds, angels that protect us from the devils, angels that administer the kingdom of God, and other angels with different roles and tasks assigned to them.

    Such angels are described in the Qur’an, “You should know that guardian angels have indeed been appointed over you, kind and honorable, writing down (your deeds); They know what you do” (al-Infitar, 82,10-12). “Not a word uttered by any person, escapes (the attention of) the vigilant observers (the angels assigned over him)!” (Qaf, 50:18). “And by those (angels) who manage the affairs of the universe (according to their Lord´s commands)” (al-Nazi’at, 80:5).

    There are, however, other angels who only worship the Creator, the Almighty Allah. They are perpetually engaged in the glorification (tasbeeh) of Allah (SWT) around the clock. For instance, those who carry the throne of Allah (SWT) among others exalting and glorifying Him, “And you shall see the angels surrounding the Throne, glorifying their Lord with praise” (al-Zumar, 39:75). They have no idea what goes on outside their realm. They are referred to as, al-Muhaimmoon angels (الملائكة المهيمون) or the elevated/high ranking angels, the al-‘Aloon angels (الملائكة العالون).

    Such angels according to some scholars were excluded from the command of Allah (SWT). Hence, the ayah, “And so all angels fell down in prostration, all together” refers only to those angels who are associated with man and God’s Kingdom, and all of them without any exception fell in prostration before Adam.

    The other opinion is that all angels without any exception obeyed Allah’s command and performed a sajdah before Adam. God knows best. Regardless, all angels, without hesitation responded to the command of Allah (SWT) and honored the best of all creatures, Adam (AS) with sajdah.

    Surat al-‘Isra says, “And (mention O Prophet) when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam,’ and so they all fell in prostration except Iblis” (al-‘Isra’,:17:61). The same is mentioned in surat Ta Ha, but there the ayah says, “…except Iblis, he refused” (Ta Ha, 20:116). Furthermore, the ayah from surat al-‘Araf mentions, “…except Iblis, he was not of those who fell in prostration” (al-’Araf, 7:11). Similarly, with slight difference, the ayah from surat al-Hijr states, “…except Iblis, he refused to be among those who fell in prostration” (al-Hijr, 15:50).

    Surat Sod sheds some light as to why Iblis refused to honor Adam together with the angels, “…except Iblis, he was arrogant and became one of the disbelievers” (Sod, 38:74). Surat al-Baqarah informs, “…except Iblis, he refused, was arrogant and became one of the disbelievers” (al-Baqarah, 2:34). And finally, surat al-Kahf explains the last scenario of Iblis, “And (mention O Prophet) when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam,’ and so they all fell in prostration except Iblis, he was from the Jinn and so disobeyed the command of his Lord” (al-Kahf, 18:50).

    All these ayat tell us that Iblis, (who is from the Jinn kind, not an angel or even having an angelic form) in his arrogance and pride refused to honor Adam and disobeyed Allah’s command. A good question arises from all these scenarios: was Iblis included in the command that was issued specifically to the angels? And why blame Iblis when the command was strictly for the angels?

    The ayah from surat al-Kahf affirms that Iblis disobeyed the command of his Lord: “except Iblis, he was from the Jinn and so disobeyed the command of his Lord.” Even though the command was directed at the angels, it certainly included Iblis (who happened to be of a different kind) because Iblis was in their company.

    Generally speaking, statements or commands that are general in nature would include all individuals of the same kind, type, class, etc. With the exception of the Arabs, in certain cases, general statements may include other kinds that have a relationship with the original kind. This is called “al-taghleeb” or the Rule of Preference in the fiqh (rules) of the Arabic Language.2

    Even though the command is directed to the angels specifically it included Iblis because he was in the company of the angels. Prior to becoming Iblis, he was known as Azazeel because of his extraordinary piety. He was elevated to the level of the angels as their equal even though he was from a different species, the Jinn kind. Because of his rank among the angels he was called “Tawus al-Malli’ikah” or “The Peacock among the Angels.”

    Therefore, because of this relationship he was included in the command, and that explains the ayah, “Indeed, We created you, and then We gave you shape, and then We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam,’ and so they did except Iblis. He was not of those who fell in prostration. He (God) said, ‘What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?’” (al-’Araf, 7:11-12). Shamelessly and out of pride Iblis stated his reason which will be discussed next time, insha Allah.


     

    1. Qur’an (7:172)

    2. For example, the word “Awlad” in Arabic which means children is masculine plural. Although, it is masculine it includes both genders, males and females. The preference with the Arabs has always been males, so they use the masculine gender to include the feminine gender in statements that are general. One example can be found in surat al-Nisa’, “Regarding (the inheritance of) your children (awlad), Allah enjoins (this) upon you: The male shall have the equivalent share of two females” (al-Nisa’, 4:11).

     

  • Master Supplication for Forgiveness (July 3, 2015) Open or Close

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    An open invitation to repentance is issued in the Qur’an. By way of command, Allah (SWT) instructs, “O you who believe! Repent to Allah sincerely” (al-Tahrim, 66:8). The Arabic word for repentance is “tawbah.” It is derived from the root word taba which literally means to return

    Anyone who makes tawbah is in essence returning back to Allah (SWT) with the intent to mending his/her ways in return for forgiveness. Hence, O believers! Return to your Lord sincerely and remorsefully.

    In conjunction with the ayah mentioned above, the Prophet (SAW) informed us of a beautiful supplication that guarantees forgiveness and Paradise. Who would not want to go to Paradise? We all beg for Allah’s mercy and hope to be among the dwellers of Paradise. Shaddad Ibn Aws (RAA) shares the prophetic supplication known as “Sayyidul Istighfar” or “the Master Supplication for Forgiveness.”

    “The Master Supplication for Forgiveness is to say, ‘O Allah! You are my Lord! There is no god except You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I shall honor Your covenant and fulfill my promise to You as much as I can. I seek refuge in You from all the evil deeds I have committed. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So forgive me, for nobody can forgive sins except You.’” [sahih al-Bukhari]

    The Prophet (SAW) commented, “If anybody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.”

    If one were to sincerely invoke this supplication daily, one is guaranteed paradise. We must realize that it is not the mere uttering of the words that qualifies one admittance to Paradise. It is to be fully conscious of what is being uttered. It is to say it, “with firm faith in it,” with absolute certainty that if you are repenting sincerely, Allah will indeed forgive you.

    The supplication begins with the statement, “O Allah! You are my Lord (Rubb).” The statement is not only an acknowledgement and recognition of God as our Master but also acceptance. We accept Allah (SWT) as our Lord (Rubb), Master, Sustainer and Nourisher. This constitutes the concept of “Oneness in Authority, (tawheed al-rububiyyah-Lordship).” The second statement “There is no god except You,” deals with the concept of “Oneness in Divinity, (tawheed al-uluhiyyah-Godship).” The statement implies that He alone is to be worshipped.

    Tawheed al-uluhiyyah-Godship in essence is to single out Allah (SWT) as the only deity in truth worthy of worship and similarly, tawheed al-rububiyyah-Lordship is to single out Allah as the only Master in truth worthy of our obedience. Worship and obedience to God out of love and reverence for Him is the Islamic concept of Ibadah or servitude.

    The next statement demonstrates the status of humans in relation to their Master, “You created me and I am Your slave.” We acknowledge that our parents are the means of our creation. In truth, it is Allah (SWT) who created us and as we acknowledge this fact we must be reminded that we are owned by Him, hence, we are His slaves. In other words, we are to submit to and obey our Master unconditionally, willingly or unwillingly. True humble slaves of Allah submit to and obey Allah (SWT) out of love for their Creator.

    The word slave may denote a negative connotation when used in relationship to humans, however, the title “slave” is the most honored title in the sight of Allah (SWT). Every Prophet and Messenger of Allah was described as a slave of Allah. The first words uttered by Jesus (AS) in his cradle were, “I am the salve of Allah” (Maryam, 19:30). To earn such a title is not easy. One must struggle hard to become a true humble slave of Allah.

    After accepting our status with the Creator we confirm, “I shall honor Your covenant and fulfill my promise to You as much as I can.” One may inquire, what covenant and promise? The covenant is the heavenly “Covenant of Alast.” The spirits of all humans (past, present and future) were present before Allah (SWT) much before the creation of the universe. While assembled like conscripted soldiers, Allah (SWT) then asked, “Am I not Your Lord”? The entire congregation in one voice replied, “Indeed, You are, we bear witness” (al-A’raf, 7:172).

    It is noteworthy to know that all humans in this world are being tested on the basis of the great heavenly covenant of Alast. So, when one says, “I shall honor Your covenant,” it simply means that Allah (SWT) is my Lord and I shall do my very best to carry out my duties toward my Master while obeying His commands and living a righteous and honorable life.

    Similarly, when we affirm, “and fulfill my promise to You,” one must be cognizant of the promise he/she is making with Allah (SWT). What is that promise? Believers who perform the daily prayers are reminded of the promise we make with Allah (SWT). In each of the seventeen units (rak’ahs) we perform daily, after praising Allah (SWT), “Praise be to the Lord of the Worlds, the most Merciful, Ever Compassionate, the Owner of the Day of Reckoning,” we promise; “You alone we worship (and obey), and to You alone we turn for help” (al-Fatiha, 1:5).

    Again, we promise to worship and obey our Lord, Allah (SWT) sincerely and out of love for Him. To be true to one’s promise, one must do his/her very best to fulfill the pledge at all times.
    We shall always seek help from none other than Allah (SWT), simply because we are certain that Allah (SWT) has power over everything. The Prophet (SAW) taught us to seek Allah’s help even if one needs shoe laces. We must be completely dependent on Him.

    There is no harm in asking others for help but only when it pertains to matters that belong to this physical world. Conscious believers turn to Allah (SWT) for help prior to turning to people because they know that it is Allah who is in charge and it is He who will facilitate for us the means to get helped.

    As for matters that deal with the supernatural realm or the unseen, the only source of assistance is Allah (SWT) simply because He alone is the knower of the unseen. The Prophet (SAW) taught us a special dua for such assistance. It is called Dua’ al-Istikharah (seeking goodness from Allah). Hence, “and to You alone we turn for help.”

    Therefore we pray, ‘I will faithfully and to the best of my ability keep my pledge and promise to You. I shall do my very best to worship and obey You and I will need your help O Allah!’

    After re-affirming our promise we seek refuge in Him, “I seek refuge in You from all the evil deeds I have committed.” As humans who are not immune to sin or evil, each person by his/her own right is a sinner and we seek refuge in Him from the evil of our deeds.

    As grateful humble slaves of Allah (SWT), we acknowledge all favors and bounties of Allah, “I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me.” In other words, I could not have sustained myself without your great bounties. You have given me good health, a family, a job, a car, a house, etc. If we were to count the blessings of Allah (SWT) we would never be able to tally them.

    Just as we acknowledge Allah’s blessings, we say, “I confess to You all my sins. So forgive me, for nobody can forgive sins except You.” We must keep in mind that this is a supplication made in private. Who are we going to hide our sins from? Certainly not Allah (SWT), for He knows everything about each and every one of us. Confessing one’s sins in private with Allah (SWT) is a sign of humility. With one’s head bowed down, remorseful of the sins committed, one begs Allah (SWT), “O Allah! FORGIVE ME,” because no one can forgive sins except You. Allah (SWT) is the ultimate and final Judge and only He can pardon.

    ‘O Allah! You are my Lord! There is no god except You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I shall honor Your covenant and fulfill my promise to You as much as I can. I seek refuge in You from all the evil deeds I have committed. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So forgive me, for nobody can forgive sins except You.’”

    Saying the dua faithfully in the morning and evening with absolute certainty that Allah is listening to us can only increase our chances for Paradise, according to the Prophet (SAW).
    What’s extraordinary about this dua is that the faithful believer invoking it becomes extremely cautious about his/her actions and deeds performed. One becomes more conscious of the consequences of one’s actions and feels compelled to remain on the straight path. Otherwise, saying the dua and acting contrary to the promises made therein is a sign of hypocrisy. It is only a mere lip service. One may be utterly disappointed to find his/her seat among “the hypocrites in the lowest depths of Hell, and you will find no one to help them” (al-Nisa’, 4:145).

    Sincere repentance is proof of one’s faithfulness to Allah (SWT). One can easily verify whether his/her repentance is genuine or not. A believer who meets the five pre-conditions is indeed on the right track.

    The first condition is for one to acknowledge his/her sins just as mentioned in the dua, “I confess my sins.” This is the humility part of sincere repentance. One is not being arrogant.

    The second condition is regret. One must feel truly sorry and have a sense of remorse and regret in one’s heart for the bad and evil deeds committed in the past.

    The third condition is to ask for forgiveness frequently. One must always ask for forgiveness from his/her Lord for what one committed. The Prophet (SAW) used to say daily 100 times, “My Lord! Forgive and pardon me, Indeed you are the Oft-Returning with compassion (Tawwab), ever merciful (Rahim).”

    The fourth condition is to leave the sin immediately. Regardless of what type of sin and unto whom it is being committed one must stop sinning immediately. One must do his/her very best to leave sins behind and have deep faith that Allah is going to help. One must not give up.

    And finally, the fifth condition is to refrain from returning to the sin. One must make a firm resolve never to return back to the sin. Fulfilling these conditions qualify the believer to receive Allah’s Grace and Mercy.

    In addition to the good news the Prophet (SAW) informed in the hadith of the “Master Supplication for Forgiveness,” Allah (SWT) assures the believers success for their sincerity in returning faithfully back to Him.

    “O you who believe! Turn to Allah in sincere repentance. Your Lord may well cancel your bad deeds for you and admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, on a Day when Allah will not disgrace the Prophet or those who have believed with him. With their lights streaming out ahead of them and to their right, they will say, ‘Lord, perfect our light for us and forgive us: You have power over everything’” (al-Tahrim, 66:8).

    There can be no better time than now while enjoying the blessings of Ramadan to learn, memorize and invoke the dua of “Sayyid al-Istighfar” daily while genuinely migrating to Allah (SWT). Al-Hamdulillah, we have the complete guidance. How can one go wrong?

  • Learning and Teaching the Qur’an (May 29, 2015) Open or Close

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    In a profound hadith, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) informed, “The best among you is one who learns and teaches the Qur’an.” Why the Qur’an, one wonders? Simply because the Qur’an is the last and final uncorrupted scripture that contains the final guidance that guides people to true happiness and salvation. It contains the answers to our everyday struggles. It is the speech of our Creator, Allah Almighty.

    In the early days of Islam a group called the Mu’tazilites held the belief that the Qur’an was the created divine word. In fact, The Abbasid Caliph Abdullah al-Ma’mun (827 CE) adopted this doctrine publically. Imam Ahmad (RA), who did not comply with the position of the State, refuted their claim and consequently he was imprisoned and tortured.

    Surat al-Rahman clearly refutes the claim of the Mu’tazilite, “The most Gracious, taught the Qur’an, created man, taught him (how) to express himself” (al-Rahman, 55:1-4). Man is a creation of Allah; and the Qur’an, which is the speech of Allah, was conveyed and taught to Muhammad (SAW) through archangel Jibril (AS), teaching him the most eloquent speech.

    The Qur’an itself asserts that it is the speech of Allah (SWT), “If any one of the idolaters seek your protection (O Prophet), grant it to him so that he may hear the word (kalam, speech) of God, then escort him to his place of safety, for they are people with no knowledge (of it)” (al-Tawbah, 9:6). A speech of a person is an attribute of that person and the speech of Allah is an attribute of Allah (SWT). It cannot be a creation. The second to last ayah in surat Ya Seen clearly demonstrates this fact, “Indeed, whenever He decrees a matter, He says to it Be (kun) and it is!” (Ya Seen, 36:82). How can then Allah’s speech (Be, kun) be created when He uses the command Be to create whatever He wills?

    The Qur’an is indeed the speech of Allah (SWT) and according to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “The superiority of the speech of Allah compared to all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over His creation.” Why then learn and teach the Qur’an? Because, “The most accurate and truthful speech is the Book of Allah.” A reminder the Prophet (SAW) would articulate at the pulpit while addressing a Friday congregation.

    Reflecting on the word “Best” from the hadith, the best of humans are the prophets and messengers of Allah (SWT). He chooses the best because they are the link between Him and the people He created. With Muhammad (SAW) being the last and final prophet and messenger of God, who would play the vital role linking the rest of humanity to their Creator God Almighty after him? Only the followers of Muhammad can fill the gap and occupy that position. Therefore, the ummah (the messenger of the last Messenger of Allah) is the final link between God and humanity. In praising the ummah, Allah (SWT) declares, “You (Muslims) are the best of peoples raised for all mankind” (Aal Imran, 3:110), It is in this light we may understand that the best of Muslims are those who learn and teach the Qur’an.


    In a similar fashion, the Prophet (SAW) said, “The most superior among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” Therefore, the best and most superior of all people are those who continue the tradition of the Prophet (SAW) and his noble companions by understanding and teaching the Qur’an to others.

    Learning and teaching the Qur’an is a basic function of propagation (dawah). Allah (SWT) apprised, “And who could be better in speech than one who calls (people) to God, acts righteously and says, ‘I am one of (those who surrendered to God) the Muslims’” (Fussilat, 41:33). Dawah to Allah begins with the Qur’an. Indeed it was the Qur’an; its eloquence, message and wisdom that captured and softened the hearts of the early converts to Islam.

    The statement, “Best among you are those who learn and teach the Quran” is so profound, it informs the believer of his obligations toward the Qur’an. Those who fulfill such duties are indeed among the best of people. Such responsibilities include, first and foremost, real faith and belief in the Qur’an. Our belief in the Qur’an should not be limited to only saying we believe in it. One who truly believes in it and appreciates the speech of Allah is eager to learn about His creator and what He has to say.

    Secondly, people who have genuine faith in the Qur’an recite it profusely and more frequently. After all, why was the Qur’an sent to mankind? It was not meant to be treated as a decorative ornament in our homes, offices and cars. It was meant to be read. The word “al-Qur’an” literally means “the Recital” or the Book to be read, “Recite then of the Qur'an as much as may be easy for you” (al-Muzzamil, 73:20). The importance of learning the Qur’an is emphasized in surat al-Qamar. In four places Allah (SWT) challenges the Muslims, “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to learn (and understand). Is there then anyone who wish to learn?” (al-Qamar, 54:17,22,32,40).

    The third obligation toward the Qur’an is to reflect on and understand the ayat that are recited. Each ayah of the Qur’an is a sign and symbol of divine wisdom and knowledge. And each ayah deserves the proper attention and understanding. After all it was revealed for that purpose, “(This is) a blessed Book which We sent down to you (O Prophet) so that they may ponder over its ayat (signs) and that the men of understanding may take heed” (Sod, 28:29). The method by which we gain deep insight into the Qur’an is through the use of our intellect; “Undoubtedly, we have explained the signs in detail; for those who understand” (al-An’am, 6:98). The knowledge of the Arabic language is, however, vital for this purpose.

    The fourth duty is to act upon its teachings and injunctions. The aim behind learning the Qur’an is to influence and shape the personal life of the individual and the collective life of the community. The Qur’an, also known as al-Huda, or the Guidance, contains genuine guidance that leads to true happiness and salvation, “Verily, this Qur’an guides to that which is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that they will have a great reward” (al-Isra’, 17:9).

    The fifth and final obligation is to propagate the Qur’an to the masses. We can appreciate this duty when we ponder on the following ayah, “This is a clear message for mankind in order that they may be warned thereby, and that they may know that He is only One God, and that men of understanding may take heed” (Ibrahim, 14:52). In a similar fashion, He (SWT) informed, “This (Qur'an) is a clear statement to (all) the people and a guidance and admonition for those who are mindful of (and fear) God” (Aal Imran, 3:138).

    The ummah is the only link between Allah (SWT) and the entire humanity for all time to come entrusted with the prophetic mission of disseminating the final message of Allah (SWT). To be effective in this endeavor one has to embody, think and act according to the Qur’an.

    Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was an exemplary teacher who taught the Qur’an in an unequivocal manner. And we as students of the Qur’an must be role models just as the Prophet (SAW) was. The teacher must fear Allah, be good-natured and possess an exceptional character. He/she is cheerful, patient and forbearing. Among other traits he/she is tranquil, respectful and humble. Additionally, he/she is clean, well groomed and smells good. He/she avoids idle talk, mockery and excessive laughing.

    A word of caution: intention, intention, intention. Our intention for this task (or any Islamic work for that matter) must be purely and solely for the sake of Allah (SAW). Any other motive may result in utter ruin in the hereafter. We may recall the hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) informs of the philanthropist, martyr and scholar who are brought to the grand court of Allah for reckoning. All supposedly acted with the intention of pleasing Allah (SWT).

    The man who acquired and imparted knowledge gained from the Qur’an will be brought before Allah (SAW). Upon recalling the favors He (SWT) bestowed upon him, i.e., giving him the ability to learn the Qur’an, He (SWT) asks him, “What did you do to express gratitude for it?” the man replies, “I acquired the knowledge of Qur’an and taught it for your sake.” Allah (SWT) will say to him and He knows best, “You have lied. You have gained knowledge of the Qur’an so that people may call you a scholar and a reciter (i.e. to be praised) and they have done so.” Allah (SWT) then orders the angels to drag him on his face and thrown in Hell.

    Intention. Intention. Intention. It cannot be stressed more. The student who has sincerely taken this responsibility of learning and teaching the Qur’an may start off with good intentions, but unless the motive is clear, verified and confirmed regularly, we may slip and begin serving our own ego rather than the cause of Allah (SWT).

    Another point worthy of mentioning is, unless this endeavor is primarily for personal guidance and development, the very Qur’an one is learning may become a means of misguidance. The Qur’an confirms this point, “Through it (the Qur’an) He makes many go astray and leads many to the right path. But it is only the rebels He makes go astray” (al-Baqarah, 2:26). In other words, a person whose motive is to study the Qur’an for mere intellectual exercise may find him/herself completely misguided.

    Learning the Qur’an without having genuine faith in it, its guidance, rules, laws, injunctions, instructions, etc. will be of no benefit other than perhaps worldly benefits.

    For new students of knowledge who may decide on embarking on this task of learning and teaching the Qur’an, it is recommended to start where the Prophet (SAW) started. Often times we start where the prophet (SAW) ended. His mission started in Makkah and ended in Madinah. The revelations that were revealed in Makkah are distinctively different in nature than those that were revealed in Madinah.

    The Medinan Qur’an dealt with rulings (ahkam), do’s and don’ts, lawful and unlawful etc. As Muslims we must abide by all of God’s rules and commands. However, a Muslim, particularly a new Muslim, who is far from the deen will find it heavy and burdensome to comply with the Islamic law. This is because the personal development has not yet been attained to prepare the person to accept such commands and struggle against his own will to obey God.  

    The remedy for this is to start where the Prophet (SAW) started. For thirteen years in Makkah, two-thirds of the Qur’an were revealed, and the Prophet (SAW) taught the three main doctrinal beliefs. They are belief in God (Iman Billah), belief in the institution of prophethood (Iman bil-Risalah) and belief in the hereafter (Iman bil-Akhirah).

    Extensive surahs and sections of the Qur’an talk about Allah, the Creator, His oneness, His names and attributes, role of messengers, historical accounts of past nations, resurrection, Judgment Day, punishment and reward. These subjects are repeated in different forms and styles to draw the reader to the Qur’anic power of eloquence and wisdom. Such teachings are crucial to a non-Muslim audience.

    It was through such teachings that the noble companions of the Prophet (SAW) were transformed completely. This phase was known as the phase of “purification of the soul.” It is necessary to sow the seeds of Iman and nurture it to grow before one may reap the benefits of Iman. The inevitable result of deep-rooted faith is good action which includes complying with all of the injunctions of God Almighty.

    Finally, the Qur’an is the pinnacle of Wisdom, “Alif Lam Ra [This is] a Scripture whose verses are perfected, then set out clearly, from One who is all wise, all aware.” (Hud, 11:1,2). “And He gives wisdom to whoever He wills. Whoever is given wisdom has truly been given much good, but only those with insight bear this in mind” (al-Baqarah, 2:269).

    Indeed the Qur’an transforms lives and shapes and reforms societies. It is the light that guides the way, and it is the straight path that leads to an everlasting, perpetual bliss of paradise. Indeed, “Best among you is one who learns and teaches the Qur’an.” Time is precious and short. We can truly be among the best. Let us begin this journey of learning and teaching the Qur’an and be among the best in the sight of Allah (SWT).
      

  • Civic Engagement is Our Duty (May 15, 2015) Open or Close

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    Muslims obtain their guidance from two primary sources; the Qur’an and the Sunnah (sayings and actions) of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Both sources assert that civic engagement is an obligation. In praising the last and final ummah, Allah (SWT) declares, “You are the best community (ummah) brought forth for (the good) of mankind” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110). It is clear that we have been chosen to be of benefit to humanity i.e. to serve the community at large; Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Prophet (SAW) did inform, “The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people.”

    Imagine if the Prophet (SAW) rejected the support of his uncle Abu Talib because he was a polytheist. Abu Talib was responsible for not only protecting the Prophet (SAW) from physical harm but also for allowing him to freely preach Islam without the threat of intimidation coming from the leaders of Quraish led by Abu Jahl who vehemently opposed his message.

    When the Prophet’s worldly protection Abu Talib passed away, his life was threatened and preaching the new faith came to a standstill. He fled to al-Ta’if to seek a new base for propagation (dawah). To his utter disappointment, he was rejected and driven out of the town. His only refuge was his home, Makkah, but he could only return under the protection of a notable from Quraish through ijarah. Ijarah is a tribal custom where the person offering ijarah, ensures one’s safety and protection from any harm. Although, he was not allowed to preach Islam, Mut’am bin ‘Adi agreed to protect the Prophet (SAW) and he accepted. Mut’am Bin ‘Adi was a polytheist.

    The Prophet (SAW) sought the good will of people who didn’t accept his faith. He set the standard for seeking support from non-Muslims when necessary.

    The League or Pact of the Virtuous, hilf al-Fudul, as it is called, is a great example of cooperating with non-Muslims on matters of justice. The Prophet (SAW), in his youth, was present in the house of Abdullah Ibn Jud’an where tribe leaders met and agreed basically on two main clauses. One; respect the principle of Justice and two; collectively intervene in conflicts to establish Justice. The pact was written and placed in the Ka’bah believing that God will protect the pact. Years later, the Prophet (SAW) in his admiration of the pact recalls, (on the authority of Aisha), “I witnessed in the house of Jud’an the pact of al-Fudul and if I were to be invited today (after the establishment of Islam) I would respond.”

    The Qur’an and the Sunnah makes it clear that civic engagement with non-Muslims upholding universal values that include freedom, equality and justice and cooperating with them on matters of goodness is a religious obligation. Allah (SWT) commands, “And cooperate with each other in (matters of) goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate with one another in sin and hostility. And Fear Allah, indeed Allah is severe in punishment” (al-Ma’idah, 5:2).

    And we too must respond to any form of alliance with non-Muslims as long as the objectives and the means to achieving the goals do not contravene the basic teachings of Islam.

    With the ongoing ambush on Muslims and Islam in the West and America in particular, Muslims must rise to defend themselves and the faith they claim. We, as Muslims from across the globe residing in America, must come together for the sake of our religion and the future of our children. Challenges are inevitable. However, they can be overcome if we have the desire to civically engage. The Prophet (SAW) sought the support of non-Muslims. We have no choice but to work with and build alliances with individuals and organizations who are sympathetic to our cause and are willing to stand by our side. We must have a clear agenda that addresses the challenges we face today.

    The civic engagement must be fundamentally based on justice. This must be the foundation of the framework. Allah (SWT) commands, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Justice as witnesses to Allah, even if it is against yourselves, your parents and close relatives…” (al-Nisa’, 4:135). By the same token Allah (SWT) ordains, “O you who believe! Stand up for Allah as witnesses to Justice. And do not let the enmity and hatred of others make you swerve from doing Justice. Be just, that is closer to piety and fear Allah, for verily, Allah is well acquainted with what you do” (al-Mai’dah, 5:8).

    We have been granted an opportunity to stand up for justice/Allah as witnesses to Allah/justice. Being the source of justice, Allah (SWT), the Just (al-‘Adl), wants us to exercise our duty of ordaining good and forbidding evil. Should we fail to fight for and uphold justice, we will fail to be witnesses to Allah. Similarly, should we fail to stand up for Allah and the values/principles He (SWT) imparted and doing His will, we will fail to be witnesses to justice.

    We must personally be firm on justice while striving to see that others too are upholding justice.

    Although there is much good in our societies, we can’t ignore the injustice of systematic and institutionalized racism, Islamophobia, racial profiling, police brutality, not to speak of environmental issues, killing and maiming of civilians with drones, occupation and usurpation of land. If we consider ourselves as part and parcel of the society, we then need to act. We simply cannot continue to remain silent. We must get out of our comfort zones and engage in the struggle for justice.

    The Prophet (SAW) instructs, “Whoever among you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able, then with his tongue; and if he is not able, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim). The word hand in this context denotes authority. Any injustice taking place in America may be challenged in the courts. Fortunately for us, there are civil/human rights organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Human Rights Council (AHRC), and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) among other organizations who challenge injustice and ensure that the rights of people are granted through the judicial system.

    As things get better for the Muslim community in terms of action, there are three areas for improvement. They are: volunteerism, voting and simply being good Muslims.

    Volunteerism: We must spare some time to serve and invest in the community. Become a volunteer. Government social services is but a small percentage of the social services rendered by non-profit organizations. Programs which include feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, blood drives, caring for the elderly, and free health clinics are but a few areas of much needed work. Without volunteers such endeavors would come to a standstill.

    America strives on volunteerism and we must be part of that effort. The Prophet (SAW) informs, “A person who strives to take care of the needs of the widow and the poor man is like one who struggles in the way of Allah (a mujahid), or like one who stands during the night to pray and fasts during the day” (al-Bukhari). We need to cultivate a culture of volunteerism. We must keep in mind that our primary motivation for helping others should be for the love and sake of Allah, “We feed you only for the sake of Allah alone. We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you” (al-Insan, 76:9).

    Volunteers must be aware that whatever good they do, their labor will not go unnoticed. “And Say (O Prophet), ‘Take action! God will see your actions- as will His Messenger and the believers- and you will be returned to the One who knows what is seen and unseen, and He will tell you what you did’” (al-tawbah, 9:15).

    The Prophet (SAW) narrates the story of, “A prostitute (who) saw a dog lolling around a well on a hot day and hanging his tongue from thirst. She drew some water for it in her shoe, so Allah forgave her” (Muslim).

    Voting: Another area of interest to us is exercising the right to vote. The narrative of whether Muslim American citizens are permitted to vote in the national or local elections has been debated and the overwhelming majority of scholars domestically and abroad have permitted the participation in the political electoral process. To be effective in this field, we must have a clear political agenda that serves the needs and rights of Muslims.

    There are nearly 8 million Muslims in America. African Americans make up anywhere from 23 to 30% of that number. The rest are from the Middle East, South East Asia, and East Asia among other nations. Therefore, 70% of Muslims, like all other US immigrants who left their homelands, immigrated to America for a better life. For most of us the economic opportunities here are much better than where we came from. We made that choice and we are enjoying the prosperity and success of living a good life.

    Muslims in America are among the most affluent and most educated anywhere outside Muslim countries. Yet, we have no say in the affairs of our local governments what to speak of the national government. There are only two Muslim US representatives in DC, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson. Unless we become involved in the electoral political process our conditions as Muslims are going to worsen.

    With the rise of Islamophobia and the next presidential race, right wing republicans will be rallying their campaigns against Muslims and Islam to score political points just as the Dutch MP from the Netherlands Geert Wilder did and won. As a matter of fact, members of the Republican conference invited him to speak and of course to learn from him how he ran his campaign successfully. Geert Wilders called Islam the “ideology of a retarded culture.” Wilders advocates for outlawing the Qur’an and the construction of mosques. Speaking in front of the steps of the US Capitol, he called for an end to immigration “from Islamic countries to our free Western societies.”

    As Americans it is our duty to face up to such challenges with wisdom. Participating in elections may not yield immediate results. However, with a clear long term strategy and agenda, participating in elections may very well help Muslims overcome their anxiety and possibly defeat Islamophobia in the long run.

    Participating in local politics is just as, if not more important than participating in national politics. Challenges such as zoning when building Islamic centers and schools may be eased up when Muslims are familiar and engaged with State and Local governments and politicians. Muslims must consider running for the school board, city council, and a host of other positions.

    Whenever we at IONA were faced with a zoning issue or any issue that requires city approval, the mayor of our city, Mayor Fouts of Warren, MI, and his deputy would tell me, “You guys don’t vote.” He is right.

    Muslim voters exercising their right to vote whether in Warren, Michigan or any other city especially when there is a sizable concentration of Muslims will make a huge difference. For those who are not registered to vote, we ask that you register and for all who are registered we ask that you do vote wisely.

    And finally, simply:
    Be a Good Muslim: Being a good Muslim will certainly enhance our image that has been tarnished by Islamophobes, hatemongers and bigots. It is, however, sad and unfortunate that some Muslims are acting repugnantly and contradictory to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    Imams involved in illicit relations making national news, and Muslim business owners committing fraud, among other illegal activities are helping Islamophobes and the mainstream media justify their criticisms against Muslims and the faith they claim. Such actions are not helping our cause.

    Recently, the FBI stormed nearly a dozen stores for committing Bridge Card (Food Stamp) fraud. Not long ago, three so called scholars/huffaz who were employed by an Islamic institution to raise funds on its behalf among other duties diverted money into an account created by them that carry a similar name as the institution they represent. Such wrong doers must be brought to justice and dealt with accordingly.

    One may ask, how dare such so called scholars and huffaz betray our faith? The Prophet (SAW) prophesized centuries ago, “There will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Qur’an except its inscription. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but devoid of guidance. Their scholars will be the worst people under the heavenly sky. Strife (fitnah) will emerge from them and revert to haunt them” (al-Baihaqi). In reality, such people have neither faith nor religion. It is only lip service. The Prophet (SAW) categorically said, “There can be no faith (iman) to one who cannot be trusted and no religion (deen) to one who does not fulfill his pledge.”

    Muslim immigrants have pledged to uphold the law of the land and be good citizens. We must live our faith as ordained upon us. Civic engagement that stands up for justice while upholding piety and righteousness will surely please our Lord and help us make a positive impression upon people who admire honesty and integrity.

     

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 7: The Story of Adam and the Two Forms of Knowledge (April 3, 2015) Open or Close

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    The Soul’s Journey from Inception to Eternity
    The Story of Adam and the Two Forms of Knowledge

    Thus far we have learned that Adam (AS) was appointed by Allah (SWT) as His vicegerent and deputy on earth or khalifah (Caliph). In order for Adam (AS) to fulfill his mission, both forms of knowledge, knowledge of the created world and knowledge of the Creator, are required. They make the basis or foundation of this Caliphate.

    Regarding the first type of knowledge, Adam received his primary education and training here on earth. This is typical of any job. For example, the owner of a store who wishes to hire a sales person selects the best candidate from a pool of applicants. Prior to assuming his responsibilities and duties, the employee receives education and training relevant to his job. The new hire is taught the names of the products he is to sell and how they work. Additionally, the employee is made aware of the policies of the company.

    Allah (SWT) chose Adam (AS) to represent Him on earth. Prior to taking charge of the world, Adam (AS) was taught by his Master the names of everything he needed to know. “And He taught Adam the names of all things” (al-Baqarah, 2:31). Commenting on the ayah, Ibn Abbas (RA) said, “(Adam was taught) the names that people use, such as human, animal, sky, earth, land, sea, horse, donkey, and so forth, including the names of the other species.” He was asked, “Did Allah teach him the names of the plate and the pot?” Ibn Abbas replied, “Yes, and even the terms for breaking wind.” Allah (SWT) taught Adam everything that is related to the created world and explained their peculiarities.

    Learning the names of things is consistent with the way we learn. Before teaching our babies the alphabet and how to speak sentences, we teach them the names of things. We point to a window for example, and say this is a window, or a door, table, ear, nose, hair, etc. This is precisely what Adam (AS) learned from Allah (SWT). We must however keep in mind that although Adam (AS), may have been a grown man, his intellect and ability to learn was in its infancy.

    The faculty of the intellect is very special to humans. It is this faculty that enables one to think and reason objectively, particularly with regard to abstract ideas. Through the sense organs, we collect data and feed it into the computer of our brain to be processed. The job of the intellect is to sort out the data and make sense out of it; analyze, draw conclusions, make inferences and judgments. This unique ability to think in a logical way is reserved exclusively to man. Having been endowed with this faculty and aptitude, Adam ranks above all Allah’s creation including angels, for angels don’t possess such aptitude.

    Besides conventional names, Adam was taught how to express himself, “(It is) the Lord of Mercy, (who) taught the Qur’an, created man, and taught him (how) to express himself” (al-Rahman, 55, 1-4). Man is not only able to identify things, but also to articulate himself and express his or her feelings and thoughts when in pain, happy, hungry, etc.

    Angelic nature is not capable of such awareness. Angels cannot experience the pangs of hunger and thirst, nor joy or sadness. Even if Allah (SWT) were to teach the angels what He taught Adam (AS), they would not be able to express themselves due to their unique nature.

    Take for example a parrot. A parrot can be trained to not only say names but also to speak sentences. For instance, a parrot may be taught to say, “I am hungry.” It will say it perfectly. We are fascinated by its ability to repeat what we tell it to say. However, when it gets hungry it will not be able to express oneself and communicate, “I am hungry.” It wasn’t created with such abilities and aptitude. The same applies for angels.

    This explains the situation in which Allah (SWT) displayed things before the angels and asked, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you truly (think you can)” (al-Baqarah, 2:31), they replied, “Glory be to You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the all-Knowing, the all-Wise” (al-Baqarah, 2:32).

    Angels are taught only what they need to know, not everything. Angel Jibril, Israfil, Mikael and Izrael for instance are only taught their areas of specialty. Archangel Jibril (AS) is the angel of revelation and is responsible for revealing the Qur’an to Muhammad (SAW). Israfil (AS) is an archangel in charge of blowing the horn/trumpet at the end of time. Mikail (AS) is depicted as the archangel responsible for bringing thunder and rain to the earth, while Izrael (AS), the angel of death, (“Malak al-mout,” as mentioned in the Qur’an), is the archangel responsible for taking the soul from the body.

    Angels know only what Allah (SWT) taught them concerning their duties. Different angels are assigned different duties and Allah gave them the knowledge of that particular duty. By contrast, man has been given the faculties to facilitate a comprehensive knowledge of everything.

    There is an opinion among the exegetes of the Qur’an which affirms that Allah (SWT) taught the names of things and expressions to Adam in the presence of the angels. Still, they couldn’t identify the things they were asked to name, rather they replied, “We know only what you taught us.” Adam, however, passes the test with excellence, “(Allah) said, ‘O Adam tell them the names of these.’ When he told them their names, (Allah) said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know the unseen (aspects/realities) of the heavens and the earth, and that I know what you reveal and what you conceal?’” (al-Baqarah, 2:33).

    According to Imam al-Razi (RA) the statement, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen (aspects/realities) of the heavens and the earth,” suggests that Allah (SWT) knew about Adam, his status and condition before He created him. Angels were not aware of Allah’s plan. Others interpret it to mean that Allah (SWT) in His infinite wisdom knew that good will inevitably triumph over evil and for that reason He (SWT) created humans with free will, knowing that some will be good while others would chose evil and that some will believe while others would disbelieve. Regarding the statement, “I know what you reveal,” according to Imam al-Razi, referring to the opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Masoud (RAA), Allah (SWT) was referring to the statement the angels presented before Him when they were informed of the caliphate, “Will You place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood while we glorify You with praises and extol Your holiness?” (al-Baqarah, 2:30) As for the statement, “and what you conceal,” The same companions believe that Allah (SWT) was referring to Iblis (Satan) concealing his pride, which would ultimately stop him from performing sajdah (prostration) before Adam.

    Consequently, Allah (SWT) equipped Adam (AS) with all necessary tools and means to obtain a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the physical world. In other words, Allah implanted the seed of knowledge in Adam. The explosion of knowledge in the 20th century and beyond is the fruit of that seed.

    We may compare this phenomenon to a date-palm seed. The seed is planted in fertile soil. After some time it sprouts, splits open and two leaves emerge. It grows over time to a mature fruit bearing tree provided the soil remains rich. The potential of a tree and fruits is imbedded in the seed. In essence, the whole tree existed in the seed.

    Knowledge of the physical world has been progressing steadily for millenniums and today we are reaping the benefits of such knowledge. We are reaping the harvest of what was planted in Adam. Knowledge has continuously evolved from simple concepts and discoveries to complex inventions.

    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, theologian and philosopher known as the most influential scientist in history and is most famous for discovering the Laws of Gravity, with all humility admits, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It is about discovering truth by building on previous discoveries. And if one were to trace back the acquired knowledge, it would eventually reach Adam. But who taught Adam? “And He (Allah) taught Adam the names of all things” (al-Baqarah, 2:31).

    All credit goes back not to Adam (AS) but to the one who taught Adam, Allah (SWT). Often, due to our own pride and arrogance, forget that it is indeed Allah (SWT) who should be praised for the great gift of the intellect He bestowed upon us. Indeed, all praise and gratitude are due to Him for it is He, “who taught (man) the use of the pen, taught man that which he knew not” (al-‘Alaq, 96: 4-5). Allah (SWT) attributes to Himself the progress of knowledge man has made through the pen. The prophet was instructed to supplicate, “And say: ‘O my Lord increase me in knowledge’” (Ta Ha, 20:114).

    The kind of knowledge Adam received thus far may be classified as acquired knowledge based on ‘ilm al-asma’, onomatology and onomasiology. There is another category of knowledge that is equally important for the role of khilafah, which is revealed knowledge. Imam al-Sahfi’ (RA) once said, “Knowledge is of two types, knowledge of the physical bodies and religious knowledge.”

    Science may have unraveled the truth about the secrets of life, but man demands the whole truth. People have always wondered about our origin and existence. Even philosophers tackled such questions. What is this universe? Is there a beginning or an end? Who is man and where did he come from? And of course, the question that baffles the minds of people, what is my purpose in life?

    Such metaphysical questions are beyond the reach of physical sciences, however, the urge to understand such questions are in the human mind. Indeed the branches of philosophy and metaphysical sciences deal with such subjects and philosophers and metaphysicists among other scholars through the exercise of their intellect and logic generate hypotheses and theoretical assumptions.

    Allah (SWT) in His infinite wisdom did not leave man to wander in the alleys of his imagination with no real answers. He (SWT) made sure that Adam and his progeny received the truth. The true realities of man and the universe have been foretold to us by the very originator of man and the universe, Allah (SWT). The total truth appears in the Qur’an, the last and final scripture intended for all of humanity. Such mysteries are no longer secret.

    Upon concluding the training course and prior to taking charge of the world as khalifah, Adam was given specific instructions, “When guidance comes from Me, as it certainly will, there shall be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38). This is the other type of knowledge where correct answers to the metaphysical questions humans have always struggled with are found.

    Acquired knowledge is obtained actively through the sense organs. Revealed knowledge, on the other hand, is attained passively. It is a revelation revealed to prophets and messengers of Allah (SWT). They, in turn, impart this knowledge to the rest of humanity.

    In conclusion, both acquired and revealed knowledge are tremendously important. They form the basis or foundation of the caliphate. Whoever excels in the field of sciences is given the opportunity to rule. Bear in mind that Adam’s rule was on the basis of “ilm al-asma’.” America and the West are on top of the world because of their outstanding achievements in all fields of social and physical sciences, but as Sir Isaac Newton pointed out, it is only by ‘standing on the shoulder of giants.’

    There was a time when Muslims were on top of the world. For several hundred years, Muslims excelled in all fields of science. They built upon what Indians, Chinese and Greeks postulated and became experts in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and medicine, among other fields. Through the universities of Spain, Granada and Cordoba, they transferred that knowledge to the people of France, Germany and Italy. In turn, those Western civilizations built upon the knowledge they received while Muslims fell into deep slumber.

    Unless acquired knowledge is complemented by revealed guidance, there is no guarantee that one may succeed in both worlds, the here and now as well as the hereafter. Islam stresses both types of knowledge as equally important. The Prophet (SAW) recognized their importance when he (SAW) stressed, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” We may also be reminded, that the first word revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was, “Read.”

  • In Memory of Malcom X – 50th Anniversary (February 20, 2015) Open or Close

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     February is designated as Black History Month and February 21, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination and martyrdom of Malcolm X. His life and struggle for justice is an inspiration to many people of conscience. He is among the great American icons and heroes who will always be remembered.

    In his early days with the Nation of Islam he was taught to hate the white man and described him as the devil. He spoke of separation not integration. He delivered fiery speeches arousing the feelings and emotions of his fellow black brothers and sisters. He was bold and straight to the point. He addressed domestic issues and like his contemporary, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he spoke out against the US engagement with Vietnam.

    After he split from the nation in 1964, he departed for the hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca and his experience there changed him forever. It not only changed him as a person, but it changed his worldview. He became a true Muslim who appreciated the diversity of God’s creation of different people, nations, colors, tongues, etc. Soon after, he became known as el-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

    El-Shabazz realized after seeing Muslims, “…of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans,” being treated as equals, that true Islam could help overcome racial ills. Islam teaches, “O mankind! We created you from a single male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another, for verily, the most honored of you, in the sight of Allah, is the most righteous. Surely, Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (al-Hujurat, 49:13).

    Upon returning to the U.S., Malcolm began promoting equality, fairness and tolerance. He believed that true Islam could solve the slew of racial and social issues plaguing society at the time while remaining critical of the policies of the US government.

    Events like those of Ferguson, New York, Chapel Hill and elsewhere make us believe that the issues Malcom stood for and spoke out against have not been resolved. The mainstream media among other agencies make it seem as though times have changed, but unfortunately, they haven’t.

    The issues Malcolm fought for including discrimination, the prison industrial complex, unfair prison sentencing and white privilege still exist today at an even larger scale. Additionally, not only do African Americans continue to be discriminated against, but Latinos and other minorities like Muslims who have become victims of Islamophobia are targets of hate and discrimination.

    When will the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” ring true? Among these truths is that we are endowed by our creator, (the one who created us all, blacks and whites, men and women, people of every nation on earth,) with certain unalienable rights. And among such rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    What life? One may ask. Can they bring Michael Brown back? Can they bring Eric Garner back, who was choked to death by a white cop while crying out, I can't breathe! I can't breathe! Can they bring Deah, Yusor and Razan back? Precious souls gone in vain.

    What Liberty do they speak of? Freedom is not free. Be it freedom of speech, or freedom of the press, freedom comes with responsibility. Unfortunately the press and mainstream media outlets have abused their privileges. They are responsible for enticing people to hate their fellow citizens be them blacks, Muslims or other minorities.

    And what pursuit of happiness? One out of five children go to bed hungry every day here in our own backyard. Our government needs to re-assess the values it claims to uphold. Malcom X was right, America can learn from Islam.

    It is interesting to note that Article 1 of the United Nations charter called for what Islam had been promoting centuries before the creation of the United Nations. Article 1 declares, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

    Freedom, Equality and Fraternity may be considered Islam’s slogan 1,400 years ago. Human liberty under the law is a fundamental teaching of Islam. Equality of all people is a major tenet of Islam and brotherhood is Islam’s most cherished value in sustaining a healthy society.

    It is clear that our existence is based on our willingness to submit to our Creator and His Will. Indeed humans are created with certain inalienable rights and freedom of religion is the most inalienable of all human rights. Every human being has the right to choose what he or she believes in. Confirming this right the Qur’an asserts, “Say (O Prophet), ‘this truth (the Qur’an) has come to you from your Lord, so whoever wishes to believe in it may do so and whoever wishes to reject it may do so’” (al-Kahf, 18:29). “Let there be no compulsion in religion”(al-Baqarah, 2:256), the Qur’an instructs. People have the absolute freedom to choose between good and evil.

    It was Islam who championed the notion of equality and fraternity centuries before the Magna Carta of England, the Bill of Rights of the US and the UN charter were adopted. Islam did not only preach but established those ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity.

    Islam not only recognizes but declares that all people belong to one race, the human race. “O people We created you from a male and a female” (49:13), signifies that all human beings regardless of who they are, their skin color, language, race or ethnicity belong to one parent, Adam and Eve. Thus, all human beings, Muslims and non-Muslims, Jews and Christians and people of every faith and religion; blacks, whites, Arabs, non-Arabs or any other race; men and women are unequivocally equal before their Creator and the law.
    The Qur’an further teaches, “And We made you into nations and tribes so you may know one another (not despise each other). Verily, The most honored before God is the most righteous.
    Brotherhood, friendship and Fraternity is what it is all about.

    Islam honors all people, blacks and whites such as Bilal al-Habashi (the Ethiopian) and Suhaib al-Rumi (the Roman). Similarly, Islam honors the Arabs and the non-Arabs, such as Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq and Salman al-Farisi (from Persia). Islam obliterated the notion of tribalism and fanaticism. The two famous tribes in al-Madinah who for centuries were bitter enemies waging wars against each other, the Aws and Khazraj, became, by the grace of God, brothers. Islam brought their hearts together.

    Even a man on the caliber of Abu Zarr, whom the Prophet (SAW) described as having the piety of Jesus (AS), was stripped of his piety by the Prophet when he called Bilal, “O son of a black woman.” He (SAW) rebuked him saying “By the one who revealed the Book to Muhammad none is more virtuous over another except by righteous deeds. You have none but an insignificant amount.” The memory of Bilal, a Black Muslim from Ethiopia, is still alive with us today whenever we hear the adhan.

    Islam does not tolerate racism and discrimination. Islam didn’t just introduce a theory that was preached or a slogan that was shouted, it was established. People realized the benefit of brotherhood, and it was practiced. Islam created necessary communal ties never known before to man of the pre-Islamic era. Malcom was right, our country and the West for that matter can learn from Islam.

    Unfortunately, recent events such as the Ferguson, NY and Chapel Hill shootings among many other events reveal a very scary reality that requires our utmost attention. Racism and discrimination is rampant and innocent people, be them blacks, Muslims, Latinos or other minorities continue to be victims to the structured and institutionalized racism our country continues to harbor and cultivate. Islamophobia is a great example. What is Islamophobia?
    Islamophobia is a term that combines two words, Islam and phobia. Islam is the religion to more than 1.5 billion Muslims and phobia means fear or horror. As an expression it means, prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of Muslims or groups perceived to be Muslim. It is about intolerance, bigotry and unfairness.

    “Islamophobia” connotes a social anxiety about Islam and Muslims. It is a social stigma towards Islam and Muslims, namely fear. Some scholars define Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of anti-Asian and anti-Arab racism. It is the same racism that existed against Roman Catholics and Jews of the 1930’s.

    Islamophobia not only targets Muslims but the faith they adhere to, Islam. It is common to hear statements on mainstream media such as Islamic terrorism, meaning Islam is terrorism. These subliminal messages are creating rage and anger in the hearts of ignorant people that lead to hating Muslims and the faith they follow and in some cases lead to murder and loss of lives.

    Consider the Chapel Hill case when, out of hatred to Islam and Muslims, Craig Hicks, murdered three young Muslim students Deah Shady Barakat, 23 (second year dental student); his new wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21 (admitted to of dental school); and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (a sophomore studying architecture). The slain Muslims had so much to offer America, what did Craig Hicks have to offer?

    Islamophobia is simply a violation of human rights. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal. Among the things hatemongers teach is that, Islam is inferior to the West. Islam is barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist. Islam is violent, aggressive and threatening. Muslims are portrayed as “the other.”

    In spite of all the contributions Muslims have made to this country, from cultivating the farms, to building industries, the manufacturing of automobiles, serving in the medical field, engineering and every other field in between, we are nevertheless not considered part and parcel of the overall society.

    Stereotyping and statements against Islam and Muslims by politicians, celebrities and comedians are common in mainstream media. In response to the Foley beheading video, Bryan Fischer on his online radio show sponsored by the American Family Association said, “[We need to ban all Muslim immigration because] Islam is like the Ebola virus. It’s deadly. It’s lethal. And all you can do with a virus like that, there’s no cure for it, it can only be contained, it has to be stopped. And the way you do it is through quarantine...”

    What is being suggested here is to keep Muslims in concentrations camps like our government did to the United States citizens of Japanese descent. Over 127,000 were imprisoned because of their Japanese ancestry.

    Islamophobia is a widespread European and American phenomenon. Islamophobia prompted government leaders in Europe to ban Hijab in public. The construction of Minarets in mosques are banned in the Netherlands. Various translations of the Qur’an have been banned by the Russian government for fear of promoting extremism and Muslim supremacy.

    Racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are fruits of the same tree of hate. Wolfram Richter, professor of economics at Dortmund University of Technology, once said, “I am afraid we have not learned from our history. My main fear is that what we did to Jews we may now do to Muslims. The next holocaust would be against Muslims.”

    Things have not gotten better since the tragedy of 9-11. According to a 2012 study by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamophobia rating is at 5.9 on a scale of one to ten, with one representing an America free of Islamophobia and 10 being the worst possible situation for Muslims.

    It is alarming to learn that, based on the same study, the US-based Islamophobia network’s inner core is currently comprised of at least 37 groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. They enjoyed access to at least 9,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011. Islamophobia has become big business.

    Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, among others are well connected with high government officials. According to the study, in 2011 and 2012, seventy-eight bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices were introduced in the legislatures of twenty-nine states and the U.S. Congress. Sixty-two of these bills contained language that was extracted from David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model legislation. David Yerushalmi is another Islamophobe. He is a lawyer and a political activist who is the driving force behind the anti-sharia movement in the United States.

    According to a Gallup survey in 2010, “the 48% of Muslim Americans who say they experienced racial or religious discrimination is on par with Hispanic Americans (48%) and African Americans (45%), as calculated from a combination of these same groups. Arab Americans (52%) are most likely to say they experienced this type of discrimination.” Unfortunately, we have not learned lessons from our past experiences as a nation.

    Perhaps, many people in the United States forget our Bill of Rights that declares all men are created equal. Muslims must never forget and ought to spread the words of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In his farewell sermon he stressed that our Lord is one, and that, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

    Muslims living these difficult times must work together with the utmost sense of brotherhood and harmony and display the true face of Islam. We shall overcome these difficulties, God willing, but it will take dedication and commitment to combat the war imposed on us, Islamophobia.

    We need to positively integrate in our communities. We must give time by volunteering; join interfaith discussions and circles; become civically engaged, register to vote and exercise your right to vote, as they say, there is power in numbers; attend city council meetings, decisions made by city council may affect you, make your voice heard; build alliances with other organizations that stand up for justice and fight racism and discrimination. Be grateful and thank those who speak out or act against Islamophobia.

    Don’t hesitate to call 911 immediately if you feel that your life is threatened. Report any incident of Islamophobia to the FBI, your local CAIR chapter or local imam. And of course, pray for those who discriminate against you for the Prophet used to supplicate, “O Allah guide my people. They simply don’t know (the truth).”

    As Muslims, we must remain resilient and faithful to our faith and our country. We must never be intimidated by the hatemongers. Always be vigilant and alert. The Prophet and the companions stood the test of their time. They never wavered in spite of the harsh persecution they faced. Be proud of who you are, your faith and where you came from.

    The Prophet himself was subject to hate crimes and his own personal life was threatened. The Prophet and the believers were isolated from the society, similar to a detention camp. Social and economic boycotts, today, we call it sanctions, were imposed on them.
    The Prophet and the companions never gave up their identity nor their mission to spread the beliefs and values of Islam. They tolerated their adversaries’ evil actions and were patient. Good and evil can never be equal, the Qur’an teaches, “Repel evil with good lest he who is your enemy becomes your dearest friend. But none will attain this except those who endure with fortitude and are greatly favored by Allah” (Fussilat, 41:34).

    If hatemongers throw at you stones, you throw flowers back at them. If ignorant people spew hateful remarks and racial slurs, respond by saying, peace. Because of our predecessors strong faith and fortitude they prevailed and God willing, we will also prevail.

    The legacy of Malcom is as alive today as it was fifty years ago. The walls of structured and institutionalized discrimination, racism, hate and bigotry must come down for once and for all.

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 6: The Story of Adam and his Appointment as the First Caliph (February 6, 2015) Open or Close

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    The Soul’s Journey from inception to Eternity
    The story of Adam and his appointment as the first Caliph

    Learning about the story of Adam (AS) will not only help us understand the importance of our existence; it will also help us understand our relationship with the Creator.

    Thus far, we have learned that humans are a composite of animal and spiritual entities and that humans are the only species that have the divine spark, or the spirit. We also discussed that on the basis of the covenant Allah (SWT) took from us in the pre material world, “world of command,” we are being tested and that the earth we are inhabiting may be considered as, ‘the abode of testing’ or “Dar al-bala’.” We were created for no other reason than, ibadah, to worship and obey our Creator God, Master and Lord.

    We also learned that one of the purposes of God’s magnificent creation was to serve man. “It is He who created everything on earth for you” (al-Baqarah, 2:29). Allah (SWT) honored the children of Adam and unequivocally favored them over all His creation. In His testimony, Allah (SWT) testifies, “And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference” (al-Isra’, 17:70).

    The soul’s journey begins with Adam (AS). Learning about our ancestry will help us make sense of our existence. Adam (AS) was the first man to inhabit planet earth. His life story is so significant that it is repeated seven times in the Qur’an in surat al-Baqarah, al-‘Araf, al-Hijr, al-Isra’, al-Kahf, Ta Ha and Sod. Each account compliments the other.

    In fact, the very first story that appears in the Qur’an is the story of Adam. It is the fourth section of the second surah, al-Baqarah. The story begins with a dialogue between Allah (SWT) and the angels. “And [mention, O Prophet], when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to place a Khalifah (vicegerent) on earth. They said, ‘Will You place there one who will make mischief and shed blood while we glorify You with praises and extol Your holiness.’ He (Allah) said. ‘I know what you do not know’” (al-Baqarah, 2:30).

    It is clear that Allah’s plan for Adam is to make him a khalifah (Caliph), “I am Ja’ilun a Khalifah, on earth.” It is important to understand the different meanings of the two words used in the statement, Ja’ilun (جَاعِلٌ) and Khalifah (خَلِيفَةً ). The root word of Ja’ilun is Ja-a-la (جعل) which may mean to create; to fashion; to form; or to make. It can also mean to appoint; to assign; or to nominate. Similarly, the word Kha La Fa (خَلَفَ) which is the root word of Khalifah also has different meanings. It may mean to replace; to succeed; descendent; take the place of; successor; heir or following. The word Khilafah also connotes vicegerency. Abu Bakr (RAA) for example, was called the khalifah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). However, later on it began to take on the meaning of head of state for a Muslim nation.

    If we were to take into consideration the variety of meanings of the two words, Ja’ilun, and Khalifah, the statement may be translated as, “And mention (O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am making/creating/placing/appointing in the earth a caliph/successor/vicegerent or leader.’”

    It is interesting to read different translations from different scholars. Yusuf Ali for instance in his translation of the meaning of the Qur’an translates the statement as, “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” Marmadouke Pickthal translates it as, “I am about to place a viceroy in the earth.” Other translations include, The Noble Qur’an by Mohsin Khan, “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth,” Saheeh International, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority,” and Muhammad Asad in ‘The Message of the Qur’an’, “Behold, I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it.”

    One need not be confused. As a matter of fact, each scholar renders a sound translation. The soundness of each translation is supported by evidence from the Qur’an. There are many ayat in the Qur’an where the two words ja ‘a la, and kha la fa, demonstrate the claim of the scholars.

    Important questions arise from these possible translations. If Khalifah means to succeed or inherit, then the question is who is man succeeding or inheriting? Who inhabited the earth before Adam and his children that they are about to succeed or replace?

    One interpretation comes from a prominent companion of the Prophet (SAW), Abdullah Ibn Abbass (RAA), who happened to be his cousin. When Ibn Abbass was a young child the Prophet (SAW) supplicated, “O Allah make him understand the religion and teach him the interpretation of the Qur’an.” In his famous exegesis of the Qur’an, Ibn Jarir al-Tabari recounts Ibn Abbass’ commentary on the statement, “The first to inhabit the earth were the Jinn. They spread corruption thereon and shed blood, and killed each other. So Allah sent Iblis against them with an army of angels, and Iblis and those with him killed them pursuing them as far as the islands of the oceans and the summits of the mountains. Then He created Adam and settled him thereon. That is why He has said, ‘I am about to place a khalifa on earth.’”

    According to this view, khalifah means a successor. Adam and his children succeeded the Jinn who were created before the humans. Surat al-Hijr explains, “And indeed, We created man out of sounding clay formed from dark mud. Whereas the jinn (invisible beings) We created (long) before (man) from the fire of a scorching wind” (al-Hijr, 15:26-27). Like humans, the Jinn possess free will. Therefore, some will be obedient to God while others may not.

    Iblis, which means to despair, is the name given by Allah (SWT) to what once upon a time used to be a very pious jinn called Azazeel who was elevated to the ranks of angels due to his piety. Although the name Azazeel is not found in the Qur’an and hadith, it is believed that Ibn Abbass (RAA) identified Iblis as Azazeel who was the main chief between angels in the first heaven close to the earth. Later we will learn why he became Iblis, Satan (shaitan), and the devil. He is referred to as Lucifer the fallen angel in biblical tradition. We shall learn about his role in Adam’s and our lives. Indeed Iblis is one of the major actors in the theatre of life and we need to pay close attention to the role he plays.

    Therefore, according to Ibn Abbass’ interpretation the following translation is acceptable, “Behold, I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it.” Ibn Abbass (RAA) holds another opinion along with other early traditional scholars of his time including Ibn Masoud (RAA). According to them, Allah called Adam Khalifah because Adam is inheriting the hukum, or the rule of Allah. He is to rule among the Mukallafin, among his kind, human kind. Al-Mukallafoon are those who are accountable for their actions, i.e. humans with free will. In support of this view, they cite the ayah from surat Sod, “O Dawud! We made (appointed) you a khalifah (vicegerent/viceroy) on earth, therefore, judge between people with justice” (Sod, 38:26).

    Therefore, another possible interpretation is, “And mention (O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am appointing a vicegerent on earth.’”

    A prominent scholar who was a follower of the companions of the Prophet (SAW), or a tabi’i, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, argues that khalifah is the progeny of Adam or the children of Adam because they succeed each other. He supports his opinion by citing the following ayah, “And it is He who made you successors (Khala’if, خَلَـٰئِفَ) in the land” (al-An’am, 6:165).

    If this is so, the question remains, if Adam was the first man, who did Adam succeed? One answer is already given, Adam and his progeny succeeded the Jinn. Another possible answer has to do with the so called theory of evolution on the basis of the Qur’an, not Darwin.

    As conscious, intelligent Muslims we should not shy away from entertaining this controversial subject. Allah (SWT) gave us a brain to use and the intellect to reflect and contemplate with. There are two opinions on opposite extremes regarding Adam (AS). One opinion asserts that Allah (SWT) created Adam in the shape of a human out of clay, i.e. a sculpture, a lifeless figure. He then breathed into it and became the human Adam with life and soul. Therefore, it is assumed that it was an instantaneous creation. And this is the most popular and widely accepted interpretation.

    Other Muslim scholars, centuries before Charles Darwin was born, contemplated the origin of our creation. Muslim scientists as early as the eighth century are of the view that humans developed over a long period of time. In other words, man evolved from a primitive creation and underwent various stages. There are ample ayat that support this view. For example, “And Allah produced you from the earth like plants” (Nuh, 71:17), “And He created you in stages” (Nuh, 71:14). The Qur’an describes everything being created in stages, the earth, the sky/heavens, embryonic development, so why not humans?

    Muslim scientists and philosophers of the medieval period had no fears in accepting evolution as a divine system for creation. For instance, the prominent philosopher and sociologist Ibn Khaldun (1332 -1406), reminds his readers of a verse describing the deterministic nature of God's system, “You will never find a change in God's system.”1

    Muhammad al-Haytham (965-1039), who is known in the West by the name Alhazen, defends human evolution starting from minerals, plants, and animals in Kitabal Manazer, his book on optical science. Prominent leaders of Sufism such as Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) and Jaluluddin Rumi (1207-1273) also had no problem in accepting the idea of creation through evolution, an idea which was commonly held among Muslims. The Muslim Geologist al-Biruni (973-1048) in his book Kitab al-Jamahir also asserts that humans are created after long periods of evolution from simple organisms through natural selection.2

    As a matter of fact, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his grandfather Erasmus Darwin were influenced by the work of Muslim scientists who lived centuries before them3. The West cannot deny the fact that Muslims’ contribution to sciences and civilization were unsurpassed. While Europe was in the dark ages, Muslims in Andalusia were at the peak of enlightenment. Notables from Europe would send their children to learn from Muslims. They had to learn Arabic in order to learn the many disciplines of science and philosophy. Arabic was the language of the civilized world at that time.

    Therefore, according to the early Muslim scholars, Adam was selected from a kind of species that resembles man, the animal man. This divine selection is articulated in surat Aal ‘Imran, “Allah chose Adam, Noah, Abraham’s family, and the family of Imran, over all other people” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:33). The ayah clearly indicates that Allah selected Adam. If Adam was the first creation, then there can be no selection. The statement “Allah chose Adam” becomes illogical. One has to have at least two of the same kind to make a selection or to choose from.

    Surat al-Hijr explains, “And mention (O Prophet) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am creating a bashar out of dried clay, formed from dark mud. So when I complete (evolve) him and breathe into him of My spirit, fall down in prostration before him’” (al-Hijr, 28-29).

    The word bashar comes from the root word, basharah which means skin. The word bashar refers to the kind of beings whose skin (unlike most animals) is not covered with hair. It is possible that Adam, the human being (insan according to the Qur’an) or Homo Sapien (the modern man according to modern science) evolved over a very long period of time from basic and primitive species the Qur’an calls bashar, not apes. The divine selection was made out of the bashar and then Allah (SWT) breathed into him from His spirit, thus Adam, the human, man or insan.

    Allah (SWT) first informed the angels of the creation of the bashar. He (SWT) had kept away from them His grand plan of appointing Adam as His vicegerent on earth until such time. It was after Allah (SWT) made His selection that He disclosed His plan to the angels. The response they gave Allah (SWT), ‘Will You place thereon one who will make mischief and shed blood?’ was based on an eye-witness account. For thousands of years the bashar whose nature is animalistic must have caused all sorts of atrocities and bloodshed for survival. This phenomenon is otherwise known as ‘survival of the fittest’ in the animal kingdom.

    The angels suggested that if the object is to glorify and worship Allah, who can compete with angels? “We glorify You with praises and extol Your holiness.” Allah (SWT) said, “I know what you don’t know.” The commentary found in Ibn Kathir tafsir sheds light on Allah’s statement. Ibn Kathir explains “I know what you don’t know,” “I know that the benefit of creating this type of creature outweighs the harm that you mentioned, that which you have no knowledge of. I will create among them Prophets and send Messengers. I will also create among them truthful, martyrs, righteous believers, worshippers, the modest, the pious, the scholars who implement their knowledge, humble people and those who love Allah and follow His Messengers.”

    In conclusion, the opinion of Ibn Abbass and Ibn Masoud (RAA) among other early scholars that Allah (SWT) is appointing Adam as a vicegerent or ruler, ruling on behalf of Allah (SWT) is the soundest of all opinions. Not only because of the logical arguments, but also due to the grammatical construction of the ayah, “I am (Ja’ilun) a vicegerent (Khalifah) on earth,” which is astoundingly similar to the grammatical construction of the ayah, “O Dawud! We are appointing you (Ja’lnaka) as a vicegerent (Khalifatan) on earth so rule between the people with justice”.

    A vicegerent is one who exercises the delegated powers on behalf of another. Therefore, the vicegerent (Khalifah) is not the master. He carries out the commands and acts on behalf of the Master. He has full autonomy. He may decide on matters using his own judgment whenever he does not find any specific instructions or injunctions from his master. In this case, Allah (SWT) is the master and Adam (AS) is His deputy. Adam is the vicegerent of Allah.

    Who can be better and more suited to be in charge of Adam’s progeny than the first man, the father of the human race who receives training before he assumes his duty of vicegerency. “And [mention, O Prophet], when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to place a Khalifah (vicegerent) on earth. They said, ‘Will You place there one who will make mischief and shed blood while we glorify You with praises and extol Your holiness?’ He (Allah) said. ‘I know what you do not know’” (al-Baqarah, 2:30).

     


     

    1. The Islamic Theory of Evolution: the Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species by T.O. Shanavas.
    2. ibid
    3. John William Draper (1812-1883), first president of American Chemical Society, a contemporary of Darwin, and a former president of New York University summarizes the deliberately induced academic amnesia in the West. Draper acknowledges the fact that Muslims described the theory of evolution in their schools centuries before the West did, “I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has contrived to put out of sight our scientific obligations to the Muhammadans. Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice founded on religious rancor and national conceit cannot be perpetuated forever.”(Draper, John William. The Intellectual Development of Europe, p. 42.)

    “[Christian] theological authorities were therefore constrained to look with disfavor on any attempt to carry back the origin of the earth to an epoch indefinitely remote, and on the Muhammadan theory of evolution which declared that human beings developed over a long period of time from lower forms of life to the present condition." "Sometimes, not without surprise, we meet the ideas with which we flatter ourselves with having originated our own times. Thus our modern doctrine of evolution and development were taught their [Muslim] schools. In fact they carried them much farther than we are disposed to do, extending them even inorganic and minerals.” (The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, John William Draper, pp. 118, 187-188.)

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 5: Why I was created? (January 23, 2015) Open or Close

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    The Soul’s Journey from its inception to Eternity
    Why I was created?

    People wander in this world literally lost. Even Muhammad (SAW) who was chosen by his Creator to be among the best of humanity and to lead the entire humankind with the universal message, there is no god but Allah, was once lost. “Did He not find you (O Prophet) lost but then He guided you?” (al-Duha, 93:7)

    Man, whom Allah (SWT) crafted the entire universe for, finds himself lost in the midst of this vast creation. Man, whom Allah (SWT) appointed as His deputy (2:30), in charge of this universe has lost his sense of direction.

    Equipped with all the faculties and means, endowed with intelligence and talents, man is still unable to figure it out. He guesses and speculates, conjectures and assumes and wonders, why am I here?

    In order for man to overcome this upheaval, confusion and chaos; to fulfill his true mission on earth and attain happiness, contentment and pleasure, man needs to be reminded of who he really is and why he is here.

    We already learned about the composition of man. Humans are a composite of spiritual and animal beings. We also learned about the great heavenly covenant when the spirits of all humans were assembled like conscripted soldiers gave their vow and pledge to their Creator, Allah (SWT), affirming His divine unity while acknowledging Him as the sole supreme Master and Lord.

    We also learned that as the soul journeys from the higher-world to the lower-world it is greeted, according to the Islamic tradition, upon arrival with the recitation of the call to prayer in the right ear as a reminder of the primordial world when, without any compulsion and with absolute love for the Creator, the souls admitted, there is no god but God.

    In conclusion, we learned how humans were created, what they were created from, and who created them. There remains one very important question to answer, why they were created? Throughout the ages, people have deliberated this very important question, why am I here?

    The real answer depends on having access to the supernatural realm. Only the Creator of man can tell us the wisdom behind our existence. Such knowledge can only be obtained from divine revelation. We have already established that the Qur’an is God’s word that speaks the truth. “Say (O Prophet) God speaks the truth” (Aal Imran, 3:95).

    According to the final scripture, the Qur’an, everything in the heavens and earth is created to serve and be subservient to man. “It is He who created all that is on earth for you, then turned to the sky and made the seven heavens; and He has knowledge of everything” (al-Baqarah, 2:29). It is Allah (SWT), “[W]ho makes most excellent everything that He creates. And He began the creation of man out of clay” (al-sajdah, 32:7). “It is He who brought you into being from the earth and made you inhabit it” (Hud, 11:61).

    The complex creation of the universe and the time it took to perfect planet earth as a suitable place for man is the greatest gift one can ever receive. The following is a detailed account of the amazing creation that continues to baffle people.

    “He created the heavens and earth for a true purpose, and He is far above whatever they join with Him! He created man from a drop of fluid, and yet man openly challenges Him. And livestock––He created them for you. You derive warmth and other benefits from them: you get food from them; you find beauty in them when you bring them home to rest and when you drive them out to pasture. They carry your loads to lands you yourselves could not reach without great hardship––truly your Lord is kind and merciful–– Horses, mules, and donkeys for you to ride and use for show, and other things you know nothing about. God points out the right path, for some paths lead the wrong way: if He wished, He could guide you all. It is He who sends down water for you from the sky, from which comes a drink for you, and the shrubs that you feed to your animals. With it He grows for you grain, olives, palms, vines, and all kinds of other crops. There truly is a sign in this for those who reflect. By His command He has made the night and day, the sun, moon, and stars all of benefit to you. There truly are signs in this for those who use their reason. He has made of benefit to you the many-colored things He has multiplied on the earth. There truly are signs in this for those who take it to heart. It is He who made the sea of benefit to you: you eat fresh fish from it and bring out jewelry to wear; you see the ships cutting through its waves so that you may go in search of His bounty and give thanks. He has made mountains stand firm on the earth, to prevent it shaking under you, and rivers and paths so that you may find your way, and landmarks and stars to guide people. Can He who creates be compared to one who cannot create? Why do you not take heed? If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you could never compute them. He is truly most forgiving and most merciful” (al-Nahl, 16:3-18).

    There can be no denying that each and every thing Allah (SWT) creates serves a purpose. In examining the hierarchical order of creation one finds that at the lowest rank, God created the universe with its inanimate bodies such as the sun, the moon and planet earth strictly to serve a higher form of creation that contains life. Moving upward in the chain we find plant life was created to serve yet a higher creation, the animal kingdom.

    The compounded process of creation that seems to cooperatively work well with its lower creation serves a purpose. All to serve a unique creature called man, who is both mortal flesh and also spirit. Has man ever asked whom he is serving and what his mission on earth is?

    Searching for the answer depends on the utilization of the intellect. This ought to be the first station in the intellectual journey of man, searching for the soul’s purpose and mission.

    Allah (SWT) created man perfectly. He gave him all the tools necessary to reach the right conclusion. Aside from the five basic senses that include the ability to hear and see, Allah (SWT) granted us the faculty of understanding, intellect, and reason. “You knew nothing when Allah brought you out of your mothers’ wombs, and He gave you hearing, sight and intellect that perchance you may be thankful” (al-Nahl, 16:78). Allah (SWT) taught humans how to express themselves intelligently, “And has taught him articulate speech” (al-Rahman, 55:4).

    Truthfully, man has the capacity to, on his own with his rational mind through observation and contemplation, arrive at the conclusion that all creation was created by one Creator. It is not rocket science. For centuries people who lived a simple life were able to figure it out.

    Consider a simple nomad’s remarks, “Camel droppings point to a camel’s existence. Footprints on the sand tell of a traveler. Heaven with its stars, the earth with its mountains and valleys, and the sea with its waves- don’t they point to the All-Powerful, Knowing, Wise and Caring Maker?”

    Such individuals the Qur’an calls people of intellect, “There are indeed signs in the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, for men of understanding, who remember Allah standing, sitting and lying down and reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth (and conclude), ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose; glory be to You, so protect us from the torment of the Fire’” (Aal Imran, 3:190-191).

    Such are the people of intellect with a pure, unpolluted nature who are on the right path. The Qur’an refers to this instinct as fitrah, “It is the innate nature originated by God upon which He created mankind” (al-Roum, 30:30). The Prophet (SAW) did inform, “Every newborn child is born in a state of fitrah (innate natural disposition), his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian.”

    When the soul maintains the purity of the fitrah, it will inevitably recognize its Creator and come to the conclusion, ‘there is no god but God.’ The soul inherently knows God, loves and adores God. Additionally, it instinctively differentiates between right and wrong and good and evil.

    What pollutes the soul is the socio-cultural environment be it at home or outside the home. The natural predisposition in man cannot change. All souls in the primordial world have acknowledged and accepted the truth.

    It is on this basis humans are being tested. Will the soul who acknowledged Allah (SWT) as the sole Master and Lord, in the pre-world, the world of spirits (‘alam al-arawah), be subservient to Him or not? Will that soul who pledged its commitment to Allah (SWT) serve its Master or not? Will that soul be grateful or ungrateful to its Lord and Creator?

    We were dispatched to begin our journey on planet earth. Our residence may be described as the abode of testing (dar al-bala’). The Qur’an reveals this fact.
    The ayah from surat al-Mulk explains the first death and the first earthly life. It then explains the reason behind it. “Blessed be He in whose hand is the dominion (of the heavens and earth); and He has power over all things; who created death and life that He may test you (to see) who among you is best in conduct (and deeds). And He is the Almighty, the Forgiving” (al-Mulk, 67:1-2).

    Elaborating on the statement, ‘that He may test you (to see) who among you is best in conduct (and deeds),’ the Prophet (SAW) described those who are best in deeds as, “Most fearing of God who abstains from the things Allah made forbidden and always ready to obey Him.” Such are the grateful souls.

    It should be noted that “best in deeds” indicates that it is not the quantity of actions that counts, rather the quality of actions; those actions that are done out of sincerity solely for the pleasure, love and sake of Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) informed us that He will weigh, not necessarily count our deeds on the Day of Reckoning. “And whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it” (al-Zalzalah, 99:7-8).

    The beginning of surat al-Insan also hints to the concept of ‘the souls being tested.’ “Was there not a period of time when man was nothing to speak of? We created man from a drop of mingled fluid to put him to the test; so We gave him hearing and sight; We guided him to the right path, (and it rests on his will) whether he be grateful or ungrateful (to his Lord)” (al-Insan, 76:1-3).

    The fact of the matter is, most people show no appreciation to their Creator. “Say (O Prophet), ‘It is He who brought you (all) into being and has endowed you with hearing, sight and minds; (yet) how seldom you are grateful!” (al-Mulk, 67:23).

    Allah (SWT) since the dawn of man has sent innumerable prophets and messengers with instructions, guidance, scriptures and books to remind people of who they are and what their purpose in life is. “We never sent any messenger before you (O Prophet) without revealing to him, ‘There is no god but Me, so serve Me’” (al-Anbiya, 21:25).

    In fact, back in the world of spirits when all humans confirmed their pledge to God, Allah (SWT) assembled the spirits whom He selected from the larger pool to assume the role of a Messenger and took a firm covenant from them; that they would honor Allah (SWT) and fulfill their duty of guiding people toward Him. “And mention (O Prophet) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (Muhammad), and from Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, son of Mary. We took a firm pledge from all of them” (al-Ahzab, 33:7).

    The main message that was conveyed to the people consistently by all prophets of God was quite simple. “O my people! Worship Allah, you have no god other than Him” (Hud, 11:61). Each prophet sent to his own respective people preached the exact message. Muhammad (SAW) who, unlike his predecessors who were sent to their respective nations and tribes, was sent to the entire humankind for all time to come preaching the same message with emphasis on God’s Lordship.

    O mankind! Worship (and obey) your Lord who created you and those before you, so that you may be saved (from His punishment). The One who spread out the earth for you and built the sky; who sent down rain from the sky and in so doing He produced fruits as provision for you. So, do not set up rivals to God while you know (that He is the Only Lord worthy of worship)” (al-Baqarah, 2:21-22).

    Plainly, we exist for one reason, to serve Allah (SWT). Just as in the chain of creation everything below man serves him. Man, who stands at the top of Allah’s creation, has to serve God, the Creator of all. Allah (SWT) explains it plain and simple, “I have not created the jinns and humans except to serve Me” (al-Zariyat, 51:56).

    Incidentally, the preceding ayah instructs the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “And do remind (O Prophet), for truly, such a reminder will benefit the believers” (al-Zariyat, 51:55). Indeed, the pure souls need a reminder. It is a great blessing that Allah (SWT) sends us people who admonish and remind us.

    To put things in perspective, the Arabic word used for “to serve Me” in the statement “I have not created the jinns and humans except to serve Me” is, liya’budooni (لِيَعْبُدُونِ). It is a derivative of the root word, ‘abd (عبد) which connotes a slave. In other words, man is created to be a slave of God.

    In a narrow sense, it is to worship and obey the Lord. In a broader sense, to be a slave of Allah (SWT) is to submit our free will and become subservient to His will, to honor Him, to love, cherish and adore Him and to exalt and glorify Him. In one word, to be grateful to Him.

    The riddle of, ‘Why I was created?’ is now solved. It is no longer a mystery. All Allah (SWT) wants from us is to be truthful, uphold the pledge, honor the contract we made with Him, and fulfill the promise we promised Him, “Yes, indeed, You are our Lord.”

    We must be reminded that we are on a journey, that we are aliens in this world and that we belong to Allah (SWT) and to Him is our ultimate return. We are in the abode of testing. The examination ends at time of death. The results will be announced when we all return back to Him on the Day of Judgment. And then, it will be either Paradise forever or Hell forever, in the abode of eternity (dar al-baqa’).

    May we all be saved from Hell, ameen.

    References regarding the fitrah
    http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/DefinitionFitrah.htm

    http://spirituallegend.blogspot.com/2013/11/fitrah-and-human-nature.html

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 4: The Souls Journey from Inception to Eternity ( January 2, 2015 ) Open or Close

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    “Dawah with Insight Part 4”
    The Souls Journey from Inception to Eternity

    According to the Qur’an and science, the human embryo is created in stages, starting with the conception of the sperm cell and the egg cell (nutfatan amshaj), then the stages of alaqah and mudgha up to the stages of bones and flesh. The Qur’an asserts, “Then We developed him into another creation” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:14).

    The scientific explanation is, “At this stage it has distinctive human characteristics and possesses the primordia of all the internal and external organs and parts. After the eighth week, the human embryo is called a fetus. This may be the new creature to which the ayah refers.”1 The sunnatic or prophetic explanation is that after the mudgha stage, Allah (SWT) sends an angel to breathe into it the spirit (ruh).

    This is where science and revelation diverge. Science will never be able to probe the supernatural realm. However, all the stages and accurate descriptions of the human embryo mentioned in the Qur’an were eventually discovered recently, in the latter part of the 20th century by modern science, centuries after these statements were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

    The question is, how could Muhammad (SAW) in seventh century Arabia, who himself was unlettered and was sent to the unlettered people obtain such detailed knowledge of the microscopic development of the human embryo without scientific instruments and tools and technical skills? The only logical conclusion is that it came from exactly where he claimed it did, from the one who created mankind, God almighty. “So blessed be Allah, the best of creators” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:14).

    In one of his lectures, Dr. Keith Moore, professor emeritus in the division of anatomy, in the Faculty of Surgery, at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, said: “It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God, or Allah, because most of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God, or Allah.” When he was asked, “How do you explain this information in the Qur'an?” Dr. Moore replied, “It could only have been divinely revealed.”

    Here is another testimony from Dr. T.V.N. Persuaed. Professor Persuad is the Head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. In 1991 he received the most distinguished award presented in the field of anatomy in Canada, the J.C.B. Grant Award from the Canadian Association of Anatomists.

    Dr. Persaud states, “Muhammad was a very ordinary man, he couldn't read, didn't know how to write, in fact he was an illiterate... we’re talking about 1,400 years ago, you have some illiterate person making profound statements that are amazingly accurate, of a scientific nature... I personally can't see how this could be mere chance, there are too many accuracies and like Dr. Moore, I have no difficulty in my mind reconciling that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which lead him to these statements.”

    Prof. Moore was so impressed with the Qur’anic terminology and classification of the stages of development of the human embryo, that he suggested the adoption of the Qur'anic system of classification in place of the system currently in use by scientists today.

    Prof. Moore proposed, “Because the staging of the human embryo is complex owing to the continuous process of change during development. It is therefore suggested that a new system of classification could be developed using the terms mentioned in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The proposed system is simple, comprehensive, and conforms with present embryological knowledge.”

    The famous French physician Dr. Maurice Bucaille after many years of research and study expressed the compatibility of the Qur'an and established findings of modern science. While addressing the French Academy of Medicine in 1976, he said, “Our knowledge of these disciplines is such, that it is impossible to explain how a text produced at the time of the Qur'an could have contained ideas that have only been discovered in modern times.” Based upon his extensive study of many disciplines of scientific nature, Dr. Bucaille later converted to Islam. “Such is the guidance of Allah, He guides with it whom He wills of His servants” (al-An’am, 6:88).

    The three above mentioned scientists among literally dozens of scientists confirmed the accuracies of the scientific statements in the Qur'an. They were all surprised, speechless and amazed at the scientific accuracies found in the Qur’an many centuries before mankind discovered them to be scientific truths.

    Science has brilliantly explained to us the process and stages of our development in the wombs of our mothers and how we are brought into this world through our biological parents. What science could not do and will not be able to do is explain to us the spirit, its nature and its connection with the human body. Such knowledge or metaphysical truths comes only from the revealed word of God through His agents who are identified as prophets and messengers.

    The embryological discourse may lead to the following conclusion: if science concurs with the ayat; statements made in the Qur’an regarding the biological creation of man, no one on earth can then deny the validity of the meaning of such ayat. They are irrefutable. The inevitable conclusion is that we must then believe that the Qur’an is the true word of God, that His word is the absolute truth and that it alone can explain to us our purpose, role and position here on earth.

    As previously mentioned, the spirit (ruh) came by the command (amr) of Allah (SWT). Paradoxically, the same two words are used in the Qur’an to denote revelation (wahi). Therefore, one may assert that there is a connection between the spirit of man and revelation.

    He sends the ruh (spirit) by His amr (command) upon whomever He wills of His servants” (Ghafir, 40:15). “And thus We have, by Our command, inspired you (O Prophet) with a spirit (revelation). You had no idea what the Book was nor the faith. But, We made it (the Qur’an) a Light (nur) by which We guide whomever We will of Our servants. And you shall surely guide to the straight path” (al-Shura, 42:52).

    Here, the Qur’an (the revealed word of God) is referred to as spirit (ruh) as well as light or spiritual light (nur). Surprisingly, according to the Qur’an, angel Jibril (Gabriel), the angel of revelation, is the holy and trustworthy spirit. It was angel Jibril, the trustworthy spirit (al-Ruh al-Amin), who brought God’s word, revelation (ruh) upon the spirit (ruh) of Muhammad (SAW).

    And most surely this (Qur’an) is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Trustworthy Spirit (Jibril) brought it down upon your heart (O Prophet), so that you may give warning” (al-Shu’ara’, 26:192-194). Similarly one finds, “Say (O Prophet), ‘the Holy Spirit (Jibril) brought the revelation from your Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a guide and glad tidings to those who submit” (al-Nahl,16:102).

    The quoted ayat are a clear indication that there is a correlation between the spirit (ruh) of man and revelation. It is believed that the heart is the abode of the spirit. When the heart is devoid of spiritual guidance (revelation), it rusts.

    In a narration, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Verily, the hearts rust (spiritually tarnished) just like iron exposed to water (and moisture).” The companions inquired, “How do we polish it, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Remember death frequently and recite the Qur’an.”

    In this profound statement, the Prophet (SAW) was quite aware of the link between the Qur’an and the heart. Regarding, “Remember death frequently,” it is to remind us that we don’t belong to this world. In other words, prepare your soul for the hereafter, the eternal abode before you depart this temporal world.

    In a similar fashion, the Prophet (SAW) once said, “Be in this world as if you are a stranger or a traveler.” The fact is; we are on a journey and each one of us will one day return to where he or she came from. We are strangers in this world. We may recall the famous 1982 sci-fi movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, E.T. for short. It is about a lonely boy who befriends an extra-terrestrial alien E.T. who is stranded on earth. All E.T. could say is Go Home. So the boy and his siblings help him return home.

    The E.T. concept tells our story. We, humans, are aliens in this world. We don’t belong here. We must be yearning to go home. This is a transitory period. We came from Allah (SWT) and to Him is our return. Remembering death will motivate us to achieve what is required of us here in order to return home safe and sound so we may enjoy the eternal bliss of the real abode, Paradise.

    Sins and misdeeds tarnish the hearts. The Prophet (SAW) once said, “Surely, when the believer commits a sin a black spot appears upon his heart. If he repents and abandons the sin and seeks forgiveness, then his heart will be polished. If he increases in sin, then the black spot increases. That is the covering which Allah has mentioned in His Book, ‘Nay, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned’ (al-Mutaffifeen, 83:14).”


    The Qur’an is the cure for the diseases of the heart. The Qur’an is the agent that will polish our hearts. The Qur’an will remove all the particles and obstacles that obstruct its light from penetrating and illuminating our hearts. The Qur’an is the other form of spirit and nourishment that will keep our spirits alive. The Qur’an is our vehicle in our journey.

    We must take pride in God’s last Book and Revelation. Indeed, it is guidance for all mankind. We are fortunate to claim it. We must also be grateful to Allah (SWT) for sending us His last and final Messenger Muhammad (SAW), who is considered to be the best of humanity. The Prophet (SAW) truly cared about us, taught and guided us to live a good, virtuous and righteous life so that our souls may return to Allah (SWT) as a contented soul.

    Upon the birth of a newborn as he/she enters the lower world, the Prophet (SAW) taught us to recite the call to prayer (azan) in his/her right ear. This is the first welcoming station in this transient world. The baby may not be aware of what is happening. However, the soul is fully aware.

    The azan which begins with “Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” is recited in the ear of the baby so as to awaken the spirit inside the newborn that has been in deep slumber for a very long time. It is to remind the soul of the first covenant it made with its Creator in the first creation in the world of command confirming the divine unity. The azan is concluded with, “Allah is the Greatest (Allahu Akbar)! There is no god except Allah (la ilaha illa Allah).” It is a reminder to the soul that Allah is our only Master and Lord worthy of worship in truth, so serve Him according to the pledge.

    The statement, “La ilaha illa Allah,” is something our souls recognize. The truth of “La ilaha illa Allah” is imbedded in the spirit. It needs to be awakened. The azan awakens the soul and the Qur’an nourishes it.

    Only through the teachings of the last divine gift and final uncorrupted scripture, the Qur’an and the guidance of Muhammad (SAW), will one achieve the soul’s objective. May the Qur’an purify our hearts and help our souls return home as contented, not wretched, souls, ameen.

     

    1 The Journal of the Islamic Medical Association, Vol. 18, Jan-June 1986, pp. 15-16. < http://www.icbh.org/topics/embryology.htm>.

     

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 3: The Soul’s Journey from Inception to Eternity (December 26, 2014) Open or Close

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    As mentioned before, in order for people to function well in this world, they must know the true reality of their existence. People need to know how they were created, what they were created out of, who created them and why they were created.

    Any knowledge without this basic foundation is incomplete knowledge that misguides and leads astray. The Metaphysical Truths are accessible only through revelation. Scientific research and presumptions about the first creation will not give one the real truth about ourselves.

    The only book available today that informs us of the first creation most accurately among other truths is the Qur’an, the final uncorrupted and unaltered Book. Unfortunately, we cannot trust the previous scriptures because they underwent changes, additions and deletions. There is no way to determine which part of it is God’s speech and which part is man's invention.

    As we know, deliberate attempts were made to change the previous scripture, “Woe, then, unto those who write down, with their own hands, [something which they claim to be] the scripture, and then say, ‘This is from God,’” (al-Baqarah, 2:79).

    All heavenly scriptures are meant to guide people toward the truth.  “We sent down the Torah, therein was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted (to God) used it to judge the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted the protection of God's Book and they were witnesses to it” (al-Ma'idah, 5:44).

    Due to the utter failure to protect and preserve the scriptures, Allah (SWT) has taken it upon Himself to preserve the text of the final Book (the Qur'an) meant to guide all of humanity for all time to come. “Indeed it is We who sent down the Reminder (Qur'an), and indeed it is We who will preserve it” (al-Hijr, 15:9).

    The origin of the text is deeply rooted in an oral tradition. Countless people memorize and recite the Qur'an in its entirety. In fact, it is the most recited text on the planet. Perhaps this explains the process by which Allah (SWT) employs to preserve the text.

    "And We sent to you (O Prophet) the Book in truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and with final authority over them" (al-Ma'idah, 5:48). It is confirmed that, “The Truth is from your Lord; so do not be of those who doubt” (al-Baqarah, 2:147). Not only is the Qur'an authentic, it is the last and final living miracle of Allah (SWT).  
    Therefore, understanding the Islamic worldview and thought can only help us enhance our relationship with our Creator and assist us in our dawah efforts.
    Concerning the first creation, thus far, we learned that the spirits were created by the command of Allah (SWT) “Kun, Be” in the unseen world, the world of command. We also learned about the great heavenly covenant Allah (SWT) took from all the spirits. Those conscious beings possessing their own free will chose to accept Allah (SWT) as their Lord and Master.

    The Soul’s Journey from its Inception to Eternity

    In this journey the spirit goes through four distinct cycles before it returns back to its Creator. The first cycle is the experience of the first death. All spirits are put to sleep awaiting their first encounter with the human body on earth. The second cycle is the earthly life. The third cycle is the second death or the world of the grave; the Qur’an calls it the barzakh. And finally, the fourth cycle is resurrection and eternal life.

    These cycles are clearly mentioned in the Qur’an. “How could you refuse (to acknowledge) God, when you were dead and He gave you life? Then He will cause you to die and then will bring you again to life, and then you will return to Him” (al-Baqarah, 2:28). All souls will eventually return to where they came from. Ironically, when Muslims experience a tragedy in life, especially upon hearing news that someone has died they recite the ayah, “We belong to God and to Him we shall return” (al-Baqarah, 2:156). Our journey ends with Him.

    The last three cycles, life on earth, death and resurrection are beautifully mentioned in the Qur’an, with emphasis on the creation of the human embryo. “And indeed, We created man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a Nutfah (sperm) in a firm resting place. We then made the Nutfah into an Alaqah, (a leech-like structure). Then of that Alaqah, We made a Mudghah (a chewed-like lump). Then We made out of the Mudghah bones and clothed the bones with flesh. Then We developed him into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the best of creators. Then after that you will die. And then, on the Day of Resurrection, you will be raised up again (al-Mu’minoon, 23:12-16).

    It must be noted that prior to creating Adam and the human species, Allah (SWT) created the universe with planet earth being the most perfect and suitable place for Adam and his progeny to inhabit. It is from the compounds and elements of the earth that the human body is created. When the animal being of man unites with the spirit it becomes a human soul or nafs.

    We tend to use the word ruh, (spirit) and nafs, (soul), as interchangeable. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Ruh is a subtle spirit which resides in the heavens having no body form or human shape. It is unknown to us. We have very little knowledge concerning the nature of the ruh or spirit. When the human body, the jism or jasad (as it is sometimes called) has the spirit blown into it, it then becomes nafs or soul.

    Both terms jism and jasad are mentioned in the Qur’an. Regarding the biblical figure Saul or Talut Allah (SWT) said, “God has chosen him over you, and has given him great powers in knowledge (mind) and body (jism)” (al-Baqarah, 2:247). In another place, “And when you see them (the hypocrites) (O Prophet), you are impressed by their physical stature (ajsamuhum)” (al-Munafiqun, 63:4).

    Similarly, the word jasad, or body is used in the Qur’an. However, the term is used to describe a lifeless body. “And certainly We tried Sulaiman (Solomon), and We placed on his throne a body” (Sod, 38:34).

    When a spirit is given a form it becomes a soul (human soul) or ‘Nafs.’ The Qur’an uses the word ‘Nafs’ in a number of ways, which confirm the meaning of a spirit with a body. “And (do) not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden” (al-An’am, 6:151). Also, “Every soul (human being) shall taste death” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:185). The soul refers to the spirit with a body.

    In order for the progeny of Adam to exist, Adam needs a mate. Although not much detail is given in the Qur’an regarding his wife, the Qur’an does mention that a ‘mate’ was created with Adam, from the same nature and soul. “It is He Who created you from a single soul (Adam), and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her in tranquility” (al-“Araf, 7:189). Although her name is not mentioned in the Qur’an, according to the Islamic tradition she is known as Hawwa’ or Eve. Adam is the male partner and Eve is the female partner, indicative of the way Allah (SWT) creates; everything is created in pairs. “And of everything We have created pairs; perhaps you will take heed” (al-Zariyat, 51:49).

    Out of the first human pair comes their offspring. “O People! Be mindful of (your duty to) your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and spread from both of them countless men and women” (al-Nisa’, 4:1). Both Adam, the father of all human beings, and Eve, the mother of all human beings, are responsible for the spread of countless men and women in the world. Of course, the offspring of Adam comes into being through the process of reproduction; the sexual activity of conceiving and bearing biological offspring. The soul begins its journey in the womb of the mother after conception.

    The development and stages of the human embryo is quite spectacular. People were always intrigued by how we were developed in the womb of our mothers. For centuries, people’s understanding of the prenatal human was based on speculations and superstition.

    The earliest work on embryology may be attributed to Aristotle in the 4th century BC. He incorrectly posited that the human embryo developed from a formless mass that resulted from the union of semen with menstrual blood. Aristotle was proved wrong when the early stages of human development were examined after the discovery of the microscope near the end of the 17th century.

    There are numerous accurate accounts regarding the biological creation of the human being relayed in the Qur’an. Dr. Keith L. Moore, a Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Toronto in Canada is a world renowned scientist and a distinguished researcher in the fields of anatomy and embryology. His opinion on the scientific statements in the Qur’an regarding embryology: “At first I was astonished by the accuracy of the statements that were recorded in the seventh century AD, before the science of embryology was established. Although I was aware of the glorious history of Muslim scientists in the 10th century AD, and of some of their contributions to Medicine, I knew nothing about the religious facts and beliefs contained in the Qur'an and Sunnah. It is important for Islamic and other students to understand the meaning of these Qur'anic statements about human development, based on current scientific knowledge.” The Qur’an is indeed a living miracle.

    Accurate details and information about the development and stages of the human embryo from a mere sperm drop to a fully formed human being were communicated to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through revelation centuries before the discovery of the microscope or any technological tools that would reveal the amazing world inside the womb of a mother after conception. Today, amazing moments of creation can be observed through advanced tools of technology. “So let man observe from what he was created” (al-Tariq, 86:5).

    Through modern scientific advances, we can now appreciate and better understand the ayat that deal with embryological development. Allah (SWT) for instance informed us, “He makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness” (al-Zummar, 39:6). The realization that the human embryo develops in stages was not discussed and illustrated until the 15th century. Furthermore, the staging of human embryos was not described until the 20th century. The “three veils of darkness” may refer to: (1) the anterior abdominal wall; (2) the uterine wall; and (3) the amniochorionic membrane.

    Reflecting on the ayah quoted above, “And indeed We created man from an extract of clay,” indicates that our very origin is from clay, water and dirt. As mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an, “From it (earth) we created you, into it We shall return you, and from it We shall raise you once again” (Ta Ha, 20:55).

    “Then We placed him as a Nutfah in a firm resting place.” The nutfah has been interpreted as the sperm or spermatozoon, but a more meaningful interpretation would be the zygote which is implanted in the uterus or “a place of rest.” It is both the fluid of the male and the female that commence the creation of man. The Qur’an explains, “We created man from a drop of mingled fluid (Amshaj)” (al-Insan, 76:2). Amshaj is a mixed drop or zygote. The zygote forms from the union of a mixture of the sperm and the ovum. Once fertilized the remaining stages occur.

    “Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech-like structure).” The word “alaqah” refers to a leech or bloodsucker. This is an accurate description of the human embryo from days 7-24 when it clings unto the uterus, in the same way that a leech clings to the skin. Just as the leech sucks blood from the host, the human embryo gets its nutrients from the uterus. It is amazing how much the embryo of 23-24 days resembles a leech when viewed under a microscope.

    “Then of that leech-like structure, We made a mudghah (chewed-like lump).” The Arabic word “mudghah” means “chewed substance or chewed lump.” Toward the end of the fourth week, the human embryo looks somewhat like a chewed lump of flesh. The chewed appearance results from somites which resemble teeth marks. The somites represent the beginnings or primordia of the vertebral column.
    In another ayah we are informed, “Then out of a piece of chewed-like flesh (mudghah), partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our power) to you, and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term” (al-Hajj, 22:5). The partly formed and partly unformed flesh seem to indicate that the embryo is composed of both differentiated and undifferentiated tissues. For example, when the cartilage bones are differentiated, the embryonic connective tissue around them is undifferentiated. It later differentiates into the muscles and ligaments attached to the bones.

    With regards to, “We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term,” it implies that Allah (SWT) determines which embryos will remain in the uterus for a full term. It is well known that many embryos abort during the first month of development, and that only about 30% of zygotes that form develop into fetuses that survive until birth. It has also been interpreted to mean that Allah (SWT) determines whether the embryo will develop into a male or female.

    It is common knowledge that the male is responsible for gender determination of the fetus. Remarkably, the Qur’an informed us of this fact 1,400 years ago. “Was he not a drop of ejaculated semen, and thereafter became a clinging form (alaqah), which God shaped in due proportion, Then He made from him (the sperm of the male) the pair (the two sexes), the male and the female” (al-Qiyamah, 75:37-39).
    This can be scientifically understood as; the man’s sperm contain one X and one Y chromosome while the woman’s egg (ovum) contain two X chromosomes. Therefore, if any of the woman’s two X chromosomes from the egg unite with man’s X-chromosome from the sperm cell, a female gender is the result. On the other hand, if the man’s Y-chromosome from the sperm cell unite with any of woman’s two X-chromosomes (from the egg) a male gender is the outcome. This is what’s meant by “Then He made from him (the sperm of the male) the pair (the two sexes), the male and the female.”  

    “Then We made out of the chewed-like lump, bones, and clothed the bones in flesh.” Bones and muscles are formed immediately after the chewed-like lump stage. This is in accordance with the scientific embryological development. First the bones form as cartilage models and then the muscles (flesh) develop around them from the somatic mesoderm.

    “Then We developed him into another creation.” It is believed that this may refer to the human-like embryo that forms by the end of the eighth week. At this stage it has distinctive human characteristics and possesses the primordia of all the internal and external organs and parts. After the eighth week, the human embryo is called a fetus. This is the scientific explanation.
    The early interpreters of the Qur’an like Ibn Abbas (RAA) among others gave a different interpretation. The statement, “Then We developed him into another creation,” refers to the blowing of the spirit into the fetus. In an authentic narration, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “Verily, the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a drop of fluid. Then it is a clinging object for a similar (period). Thereafter, it is a chewed-like lump for a similar (period). The angel is then sent to him and he breathes into him the spirit” [al-Bukhari and Muslim].

    Humans are the only creatures that are distinctly different from any other creation of Allah (SWT). What makes them different is the divine spark, the ruh or the spirit that is infused in humans. Only revelation gives us this understanding. Scientific tools are of great help to understand the world of matter. However, it is beyond the scope of science and technology to penetrate into the spiritual realm. The ayah ends with, “So blessed be Allah, the best of creators.” Indeed, blessed be HE, the best of creators.

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 2: The Mystery of God’s Creation (December 5, 2014) Open or Close

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    Part one dealt with the importance of gaining religious/revealed knowledge in order to be effective in dawah. Such knowledge if imparted for the purpose of reviving Islam will place one in the highest position in Paradise. Between them and the Prophets is only one level. According to the hadith, “Whoever is overtaken by death while seeking knowledge for the purpose of reviving Islam, there will be one level between him and the Prophets in Paradise.”
    A couple of worldviews on opposite extremes were also shared, including the Naturalists’, which includes atheists among others and the Pantheists’ world view followed by Hindus among others. Finally, a synopsis of the Islamic worldview was presented.

    Islam’s social order will not add up unless one understands the Islamic thought and worldview. In order to truly understand and appreciate the philosophy of Islam, one needs to look at the big picture.

    We need to investigate and ask the very basic, fundamental and philosophical questions: what is the reality of my existence and the world around me? Such profound discourse may very well help those who don’t have a clear conception of themselves and are lost in the many competing ideas, concepts and worldviews invented by people. It will help them gain self-confidence and live a more peaceful life as opposed to a very stressful and depressed life. Once one uncovers the truth and accepts it, the rest is simple. It is a matter of following a set of guidelines to ensure one’s happiness.

    Our existence in the midst of this vast universe is not in vain. Every creation of God has a definite purpose. A Muslim who recently committed suicide wrote in his journal, ‘What is my master?’ Actually, Allah (SWT) encourages us to reflect on ourselves, “Do they not think (and reflect) about themselves? Allah created the heavens and the earth and what is between them with a (clear) purpose, and for an appointed time. Still, most people deny that they will meet their Lord” (al-Room, 30:8).

    Indeed, people do investigate and try to find satisfactory answers to such simple questions regarding themselves and the world around them. Unfortunately, most of them do not reach the right conclusion. Real answers, however, depend on having access to the supernatural realm. Such knowledge can only be obtained from the right sources, i.e., divine revelation.

    The philosophical questions postulated above deserve attention and are worth learning about. Once people know and are satisfied with the real answers, they will live purposely in this world while preparing themselves for their eternal abode.

    Unraveling the Mystery of God’s Magnificent Creation

    Shah Waliullah Dehlwi (Qutb-ud-Dīn Ahmad ibn ‘Abdul Rahīm), a theologian of the 18th century (1703–1762 CE), expounds on Allah’s actions. He concludes that Allah’s basic actions are three. ‘Ibda’, Khalq and Tadbir.
    The first act may be called, ‘Ibda’, i.e. creating something from absolutely nothing, or ex nihilo. Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase that means “out of nothing.” This term is used in metaphysics, theology and philosophy and in conjunction with the concept of creation, creatio ex nihilo, means, “creation out of nothing.”
    Allah’s first act is to bring into existence a creation out of nothingness and the basis of His creation is the command Be (Kun). “He is the Originator (Badi’) of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is” (al-Baqarah, 2:117). The process of creation in the world of command or, “‘alam al-‘amr” takes no time at all. In other words, things happen instantaneously.
    The second act of Allah (SWT) is Khalq or Creation. This type of creation is to create something out of something. The Latin term is creatio ex materia, creation out of some pre-existent matter. For example, the Jinn were created out of fire or smoke and the humans were created from clay.
    Unlike the “world of command” where time is of no essence, in the “world of creation” or the “world of matter,” (‘alam al-Khalq), time is always a factor in the process of creation. “Verily, Your Lord is God who created the heavens and earth in six days” (Yunus, 10:3). According to the Qur’an, each day with Allah (SWT) may correspond to either 1,000 or 50,000 years of our calculation or more. The word ‘day’ is normally used in the Qur’an to denote a fixed duration or lapsed time.
    The third act of Allah (SWT) is Tadbir, controlling and directing or governing both worlds. “Verily, Your Lord is God who created the heavens and earth in six days then established Himself on the Throne, governing everything (Yudabbirul-amr)” (Yunus, 10:3).
    The creatures that were created in “the world of command” require no time to move or travel. They are able to move in any direction and to any place instantaneously. Angels, who belong to the world of command, for instance, can travel from the seventh heaven to earth and vice versa with no speed at all. Similarly, all human spirits that were created in the world of command have the ability to travel instantaneously from the earth to heaven and vice versa.
    This phenomenon is illustrated in the following ayah, “God takes the souls of the dead and of the living while they sleep. He then keeps the souls whose death He has ordained and sends back the others to an appointed time. Indeed in that are signs for those who reflect” (al-Zummar, 39:42).
    This ayah clearly tells us that when we go to bed the spirits of humans make their journey to their place of origin instantly. Those whom Allah (SWT) has ordained death for will die in their sleep while the spirits of the rest whose time has not yet come will be sent back to the body instantly upon waking up. Our spirits consistently undergo this experience.
    The Qur’an makes a clear distinction between the two worlds. “His is the creation and His is the command” (al-A’raf, 7:54). Both worlds, the world of command as well as the world of matter belong to Him.
    The human spirits belong to the “world of command.” When the Prophet (SAW) was confronted with the question concerning the nature of the ruh (spirit), God would reveal, “Say, ‘the Spirit is from the command of my Lord, and (you cannot understand its nature, O people, since) you have been granted very little of (real) knowledge’” (al-Isra’, 17:85).
    Science and technology have undoubtedly assisted man unravel many mysteries of our world, the universe and living creatures. As a matter of fact, modern physics has elucidated the beginning of this material universe; the starting point of the creation of this world of matter, with The Big Bang Theory. Modern physics confirms the Qur’anic revelation that was communicated to the masses centuries before the dawn of science and modern physics, “Do not those who reject the truth (atheists among others) see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation) and that We ripped them apart? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (al-Anbiya’, 21:30).
    Notwithstanding this, it would be impossible for scientists to penetrate the supernatural domain and unravel the mysteries of the world of command (unless God so wills). The true knowledge of the supernatural realm and unseen realities can only be conveyed to us through Prophets of God who undergo supernatural experiences i.e. the agency of divine revelation. Scientific tools cannot and will not reach the world of spirits. Therefore, scientism cannot lead humanity to appreciate its divine purpose and awareness of the Creator in creation alone.
    The real creation started with the command of Allah (SWT), “Be, Kun” in the world of command. It is by this command the human spirits of past, present and future have all come into existence simultaneously. According to a hadith of the Prophet (SAW) narrated by Aisha (RAA), they were assembled like conscripted soldiers. This is referring to the beginning of creation in the realm of the unseen before the creation of Adam.
    While assembled before their Lord, Allah (SWT) took a firm covenant from all the spirits. “And (mention O Prophet), when your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them testify against themselves, (He said,) ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Indeed, we bear witness.’ Lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were not aware of this’” (al-A’raf, 7:172).
    The ayah describes the event of the great heavenly covenant which the Creator, Allah (SWT), made with all His created spiritual beings before they took on the human form. The covenant is commonly known as the covenant of Alast. All spirits in one chorus responded in the affirmative that Allah (SWT) is their Lord and Master which implies that He alone is to be worshipped and obeyed and that the spirits are conscious beings with free will.
    All spirits were then put on hold or to sleep. The Qur’an calls this (the first) death. “Blessed be He in whose hand is the dominion (of the heavens and earth); who has power over all things; who created death and life that He may test you (to see) who among you is best in conduct. And He is the Almighty, the Forgiving” (al-Mulk, 67:1,2). In addition to learning about the first death, the ayah exposes the intent of Allah (SWT). On the basis of our own free will, He waits to see who among His servants will fulfill the promise and honor the pledge made to Him.
    The spirits then begin their journey by leaving the “world of spirits” in the “world of the unseen” to join its assigned body in the “world of matter” for a specified time before returning back to its very origin. The Qur’an confirms these two cycles of death and consequently two cycles of life. The first cycle of life is the life we experience in this world from the moment of our conception in the wombs of our mothers until our departure from this mortal world marking the second death. The second cycle of everlasting and eternal life starts at time of resurrection.
    “How could you refuse (to acknowledge) God, when you were dead and He gave you life? Then He will cause you to die and then will bring you again to life, and then you will return to Him” (al-Baqarah, 2:28). Those who are bent on rejecting God and thereby breaching their covenant with Him in this world will come to realize the fatal mistake they made. On the grand day of accountability, they will recognize the truth and say, “Our Lord, You have given us death twice and revived us twice, is there any way out?” (Ghafir, 40:11)
    Death in Islam is viewed as a transition from one world to another world. The first transition was from the world of command to the world of matter while the second transition is from the world of matter back to the world of command or the hereafter.
    The majority of scholars hold the view that the human soul is a composite of a spirit and a body. The Qur’an is quite clear on this reality. Prior to the creation of Adam (AS), Allah (SWT) informed the angels of His plan. “And (mention) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am about to create a mortal (bashar) out of dried clay and dark mud. So when I evolve him to perfection and blow My spirit into him (Adam), then fall down in prostration before him’” (al-Hijr, 15:28,29). All angels fell before Adam out of obedience to God and reverence and respect for Adam, “And the angels - all of them - fell down in prostration” (al-Hijr, 15:30).
    According to the Qur’an, Adam went through six distinct stages before he matured and was ready to receive the spirit from Allah (SWT). The six stages are: water (21:30), dirt or dust (30:20), clay (23:12), sticky clay (37:11), dried clay and dark mud (15:28) and finally baked clay (55:14).
    This is the creation of the human body of Adam which consists of pre-existent materials. Upon completion of the creation of Adam, Allah (SWT) blew into Him from His own Spirit. Therefore, the human soul is a composite of the body which is created from the crust of the earth, and the spirit that was created in the world of command. The body and the spirit are two independent conscious beings. One belongs to a higher form of creation, the spiritual realm; while the other belongs to a lower form of creation, the world of matter. “We created man in the finest state. Then We returned him (to the) lowest (of the) low” (al-Teen, 95:4,5).
    It is that divine spark, the spirit which Allah (SWT) attributes to Himself, that makes humans superior and above all of God’s creation, including angels. It is this divine spark that is the most important distinguishing factor surrounding the nature of man. In essence, we are spiritual beings living a human experience, in pursuit of spirituality.

     

     

  • Dawah with Insight - Part 1: The Islamic Worldview (November 21, 2014) Open or Close

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    The subject of dawah is of great importance for Muslims since it is they who will have to perform the prophetic task of guiding and calling people unto Allah (SWT). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was instructed by Allah (SWT) to, “Say (O Prophet), ‘this is my path, I and all who follow me, call unto Allah with conscious insight (in conjunction with reason, basirah). And Glory be to Allah and I am not of those who associate partners with Him’” (Yusuf, 12:108).
    The Prophet (SAW) in a very profound and timely hadith said, “Whoever is overtaken by death while seeking knowledge for the purpose of reviving Islam, there will be one level between him and the Prophets in Paradise.” The hadith informs of the greatest award and the highest position in Paradise, for those who seek Islamic knowledge for no other reason than reviving Islam. It also suggests that there will come a time when true Islam will be on the verge of extinction and needs resuscitation and revival.

    The Prophet (SAW) prophesized that knowledge will one day disappear. Ziyad ibn Labeed reported, “The Prophet (SAW) said, “There will be a time when knowledge disappears.” I said, “O Messenger of Allah, how can knowledge disappear when we read the Qur’an, we teach it to our children and our children teach it to their children until the Day of Resurrection?” The Prophet said, “May your mother lose you, Ziyad! (An expression that means, ‘What are you saying O Ziad!’) I thought you were the wisest man in Madinah. Do not these Jews and Christians read the Torah and the Gospel but they do not act upon what is in them?”

    It is now clear why one needs to acquire such knowledge. If Islamic revival is the real objective then we need to know what real Islam is. Unfortunately, the ummah today is practicing an adaptation of Islam, certainly not the kind that was established by the Prophet (SAW) and his noble companions (RAA), nor the Islam that progressed and was practiced by the rightly guided caliphs.

    One might ask, is the Islam of ISIS the real Islam? Is the Islam of Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram the real Islam? If the answer is no (which it is), then what is the real Islam? And if the pursuit of knowledge is for the Islamic revival then it should be a priority so we may be effective not only in making dawah but also in reforming ourselves and our surrounding society.
    There are two types of knowledge; acquired knowledge such as the physical and social sciences and revealed knowledge. The hadith stated above clearly addresses revealed knowledge, the knowledge of the Qur’an and hadith, the tradition of the prophet (SAW) based on the hidden revelation (wahi al-khafiy) and inspiration. As Allah (SWT) attested, “He (the Prophet) does not speak from his own desire, it is merely a revelation inspired (to him)” (al-Najm, 53:3-4).

    With many ideologies present today, one must possess this type of knowledge and be able to convey it in a way that is understood by intellectuals or the elite of the society as well as common people. (The subject of “Calling with Wisdom, dawah bil-hikmah” and “Calling with Good Preaching, dawah bil-mawizah al-hasanah”, have been discussed in an earlier khutbah. )

    Therefore, deep insight and knowledge of Islam and our faith is a necessary prerequisite for those who are serious about fulfilling their duty of dawah and want to be considered among the true followers of the Prophet (SAW).

    The ayah from surat Yusuf quoted above, “Say this is my path, I and those who follow me, call unto Allah with basirah…,” clearly mentions those followers who are sincere believers with conscious insight accessible to reason, with sure knowledge and with complete certainty.

    The main source of acquiring this basirah, (pure, clear, and true knowledge) is the Book of Allah (SWT). The Prophet (SAW) imparted this knowledge to his disciples and companions (RAA) who are considered among the best of humanity. Their path was the same as that of the Prophet (SAW), as they called unto Allah with the same insight and knowledge.

    Fortunately for us the knowledge that was imparted 1,400 years ago is documented and available to dive into to extract the pearls of wisdom for the purpose of reforming ourselves and our society.

    Sadly, the world is flooded with ideologies and worldviews that make one puzzled and confused. Muslims are leaving Islam for lack of genuine knowledge and understanding of our faith. Atheism is on the rise due to lack of spiritual support and confidence in science alone.

    Pagan Arabs, at one time, were also dazed and confused, Allah (SWT) sent Muhammad (SAW) to teach them and the rest of the world about themselves and the universe. The first thirteen years of his mission were dedicated to the teaching of the Islamic world view, belief in Allah, belief in the hereafter (akhirah) and in the institution of prophethood.

    Two fundamental questions must be asked; one, what is the reality of my existence and the world around me? Two, if the objective of learning is to revive Islam then what is Islam?

    In brief, Islam is a system based on an ideology or a worldview. This ideology is called Tawheed or Unity of God. Tawheed is the basic philosophy of Islam. This philosophy is derived from a set of beliefs that are purely based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad  (PBUH). In other words, Iman (or faith in the unseen) is our ideology, creed and doctrine.

    Moreover, Islam is a divinely inspired system or social order that is a complete code of life for the benefit of humankind. Islam, unlike Communism, Socialism, Capitalism and Secularism, which are manmade social orders, is a comprehensive social, political and economic order based on Divine guidance.  

    But Islam’s social order will not succeed unless one understands the Islamic thought and worldview. In order to truly understand and appreciate the philosophy of Islam we need to look at the big picture.

    We need to investigate and ask the very basic, fundamental and philosophical questions: what is the reality of my existence and the world around me? Who are we? Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence? What is the purpose of this vast universe? Was it created, has it been there forever, is it going to remain here forever? What happens to me when I die? Is this life the only life or is there another life? Among many other questions that left sages and philosophers dumbfounded for centuries.

    Unless one is aware of and familiar with other worldviews one will not appreciate the Islamic worldview. The Naturalism worldview of atheists, agnostics and existentialists believe that the material universe is one-dimensional and is all that exists. There is no such thing as spirit or soul. Everything can be explained on the basis of natural law. They view man as absolutely material and as the chance product of a biological evolution. They believe that human species will one day cease to exist.

    To them Truth is discerned from scientific proof only. Only what is verified by the five senses is real and true. They believe morals are individual preferences or socially useful behavior. In other words no objective values and morals exist.

    On the other hand, consider the Pantheism worldview, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and New Ageists among others subscribe to this worldview. Their beliefs are diametrically opposite to Atheism. They believe that only spiritual dimensions exist and everything else is an illusion. Brahman (or God), is eternal, impersonal and unknowable. In other words, they believe everything that exists is part of God or that God is in everything and everyone. They believe man is spiritual, eternal, and impersonal. To believe that you are an individual is an illusion.

    They see Truth as the experience of unity with the “oneness” of the universe; Truth is beyond all rational description. They believe that there is no distinction between good and evil. Instead, “unenlightened” behavior is that which fails to understand essential unity.

    The Islamic worldview on the other hand teaches the existence of a personal God who created a finite material world and that reality is both material and spiritual. The Universe as we see it has a beginning and an end. Humans are a special creation of God. They are personal, eternal, spiritual and biological.

    The Islamic creed teaches that the Truth about God is known only through revelation. Metaphysical truths are also known through revelations while the truth about the material world is gained through both revelation and the five senses in conjunction with rational thought. Moral values are the objective expression of an absolute moral being.

    It is through delving into the Qur’an and Prophetic hadith that we may understand the true reality of our existence and the universe around us. Learning and genuinely believing in such knowledge will help us shed all false worldviews. It will help us live this temporary life in a peaceful and harmonious way with other fellow human beings and the environment.

    Lastly, our intention in this pursuit of knowledge must be purely for the sake of improving and reforming ourselves while assisting in the process of the Islamic revival. Otherwise, the knowledge acquired may only serve our ego.

    May Allah (SWT) support us as we seek such knowledge for such a noble cause, ameen.

  • “The Two Types of Dawah” (Oct 17, 2014) Open or Close

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           The following ayat, “And who is better in speech than one who calls (people) to Allah, acts righteously and says, ‘I am of those Muslims (who have surrendered to Allah)’?” (Fussilat, 41:33), and “Never let them turn you away from the revelations of Allah after they have been revealed to you; (instead) call (people) to your Lord, and be not of those who ascribe partners (unto Him)” (al-Qasas, 28:87), suggest that there are two types of dawah: Dawah to Allah (dawah ila-Allah) and dawah to the Lord, (dawah ila al-Rubb).

           Another ayah of great importance also discusses the obligation of dawah to the Lord, (dawah ila al-Rubb), Call unto the path of your Lord with the Wisdom and the good preaching,” (al-Nahl, 16:125). As discussed before, the imperative, “Dawah with the Wisdom” mainly deals with articulating the Qur’anic concepts that deal with man and society to intellectuals and scholars bringing out the wisdom of the Allah (SWT), the Lord and Master of the universe.

           Both types of dawah invite toward the main belief of Islam which is tawheed or monotheism. One deals with the “Oneness in Divinity, tawheed al-uluhiyyah,” while the other deals with the “Oneness in Authority, tawheed al-rububiyyah.” It is important to learn these subjects and know the difference between the two in order to present a holistic view of our Creator when making dawah.

           Tawheed al-uluhiyyah (oneness in divinity) deals with the concept of Godship (al-Ilah), the Deity, the Holy being (al-Quddoos), the Divine and Supreme Being. Whereas; tawheed al-rububiyyah (oneness in authority) deals with the concept of Lordship, the authority or position of a Lord.

           The essence of the call of all of God’s prophets and messengers including Muhammad (SAW) was tawheed al-uluhiyah. Satan was successful in diverting people from worshipping Allah (SWT) alone and directed them toward the worship of idols among other objects of worship. Allah (SWT) sent to every nation and community a messenger calling on their people to worship none other than the one God (al-Ilah), i.e. Allah (SWT). “We have sent among every ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming), ‘Worship Allah (alone), and avoid (or keep away from) taghoot’” (al-Nahl, 16: 36).

           Taghoot is referred to the worship of idols or the worship of anything besides Allah (SWT). The object of worship could be a stone, a creation of Allah such as the sun, the moon, trees; or an idea or concept such as communism, secularism or any idea that is repugnant to the teachings of Allah (SWT). In a nutshell, taghoot is false beliefs.

           Muslims must declare disbelief (kufr) in Taghoot in whatever shape it may manifest itself followed by an affirmation of our faith in Allah (SWT). Only then will we have firmly grasped the strongest and most secure handhold that will never break (al-Baqarah, 2:256). Only then will we be under Allah’s protection and help.

           Prophet Nuh, among other prophets such as Saleh, Hud and Shu’aib, cried out to his people, “O my people worship Allah. You have no other god besides Him” (al-‘Araf, 7:59). Every Messenger of Allah was sent with this specific message, “There is no god except Allah.” “We have never sent any Messenger before you without having revealed to him that there is no deity except Me (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), so worship Me” (al-‘Anbiyah, 21:25). Therefore, tawheed al-uluhiyyah, is in essence to single out Allah who is al-Ilah (the God) in worship. He is the only One to be worshipped in truth. “Know, therefore (O prophet), that there is no god but Allah (la ilaha illa Allah)” (Muhammad, 47:19).

           The first part of the verbal testimony of faith in Islam (la ilaha illa Allah) negates all deities and affirms Allah’s oneness in divinity. The second part of the profession of faith is to affirm one’s belief in Allah’s final messenger, the seal of all prophets and messengers Muhammad (SAW) who, unlike his predecessors who were sent to their respective nations and tribes, was sent to the entire human race for all time to come. The full expression of faith is, “la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah, (there is) no god except Allah, Muhammad the Messenger of Allah.”

           This statement is the foundation of the religion upon which the edifice of Islam is built. According to the prophet (SAW), “Islam is built on five, to testify that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to perform the prescribed prayers, give zakat, fast the month of Ramadan and perform pilgrimage in Makkah if one is able to.”

           Paradoxically, there was a shift in the way Muhammad (SAW) addressed people compared to the prophets who preceded him. His call toward the worship of al-Ilah, the One God, Allah (SWT) remained part and parcel of his mission; however, he addressed people by saying, “O mankind! Worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be saved (from utter doom in the hereafter)” (al-Baqarah, 2:21).

           The shift from “Worship Allah, the al-Ilah” to “Worship the Lord, al-Rubb” makes one wonder. One may ask, why is there a sudden stress on the Lordship of Allah (SWT) in addition to the divinity of Allah? That is not to say that previous prophets and messengers of Allah didn’t preach the concept of Lordship. Indeed they did. Going back in history, Nuh, Musa, and Ibrahim among others did preach the concept of lordship (rububiyyah.)

           One example is the profound dialogue that took place between Musa (AS) and the Pharaoh of Egypt. Musa and Harun (AS) were instructed to inform the Pharaoh, “Surely, we are the messengers of the Lord of the Worlds” (al-Shu’ara’, 26:16). “Pharaoh said, ‘And what is the Lord of the worlds?” “Musa said, ‘The Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, if you would be sure” (al-Shu’ara’, 26:23-24). Musa (AS) insisted, “Your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers” (al-Shu’ara’, 26:26).

           Pharaohs’ authority seemed to have been threatened by the claim of Musa (AS). Consequently, he proclaimed throughout Egypt, “Am I not the lord of this land? And do not the rivers in this country flow under me? Do you not all see this (and believe in what) I say!" (al-Zukhruf, 43:51). Pharaoh could not resist but declare lordship for himself, “So he gathered (his people) and proclaimed… I am the supreme lord of you all” (al-Nazi’at, 79:23-24). So the Pharaoh openly denied Allah’s kingship, authority and sovereignty.

           Similarly, the pagan Arabs at the time of the prophet (SAW), worshipped multiple gods that they partnered with the Grand Ilah, Allah (SWT). They denied the kingship, authority and sovereignty of Allah (SWT), i.e. His Lordship. They did however; believe in His Lordship but in a very limited sense. They acknowledged Him as the Lord, sustainer of the heavens and earth. They were quick to acknowledge Him as the Creator of everything.

           “And if you were to ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth, and subjected the sun and the moon (to His law)?’ They would say, ‘Allah.’ How then are they deluded (from the truth)?” (al-‘Ankabut, (29,61). Similarly, “Say, ‘Who is Lord of the seven heavens, and Lord of the mighty Throne?’ They will reply, ‘(All this power belongs) to God,’ say, ‘Will you not, then, take heed?’” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:86-87).

           It appears, however, that the pagan Arabs had an issue with Allah (SWT) being the Lord and sovereign in the land. In other words, they resisted Him being in full control and having full authority over their public and social affairs. That is why when they were asked about such matters, they hesitated in their response and Allah (SWT) was swift to inform them that all authority in the heavens and also on earth belongs to Him. “Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say, ‘(It is) Allah,’ Say, ‘Have you taken besides Him allies who do not possess for themselves any benefit or harm?’” (al-Ra’d, 13:16).

           Hence, Muhammad (SAW) introduced a unique religion centered on Allah (SWT) alone. One of Muhammad’s aims was to reintroduce Allah as being the Lord of the Worlds (Rabbul al-‘Alameen), who is beyond being solely a creator, but also the Only Lord whose authority cannot be challenged. He is the Ruler who must be obeyed in all matters. “Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. He commands that you worship (and obey) none except Him. That is the true faith, but most people do not realize it” (Yusuf, 12:40).

           Allah (SWT) insisted on Himself being the sole Supreme Being to be worshipped alone and the sole Sovereign to be obeyed. Allah (SWT) will never accept partners neither in His divinity nor in His authority. In all humility, regarding His Divinity, the Prophet (SAW) was instructed to, “Say, ´I am only a human being like you to whom it has been revealed, ‘Your god is One God.’ So let whoever hopes to meet his Lord act righteously and not associate anyone in the worship of his Lord’” (al-Kahf, 18:110). Similarly, regarding His Authority, Allah (SWT) adamantly proclaims, “And no one is allowed to share His rule” (al-Kahf, 18:26).

           In summary, the pagan Arabs regarded Allah (SWT) as the Lord only to the extent of believing in Him as the Creator and the Supreme Sovereign and Regulator of the affairs of the universe. However, they did not believe that His Sovereignty also extended to such matters as morality, social affairs, culture, economics, politics, and other worldly affairs. They did not acknowledge Him as the only rightful and ultimate source of law in such matters; it was the word and dictates of the elders, tribe leaders and chieftains that the peasants and common people obeyed as law.

           To shed more light on the subject of Lordship and to gain further insight on the profound shift of, “worship Allah” versus “worship your Lord,” a strategy that is befitting the world we live in today, consider the time and place then compared to the time and place of today. As the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths; Jews and Christians who came centuries before the advent of Muhammad (SAW), have already made history in the last and final scripture, the Qur’an, “They took their rabbis and their monks as lords, as well as Christ, the son of Mary. But they were commanded to worship (and obey) only one God: there is no god but Him; glory be to Him, He is far above whatever they set up as His partners!” (al-Tawbah, 9:31).

           Adi Ibn Hatim (RAA) was a Christian before embracing Islam at the time of the Prophet (SAW). Upon meeting the Prophet (SAW), Adi heard him recite the ayah, “They took their rabbis and their monks as lords…” Adi commented, “They did not worship them.” The Prophet (SAW) then asked Adi, “Do they (rabbis and priests) not make unlawful what Allah made lawful and make lawful what Allah made unlawful?” Adi conceded, “Yes.” The Prophet replied, “This is how they worshipped them.”

           Emphasis on the Lord (Rubb), Sovereign and Law Giver, is as important as making dawah to the Supreme Being, al-Ilah, Allah (SWT), the Creator and regulator of the affairs of the universe. It is prudent to expound on both aspects of Allah’s uniqueness and oneness when making dawah especially in a world where God has been confined to a space in the heavens, worshiped by some people as God while His sovereignty is trampled on by people who declare themselves as Lords, be it the House of Lords (ironically) in England or the White House in the United States of America where elected officials play the role of Allah, the Lord, enacting laws that are repugnant to the Divine laws and injunctions. The world will never find peace unless the Divine Just social order based on His Divine Wisdom and knowledge is established.

           It is ironic to talk about the resurgence of Islam at a time of heightened islamophobia. Today, Islam is a household name. Which of the two types of dawah “dawah ila Allah” or “dawah ila la-Rubb” are we going to preach? Which Allah will we introduce, Allah, the Creator and Provider or Allah, the King (al-Malik), the King of kings and also the Sovereign and the Law-giver? If we conceal the second attribute of Allah for diplomacy then we will be guilty of breaching the trust of conveying the truth and the whole truth in which we have been entrusted with. This betrayal of trust is tantamount to hypocrisy and utter doom in the hereafter.

           Under such climate of bigotry and hatred toward Islam and Muslims one is discouraged to talk about Islam. However, consider the Muslims at the time of the Prophet (SAW) and more specifically in the early days of the Prophet’s mission. Islam and Muslims were condemned and criticized just as we and our faith are bashed today. Yet, in spite of such circumstances, oppression and persecution, Islam prevailed. Islam prevailed because of the unwavering faith the companions of the Prophet (SAW) had. They remained truthful to their beliefs while they continued their efforts of propagating what they believed in.

           In this day and age when Islam is under attack and Muslims everywhere are victim to the hegemony of the west; Muslims, particularly in the West and specifically in the United States of America, must remain resilient, strengthen our faith through the Qur’an and continue to preach the very same message the Prophet and noble companions preached, the complete message of Islam, the universal message of all Prophets of God, La ilaha illalah without any fear or intimidation of blame coming from any critic. Therefore, “Never let them turn you away from the revelations of Allah after they have been revealed to you; (instead) call (people) to your Lord, and be not of those who ascribe partners (unto Him)” (al-Qasas, 28:87).

  • “Dawah with Wisdom and Good Preaching” Part 1 (August 22, 2014) Open or Close

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    It’s no secret that Muslims were not created to enjoy this world. Rather, we were created to serve the cause of Allah (SWT). We were produced to serve humanity. We have a gigantic prophetic task ahead of us. It is our responsibility to help humanity save themselves from doom on the Day of Judgment. Our salvation is not complete unless we reach out to people and convey the very same message Allah (SWT) enjoined upon His prophets. This is the work of dawah.

    Dawah was the primary focus of all prophets and messengers of Allah (SWT). They called their people to the sole message, “Worship God, you have no other deities besides Him.” Muhammad (SAW) was specifically summoned to, “Call (O Prophet) unto the path of your Lord” (al-Nahl, 6:125). Although the address is directed toward Muhammad (SAW), by extension the address is to all Muslims for all time to come. Simply because Allah (SWT) is not going to raise another prophet after Muhammad (SAW) who, like his predecessors, called and invited people to worship the One God, One Lord.

    It must be kept in mind that, unlike previous prophets who were sent to their own respective peoples and nations, Muhammad (SAW), the seal of all prophets and messengers, was sent to the whole of humanity, “We have not sent you (O Prophet) except to the entire humanity as a giver of glad tiding and a warner but most people do not know” (Saba’, 34:28). Similarly, unlike previous nations, the ummah of Muhammad (SAW) was raised to serve mankind, “You are the best nation produced for (the service) of humanity, you enjoin what is good and forbid the wrong” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110).

    Therefore, by and large, whatever Muhammad (SAW) was called on to perform or accomplish, is in essence and by extension a call intended for all Muslims and believers. “Call unto the path of your Lord with the Wisdom, the good preaching and argue with them in ways that are best. Surely, your Lord knows those who have strayed from His path and He knows those who are guided” (al-Nahl, 16:125).

    Our task is to ensure that the final message, the Qur’an, reaches every person in the world. The good news is, the Prophet (SAW) said, “This affair will reach what is reached by the night and the day; and Allah will not leave a dwelling of a mud-brick or a camel's-hair tent, except that Allah will cause this Deen to enter it – bringing honor or humiliation. Honor which Allah gives to Islam and humiliation which Allah will give to disbelief.”1

    A similar hadith from al-Miqdad al-Aswad states, “There will not remain upon the surface of the earth a mud-brick house or a camel’s-hair tent except that Allah will make the word of Islam enter, bringing both mighty honor and utter humiliation. Allah will either honor them by making them worthy of it and those whom He humiliates shall have to render submission to it.”2 Al-Miqdad (RAA) then commented, “The religion will then be entirely for Allah.”

    The prophecy has indeed come true. Today, with the advent of the internet and social media, the name Islam has entered nearly every home in every continent. Unfortunately, its entry in most cases is not what one would expect or like it to be. It is entering the homes of people through Fox news, CNN and other biased anti-Islam satellite channels among other outlets.

    Islam is reaching every person, the business and lay person, the poor and the rich, the capitalists and the socialists, the intellectuals, educated, as well as the illiterate. Half of our job is done for us. What we are required to do is explain and demonstrate to them the true and authentic teachings of Islam. People must learn it from Muslims who understand and live the faith.

    The ayah from surat al-Nahl quoted above,“Call unto the path of your Lord with the Wisdom and the good preaching,” commands us to reach out to every member of the society. The ayah does not only suggest to us the method by which we need to make dawah, it indirectly informs us who we must reach out to.

    Every society, state and country is made up of the majority and the minority. The minority consists of the intellectuals and elite of the society. They are the brain trust, the movers and shakers. They are the pace setters, the ones who influence legislators and those in power. While the majority are ordinary people who simply follow the decision of the minority.

    Both sectors of the society require dawah; the elite and intellectuals as well as lay people. The command, “Call unto the path of your Lord with the Wisdom and the good preaching,” becomes even more relevant in our strategic planning. Dawah with the Wisdom is reserved to the elite and intellectuals and dawah with the good preaching is meant for the lay people.

    A distinction must be made between dawah “with wisdom” versus “dawah with the Wisdom.” Most translators prefer the translation “with wisdom.” Although, grammatically correct, a better translation is “with the wisdom.” The difference between the two is, in the first case, “with wisdom” is an indefinite noun (nakirah) which means any wisdom. Whereas, “with the Wisdom” the noun becomes definite (ma’rifah) and suggests only one wisdom, i.e. the Wisdom of Allah (SWT) the Almighty, the all-Wise, the wisdom of the Qur’an. “Ya Seen, and the Wise Qur’an” (Ya seen, 36:1,2).

    The Wisdom of the Qur’an must reach the intellectuals and the elite in a subtle and clever way that they may understand the message of the Qur’an. This requires special skills and is not meant for everyone.

    Whereas, dawah through “good preaching” may be catered to the masses. The lay people are essentially a clean slate that can be influenced by “good preaching.” Any Muslim with a basic understanding of the Qur’an and Islam may share with their fellow non-Muslims what we know of the truth that attracted millions of people over the centuries. The Prophet (SAW) instructed, “Convey on my behalf even one ayah.”

    It will be difficult, however, to convince the elite, scholars and intellectuals who invested their lives studying and earning PhD’s in psychology, sociology, humanities and social sciences among other disciplines, the superiority of the Qur’an simply by quoting a few verses. This makes our dawah effort even more challenging.

    The challenge has always been there. Centuries ago Islam was attacked by Greek philosophy based on logic. Had it not been for Imam al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiah refuting those arguments with the Wisdom, Islam may not have reigned supreme.

    We have to face the challenges of convincing the intellectuals head-on because, “God wants to establish the truth by His words and cut off the root of those who deny it, so that He might prove the Truth to be true and the false to be false, however much the criminals might dislike it” (al-Anfal, 8:7-8).

    In a quick assessment of the present, it is clear that after the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, many conscientious intellectuals are in search of an alternative to the Western approach of democracy and capitalism. They are deliberating over the type of state they want to see - a socialist state or some other system. The ninety-nine percent are fed up with the lies and deception of the government, capitalists and corporations.

    Capitalism as practiced today has proven to be a failure. It prefers the one percent over the ninety-nine percent. Islam provides a solution that, if implemented, will solve the entire global economic crisis. The divine system works, if only intellectuals and economists paid heed to the Islamic economic system.

     The concept of zakat is the best way to sustain a healthy and vibrant economy. This was proved during the reign of the second Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab (RAA). An annual two and a half percent of one’s net worth is imposed on Muslims who meet the Nisab or zakat eligibility. The zakat money is spent mainly on the poor and destitute, welfare and administration.

     The West may learn from the zakat system. Taxes don’t have to be thirty or forty percent of one’s annual gross income. Two and a half percent of one’s net worth is sufficient to sustain a healthy economy. Imagine taxing the rich and super rich 2.5% of their net worth. Imagine taxing Bill Gates 2.5% of his net worth of billion.

     Additionally, Islam forbids dealing with interest and usury. Such unfair dealing grants the lender a profitable risk free transaction while hardship is imposed on the borrower. Placards and posters were raised during the occupy Wall Street marches demanding justice. One placard read, “Let’s bank the Muslim way?” Wise choice. An interest based economy in essence widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The Islamic economic system on the other hand is intended to close the gap. The Prophet (SAW) instructed Mu’adh Bin Jabal (RAA) before he was sent to Yemen, “Take from the rich and return it to the poor.” “So that possessions do not circulate among those of you who are rich” (al-Hashr, 59:7).

     Similarly, Western governments who pass laws and legislations that are clear violations of Divine principles are not benefitting society as a whole. Legislation that promotes evil and forbids what God has made lawful is repugnant to the natural disposition of man. The rate of depressed and anxiety-ridden individuals is spiraling out of control due to transgressing the boundaries of the Divine. Staying within the divine boundaries ensures happiness to everyone. “Whoever follows My guidance shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38).

    Furthermore, the Western social system is a racist system that prefers whites over blacks. Despite the great advances won by those during the Civil Rights Movement, racial tensions continue to run high all across America, as most recently evidenced in Ferguson, Missouri. Islam teaches that all humans regardless of their origin or skin color, are brothers and sisters whose beginning can be traced back to Adam and Eve, created equal in the eyes of God.

     The ninety-nine percent is ready for a change. It is the one percent who are not ready. Our dawah efforts must be directed toward the one percent who are resistant to change. The political, social and economic challenges must be met with the Wisdom of the Qur’an. Our duty now becomes: how do we extract the gems of wisdom of the Qur’an and convey the great principles and ideas with Western intellectuals in a way that is not preaching?

     Intellectually gifted students need to be trained in all fields of social sciences, economics, political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology, etc. in order to disseminate the knowledge and wisdom of the Qur’an at the highest intellectual level in academia. It is important to note however, that one must filter secular knowledge through the Islamic lens in order to determine what is in agreement with Islam and what conflicts with its teachings to truly advance and contribute to society as a whole.

    Today, western intellectuals have succeeded in neglecting the spirit in favor of the body; emphasizing the world herein over the hereafter and replacing God with materialism. In reality, Islam requires we place the utmost emphasis on the Creator, the spirit and the hereafter. The only way to succeed in this struggle of ideology is to have strong conviction, yaqeen, in the Creator.

     This challenging task requires individuals who possess real faith (Iman). One may possess conviction through the company of the righteous, practicing Islam and adhering to the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), which is sufficient only on an individual level. True change in the society however, must come about through conviction on an intellectual level through deep devotion to the Qur’an. This is the real jihad, “Strive hard against them with this Qur’an” (al-Furqan, 25:52).

    Western Muslims are fortunate that religious freedoms as well as other freedoms such as freedom of speech and assembly are granted to them; in addition to that, Western Muslims have access to Western universities and institutions. We are part and parcel of the American experience, so rather than blending in and taking a backseat, raise your voices to the forefront and stand up for what is right. Let us make a profound change that yields economic prosperity, fair governance and social justice. Allah (SWT) says, “We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves until it becomes evident to them that it is the truth” (Fussilat, 41:53).

     1 The authentic hadith was narrated by Tamim al-Dariy [Sahih: Related by Ahmad (4/103), Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (no. 1631) and others. Shaykh Al­-Albani authenticated it in Tahdhirus­-Sajid (p. 118)]

    2 Musnad Ahmad

  • "The Qur’an is Our Only Hope" (July 18, 2014) Open or Close

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           The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) at a time when people needed it the most. It mainly addressed the pagan Arabs who were drowning in a sea of polytheism (shirk), corruption, oppression, exploitation and tribal wars, while they claimed to be the descendants of Ibrahim (AS), the father of monotheism. They strayed away from the authentic tradition of Ibrahim and Isma’il (AS) by introducing idols as objects of worship besides Allah (SWT) and mixed the religion with superstitions. The pagan Arabs stripped the spirit out of the pure teachings of Ibrahim (AS) and confined Allah (SWT), the Creator of everything, to the heavens only. This era of darkness is often referred to as the period of ignorance or Jahiliyyah.

           The Qur’an was introduced to rescue the pagan Arabs specifically while introducing a way of life suited for humanity at large for all time to come. Not so surprisingly, the beginning of surat Ibrahim declares, “Alif Lam Ra. This is a Book We have sent down to you [O Prophet] so that, with their Lord’s permission, you may bring people from the depths of darkness into light, to the path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy One” (Ibrahim, 14:1).

           The Qur’an came down from the seventh heaven to the earthly heaven in the month of Ramadan on a very special night, the night of power or lailatul-Qadr, as the final gift to humanity, “It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was sent as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong” (al-Baqarah, 2:185). “We sent it down on the night of al-Qadr (Power/Decree)” (Al-Qadr, 97:1).

            Eventually, the Arabian Peninsula was completely cleansed from idol worship. The Prophet (SAW) was supremely successful in restoring the pure teachings of Ibrahim (AS). Centuries later, however, the Muslim Arabs, or the ummiyyeen (unlettered) according to the Qur’anic terminology, who happened to be the nucleus of the ummah since Muhammad (SAW) was himself an Arab, and the non-Arabs who embraced the universal faith of Islam found themselves going back to the old pagan Arab practices. Present day idol worship manifests through the worship of materialism while superstitions continue to invade almost every Muslim home.

            Many of present day Muslims who claim to believe in Allah (SWT) seek deceased individuals for help and guidance, while many others go after fortune tellers in order to predict their future and status of wealth. Just as the descendants of Isma’il (AS) took away the spirit from the teachings of Ibrahim (AS), many Muslims today have stripped the spirit out of the pure and simple teachings of Muhammad (SAW) limiting the religion to a set of dogma and rituals mixed with superstitions.

            The Prophet (SAW) indeed spoke the truth when he prophesized the disastrous awful condition of Muslims to come. He predicted, “Soon, there will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Qur’an except its script. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but devoid of guidance. Their scholars will be the worst people under the sky. Strife will emanate from them and return back to them.”1

            None of the anxiety and fear as well as the strife that is plaguing the ummah today would have subsisted had Islam been practiced as was established for us by the Prophet (SAW) and his noble companions, may Allah be pleased with them. No calamities or misfortune would befall upon us had we embraced the Qur’an and implemented its divine wisdom. 

           In fact, clear instructions were given to Adam and Eve (AS) as they were being dispatched from the garden to assume their responsibilities on earth, “When guidance comes to you from Me, as it certainly will, there shall be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38). In other words, Allah (SWT) assured happiness to those who adhere to Allah’s guidance.

            It appears that Muslims are under the grip of divine punishment for failing to uphold the Book of Allah (SWT). Moreover, it seems that Muslims are treading the footsteps of the Children of Israel. “Some of those who had received the Scripture before threw the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they had no knowledge of it” (al-Baqarah, 2:101).

            In spite of the present condition of Muslims in the world, there is still a glimpse of hope. First of all, we must realize that no matter how bad our conditions are or may become, we must never despair from the great and infinite mercy of Allah (SWT). “Say (O Prophet), ‘O My servants who have transgressed against yourselves (by sinning), do not despair of Allah’s mercy. For Allah surely forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the most Forgiving, the most Merciful’” (al-Zummar, 39:53).

            We have a great opportunity in the remaining days and nights of Ramadan to return back to Allah (SWT) in repentance while asking Him for forgiveness. “O Allah! You are the One who pardons and love to pardon, so pardon me,” is the supplication taught to ‘Aisha (RA) by the Prophet (SAW). It should not be mere lip service. We must show Allah (SWT) that we are sincere in returning back to Him. One way to prove one’s sincerity and loyalty is by returning back to His Book with the pure intention of seeking His guidance.

            Secondly, the only sure way out of our predicaments, calamities, trials and tribulations is the Qur’an, the Book of Allah. That was the remedy given to Ali (RA) when he (SAW) informed him, “Very soon there is going to be a trial (fitanh).” Ali (RA) not concerned about what kind of trial nor its timing inquired, “What will be the way out O’ messenger of Allah?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “The Book of Allah.”

            The Prophet (SAW) further elaborated on the Book of Allah when he (SAW) said,

     “It contains instructive narratives of preceding nations.” The Qur’an contains the stories and fate of previous nations such as the nations of ‘Ad, Thamud, Nuh, Lut etc. Nations that rejected Allah’s messengers who invited their people to the universal message of, “La ilaha illa Allah, there is no god except Allah,” were annihilated. They were wiped off the face of the earth. The Qur’an talks about historical events and patterns of history.

     More sections of the Qur’an are dedicated to the Children of Israel. One thing we learn about them is that, “Some from among the people of the Book (Jews) threw the Book of Allah behind their backs as though they knew nothing about it” (al-Baqarah, 2:101). Unfortunately, this is the affair of the great majority of Muslims today.

     “It also contains news of what comes after you.” The Qur’an mentions the future consequences and outcome of deeds. Great detail regarding the grand day of accountability or the Day of Judgment, are mentioned in the Qur’an. Those who behave in accordance to the teachings and instructions of the Qur’an are informed of the good news of Paradise. On the other hand, those who follow their whims and desires and turn their backs on the divine guidance shall have to pay dreadful price on the Day of Judgment.

     “As for him who receives his book (of deeds) in his right hand, he will have an easy reckoning and return to his people full of joy. But as for him whose book (of deeds) shall be given to him behind his back, he will cry out for destruction. He will burn in the blazing Fire. Behold, (in his earthly life) he lived joyfully among his people. He thought he would never return (to his Lord). Yes indeed, his Lord was watching him” (al-Inshiqaq, 84:7-15).

     “It is the adjudicator among you.” The Qur’an contains verdicts of disputes that may arise among people. It is the final divine law. Sadly, people judge and legislate according to their own personal wishes and desires. The Qur’an reminds, “Judgment rests with none but Allah” (Yusuf, 12:67). Surat al-Ma’idah, ayat 44, 45 and 47 declares those who do not rule and judge according to what Allah (SWT) has sent (the Qur’an) are deniers of truth (kafirun), wrongdoers (zalimun), and rebels (fasiqun).

     “It is a decisive word. It is not a joke.” The Qur’an is a decisive book. It makes a distinction between good and evil and sets apart right from wrong. It also distinguishes between truth and falsehood. It is a serious book. It is not to be taken lightly.

     “If any tyrant relinquishes it, Allah will break him.” Rulers and dictators who forsake the Book of Allah (SWT) will be crushed and destroyed by Allah (SWT).

    “And whoever seeks guidance ahead of it Allah will lead him astray.” One must never look for guidance outside the Qur’an. We have the absolute final Book of guidance. Sadly, Muslim governments in an attempt to please the Jews and Christians are importing western culture into their countries leaving behind the true and authentic guidance.

     Allah (SWT) informed, “Neither the Jews nor the Christians will be pleased with you (O Prophet) until you follow their way. Say, ‘Verily the Guidance of Allah is the Guidance.’ And if you (O prophet) were to follow their desires after what came to you of knowledge, you will have neither support from Allah nor any help” (al-Baqarah, 2:120). He (SWT) also stressed, “Verily, this Qur’an guides to that which is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that they shall have a magnificent reward” (al-Isra’, 17:9).

     “It is Allah’s strong cord.” Allah (SWT) commands the believers to cling tight unto the Qur’an, “And hold fast unto the rope of Allah altogether and be not divided among yourselves” (Aal Imran, 3:103).

     “It is the wise reminder.” Allah (SWT) swore, “By the Qur’an bearing the Reminder! (Sâd, 38:1). The Qur’an is a reminder with guidance to the truth. It is full of remembrance embracing all that is worth taking to one’s hearts. “Those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah - truly it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace” (al-Ra’ad, 13:28).

     “It is the straight path.” Worshippers cry out to Allah (SWT) everyday in their prayers, “Guide us to the straight path.” We, however, are heedless of the Qur’an. The Book of Allah is the straight path. “And this (Qur'an) is the Path of your Lord, a Straight Path” (al-An’am, 6:126). We must read and ponder on the ayat of the Qur’an and put it into practice. Only then may one say I am on the straight path.

     “It is that by which the desires do not swerve nor can the tongues twist it.” One can never be misled by the Qur’an. It is a manifest truth that protects one’s thoughts and desires from immoral and sinful inclinations. One’s soul can never deviate to wrong actions when following the Qur’an.

     “Scholars are never satiated with it.” The scholars and intellectuals are never satisfied with its knowledge. They don’t get enough of it. Their appetite for learning increases as they read the Qur’an. The deeper they dive into the ocean of the Qur’an the more gems of wisdom they extract.

     “It never becomes tiresome or worn out with repetition.” No matter how much it is repeated it cannot be worn out or become boring. It is not difficult on the tongue, rather very easy to recite and understand. “We have made it easy to learn lessons from the Quran; will anyone take heed?” (al-Qamar, 54:17).

     “Its wonders never cease.” The Qur’an is the last and final living miracle of Allah (SWT). It is unique in its style and eloquence. One may be granted deeper insight and the favor of seeing a new light pondering on the same ayah despite it being read countless times. Aside from its literary beauty and eloquence the Qur’an contains many scientific miracles that only recently were discovered. “Say (O Prophet), ‘If all mankind and all invisible beings (Jinn) would come together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce anything like it, however much they help each other’” (al-‘Isra’, 17:88).

     “It is that concerning which the Jinn did not hesitate to declare, when they heard it, ‘We have heard a wonderful recital which guides to what is right, and we believe in it.’” The information of such unseen reality was revealed to the Prophet (SAW) in surat al-Jinn (72:1,2). This proves that the Qur’an is the final guidance for the invisible and visible beings, Jinn and humans.

     “He who utters it speaks the truth, he who acts according to it is rewarded, he who pronounces judgment according to it has done justice and he who invites people to it guides (in another narration, is guided) to a straight path.’”

     In conclusion, the Book of Allah is the only way out of our predicament. The current calamities, trials and tribulations can be best understood when pondering on the following ayah, “We shall certainly make them taste a lesser punishment (in this life) before the greater torment, so that perhaps they may return (to the right path)” (al-Sajdah, 32:21). To return to the mercy and grace of Allah (SWT) is to return to the Book of Allah.

    The Book of Allah is our only hope.

     

    1 Al-Baihaqi in Shu’ab al-Iman from’Ali. There is disagreement over its authenticity and whether it is ‘Ali’s statement or the Prophet’s.

  • United we Stand Divided we Fall (July 4, 2014) Open or Close

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           The motto, “United we stand, divided we fall,” has been widely used by nations and songwriters. The slogan is usually invoked at times of war and conflict. The phrase is attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. A similar phrase also appears in the biblical New Testament –“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). Similar verses of the New Testament include Matthew 12:25, “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

           The subject of unity was also stressed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He (SAW) clasped his hands with the fingers interlaced and said, “A believer to another believer is like a solid brick structure, each brick supports the other.” Unity is ordained upon the believers by Allah (SWT), “Cling unto the rope of Allah all of you and be not divided” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). He (SWT) warns, “Do not be like those who divided and differed after clear signs have come to them and for them is a severe torment” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:105). It is clear that the divine message is that of unity and not division. United we stand, divided we fall.

           The conflicts in the Middle East are very troubling and unprecedented. We have had our share in the course of history of wars and bloodshed but never at this scale. The conflict does not involve Muslims against a common enemy. Sadly, it is from within, Muslims against Muslims, sunnis against shias, and shias against sunnis. These actions are not sanctioned in our faith. We are not permitted to take the life of any innocent person, what to speak of taking the life of a brother in faith. “If anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (al-Ma’idah, 5:32).

           Human life is sacred in Islam. Taking the life of anyone without just cause is plain forbidden in Islam. The Prophet (SAW) insisted, “All things of a Muslim are forbidden for his brother in faith, his blood, his honor and his wealth. The Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. He does not oppress nor humiliate him. Piety (taqwa) is here, piety is here (the Prophet (SAW) would point to his heart). It is a serious evil that he should look down upon his brother.”

           Muslims today carry weapons with the intention to kill their brothers and sisters. “But whoever deliberately slays another believer, his recompense shall be hell, to abide therein (forever); And the wrath and curse of Allah are upon him; and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him” (al-Nisa’, 4:93). Hence, what justifies the killing of one’s own brother or sister in faith? What justifies the killing of innocent souls? What justifies the destruction of people’s homes, businesses, infrastructure, shrines, mosques, etc?

           What is happening in the Middle East concerns all of us here in America. No one likes what is taking place. We feel their pain. We must, however, acknowledge that we can’t solve the problems in the Middle East or any place overseas. The problem is larger than us. We must not allow the sectarianism that is plaguing the Middle East to spill over into our communities. We must remain united. United we stand, divided we fall.

           The Muslim community (shia and sunni) in Southeast Michigan is united and will continue to be united, insha Allah. We are sending a clear message and setting an example of unity where multi-ethnic and multi-madhahib Muslims live together in peace and harmony under the rule of law.

           Allah (SWT) commanded unity not war. “Cling unto the rope of Allah all of you and be not divided” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). The statement “all of you” is added for emphasis and also for inclusivity. “All of you” means anyone who testifies, “There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” In other words, all who follow Muhammad (SAW) and proclaim the unity of God must unite regardless of one’s sect or school of thought, be he a Salafi, Sufi, Sunni, Shii, Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, Hanbali or Ja’fari.

           Islam is not a narrow path. It is a wide highway. It accommodates all and there is room for everyone. It is by the grace of God that we have this diversity of thought. We must respect each other, unite and renounce division as we have been commanded by the almighty God, “Cling unto the rope of Allah all of you and be not divided” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). The command is very categorical. The forceful imperative includes the directive, “and be not divided” for additional emphasis. The ayah ends with a profound message. The message is simple and clear, division may lead to hell.

           Allah (SWT) relates the enmity between the two tribes of Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj in Yathrib (al-Madinah) that led to revenge-based wars for decades. Islam changed their catastrophic condition. Unity and brotherhood was achieved only due to their readiness to get rid of their fanaticism and prejudice. “And remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then he saved you from it; thus does Allah make clear to you His message that you may follow the right guidance” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). Islam shattered the barriers of disunity and brought hearts together.

           We must refrain from labeling ourselves, a sunii, shii, salafi, sufi, hanafi, maliki, shafii, hanbali or jaafari. We are Muslims. I am a Muslim. You are a Muslim. A profound ayah in surat Fussilat states, “And who could be better in speech than one who calls unto Allah, acts righteously and says ‘I am of those who are Muslims’” (Fussilat, 41:33). None of the above labels were used by God. He (SWT) taught us to say, “I am a Muslim.”

           The only sure way to rid ourselves of fanaticism and prejudice is to have genuine taqwa of Allah, i.e. to be mindful of Allah (SWT) and attentive to His commands. Not so surprising, the ayah that precedes the command of unity mandates all believers to be conscious of Allah (SWT), “O you who believe have taqwa (be mindful) of Allah, as is His due and die not except as a Muslim” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102). Hence, unity depends on genuine piety. The Prophet (SAW) while pointing to his heart stated, “Piety is here, piety is here, piety is here.” One may then conclude, when the hearts are purified, unity manifests itself as it did with the two tribes of al-Madinah. United we stand, divided we fall.

           The way to attain genuine piety is, “Cling unto the rope of Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). According to one narration related by a prominent companion of the Prophet (SAW) Abdullah Ibn Mas’oud, “The rope of Allah is the Book of Allah.” In another narration by Abi Sa’eed al-Khudari, the Prophet (SAW) said, “The Book of Allah is the rope of Allah stretched from the heavens to earth.” Technically, ropes have tensile strength and are usually used for pulling and lifting. The Prophet did claim that, “The Book of Allah is the strongest rope.” The Book of Allah possesses the power to pull us all together and unite us. The choice is ours.

           The Imams (shia and sunni) of the Imams Council of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) and community leaders of Southeast Michigan recently met and discussed the current conflict in Iraq. The objective of the meeting was to re-affirm the Muslim Code of Honor signed by the Imams in May of 2007 as a result of the then sectarianism. The Imams remain united and in solidarity against sectarianism, disunity and division. They are committed to making sure the present condition of sectarianism in Iraq does not spill over into our communities.

           The Imams agree that the conflict in Iraq is political in nature and not necessarily a sunnii/shia one. They condemned all types of extremism, especially violent extremism. They vowed to always speak against violence for violence begets violence. Peaceful dialogue is the only way to resolving conflicts, the Imams concluded. They are keen on protecting our communities from any potential sectarianism.

           The Imams admitted, “We cannot solve the problems of the Middle East. Our attention should be focused here on domestic issues.” The Muslim community in America is facing many problems such as hate and islamophobia. Other issues involve our youth such as drugs, homosexuality, atheism to name a few.

           The Imams caution our youth from being brainwashed by any faction through the internet or any social media outlet in an attempt to recruit fighters from the US. The Imams have a strong desire to protect our youth. Our youth must be clever enough to recognize that our religion is being hijacked by terrorists who serve specific agendas and not be trapped.

           The Imams are calling for peace. Nearly 24 Imams and community leaders who were present at the meeting signed the reaffirmation of the Muslim Code of Honor which reads:

    1) We reaffirm the Muslim Code of Honor signed by Shia and Sunni imams, on May 10th, 2007. The signed agreement calls for Shia and Sunni communities, led by the imams, to live together peacefully in America acknowledging fundamental differences among madhahib. It is imperative, upon signing the Code of Honor that we work towards maintaining and enhancing good relationships among us.

    2) Adhering to the Code of Honor, we must encourage respectful language in our institutions and discourage speech or material that engages in rhetoric of takfîr or disrespect of Muslim scholars and leaders - traditional or contemporary.

    3) Be aware that there are some who promote discord and fitna. We must not allow such parties to distract us, for the sake of Muslim Americans who live and struggle for a dignified existence for Islam and Muslims. We remember Allah (SWT)’s commandment: “And hold fast, all together, to the rope of God, and be not divided among yourselves. And remember with gratitude God’s favor upon you, when you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love. Thus by His grace you became brethren. And you were on the brink of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you, that you may be guided. So let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity. And be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving clear signs. For them is a dreadful penalty” (3:103-05).

    4) We encourage our national organizations, moreover, through the example of our brotherly cooperation in SE Michigan, to honor the terms of the Code of Honor we signed. We stand ready to work with anyone towards this goal to promote true spirit of peaceful coexistence and respect among all. We ask God the Exalted to aid us in this and all our efforts to conduct ourselves in a manner that is most pleasing to Him.

  • Dawah to Goodness (June 13, 2014) Open or Close

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           Calling to Goodness or khair among other things is what we have been summoned to do. “And let there be a group from among you who calls to all that is good (khair), enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong: and it is they, who will attain real success” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104).

           Dawah is generally defined as: to call, inform, appeal or invite. Another word used in conjunction with dawah is tabligh which means to convey or deliver a message. The Prophet (SAW) was advised, “O Messenger convey (balligh) what has been sent to you from your Lord, and if you do not, then you have not delivered His message” (al-Ma’idah, 5:67).

           The duty of dawah involves calling all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. One of the objectives of dawah is to help all people rescue themselves from eternal doom. Allah (SWT) clearly commanded the believers, “O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from the fire” (al-Tahrim, 66:6).

           Having sympathy, caring for other people around us and possessing a desire to help Muslims and non-Muslims alike is essential and mandatory in Islam. However, placing concern with oneself above others is acceptable only when it relates to the hereafter. The motivation to look after oneself before other people concerning one’s salvation may be appreciated when we examine Allah (SWT)’s command, “O People, be mindful of your Lord and fear a day when no parent can avail or benefit his son (nor be of advantage to him or be able to help him) nor can a child avail or benefit his parent (or be of profit to him,) in any way. Allah's promise is true. So do not let the present life delude you, nor let the Deceiver deceive you about Allah” (Luqman, 31:33).

           In other words, according to the al-Muntakhab tafsir, “Do not let the present life deceive you and entangle you with the fleshy passions and mundane vanity, nor should anything; power, business, wealth, knowledge, long life, status, lust, satan or those with characteristics befitting him ever alienate you from Allah.”

           In conclusion, it makes sense to begin learning and applying the teachings of our deen ourselves while lending a helping hand to our families starting with the nearest in kin to the farthest. The nearest in kin includes children, parents, blood siblings, cousins and the circle expands to include our brothers and sisters in humanity since it is an acknowledged fact that all people are created from a single pair, Adam and Hawwa’.

           A concerted and organized effort should be aimed at calling non-Muslims to iman or faith, while also calling Muslims to repentance, revitalization of faith and to renew the covenant with Allah (SWT). In other words, a call to action.

           The duty of calling Muslims takes precedence over non-Muslims particularly when Muslims, who constitute a large segment of the world, are for the most part heedless of our obligations and duties toward the faith we proclaim to belong to, Islam. Sadly, most Muslims practice the faith as a cultural norm as opposed to a spiritual experience.

           The following ayah is as applicable today as it was 1400 years ago, “There are some people who worship Allah standing on the verge of faith (half faith and half disbelief). When such a person is blessed with good fortune he is content; but if he encounters a trial he tumbles on his face (falling in despair); thus losing both this world and the Hereafter, which is a clear-cut loss” (al-Hajj, 22:11).

           It is the quality of Muslims that is of utmost importance, not quantity. After thirteen years of preaching and teaching, the Prophet (SAW) could hardly garner a handful of believers. They hardly exceeded 125 believers. What sets them apart from us is the fact that they were very much attached to the Qur’an unlike most Muslims today who are detached from the divine wisdom; the noble Qur’an. We are at a very far distance from the Book of Allah (SWT).

           The few companions who truly honored the Qur’an were able to accomplish the unthinkable. They were able to transform lives and communities. The traces of their hard labor may be witnessed in almost every corner of the world.

           In order to bring back the honor and glory of Islam, we must return to the very same pattern the former generation was on. Imam Malik (RA) in his famous aphorism said, “The affairs of the latter part (generation) of this ummah will not be reformed except by that which the former (generation) was reformed.”

           With such a profound statement it is essential to call Muslims back to iman, real faith. There is a profound sense of urgency to transform the verbal attestation into an intense burning faith. This can be achieved primarily through the Qur’an; thus the, “Call to return back to the Qur’an, (Dawat al-rujoo’ ila al-Qur’an).” “And let there be a group from among you who calls to all that is good (dawah ila al-khair) (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104).

           Calling to all that is good (dawah ila al-khair), according to many exegetes of the Qur’an, may be interpreted as calling people to Islam. This interpretation is well established and accepted if one is involved with non-Muslims. Another interpretation, however, is calling Muslims back to the Book of Allah (SWT), the Qur’an, which is depicted as khair in the following ayah, “O mankind! There has come to you a (good) sermon from your Lord, and a cure for all (the diseases) of the hearts, and guidance and mercy unto all who believe (in Him). Say (O Prophet), ‘(all this) by the favor and grace of Allah.’ So in that let them rejoice. It (the Qur’an) is better (khairun) than all the riches that they may amass” (Yunus, 10:57-58).

           The Qur’an contains everything one needs in order to live a peaceful and content life. It guides to paradise, the true eternal life. We have come from Allah (SWT) and unto Him is our ultimate return. That is our destination and according to the Prophet (SAW), “It is either paradise forever or the hellfire forever.”

           It must be emphasized that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, the Supreme Being, and the Creator of all. We are like one family to Allah (SWT). He loves everyone without any exception and is not biased in any way. He (SWT) is impartial and has no vested interest. He is absolutely independent and not in need of anything. Therefore, one must put his or her trust solely in Allah (SWT) and believe in His words, instructions and guidance.

           There are an outstanding114 surahs and more than 6,000 ayat in the Qur’an. Each and every ayah is a sign and symbol of divine wisdom and knowledge. How can we be so oblivious and ignorant about the Qur’an? The least we can do is read it and be enlightened by it. Even basic knowledge of the Arabic language can help one understand the gems of wisdom in the Qur’an. “We have made the Qur’an easy (to draw lessons from), will anyone take heed?” (al-Qamar, 54:17). The same ayah is repeated four times for emphasis.

           The Qur’an is not difficult to understand. Bear in mind that the first recipients of Allah’s last gift were those who were unlettered. Except for a very few places, the Qur’an uses simple words and complex subjects are usually presented in the form of parables to facilitate easy understanding. The Qur’an has everything one needs. It answers all the metaphysical and philosophical questions philosophers have forever pondered upon. The most fundamental questions are; who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose in life? Is there an afterlife? What is good and what is evil? Only Allah (SWT), the Creator, can give us accurate and correct answers.

           It also contains practical guidance; how to live an upright, dignified life and how to attain righteousness and real virtue. At the social level, one finds political, economic and social guiding principles to ensure a healthy and harmonious society. It teaches us how to solve our economic problems and close the gap between the rich and the poor. It sets the rules on how to govern and manage people ensuring a balanced system that includes checks and balances. The Qur’an brings people’s hearts together eliminating all types of racism and discrimination. The Qur’an came to rescue man from conditions of misery, fear and grief. It was meant to take us out of darkness and shine light upon our lives. It was meant to reform us.

           Generally speaking, the Qur’an is for everyone, “Guidance for humanity.” It is, however, practically speaking, “Guidance for the righteous,” those who allegedly believe in it. The Qur’an must be dearer to our hearts than ourselves, anyone, or anything in this world. This can only be accomplished when we truly believe in it.

           To believe in the Qur’an is to read it. “Those to whom We have sent the Book study it as it should be studied. They are the ones that believe in it. And anyone who denies its truth are indeed the losers” (al-Baqarah, 2:121). The word yatlunahu which translates to study also means to follow. The root of the word, tala, literally means to follow. Therefore, those who believe in the Qur’an recite it with the intention to follow and apply its teachings.

           It is crucial to understand what is to be implemented. After all, the purpose of the Book is to reflect upon its ayat, signs and messages. “This is a blessed Scripture which We sent down to you (O Prophet), for people to think about its messages, and for those with understanding to take heed” (Sod, 38:29). In a mildly admonishing way Allah (SWT) said, “Will they not, then, try to understand this Qur’an? If it had been from anyone other than Allah, they would have found many discrepancies in it” (al-Nisa’, 4:82). We must reflect upon those great gems of wisdom. In a harshly admonishing tone, Allah (SWT) said, “Will they not, then, ponder over the Qur’an? Or are there locks upon their hearts?” (Muhammad, 47:24). Why not unlock our hearts and let the Qur’an descend upon our hearts the same way it descended upon the hearts of the Prophet (SAW) and his companions?

           Muslims who invest a large chunk of their lives studying medicine, engineering and law among many other complex subjects that require the utmost aptitude and learning skills may invest in learning enough Arabic to do justice to the Qur’an. The beneficiary is the person who takes up such a challenge, not Allah (SWT). “If you do good, it is for your own good” (al-Isra’, 17:7). Secular knowledge is important and necessary. The knowledge of the Deen, however, is more important and urgent. The former will help us succeed in this world and the latter will save us from eternal doom. The Qur’an, according to the Prophet (SAW), may become an argument either for or against the believer on the Day of Judgment.

           The money, wealth, and possessions one accumulate here will not be a source of redemption for us on the Day of Judgment. The children we raise here will not be able to help us on the Day of Judgment. Only we alone can help ourselves. Therefore, let us return back to the glory of the Qur’an and let it shine our way to Allah (SWT). It is through the Qur’an we will be reformed. Ali (RAA) heard the messenger of Allah as saying, “Soon there will be a fitnah, (a turmoil, trials).” He inquired, “What is the way out O’ messenger of Allah?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “The Book of Allah.” Yes, indeed, it is the Book of Allah that can save us from all the trials and tribulations, misery and grief, and civil wars and bloodshed.

           We need to invest in the Qur’an. We need to learn to apply and impart its knowledge to others. Be among the best in the sight of Allah (SWT). The Prophet (SAW) said, “Best among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others.” Let us dive deep into the ocean of the Qur’an and extract the beautiful gems of wisdom and adorn ourselves with them while sharing those messages with others. It is a life time endeavor. Nevertheless, it is well worth the investment. We can do it. We just have to commit to it.

           The Prophet (SAW), while addressing us in the most noble of ways, said, “O people of the Qur’an! Do not hide the Qur’an under your pillow (i.e. don’t sleep on it), rather, recite it as you should recite it, by night and by day, preach its message, beautify it with your beautiful voices, and contemplate on its contents, so that you may prosper.”

  • The Importance,Objective and Merits of Dawah (May 23, 2014) Open or Close

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    It is an established fact that dawah is a religious obligation incumbent upon all able mukkallaf, (responsible Muslims, males and females alike). Dawah is a means to end. Fulfilling a religious obligation brings pleasure to Allah (SWT) and with the proper intention one may reap the many blessings from Allah (SWT) in both worlds.

    The work of dawah is very extensive and prophetic in nature. The message of dawah is plain and simple, “there is no god except Allah.” Allah (SWT) informed Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “Not a messenger did We send before you, (O Prophet) without this inspiration sent by Us to him: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me” (al-Anbiya’, 21:25). A similar ayah expresses the same message with the proclamation to avoid false gods, “We sent a messenger to every community, (with the command), ‘Worship Allah and shun false gods’” (al-Nahl, 16:36).

    “O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other gods besides Him” (al-A’raf, 7:59, 65, 73, 85). That was precisely the call of the multitude of Allah (SWT)’s prophets to their people including Nuh, Hud, Saleh and Shu’aib. Unlike his predecessors who called out to their respective people, Muhammad (SAW) who was sent to the entire world as Allah’s last deputy called out to the entire humanity, “O mankind! Worship your Lord, the One who created you and those who have come before you so you may be saved” (al-Baqarah, 2:21).

    After the demise of Muhammad (SAW), we as Muslims, by extension, are commissioned to continue this legacy of conveying to humanity at large the very same message, “You have no other gods besides Allah.” This is the best service one can do to humanity. “You are the best community (ummah) evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110 ).

    Being prophetic in nature, it is noteworthy to understand that the very objective of Allah (SWT)’s Messengers in the pursuit of dawah is to establish and abide by justice, “Indeed, We had been sending Our messengers with clear signs, the Book and the Balance, so that people may uphold justice” (al-Hadid, 57:25). Therefore, we must always keep in mind and never lose sight of our higher aim and objective of establishing justice while making dawah.

    According to the Christian Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). “Thy kingdom come,” according to bible commentaries, means, “We are to pray that God will hasten Christ's return to establish the literal Kingdom of God on this earth.” In other words, to establish the very purpose messengers of God were sent for i.e. to uphold justice.

    It is our understanding that Jesus (AS) will return and establish justice on earth. That does not mean, however, that we are absolved from the responsibility of preaching and promoting the divine principles of an ideal social system, the concepts of justice and the final Scripture, the Qur’an by which Jesus (AS) will rule with. This is the higher aim and objective of dawah. “O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah” (al-Nisa’, 4:135), and conversely, “O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to justice” (al-Ma’idah, 5:8).

    Therefore, we seek to promote and establish God’s justice and God’s kingdom; a kingdom that will yield peace, joy and prosperity. Allah (SWT) made it very clear, “When guidance comes from Me, as it certainly will, there shall be no fear upon those who follow My guidance nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:38). In other words, people will enjoy happiness from every direction. That can only happen when we uphold the Book of Allah (SWT) and establish the divine law. Otherwise, what use is the Qur’an and what purpose does it serve? Let us not be likened to those whom Allah (SWT) described in surat al-Jumu’ah, “The likeness of those who were entrusted with the Taurat but failed to uphold it, is like a donkey carrying a heap of books. Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the revelations of Allah: and Allah does not guide such unjust people” (al-Jumu’ah, 62:5).

    The entire world is engulfed with tragedy and misery. One may conclude, the world’s decadence, corruption, oppression, misery, grief, despair and hopelessness is solely due to turning away from the divine guidance, the Book of Allah (SWT). “Whoever follows My guidance, when it comes to you (O people), will not go astray nor fall into misery, and whoever turns away from My remembrance (guidance), he will then have a miserable life, and We will raise him blind on the Day of Resurrection” (Ta Ha, 20:123,124). Sadly, we have utterly turned a blind eye to the Book of Allah. Just imagine the world under God's rule. 

    Therefore, the main objective of dawah is to spread what we consider to be of benefit to humanity and proclaim God's message of hope to the world. Such an endeavor will inevitably result in resistance. The biggest resistance today comes from anti-Shariah movements and Islamophobes such as Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer among many others. Attacks on Islam, the Qur’an and the Prophet (SAW) are painful to believers, but as conscious Muslims, we need to endure the pain without resorting to violent reactions or tit for tat revenge. ¬

    We must be proactive and propagate the truth to the full extent permissible by our constitution under the freedom of speech and freedom of religion clauses. We have a great opportunity to bring awareness to people residing in this country about the Qur’an, its teachings and what Islam is about.

    The second objective of dawah is articulated in a couple places in the Qur’an. “Thus, We have made you (O believers) a just (balanced) community, so that you may bear witness (to the truth) before others and so that the Messenger may bear witness over you” (al-Baqarah, 2:143).

    An elucidation of the same concept may be found in suratul-hajj, “Do good so you may prosper, and strive hard in (the cause of) Allah with all the struggle that is due to Him. It is He who selected you…so that the messenger be a witness over you and you may bear witness over humanity” (al-Hajj, 22:77, 78).

    Not only will we bear testimony over people we currently share the earth with, we are told by the Prophet (SAW) that we will testify against people of previous nations on the Day of Judgment who would deny the fact that their prophets had preached to them. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Nuh and his nation will come (on the Day of Resurrection) and Allah will ask (Nuh), ‘Did you convey (the Message)?’ He will reply, ‘Yes, my Lord!’ Then Allah will ask Nuh's nation, ‘Did Nuh convey My Message to you?’ They will reply, ‘No, no prophet came to us.’ Then Allah will ask Nuh, ‘Who will stand as a witness for you?’ He will reply, ‘Muhammad and his followers (will stand witness for me).’ So, I and my followers will stand as witnesses for him (that he conveyed Allah's Message)” (al-Bukhari).

    Another reason to engage in dawah is to ensure there will be no argument or proof against us on the Day of Judgment unless we fail to fulfill our mission. Aside from their primary duty of calling people to Allah (SWT), the Messengers gave good news and warned their people, “So that mankind would have no excuse before Allah, once the messengers had been sent” (al-Nisa’, 4:165). Failing to uphold our responsibility may result in utter disappointment on the grand day of accountability and the blame will be on no one but ourselves.

    It was an emotional moment for the Prophet (SAW) when he instructed Abdullah Ibn Masoud (RAA) to recite surat al-Nisa’ to him. When Abdullah reached the ayah, “How (will it be) then, when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Prophet) as a witness against these people?” (al-Nisa’, 4:41). He (SAW) said, “Stop, enough for now.” When Abdullah looked at him he saw his eyes shedding tears. We too must have the same heartfelt feeling toward people who are on the wrong path.

    Therefore, the principal purpose of dawah is to guide people to the straight path, “Alif Lam Ra, (this is) a Scripture which We have sent down to you (O Prophet) so that, with their Lord’s permission, you may bring people from the depths of darkness into light, to the path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy One” (Ibrahim, 14:1). The Qur’an is the only Book that serves as true guidance to humanity for all time to come.

    The objectives and efforts of dawah may be summed up in the few but most eloquent words of Ribi’ Ibn ‘Amir, a companion of the Prophet (SAW). As an emissary representing the new faith, he informed the adversaries in Persia, “We have come to take people from the bondage of other people to the servitude of Allah alone, from the narrowness of this life and its misery to its spaciousness and its felicity, and from the corrupt systems and social orders to the justice of Islam.”

    The duty of dawah is a trust (amanah). Failing to protect the trust is the same as concealing the truth. Hiding knowledge is tantamount to having Allah (SWT) invoke his curse on us. “Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers” (al-Baqarah, 2:159). Similarly, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever conceals knowledge which Allah has made beneficial for mankind’s affairs of religion, Allah will brand him with a stamp of fire on the Day of Resurrection” (Ibn Majah). 

    One must keep in mind that there is no certainty that dawah will yield the desired result. Nuh (AS) preached for 950 years with barely a handful of people accepting his call. His efforts, however, did not go to waste. He will be rewarded for his hard work and pains. Using the techniques and methods at his disposal, he did all he could to influence his people to submit and surrender to Allah (SWT), but to no avail. His beautiful preaching fell on deaf ears. Astonishingly, his own wife and son died as unbelievers.

    Just as Nuh (AS) was determined to keep his pledge with Allah (SWT) and continue preaching, the caller or preacher (da’ee,), must have a firm resolve, determination, and be willing to sacrifice for the cause of Allah (SWT) and never give up nor give in no matter what the circumstances are and how severe the persecution might be. 

    An example of firmness in the conduct of affairs is the example of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he was offered wealth, women and to be crowned as the King of Makkah by the chieftains of Quraish on the condition that he ceases his preaching and dawah efforts. The Prophet (SAW) informed his uncle who was mediating, “O my uncle! By Allah, if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this mission, I would not abandon it until Allah would make me victorious, or I perish therein.” Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah is a great example for all of us. An organized, disciplined and determined group is necessary for this prophetic task.

    Motivation should come from passion to serve Allah (SWT) and humanity as well as the many rewards one may reap while fearing Allah (SWT)’s wrath. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “He who calls others to follow the right guidance will have a reward equal to the reward of those who follow him, without their reward being diminished in any respect on that account. And he who calls others to error (misguidance) will have a sin equal to the sin of those who follow him, without their sin being diminished in any respect on that account” (Muslim).

    The Prophet (SAW) informed Ali (RAA), “By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim). Indeed this dawah is not a choice, it is a responsibility. Let us convey even one ayah as we carry-on the prophetic tradition of our beloved Prophet (SAW) in calling people to the One true God and enjoining what is right and forbidding evil.

  • “The Duty of Dawah” (May 2, 2014) Open or Close

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           The last two ayat from surat al-Hajj spell out our religious obligations as follows, “O you who believe, bow and prostrate and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord, and do good, so you may be successful. And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due…” (al-Hajj, 22:77-78)Believing in Allah (SWT) is the very foundation of our faith followed by the modes of worship salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj depicted by the terms, bow and prostrate. These are essential duties of our faith.

           After the modes of worship comes the command, “and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord.” At this level, one should become mindful of Allah (SWT) and accept Him as the sole supreme God, Ruler and Master of the universe. One must freely surrender completely to His will in order to become His true slave (‘abd). This attitude of servitude is articulated by the following statement, “Say, ‘Verily my salah, sacrifice, life and death are for the Lord of the Worlds’” (al-‘Ana’m, 6:162). This vow is a pledge of commitment to worshiping Allah (SWT) and serving His cause.

           The third duty is, “and do good” unto others. Muslims should not be restricted to helping the poor and needy only; they must engage in calling humanity at large to the message of Islam and try to save people from the eternal doom in the hereafter. This is the duty of dawah or propagation, i.e. propagating the message of Islam. It involves calling people to the worship and obedience of the One God rather than other deities, be they one’s lusts, wealth, or the numerous man-made ‘isms’ such as secularism, socialism, communism, materialism, to mention a few. The final duty has to do with striving in the path of Allah (SWT), “And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due.”

    The Duty of Dawah

           Muslims who claim to be the followers of the last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (SAW) have been honored with the responsibility of looking after humanity at large for all time to come. Now that the institution of prophethood has come to an end, we have become the final link between Allah (SWT) and humanity. “You are now the best community (ummah) that has ever been brought forth for (the guidance and reform of) mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110).

           As Muslims, we were selected to convey the universal message of tawheed, promoting the divine principles of an ideal system, while striving hard to establish God's kingdom on earth, “...and do good, so you may be successful. And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due, He selected you and has not imposed any hardship on you” (al-Hajj, 22:77-78).

           Now that dawah is an established duty, one may ask, is it an individual (fard 'ain) or a collective duty (fard kifayah)? Fard kifayah refers to religious mandates that only require a group of individuals to execute. For example, the study of religious sciences, funeral prayers (salat al-janazah), etc., are required to be carried out by a few members of the Muslim community. Whereas an individual duty, fard ‘ain, involves religious mandates that require all mature and sound of mind Muslims to fulfill them such as salah, fasting, etc.

           The obligation of dawah may be argued to be a collective duty, “And let there be a group among you that calls toward goodness, enjoins what is right and forbids what is wrong. And these are the successful ones” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104). There is, however, compelling evidence from the Qur’an and sunnah that argues otherwise.

           One example is, “Who could be better in speech than one who calls (people) unto Allah, acts righteously, and says, ‘Verily, I am of the Muslims (those who have surrendered themselves to Allah)?’” (Fussilat, 41:33). This ayah clearly invites and encourages everyone to give dawah. Such people are considered to be among the best in Allah's sight.

           Stronger evidence is the ayah from surat al-Nahl, “Call unto the path of your Lord with the Wisdom, good preaching, and argue with them in the most courteous way” (al-Nahl, 16:125). Although, the Prophet (SAW) is being addressed directly, the role of dawah, propagating to all members of society, (elite and intellectuals, general masses, and missionaries as the ayah suggests), extends to every member of the Muslim ummah as is evident in the following argument.

           The third and most compelling argument is the ayah from surat Yusuf, “Say (O Prophet), ‘This is my path; I and those who follow me call unto Allah insightfully’” (Yusuf, 12:108). The ayah, in unambiguous terms, clearly identifies all followers of Muhammad (SAW) to assume the duty of dawah. It does not target a specific group of Muslims to assume such a role.

           The Messenger of Allah (SAW) during his farewell pilgrimage (hajjat al-Wada’) predicted that he may no longer be with his followers the next year. He (SAW) addressed a very large congregation with more than 100,000 Muslims present. They listened attentively as was instructed by the Prophet (SAW). He would remind the believers that there will be no prophet to come after him and no new nation will emerge after his ummah.

           The Prophet (SAW) raises his finger and points at the congregation and informs, “You are responsible for me tomorrow and I am responsible for you. So what would you say?” In other words, the people will take the stand on the Day of Judgment and be asked if the Prophet (SAW) fulfilled his duty of conveying the message. Similarly, the Prophet (SAW) will have to testify before Allah (SWT) either in favor of those who believed in him or against those who rejected his message.

           The Prophet (SAW) asks again, “Did I not convey (the message)?” The congregation replies in unison, “Indeed, we bear witness that you have conveyed the message, delivered the trust (amanah), advised the ummah and removed the veil of darkness.”

           The soothing testimony of the believers gave the Prophet (SAW) a sigh of relief. The gigantic burden he was carrying on his shoulders was about to be shifted unto the shoulders of the believers. With such confirmation and pleasant words the Prophet (SAW) then moved his forefinger toward the sky and then toward the people while saying, “O Allah, bear witness,” three times. He (SAW) then handed over the responsibility by saying, “Let those who are present convey (the message) to those who are non-present. It may be that some of those to whom it will be conveyed will understand it better than those who have actually heard it.” The Prophet (SAW) made it compulsory upon all believers to convey the message to all people for all time to come.

           Not only have the believers witnessed that the Prophet (SAW) conveyed the universal message, “there is no god except Allah,” they helped establish it. It was during the same event, the farewell pilgrimage, when Allah (SWT) revealed to the Prophet (SAW) what some scholars believe to be the last ayah, “This day, I perfected your faith, completed My favor upon you, and I approve Islam as your deen (way of life)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). The mission of Muhammad (SAW) was completed in the Arabian Peninsula.

           Of the more than 100,000 companions who witnessed the moving sermons of the Prophet (SAW) during his last pilgrimage journey, hardly 10,000 remained in Makkah or al-Madinah.The rest left their homes in search for people to convey the message and deliver the trust. They went to every land possible for the purpose of dawah. They took his command to heart and understood that it was their responsibility to continue the mission of the last and final Prophet (SAW). They moved in all directions of the vast earth in search of humans to convey and help establish, la ilaha illalah, there is no god but God.

           Another evidence can be found in a hadith narrated by Abdullah Ibn Amr (RAA) that states, “Convey on my behalf even if it is one ayah (sentence), and narrate from the Children of Israel, as there is no sin in this. And whoever lies on me (intentionally fabricates a hadith and attributes it to me), let him assume his assured seat in the Fire.” The statement, “Convey on my behalf even if it is one ayah” clearly makes dawah compulsory upon every responsible (mukallaf) Muslim.

           It is clear we have been entrusted with the duty of dawah and we are the custodians of this amanah. The Prophet (SAW) was well aware of the fact that he will be questioned on the Day of Judgment. We must also be cognizant of the fact that we too will be questioned.

           One does not have to be a scholar or specialize in religious studies to carry out his or her duty of dawah. There are several ways to promote Islam and its teachings that can be achieved individually and/or collectively. One thing we must understand is that, it is my duty.

           The process of procreation has not stopped as more children are born into this world. Humanity is multiplying and they need guidance. It is we who are responsible for them and it is we who are entrusted with delivering and spreading the message of Islam to the people.

           One thing must be emphasized; we are NOT in the business of converting people. “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (al-Baqarah, 2:256). We are to share with non-Muslims the universal message of all God’s prophets and messengers, the message of Tawheed, monotheism and its meaning and implications. We are to explain to them our faith in the most simple and effective ways, and invite them to Islam.

           The Prophet (SAW) insisted that his uncle Abu Talib while on his deathbed say the shahadah and die as a Muslim. His efforts were to no avail. Abu Talib, despite being a polytheist, was very dear to the Prophet (SAW). Aside from bring his relative; Abu Talib supported the Prophet (SAW)’s mission since day one. Allah (SWT) instructs the Prophet (SAW), “You don’t guide whom you like, rather, Allah guides whom He will” (al-Qasas, 28:56). The warning was repeated, “It is not for you (O Prophet) to make people follow the right path, since it is Allah (alone) who guides whom He wills” (al-Baqarah, 2:272).

           In reality, it is one’s personal choice to believe or not believe. The powerful statement, “Say (O Prophet) this Truth is from your Lord, now whoever wants to believe it, he may do so, and whoever wants to reject it, he may do so also” (al-Kahf, 18:29), may be considered as the principal clause of the Islamic Constitution under Freedom of Religion.

           People must be granted total freedom of choice to choose their own destiny. Humanity needs an agent and we are to show them the way. It is true that prophethood has ended; however, the institution of messengerhood has not. It may have ended in the person of Muhammad (SAW), however, the message lives on and will continue to live on until the end of time. It is we, Muslims, who became the link between Allah (SWT) and humanity.

  • Mother Earth is Ailing (April 25, 2014) Open or Close

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    Mother Earth is ailing. Mother Earth has cancer. Mother Earth needs help.

    It is Allah (SWT) “who makes most excellent everything that He creates. And He began the creation of man out of clay” (al-sajdah, 32:7); “It was He who brought you into being from the earth and made you inhabit it” (Hud, 11:61).The complex creation of the universe and the time it took to perfect planet earth is the greatest gift one can ever imagine to receive. The following is a detailed account of the marvel creation.

    “He created the heavens and earth for a true purpose, and He is far above whatever they join with Him! He created man from a drop of fluid, and yet man openly challenges Him. And livestock––He created them for you. You derive warmth and other benefits from them: you get food from them; you find beauty in them when you bring them home to rest and when you drive them out to pasture. They carry your loads to lands you yourselves could not reach without great hardship––truly your Lord is kind and merciful–– Horses, mules, and donkeys for you to ride and use for show, and other things you know nothing about. God points out the right path, for some paths lead the wrong way: if He wished, He could guide you all. It is He who sends down water for you from the sky, from which comes a drink for you, and the shrubs that you feed to your animals. With it He grows for you grain, olives, palms, vines, and all kinds of other crops. There truly is a sign in this for those who reflect. By His command He has made the night and day, the sun, moon, and stars all of benefit to you. There truly are signs in this for those who use their reason. He has made of benefit to you the many-colored things He has multiplied on the earth. There truly are signs in this for those who take it to heart. It is He who made the sea of benefit to you: you eat fresh fish from it and bring out jewelry to wear; you see the ships cutting through its waves so that you may go in search of His bounty and give thanks. He has made mountains stand firm on the earth, to prevent it shaking under you, and rivers and paths so that you may find your way, and landmarks and stars to guide people. Can He who creates be compared to one who cannot create? Why do you not take heed? If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you could never compute them. He is truly most forgiving and most merciful” (al-Nahl, 16:3-18).

    The great faculties Allah (SWT) bestowed upon us enable us to think, reason and invent. Throughout history man invented many things and we take pride in our inventions and creations. Can our inventions, however, be compared to Allah’s creation? The answer is simply a qualified no. Allah’s creation is perfect while ours is far from perfect. In many instances one finds that our inventions contribute to the destruction of the perfect world Allah (SWT) created for us.

    To demonstrate the deficiency of our inventions and the harm we cause to our planet, let us examine transportation. Although the traditional ways of transportation took longer to move between two points, the creation of such means such as camels, donkeys, horses, and mules, are far more effective and beneficial to the health of the environment compared to the recent mode of transportation man invented that move us at a very fast pace. These traditional modes of transportation serve multiple benefits aside from merely transport from one place to another.

    Cows, for example, were created to serve multiple functions. Aside from tillage, everything in a cow is useful for people and the environment; its milk, skin, meat, and even its manure. Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. It is a great source of enrichment for the earth out of which our provision, organic food, is produced. On the other hand, the fumes that are generated by vehicles are harmful to humans and the environment. In fact, transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States.

    Therefore, can the one who creates be equal or even compared to the one who cannot? Allah creates and we create too, “So blessed be Allah, the best of creators” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:14).

    Man has caused much harm to our planet and as a result we are literally destroying Allah’s perfect creation. “We established you on earth and provided you with a means of livelihood, yet you are seldom grateful” (al-‘Araf, 7:10). Our attitude toward our Creator should be that of gratefulness and appreciation. Our planet is Allah’s most precious gift and we must never be neglectful of this great bounty. The reality is that we are truly unappreciative and ungrateful.

    Instead of protecting and safeguarding our planet, we are destroying the great things Allah (SWT) created for us all in the name of profits and materialism. Who cares about what people eat? Injecting hormones in animals help them grow faster and bigger, and the faster they grow the faster they make it to the market place and the more profits corporations make. It is a stated fact that growth hormones fed to beef cattle damage human health. Almost all beef cattle in the United States are given hormone implants to promote faster growth.
    The alternative, organic farming, can actually turn back global warming. If the US converted all of our farmland to organic, it would sequester 25% of our greenhouse gas emissions! If the world’s 3.5 billion tillable acres were transitioned to organic agriculture, organic farms could sequester 40% of yearly carbon emissions.1

    Our planet is dying. Rain forests are the largest land based contributors of oxygen in the world. Many acres of rainforest are cut down every year, mainly for agriculture. What happened to the unused and cleared land for farming that is found in abundance on earth? Why do farmers have to cut down trees when there is already abundant land for farming? The answer is simple; the cleared and unused lands have lost the nutrients to produce rich and healthy produce. To solve the problem they cut down the rainforest. The soil is extremely rich in the rainforest. They grow organic food, waste precious land and sell the yield at double and at times triple the price of ordinary manufactured produce cultivated from unfertile lands. When was the last time you truly enjoyed a watermelon, a cantaloupe or a peach?

    Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and other life forms on our planet today. In a speech by renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, he explained his fears about global warming or an “accident” that might wipe out all life on Earth. In another appearance during CNN's Larry King Live, Hawking said he believes the planet is in danger of reaching a point in which the heating begins to intensify without additional help from human produced waste. “The atmosphere might get hotter and hotter until (the Earth) will be like Venus with boiling sulfuric acid” and uninhabitable, Hawking warned.2

    The destruction of the Fukushimi nuclear power plant in 2011 resulted in massive radioactive contamination of more than 11,500 square miles of the Japanese mainland. However, all of the land within 12 miles of the destroyed nuclear power plant, encompassing an area of about 230 square miles, and an additional 80 square miles located northwest of the plant, were declared too radioactive for human habitation. All persons living in these areas were evacuated and the regions were declared to be permanent “exclusion” zones.3

    The “Shock and Awe” of the mighty atomic power and nuclear weapons have caused nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction. The US, with the assistance of other governments, used depleted uranium in the Gulf and Iraq war. Such war crimes not only resulted in the destruction of lives and infrastructure, but the result of such atrocities will endure for centuries. A decade after the Iraq war, babies are born with cleft palates, elongated heads, one eye in the center of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines. One can only imagine the magnitude of the damage related to the use of such radioactive and toxic weapons on the environment and the human population.

    We are killing our planet and its inhabitants. “And do not make mischief in the land after it had been set in order: that will be best for you, if you have Faith” (al-‘Araf, 7:85). According to the Qur’an and sunnah, preserving the environment is not only a moral duty, but a religious duty and a social responsibility. The Prophet (SAW) forbade cutting trees even at times of war. He gave clear instructions regarding the preservation of natural resources, land and environment.

    The Prophet (SAW) in a hadith reported by Anas (RA) said, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him” (Bukhari). In another saying, he (SAW) said, “If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it” (Musnad Ahmad). The emphasis is on the old Arabic adage “Plant, do not cut.”

    What can we then do to help our ailing mother earth? Let’s pledge to do the very best we can to implement the following practical steps in an effort to heal our great mother, mother earth.

           1) Intention: As with anything Muslims do, action begins with intention. Plant your intention, “Going Green.”
           2) Change Your Light: If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of the new compact               fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.
           3) Turn off Computers at Night: By turning off your computer instead of leaving it in sleep mode, you can save 40 watt-hours        per day.
           4) Recycle Glass, Plastic, Cans, and Styrofoam: Recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and related               water pollution by 50 percent. If it isn't recycled it can take a million years to decompose.
           5) Go Vegetarian Once a Week: One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires            2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. You will also save some trees. For each hamburger that originated          from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed.
           6) Use Both Sides of Paper: American businesses throw away 21 million tons of paper every year, equal to 175 pounds per           office worker. For a quick and easy way to half this, set your printer's default option to print double-sided (duplex printing).          And when you're finished with your documents, don't forget to take them to the recycling bin.
           7) Recycle Newspaper: There are 63 million newspapers printed each day in the U.S. Of these, 44 million, or about 69%, of           them will be thrown away. Recycling just the Sunday papers would save more than half a million trees every week.
           8) Rethink Bottled Water: Nearly 90% of plastic water bottles are not recycled, instead taking thousands of years to                   decompose. Buy a reusable container and fill it with tap water, a great choice for the environment, your wallet, and possibly your health. The EPA's standards for tap water are more stringent than the FDA's standards for bottled water.
           9) Turn off Lights: Always turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Fluorescent bulbs are more affected by the              number of times it is switched on and off, so turn them off when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. You'll save energy       on the bulb itself, but also on cooling costs, as lights contribute heat to a room.
          10) Recycle Old Cell Phones: The average cell phone lasts around 18 months, which means 130 million phones will be retired           each year. If they go into landfills, the phones and their batteries introduce toxic substances into our environment. There         are plenty of reputable programs where you can recycle your phone, many of which benefit noble causes.
          11) Plant a Tree: It's good for the air, the land, can shade your house and save on cooling (plant on the west side of your              home), and they can also improve the value of your property. Make it meaningful for the whole family and plant a tree every            year for each member.
          12) Brush without Running Water: You'll conserve up to five gallons per day if you stop. Daily savings in the U.S. alone could           add up to 1.5 billion gallons.

    The Prophet (SAW) was adamant on conserving water. He (SAW) passed one day by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqas (RA) while he was performing wudu. The Prophet asked Sa`d, “Why is this wastage?” Sa`d replied “Is there wastage in wudu also?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.”

    You can learn more about what you can do to save our planet by visiting www.50waystohelp.com.

     

     

    [1]http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8659#sthash.4kmDhJ6J.dpuf

    [2]http://desert-dragon.deviantart.com/art/Earths-Enviromental-Problem-is-157326535

    [3]http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/environmental-health-policy-institute/responses/costs-and-consequences-of-fukushima.html

  • The Spirit of Islam and the Means to Live the Faith (March 21, 2014) Open or Close

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           The imperatives, “O you who believe, bow and prostrate and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord, and do good, so you may prosper. And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due…” (al-Hajj, 22:77-78), describe our duties toward Allah (SWT). Islam and Iman are two essential terms of our faith that define our belief system as well as religious practices.

           The higher goals of our collective mission as outlined above are to do good by calling people unto Allah (SWT), share the universal message of Islam with others and promote the divine principles of an ideal social system while struggling to institute them.

           In order to achieve these goals we must create amongst ourselves a peaceful and harmonious environment and be unified, particularly because we were selected by Allah (SWT) of all humanity for these higher goals, “…He selected you and has not imposed any hardship on you” (al-Hajj, 22:78). Unless we come together as one united community where we honor, respect, love and help one another, we will not be able to rise above the mere rituals and fulfill these higher objectives.

           In the Prophet (SAW)’s beautiful and concise speech during his farewell sermon, he informed us about the spirit of Islam and the means to live the faith. He explained four important terms; Islam, Iman, Hijrah and Jihad in a non-traditional way. The traditional understanding of these terms are the pillars of Islam; the articles of faith; leaving one’s home to migrate to another land; and fighting, respectively.

           The Prophet (SAW) has different explanations. Beginning with a question, the Prophet (SAW) asked, “Shall I not tell who a Muslim is?” He then continued, “(A Muslim is) one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are safe; a believer is one whom people trust with their wealth and lives; a muhajir (an emigrant) is one who migrates from sins and vices; and a mujahid is one who strives against his own soul in order to obey Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”

           Who is a Muslim? The common answer is, “A Muslim is one who attests that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad (SAW) is His slave and Messenger.” Although the answer is correct, the Prophet (SAW) answered differently, “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands Muslims are safe.” This added dimension will help us improve ourselves toward achieving a good and healthy community.

           Tongues are mainly used to express one’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts; whereas, limbs and hands are used for actions. Preserving the tongue from lying, backbiting, cursing, etc. will naturally make others feel safe. The psychological and emotional trauma and damage that can occur due to slander or using the tongue in the wrong way is enormous. Allah (SWT) forbade us from using our tongue in this manner when He commanded, “O you who believe let not a group mock at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame yourselves, nor insult one another by nicknames. Evil is the name of wickedness after faith. And whoever does not repent, then such are indeed wrongdoers” (al-Hujurat, 49:11).

           As Allah (SWT) indicated, some women have a tendency to scoff at others through backbiting, slander, gossip, ridicule and belittlement of others. These heinous acts are now commonplace in our society as television shows, magazines and blogs are created specifically to gossip, slander and belittle others. Unfortunately, it is women who are the main consumers of this so-called “entertainment.”

           With the advent of technology, it is even easier to use the tongue in wicked ways as we are masked behind the anonymity of a phone or computer screen. Words exchanged over e-mail, text, blogs, facebook, twitter and other outlets are still words we will be held accountable for. Oftentimes, one garners the courage to say things over technology that one would not ordinarily say in person.

           Another sad reality in our society is the tendency to stereotype, mock and belittle others of different ethnic backgrounds. The diversity of mankind is a blessing from Allah (SWT). Our ummah consists of every different ethnic background, skin color and race. The intention behind this diversity is to honor and live with one another in peace and harmony. Without this peace and love between one another, we will fail in carrying out our collective duties of commanding good and forbidding evil.

           The Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent” This relates to the common adage, “Silence is golden.”

           The Prophet (SAW) also warned against using the hands in unlawful ways. We use our hands to physically harm others, to pull the triggers of guns and to steal, among other things. Muslims and people in general should be safe from our hands.

           True Muslims are those whom others are indeed safe from our tongues and hands. We should do our best to create a fraternal community. “Surely believers are brothers” (al-Hujurat, 49:10). The Prophet (SAW) insisted, “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim, he does not wrong him nor does he forsake him.” The spirit should be as the Prophet (SAW) described, “The example of the believers in their kindness, mercy and compassion they have for each other is like the body; when an organ of it aches, the rest of the body reacts with fever and wakefulness.” Believers are supporters of one another. They bond like a brick structure, “A believer to another believer is like a building, each brick enforces the other.”

           Next, the Prophet (SAW) describes who a believer or mu’min is. A believer according to the common understanding is one who believes in Allah, His angels, Scriptures, Prophets, the Last Day and the Divine Decree. According to the hadith, a mu’min is one who is trustworthy and can be trusted by all people with their wealth and persons. The Prophet (SAW) was the trustworthy. Even before he was honored with prophethood his surrounding community knew him as Al-Amin, the truthful.

           How many Muslims have betrayed the trusts of other people or have fallen victim to betrayal of trusts? Are we a community that can be trusted with others’ wealth, property and persons? A real mu’min according to the Qur’an are those, “who are faithful to their trusts and pledges” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:10). The Prophet (SAW) categorically said, “There can be no iman to one who cannot be trusted.”

           Next, the Prophet (SAW) described who a muhajir or emigrant is. The traditional understanding of an emigrant is one who leaves his country for another land as the early converts of Islam emigrated to Ethiopia. The Prophet (SAW), however, described a muhajir as one who migrates from sins and vices. Indeed, this is the supreme hijrah.

           Similarly, our understanding of jihad is commonly fighting, when in fact, the supreme jihad, according to the hadith is to strive against our own soul in order to obey Allah (SWT). Therefore, one has to migrate from vices and sins while simultaneously struggling to obey the commands of Allah (SWT). This process is called jihad al-nafs, the struggle of the soul.

           This process of self-purification is not easy, rather, very difficult. It requires real jihad. Hence, a mujahid is one who struggles against his id, ego, and lower self. The powerful urges and desires are blind in nature and demand total satisfaction by any means possible be it lawful or unlawful. This is one level of the struggle of the soul. Another level is to struggle against the wrong trends of the society and finally one must struggle against satan and his whisperings and temptations.

           At the first level, one must strive hard against his evil inclinations and lusts be it illicit sex, drugs, drinking, gambling, lying or cheating. One must struggle against the soul that commands evil, “al-Nafs al-Ammarah bil-Su’”, according to the Qur’anic terminology, and lean toward the reproaching soul or, “al-nafs allawwamah”, another term of the Qur’an.

           The two souls may be represented by the satanic and angelic voices. The satanic voice will entice one to commit vices and whisper in one’s heart insisting on how merciful and forgiving Allah is; while the angelic voice admonishes the person and reminds of the devastating consequences of evil actions. Therefore, one finds himself in this tug of war between the two souls, “al-Nafs al-Ammarah bil-Su”, and “al-nafs allawwamah.”

           We must exert all of our efforts and spiritual strength to pull ourselves toward Allah’s side migrating away from sins and vices. It is not an easy process as one might imagine but we must try our hardest. If there is a will there is a way, or according to the Qur’an, “Allah makes things easy for those who are mindful of Him” (al-Talaq, 65:4).

           At the second level, a genuine believer has no choice but to struggle against the wrong trends of the society. It is in the best interest of corporations and industries to promote gambling, drinking, pornography, unlawful entertainment etc. to endorse evil and encourage members of society to consume such vices in order to profit from it. They aren’t concerned with people’s well and spiritual beings. They neither believe in Allah nor in the last day, but we do. Those external forces are extremely potent and harmful.

           Naturally, one needs to be strong enough to walk away from such environments, reject the evil temptations and choose the company of good and righteous people. Keeping company of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger Muhammad (SAW) through the Qur’an and the sunnah will definitely increase one’s motivation toward battling the evil of the soul and the society.

           Finally, at the third level, one must struggle against satan and his ploys. We must always be reminded that Iblis, the accursed and avowed enemy who recognizes our weak spots, is hard at work with his agents from jinn and men devising plans to trap us into becoming subservient to our lusts and eventually to himself, rather than being submissive to Allah (SWT). We must keep in mind that satan and his army can in no way harm the true believers. “Verily, the evil plans of satan are truly weak” (al-Nisa’, 4:76). We must have real faith in Allah (SWT), the Protector and Guardian.

           The hadith clearly explains that Islam and Iman are two inseparable entities; one cannot have Islam without Iman, nor can one have Iman without Islam. Similarly, Hijrah and Jihad are two inseparable entities. One will not be able to struggle in the path of Allah (SWT) without migrating from sins and vices and the opposite is true. One cannot migrate from sins and vices without struggling against his own soul for the purpose of obeying Allah.

           This is the real jihad, without this basic jihad and groundwork we will not be able to succeed in achieving our higher goals and mission. If we are sincere and committed to the cause, Allah (SWT) will certainly help us in every step we take toward Him. Allah (SWT) promised, “And those who strive hard in our cause, We shall surely guide them our ways. Verily, Allah is with the Muhsineen (those who strive to perfect their faith)” (al-‘Ankabout, 29:69).

  • Preserve Allah and Allah will Preserve You (February 7, 2014) Open or Close

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           The Qur’an is the final gift for humanity. Muhammad (SAW) was the seal of Allah (SWT)’s Prophets and Messengers sent as a mercy to the worlds. The followers of Muhammad (SAW) were destined to become the standard bearers of Islam for eternity and it is Muslims who are responsible for the preservation and spread of Islam.

           The Prophet (SAW) was careful to sow the seed of iman in the believers’ hearts in order to successfully fulfill their duties. Among such believers were youth like Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, Mus’ab Bin ‘Umair and Abdullah Ibn Abbass (RAA), who was only thirteen when the Prophet (SAW) died. Certainly, youth play an important and significant role in the preservation and spread of Islam. The Prophet (SAW)’s teachings to Ibn Abbass (RAA) demonstrate the importance of having conviction and firm belief in the Creator and His Will.

           Ibn Abbass (RAA) narrates, “One day I was behind the Prophet (SAW), and he said to me, ‘O young boy, I shall teach you some words (of advice): Preserve Allah, and Allah will preserve you. Preserve Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if all people were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already decreed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already decreed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.’”

           These precious words of wisdom are meant for all Muslims; men and women, young and old. Speaking directly to Ibn Abbass (RAA), indicates how essential it is to empower Muslim youth with basic foundational religious knowledge that builds their confidence in Allah (SWT).

           Abdullah Ibn Abbass (RAA) was the paternal cousin of the Prophet (SAW) and it was for him the Prophet supplicated, “O Allah, make him understand the deen and teach him its interpretation.” Allah (SWT) answered his prayer. Ibn Abbass (RAA) indeed became a scholar of Islam. Droves of people would gather in his house quenching their thirst for the deen. He may in fact be considered the first exegete of the Qur’an. A book of tafsir and commentary on the Qur’an entitled “Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas” is attributed to Ibn Abbass (RAA). He transmitted 1,660 authentic hadiths according to the two sahih authors al-Bukhari and Muslim (RA).

           The Prophet (SAW) instructed Ibn Abbass (RAA), “I am going to teach some words (of advice).” Acting as a teacher the Prophet expected the attention of the young boy and in return the student was eager to listen and learn something new from a great teacher like Muhammad (SAW). He (SAW) then gave him the fist advice, “Preserve Allah, Allah will preserve you.”

           Naturally, Allah (SWT) neither needs preservation nor protection. What is meant by “Preserve Allah,” is preserve and protect the rights of Allah (SWT). The sole right of Allah (SWT) upon humanity is to fulfill the very purpose they were created for. “I have not created the jinns and humans except to serve (make Ibadah to) Me,” (al-Zariyat, 51:56). He alone should be worshipped and obeyed. We must always keep in mind that Allah (SWT) is not only the Creator, but also the Ruler and Sovereign.

           For Muslims, preserving the rights of Allah (SWT) entails first and foremost, having genuine faith and love for Him. Our servitude to His majesty consists of upholding the religious duties which include the modes of worship – most importantly the daily prayers (salah). “Preserve your prayers, especially the middle prayer; and stand before Allah in (complete) devotion” (al-Baqarah, 2:238).

           Other rights include serving and honoring the rights of others starting with human rights and extending to plants, animals and the environment. Propagating Islam to others is also our duty, “Call to the way of your Lord with the wisdom, good preaching and argue with them in the most courteous way” (al-Nahl, 16:125). Finally, to enjoin what is right, forbid evil and safeguard the limits of Allah by adhering to the permissible and refraining from the unlawful.

           The benefits of preserving Allah’s rights are endless. In return, Allah (SWT) will preserve and protect one’s health, wealth, family and even offspring. The story in surat al-Kahf discusses Allah (SWT)’s wisdom behind the preservation of the two orphans’ wealth; simply because, “Their father was a righteous man” (al-Kahf, 18:82).

           It is truly amazing how Allah (SWT) protects the minds of the scholars of Islam in their old age, among others, who dedicate their lives to serving Allah (SWT). One finds them mentally acute and focused while others at a similar age show signs of senility and dementia, losing their cognitive and intellectual ability due to memory loss.

           Allah (SWT) will never misguide nor leave any faithful sincere servants of His who strictly guard the Qur’an and Sunnah unprotected. “And Allah will not mislead a people after He has guided them” (al-Tawbah, 9:115). On the contrary, “Allah increases the guidance of those who follow the guidance (right path), and given them their awareness (of Him)” (Muhammad, 47:17).

           To be qualified for Allah’s protection, one must be sincere and genuine in his or her beliefs and practices. One needs to climb the ladder of iman sweating with every step to feel the excitement and joy of getting closer to Allah (SWT), reaching a state of euphoria. Such ecstasy should not be disrupted by agony and depression during times of trials and tribulations.

           One truly finds comfort when one feels the presence of his or her Lord during bad times. “Preserve (the rights of) Allah, Allah will preserve you. Preserve Allah and you shall find Him before you,” in another narration, “You shall find Him in front of you. Know Allah during times of prosperity, He will know you in times of adversity.”

           The Prophet (SAW) expressed his admiration concerning the true believer in these words, “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. When something good happens to him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him” (Muslim).

           The promise articulated by the Prophet (SAW)’s words, “Preserve Allah, and Allah will preserve you,” resonates the assurance one finds in the Qur’an. “And fulfill your (part of the) covenant, I shall fulfill My (part of the) covenant, and fear (none but) Me” (al-Baqarah, 2:40).

           Yaqoub (AS) said it best when he informed his sons, “Allah’s protection is better [than yours], for He is the most merciful of the merciful!” (Yusuf, 12:64). This has been confirmed by Allah (SWT) when He addressed Muhammad (SAW), “O Prophet! Allah is sufficient for you, and the believers who follow you” (al-Anfal, 8:64). And for those who might still have doubt, Allah (SWT) asks, “Is Allah not sufficient for His servant?” (al-Zummar, 39:36). Indeed He is.

           The second advice the Prophet (SAW) gave Ibn Abbass (RAA) was, If you ask, ask of Allah and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.” This principle teaches one to be solely dependent on the Independent. “For verily, Allah is (absolutely) independent of anything in all the worlds” (al-‘Ankabout, 29:6). Elsewhere in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) emphatically declares, “O mankind! It is you who need Allah. Allah is the Independent, worthy of all praise” (Fatir, 35:15).

           It is Allah (SWT) who truly possesses power and is in control. He gives and takes and does so with wisdom. A sensible person who understands this turns to no one other than Him when in need. We must remember that Allah (SWT) is closer to us than our jugular vein and that, “He is with you wherever you are” (al-Hadid, 57:4).

           The Prophet (SAW) instructed us to supplicate to Allah (SWT) even in matters that may seem insignificant, such as needing shoe laces, let alone more important matters such as employment, illness, marriage, etc. It is permissible to ask others concerning worldly matters but one must keep in mind that it is Allah (SWT) who facilitates the help one gets from people.

           Regarding supernatural matters one must turn to Allah (SWT) alone. No one knows the future and the world of the unseen other than Allah (SWT). We must realize this fact and refrain from committing the greatest sin, shirk, by going to graves and seeking help from dead saints or by going to an astrologer or any person who claims to know the future. The Prophet’s prescription of the Istikharah prayer (seeking goodness from Allah) is sufficient to receive Allah (SWT)’s help.

           As humans we have a tendency to slip and forget that Allah (SWT) is in charge. Thus, we are reminded, “If you ask, ask of Allah and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.” The Prophet (SAW) explained the reason for imparting this notion in the mind of Ibn Abbass (RAA) in these words, “Know that if all people were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already destined for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already destined for you.”

           This beautiful lesson on belief in Divine Decree (iman bil-Qadar) which constitutes the sixth article of faith helps one understand the true reality of things and that, “No misfortune ever befalls on earth nor in yourselves, that was not decreed in a Book before We make it manifest. Surely that is easy for Allah” (al-Hadid, 57:22).

           The Prophet (SAW) concluded his lesson by these words, “The Pens are lifted and the pages are dried.” In other words, everything that happens in the world of creation has already been recorded and nothing will change the course of Allah (SWT)’s destiny.

           Indeed, such great words of wisdom help one overcome anxiety and grieving. Such lessons teach us how to react to pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life. Through this hadith, we become cognizant of Allah (SWT)’s Will and Power. The instructions of the Prophet (SAW) help us achieve contentment, satisfaction and make us feel at ease. In a similar hadith, the Prophet (SAW) assured us that, “help comes through patience; relief supplants distress; and that there will always be ease after hardship.” Therefore, “Preserve (the rights of) Allah, and Allah will preserve you.”

     

  • "Purity" Part 5 - Selling Yourself For Paradise (January 31, 2014) Open or Close

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           The concluding sermon on the subject of “Purity” deals with the practical manifestation of selling oneself for Paradise. The hadith ends with the words, “everyone leaves in the morning selling himself. He either emancipates or destroys himself.” The noble companions affirmatively responded to a deal that was negotiated with the Prophet (SAW). They sold themselves and their properties in exchange for Paradise. Ayah 111 and 112 of surat al-Tawbah discuss this bargain in detail. 

           Although surat al-Tawbah is a Medinan surah, ayah 111 and 112 are considered to be Meccan. They were revealed in the 13th year after Muhammad (SAW) became a Prophet. The deal, purchase agreement and the legal contract of what is sold and for what price between Allah (SWT) and the believers, are included in these profound ayat.

           “Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their souls and their properties in exchange for Paradise. They fight in the way of Allah, they kill and are killed. [This is] a true promise binding on Him in the Torah (taurat), the Gospel (Injil) and the Qur’an. And who is more faithful to his promise than Allah? So rejoice then in the bargain which you have concluded. For that indeed is the supreme achievement. [They are] those who turn to Allah in repentance; who serve and praise Him; who (do siyahah) fast; bow down and prostrate themselves; who enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong and who preserve the limits of Allah. And give [O Prophet] good news to such believers” (al-Tawbah, 9:111,112).

           Understanding the context of these ayat will help us make sense of the prophet’s statement, “everyone leaves in the morning selling himself. He either emancipates or destroys himself.” The year after the Prophet’s utter disappointment with the people of al-Ta’if, six men from al-Madinah (then, Yathrib) who heard about Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (SAW) and his message met with him in a place called al-Aqabah after the Hajj season (al-‘Aqabah is where pillars representing satan are situated in Mina today). After accepting Islam, they pledged to spread the word in al-Madinah. True to their promise, Islam and the Prophet of Islam became the talk of the town.

           The following year (12th year after prophethood) after the Hajj season, five of the six men in addition to seven others met with the Prophet of Allah (SAW) at the same place, al-‘Aqabah, and accepted Islam. Before leaving for al-Madinah they requested from the Prophet (SAW) that he send someone with them to teach them the religion. Mus’ab Bin Umair (RAA) was chosen by the Prophet (SAW) to be his ambassador in al-Madinah and taught the Qur’an and the message of la ilaha illallah, there is no god but Allah, to the residents of al-Madinah.

           Once again at al-‘Aqabah and in the following year the Prophet (SAW) received a delegation of 70 men from the Yathrib tribes of Aws and Khazraj. They pledged their oath of allegiance to the Prophet (SAW) on two conditions: one; that they worship Allah alone and not associate anything with Him, and two; that they support and protect Muhammad (SAW) as they would protect their own lives, property and children. They inquired, “What will we get in return if we fulfill these two conditions?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “You will get Paradise.” They exclaimed, “This is a profitable transaction. We will not revoke it nor will we resign it.”

           The Madinese struck a deal with the Prophet (SAW). The two ayat from surat al-Tawbah were then revealed in the form of a barter transaction, i.e. a trade agreement using business terminology. “Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their souls and their properties in exchange for Paradise… So rejoice then in the bargain which you have concluded. For that indeed is the supreme achievement.” Selling oneself to Allah (SWT) in return for Paradise is indeed the biggest success.

           In the second year after hijrah (migration), those who pledged themselves to the Prophet (SAW) had to prove their loyalty to the contract. They had to face the polytheists at a place called Badr outside of al-Madinah. “Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged and, verily, Allah has indeed the power to succor them” (al-Hajj, 22:39). The first battle to be fought solely in the path of Allah (SWT) came to be known as the battle of Badr. Those who fought in the ranks of the believers and were killed went straight to Paradise cashing in on the bargain they made.

           Over 14 centuries have passed since these events took place. One may ask, are we ready to make such a bargain with Allah (SWT)? And if so, what are the practical steps one needs to take in order to cash in on the bargain? The first thing we must do is consciously probe ourselves and determine what we really want out of this earthly life then ask, “Do I want material or real success?” Unless we reflect, assess and be loyal to ourselves and honestly answer that question we will continue to fall prey to the ploy of satan. We think, ‘because I am a Muslim I am going to Paradise.’ The Qur’an calls this mindset wishful thinking. Paradise is not to be wished for. Paradise is to be earned. We must earn it if we so desire it. The noble companions did and we can too.

           If one genuinely wants Paradise then the surest way that guarantees the attainment of felicity and success in the hereafter is to simply sell himself to Allah (SWT). Once this decision is taken the rest is a matter of delivering the goods to the seller, i.e. Allah (SWT).

           There are three main installments in the transaction. One; change in attitude, two; devotion through worship, and three; serving Allah’s cause. These three categories, each with three subcategories, are explicated in the following ayah, “[The believers are] those who turn to Allah in repentance; who serve (make Ibadah) and praise Him; who (do siyahah) fast; who bow down and prostrate themselves; who enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong and who preserve the limits of Allah. And give [O Prophet] good news to such believers” (al-Tawbah, 9:112).

           In other words, the seller must possess all nine attributes discussed in the ayah. They are grouped as follows:

    1) Change in attitude: This is the most essential of all. It is the very foundation and basic requirement of a faithful believer.

           a) Repentance (Tawbah): Repentance is not only the act of saying, “I seek forgiveness from Allah” repeatedly, rather it is an attitude. It is about ones feelings and thoughts toward his/her actions. Recognizing our shortcomings and sins, one’s attitude should be, “I seek forgiveness from my Lord and I turn back to him in repentance with utmost sincerity.” Such an attitude reflects the acknowledgment of one’s own sins, full remorse of the heart, repetitive requests for forgiveness from the almighty Allah (SWT), immediate cessation of sins and the intention to never return to sinning again.

            b) Devotion or servitude (Ibadah): The term Ibadah is often mistakenly translated to worship. It is indeed more than just the modes of worship (Ibadaat). Ibadah or servitude, more accurately slavery, is about one’s relationship with and feelings toward his/her creator. The correct attitude is that one should be a humble loving slave of Allah (SWT). One must realize that he/she is owned by Him and must completely and willingly submit to His will and be subservient to His commands. One must accept Islam in its entirety, not partially. One must recognize that he/she was created strictly to obey the Master, “I have not created the Jinn and humans except to serve (make Ibadah to) Me” (al-zariyat, 51:56)

           c) Praise (Hamd): The inevitable result of a sincere servant of Allah (SWT) who goes through the promised trials and tribulations is always hamdal-Hamdulillah, praise be to God. Again, praise or hamd is not the act of saying, al-Hamdulillah, rather it is how the soul feels about Allah (SWT). Not only should the tongue praise Allah (SWT), the heart and every joint in one’s body must glorify and praise Him. We must be grateful for everything he has given and not given us. He alone deserves to always be thanked and praised.

    2) Devotion through worship: after a change in attitude or inward reverence to the Creator, we move to outward modes of worship often referred to as actions of the limbs.

           a) Optional fast: The ayah mentions the word al-Sa’ihoon, translated literally as those who journey. The Prophet (SAW) mentioned that, “the journey (siyahah) of my ummah is fasting.” The believers in al-Madinah were requested by the Prophet (SAW) to keep an optional fast, a custom that was not only new but difficult. Fasting strengthened the believers, taught them self-restraint and helped them endure long hours without food, particularly when they had to engage the idolaters of Makkah in war on the seventeenth day of Ramadan in the second year A.H. This is when fasting the entire month of Ramadan became a compulsory act of worship.

           b & c) Bowing and Prostrating: These two attributes which occur frequently in the Qur’an denote the mandatory devotional acts of worship such as salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj. The formal acts of worship connect one with his/her Creator, strengthen the bond of mutual love and develop constant awareness of God. Fulfilling these religious duties give the believer the spiritual growth and strength necessary to carry out higher aims to serve Allah’s cause.

    3) Serving the Cause of Allah: serving Allah’s cause entails serving humanity while protecting the rights of the almighty Allah (SWT).

           a & b) Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; (Amr bil-Ma’ruf wa nahy ‘an al-Munkar): This doctrine is essential to public order. Promoting all that is good and virtuous while simultaneously rooting out evil from society promotes peace of mind and a safe community, society and country. This duty of serving humanity is placed on the shoulders of Muslims, “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah” (Aal Imran, 3:110). The authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAW) mentions that, “Whoever among you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith” (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

           c) Preserving the limits of Allah (SWT): The boundaries set by Allah (SWT) that define our shar’iah must never be crossed. The Qur’an asserts, “These are the limits ordained by Allah; so do not transgress them. And those who transgress the limits of Allah are the unjust ones” (al-Baqarah, 2:229). Allah’s limits must be protected and defended with lives and possessions. Anyone who disturbs the peace, causes mischief or usurps the rights of Allah (SWT) should be brought to justice. A just social order based on divine injunctions deserves Allah’s favors and bounties, “These are the limits set by Allah. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted to gardens beneath which rivers flow to abide there forever, and that is the supreme success” (al-Nisa’, 4:13).

    A believer who is willing to strike a deal with Allah (SWT) must agree to deliver the above detailed agreement of sale to the Purchaser, Allah (SWT), in return for the priceless Paradise. Unlike a cash bargain where one immediately cashes in on a business deal, this trade appears to be a credit bargain. In other words, one has to deliver the goods here in this mortal life in order to be compensated in the hereafter.

    To remove any doubts from the minds of those considering such a trade, Allah (SWT) says, “[This is] a true promise binding on Him in the Torah (taurat), the Gospel (Injil) and the Qur’an. And who is more faithful to his promise than Allah?” (al-Tawbah, 9:111). In other words, a similar bargain was made with the former nations, the followers of Moses (AS) and was mentioned in their scripture. Similarly the bargain was made to the followers of Jesus (AS) and was mentioned in their scripture, and now in the Qur’an as well, for the followers of Muhammad (SAW) to consider.

    Those whose hearts and minds are attached to this provisional world will have none to blame but themselves on a day when neither wealth nor children will be of any use. Those who render their lives and wealth for that which is eternal will have a different account. “Rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded, for that indeed is the supreme achievement” (al-Tawbah, 9:111).

    The sage Hasan al-Basri (RA), once said, “Behold, what a profitable business is this that Allah has thrown open to every believer.” He also said, “It is Allah who has blessed you with wealth and property. Spend a little out of it and buy Paradise.”

  • "Purity" Part 4 - Selling Your Soul (January 24, 2014) Open or Close

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           The hadith on “Purity” is concluded with the statement, “everyone leaves in the morning selling himself. He either emancipates or destroys himself.” It is quite evident that people of all faiths and backgrounds whether consciously or unconsciously leave their homes every morning selling themselves. Some do for material gains while others for spiritual benefit.

           Strictly speaking, Muslims also leave in the morning to make a living, study, worship, etc. In each instance everyone is either sincere, truthful and honest, or deceitful, disingenuous and dishonest. Those belonging to the first category are in essence freeing their souls from annihilation, while those belonging to the second category are destroying themselves. Our actions lead us either to freedom from or destruction in Hell. This concept of emancipation/destruction of one’s soul is beautifully depicted in surat al-lail.

           “Certainly your endeavors have divergent ends (different aims and purposes.) As for him who gives and keeps his duty to Allah and believes in a reward (from Allah), We will make smooth for him the path of ease (goodness). But he who is greedy and think himself self-sufficient, and belies the good reward, We will make smooth for him the path of hardship (evil)” (al-Lail, 92:4-10). 

           The Qur’an has on several occasions informed and warned us about satan being our sworn enemy in addition to his ways of deception. His old tricks of convincing people that the life herein is the only life have been skillfully repackaged to suit the level of intelligence of modern day people. They claim, “In fact, the life of this world is the only life. We die and live and we shall never be resurrected” (al-Mu’minoon, 23:37). Such people have no idea or knowledge of the true reality of our existence. In another claim, “They say, ‘There is nothing beyond our life in this world. We die as we come to life, and nothing but time destroys us.’ They have no knowledge of this; they only follow guesswork” (al-Jathiyah, 45:24).

           Satan’s skillful mastery has led many people to consciously sell themselves and become subservient to him in exchange for provisional sensual gratification employing various means including the most popular, music, sex and drugs; wealth, power and lust. “(satan) makes them promises and creates in them false desires, but satan’s promises are nothing but deception. They will have hell for their abode and will find no escape from it” (al-Nisa’, 4:120,121). Such are the people who sold themselves to this worldly life and became masters of their own corporeal desires. 

           Others, who may not have consciously sold out themselves to the devil, may be influenced by his genius philosophies and principles that are diametrically opposite to the Islamic ideology and worldview. As good as they may be at heart and intelligent in mind, they succumb to defeat. They invent false ideologies and dogmas such as communism, socialism, and secularism and hence fell victims to satan’s plan. The paths of satan are obvious. They all lead to utter destruction.

           Conversely, the Qur’an declares, “But there is (also) a kind of individual who would willingly sell his own self in order to please Allah, and Allah is most compassionate toward His servants” (al-Baqarah, 2:207). A crucial imperative is mentioned in the very next ayah to all who pay heed, “O believers, enter into Islam (submission to Allah) wholeheartedly and do not follow in satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy.” 

           Accepting Islam entirely implies that one has no choice but to become wholly subservient to Allah (SWT). Muslims who adopt an attitude of selectively choosing from the Qur’an and Islam what suits their desires, while willfully rejecting some parts, are labeled as hypocrites in the Qur’an. They may appear to be pious and God-fearing, praying in congregation and breaking fast with other Muslims. They may even profess their faith in Allah (SWT) and the hereafter in public. Allah (SWT) informs us that such people are in fact disbelievers. “And there are people who say, ‘We do believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they do not (really) believe. They seek to deceive Allah and the believers but they only deceive themselves, though they do not realize it. In their hearts is a disease, and so Allah let their disease grow; and for them is a painful punishment for lying” (al-Baqarah, 2:8-10).

           The disease concealed in their hearts is disbelief and rejection of the truth. They have deprived themselves from spiritual perfection for the sake of petty worldly gains. In reality, they traded the next world with this world. “They purchased misguidance in exchange for guidance, so their trade yields no profit, and they are not guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:16). More profoundly, “They purchased misguidance in exchange for guidance, and punishment in exchange for forgiveness. How shall they endure the fire!” (al-Baqarah, 2:175).

           There are, however, sincere believers who without any hesitation consciously sell themselves to Allah (SWT) and dedicate their lives for His cause pledging, “Verily, my prayer and offerings (in acts of worship), my life and death are for the Lord of the Worlds who has no partners and for this I have been commanded and I am the first to surrender” (al-‘An’am, 6:162,163). The pledge is the outcome of perfect faith and sincerity. As they are aware that Allah (SWT) does not lose sight of them, they too do not lose sight of their Creator, Cherisher and Provider. Their hearts, thoughts, movements and actions all move in His direction seeking His good pleasure. In other words, He alone is sought and He is the goal.

           Reflecting on the ayah, the noble companion Abu Musa al-Ash’ari used to say, “I honestly wish that every Muslim would keep reciting this ayah time and again, almost making it the constant formula of his or her life.” Only genuine believers who are free from all types of shirk, hypocrisy and having a strong desire for the next world would make such a commitment, i.e. live and die for the sake of Allah (SWT).

           Such a decision is in essence based on a bargain that was offered by Allah (SWT), “O you who (profess to) believe! Shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful torment? Have faith in Allah and His Messenger and struggle for His cause with your possessions and your persons––that is better for you, if only you knew” (al-Saff, 61:10-11). Those whose hearts are attached to the next life and are anxious to return back to their permanent home have willingly and without delay struck a deal with Allah (SWT), “Surely, Allah purchased from the (true) believers their souls and possessions in exchange for Paradise” (al-Tawbah, 9:111).

           The sirah of the Prophet (SAW) is rich with examples of noble companions who sold themselves to Allah (SWT). Not only former slaves and oppressed companions like Bilal, Sumayyah and Yasir (RAA) traded their souls in exchange for the priceless Paradise. Affluent and well to do companions such as Abu Bakr, Uthman Ibn ‘Affan and Abdul Rahman Bin ‘Awf among many others (RAA) also chose the hereafter over this temporary world. How can one not be touched and motivated by the teen-age youth, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Mus’ab Bin ‘Umair, who abandoned the riches of this world in exchange for the eternal bliss of the hereafter.

           They are indeed the ones who sold their souls for the sake of an ultimate truth, “there is no god but Allah” thus emancipating themselves from doom and destruction. It requires real and unwavering faith in Allah (SWT) and His messenger Muhammad (SAW) as well as the commitment to struggle for Allah’s cause, i.e. solely make Him Supreme and establish His system of Justice making the Qur’an reign over all the constitutions of the world.

           The last statement in the “Purity” hadith, “everyone leaves his home in the morning selling his soul. He either emancipates or destroys it,” in connection with the other gems of wisdom in the same hadith makes clear that one who has gone through the process of purification, physical as well as spiritual (both are equally important), understands the meaning of praise (hamd) and glorification (tasbih) having solid conviction in and comprehends Allah’s attributes, appreciates salah and is very charitable, one who is patient and frequently resorts to the Qur’an for constant guidance is likely to sell him/herself to Allah (SWT), thus emancipating his/her soul from doom on the Day of Judgment.

           While those who are heedless of those great gems of wisdom of the Prophet (SAW) and follow their own whims and vain desires are in reality forcing their souls to ruin.

           There is only one path to salvation. Every morning we have a choice, either to pursue the path of destruction or the path to salvation. Our souls are more precious than anything this world has to offer. Let us not sell eternal, permanent, and perpetual bliss for temporary and short-lived pleasures.

  • "Purity" Part 3 - The Quran is an Argument (January 17, 2014) Open or Close

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           Parts one and two of the “Purity” sermon dealt with purification, glorification, prayer, charity and patience. In continuation of the profound hadith on purity; part three deals with the Qur’an. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) eloquently stated, “The Qur’an is an argument either for you or against you.”

           One of the main articles of faith is to believe in the Scriptures. Hence, all Muslims believe in the Qur’an. Not only do we as Muslims believe in it, we cherish and revere the Qur’an. We even keep it up on a high shelf with a protective covering like a treasure. Often, as a sign of respect and adoration, we kiss it. Unfortunately, with most Muslims, the Qur’an has become an ornament, a piece of decoration in homes, offices and even cars.

           While some recite the Qur’an to gain maximum benefit of its guidance, many others seldom read it, and one should not be surprised to learn that some have never opened a Qur’an. Of those who seldom read it, they do so on special occasions such as Ramadan (for thawab, reward), death events (Qur’an Khawani) or for a cure, etc.

           Those who truly appreciate the Qur’an; where hidden treasure and gems of divine wisdom and knowledge are found, seek its guidance and make it their leader and light, shall find the Qur’an speak and intercede on their behalf on the Day of Judgment. The Qur’an becomes an argument for them. Otherwise, it will be an argument against those who didn’t read the Book or read it for the wrong intentions and purposes. The Prophet (SAW) eloquently stated in the hadith on purity, “The Qur’an is an argument either for you or against you.”

           We are informed of another hadith found in the collection of prophetic traditions in Musnad Ahmad (RA) where the Prophet (SAW) said, “The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say, ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say, ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.”

           On the Day of Resurrection, the Qur’an will complain to Allah (SWT) and testify against those who only gave lip service to it. It will speak and complain, “I was there for him to answer his questions, to heal and guide him, but he never bothered to read me. He made me a piece of decoration in his home.” Such people will be very disenchanted, disillusioned, and let down. What excuse will such people make on that dreadful day? Excuses such as, “O Allah I intended to read it but didn’t have time!” or, “O Allah my family and business kept me too busy” will not produce good results. What will one do when he/she finds him/herself drowning in his/her own sweat from the scene of that horrific and gruesome day, when there will be no turning back?

           There is no third option. The Qur’an will either speak favorably on behalf of the believer or protest against him. The ayah from surat al-Isra’ makes it very clear,“We send down the Qur’an as healing and mercy to those who (truly) believe; while, to the unjust ones, it only adds to their loss”( al-Isra’, 17:82).

           The true believers who genuinely believe in the Qur’an read it and ponder over its signs (ayat) with the aim to live by its philosophy and wisdom, to implement its instructions, to follow its principles and guidance and to become righteous and God-conscious servants of Allah (SWT). They are always hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. For them, the Qur’an is a source of comfort and healing when in distress and a guiding tool to becoming better human beings rising above their baser self. In this way, the Qur’an becomes a source of mercy to the faithful in both worlds.

           With the increase of social media and reciters of the Qur’an (Qaris) than ever before, Muslims have resorted to listening to Qaris as a substitute for reading or simply for pleasure. We are encouraged to listen to beautiful recitation of the Qur’an as a substitute for the traditional music that may contain vulgar and obscene language. The Prophet (SAW) commanded that we beautify the Qur’an with our voices. He (SAW) considers those who do not nicely recite or sing (with proper rules) the recitation of the Qur’an as not one of us.

           Divine composition is sufficient to satisfy one’s urge for music. As there is nothing wrong with listening to others recite the Qur’an in a beautiful voice, one needs to probe his or her intention. We should consider stopping at its amazing parts and let not only our head move with it but also our hearts. Allah (SWT) instructs us to pay close attention to every word being recited and reflect on its meaning. “So listen quietly and pay attention when the Qur’an is recited so that you may receive mercy” (al-A’raf, 7:204).

           The Qur’an as the speech of Allah (SWT) is all about people and their guidance. We are informed by Allah (SWT) of His Book while targeting the believers, “That is the Book, let there be no doubt about it. It is guidance for those who have taqwa” (al-Baqarah, 2:2). It is intended to guide all humanity, “The Qur’an, revealed in the month of Ramadan, is guidance to humanity” (al-Baqarah, 2:182).

           While the Qur’an guides the individual, it provides guiding principles for our collective political, social and economic affairs. It is a complete guidance. The Qur’an offers the road map for success. It is the blue print for a complete way of life.“Verily, this Qur’an guides to the straightest way and gives the faithful who do good deeds the glad tiding that they shall have a great reward” (al-Isra’, 17:9).Indeed, it is they, the faithful, who make the Qur’an the spring and light of their hearts who will cheer the testimony of the Qur’an on the Day of Judgment.

           The purpose of the Qur’an is to guide humanity to a good, happy and peaceful life in this world and to eternal bliss in the world to come. It is about achieving real salvation. Only the true believers, the God-conscious and God-fearing people who want to save themselves from doom on the Day of Judgment may avail themselves.

           How can we achieve the intended purpose of the Qur’an if we don’t read and comprehend its message? How can we achieve peace amongst ourselves if we don’t implement its teachings? How can the world be guided if we don’t act as an example? It makes Allah (SWT) exclaim, “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an? And had it come from a source other than Allah they would surely have found much discrepancies in it” (al-Nisa’, 4:82). In reality we have blocked our hearts from its guidance, “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an? Or are there locks on their hearts?” (Muhammad, 47:24).

           It is amazing that we employ the faculties of hearing, sight and most importantly the intellect Allah (SWT) bestowed upon us in ways that prove we are capable of learning and comprehending. We use these faculties competently to become doctors, lawyers and engineers among other complex fields of science and philosophy. Often times, one finds Muslims having to learn another language to obtain their education and careers in the fields of medicine, science and technology. We use our intelligence effectively for worldly concerns.

           However, we have failed to take time out to learn the mother tongue of the Qur’an, Arabic, and invest in the most important Book in the world. What would be the fate of such people? Is it any wonder the Qur’an will prosecute such intelligent beings who neglected to fulfill its rights? The sad part is, on the Day of Judgment, not only will the Qur’an become an argument against such people, the messenger of Allah (SWT) will complain, “O my Lord! Verily, my people have deserted this Qur’an” (al-Furqan, 25:30).

           Time is precious and short. We can truly be among the best. The Prophet (SAW) described such individuals when he (SAW) said, “Best among you are those who learn and teach the Qur’an.” Let us begin this journey of learning and teaching the Qur’an and be among the best in the sight of Allah (SWT). We can succeed in both worlds.

           Imagine each one of us begin to embody the Qur’an. We would become role models everyone would want to emulate. We would become the tools for good and effective dawah. We would be on top of the world. Unfortunately, our state of affairs as an ummah is the exact opposite. Our condition is pathetic and the answer lies within. We have treaded the footsteps of our predecessors, the children of Israel,“Some of those who had received the Scripture before (the people of the Book) threw the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they didn’t know” (al-Baqarah, 2:101).

           Muslims are at their lowest ebb. We are receding and the Qur’an is disappearing. The Prophet (SAW) had the foresight to predict our times. He prophesized, “There will come a time when there remains nothing of Islam except its name and nothing of the Qur’an except its script.” Indeed the Prophet (SAW) spoke the truth.

           No one can deny that we as an ummah are in turmoil and going through trials and tribulations (fitan). What is the way out? The Prophet had the answer. He (SAW) replied, “The Book of Allah, in it is the news of those who came before you, and the information of what will come after you. It is the judge (by which you rule) among you. It is the decisive speech (that distinguishes between good and evil, truth and falsehood) not a joke. Allah will destroy the arrogant tyrant who forsakes it. Whoever seeks guidance from other than it Allah will lead astray. It is the firm rope of Allah. It is the wise reminder. It is the straight path. It is that by which the desires do not deviate nor the tongues become confused. Scholars are never satiated with it. It never becomes tiresome with repetition. Its wonders never end. It is that (Book) which the Jinn did not hesitate to declare, when they heard it, ‘We have heard an amazing recital which guides to what is right, and we believe in it.’ He who utters it speaks the truth. He who upholds it is rewarded. He who judges by it has done justice. And he who calls to it guides to a straight path or is guided to a straight path.” The Qur’an is our only Hope. The Qur’an will be an argument either for or against us.

  • “Purity” Part 2 – Prayer, Charity, and Patience (January 3, 2014) Open or Close

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    Part one of the “Purity” sermon dealt with purification and glorification. In continuation of the profound hadith on purity; part two deals with three very important aspects of our faith. They are prayer (salah), charity (sadaqah) and patience (sabr). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his concise speech eloquently stated, “Prayer is light, charity is proof and patience is illumination.”

    Prayer

    Prayer is light (nur). Just as the statement, “Purity is half of faith,” left the scholars dumbfounded, similarly the statement, “Prayer is light,” left the scholars wondering about the nature of light the Prophet (SAW) refers to. Some say it is spiritual light while others believe it to be physical light. However, it is agreed upon that there is a spiritual dimension to the statement. Perhaps the “light” here may refer to the inner spiritual light or basirah. In other words, the light of salah providing for the light within, the spirit or ruh.

    Human beings are composed of two separate fully conscious entities joined together in a mysterious way. They are the spirit (ruh) and the body. After a mother conceives, the fetus goes through many different distinct stages and develops rapidly. According to an authentic hadith, the Prophet (SAW) informed us that the spirit is blown into the fetus in the womb of its mother after 120 days of its conception. This unification of body and spirit make up what the Qur’an describes as al-Nafs or the soul.

    The body, we are informed, came from the crust of the earth, “And of His signs is that He created you from dirt (earth) and then you became bashar (spiritless species).” (al-Rum, 30:20). The source of the human spirit on the other hand is God’s own spirit, “And (mention) when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am creating a bashar (spiritless species) from baked clay, so when I fashion him and blow into him from My spirit, fall then in prostration before him’” (al-Hijr, 15:28,29).

    Unlike the body where its physical and chemical properties are known to man, the spirit remains a mystery. Man possesses very little knowledge about the spirit. The only certainty we know about the spirit is that it was originated by the command of Allah and of Allah’s fundamental nature, spirit (ruh), “They ask you (O Prophet) about the spirit, say, ‘The spirit is by the command of my Lord and you have been given very little knowledge’” (al-Isra’, 17:85).

    The body receives its nourishment from earth, the very same source it came from. Similarly the source of nourishment of the spirit comes from the divine Himself. Since the Qur’an, the speech of Allah (SWT), dominates a major part of salah, one may conclude that salah is the primary source of nourishment for the soul. “And thus have We, by Our Command, revealed a spirit to you (O Prophet) you knew neither the Book nor the faith, but We made it (the Qur’an) a light, guiding with it whomever We will of Our servants. And indeed, (O Prophet) you guide to the straight path” (al-Shura, 42:52).

    The ruh, which is in reality a divine spark, is ignited with salah. Hence, salah is light. Salah makes us feel like nothing else can. It is that spiritual light which illuminates our path to true happiness and salvation. “Alif, Lam, Ra, (this is) a Scripture which We have sent down to you (O Prophet) so that, with their Lord’s permission, you may bring people from the depths of darkness into light, to the path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy One” (Ibrahim, 14:1).

    This spiritual light is a guiding light on the Day of Judgment. “On the day when you (O Prophet) will see the believing men and women; their light proceed in front of and to the right of them” (al-Hadeed, 57:12).

    Salah in the life of a believer is very crucial. Among other things, it helps one identify evil and stay away from sins and transgression, “Recite (O Prophet) what has been revealed to you of the Scripture and keep up the prayer for verily, the prayer prevents one from indecent (shameful) and wicked (detested) deeds” (al-‘Ankaboot, 29:45). Recitation of the Qur’an and azkar among other acts of worship will help the soul sustain its spiritual existence avoiding it from decay and rot.

    Prayer indeed is light. It glows on the faces of the true God-fearing, God-conscious, sincere slaves and servants of Allah (SWT), “Their mark (of faith) is on their faces from the trace of prostration” (al-Fath, 48:29).

    Charity

    The next gem of wisdom is, “Charity is proof.” What did the prophet intend when he (SAW) said charity is proof? Proof of what? One may ask. The scholars agreed that charity (sadaqah) is a proof of one’s truthfulness (sidq). Charity is evidence sufficient to establish one’s true faith. It is proof that one is a true servant of Allah (SWT).

    The Qur’an confirms the true nature of man vis-à-vis wealth and riches. “Alluring unto man is the enjoyment of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:14). People tend to adore wealth passionately. “And you have an insatiable love of wealth” (al-Fajr, 89:20), “He is truly excessive in his love of wealth” (al-‘Adiyat, 100:8).

    Anyone who can part with his wealth and money solely for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) is considered among the truthful ones (al-siddiqeen) who rank next to the Prophets in the sight of Allah (SWT), “Whoever obeys Allah and His messenger, they are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous, and what excellent companions they are!” (al-Nisa’, 4:69).

    Only genuine servants of Allah (SWT) have passion to help and assist the less fortunate, “And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive.” They say, “We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you” (al-Insan, 76:8 9). This good deed among other great deeds proves that such people have real conviction in their lord and that only Allah (SWT) can reward them. They understand that having complete trust in Allah (SWT), who is the source of all provision, is the only way to help them sustain a good and content life in this world while awaiting for a greater bounty in the hereafter.

    Charity is not restricted to disbursing money or other commodities. Less fortunate ones give their share of charity by other means and that will be a proof of their faithfulness and they will be considered among the truthful ones on the Day of Judgment. According to the Prophet (SAW), the glorification and praise of Allah (SWT) is a form of charity as is repeating, “La ilaha illalah, there is no god but Allah” or saying, “Allah is Great.” Enjoining what is right and forbidding evil is another form of charity as is smiling at your brother. Charity is indeed a proof of one’s faith.

    Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment will undoubtedly question us about the wealth, property and assets we possessed in this world. The Prophet (SAW) in a hadith collected by al-Tirmidhi said, “A person’s foot will not move on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about his life and how he spent it, about his knowledge and how he acted upon it, about his wealth and how he earned it and spent it, and about his body and how he used it.” Knowing that Allah (SWT) is pure and that He accepts nothing but purity, believers who are cognizant of the afterlife make sure that every penny they spend for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) is earned from a pure and clean source. They spend from Allah’s provision generously.

    Believers also understand that wealth and material possession is only a test and trial.
    Your wealth and your children are only a trial (fitnah). And Allah has with Him a great reward” (al-Taghabun, 64:15). Regrettably, the heedless ones avoid giving lest their wealth is diminished, while others give strictly for showing off (riya’). They will have a hard time proving their charity on the Day of Judgment.
    According to the Prophet (SAW), among the first to be judged on the Day of Judgment is a man whom Allah (SWT) blessed with plenty of wealth and made affluent. Allah (SWT) will remind him of this blessing and inquire about it. The man will say, “I spent it for Your sake and Your pleasure.” Allah (SWT) replies, “You are a liar, you spent it with the intention of being called generous, and that was said.” He will be ordered to be dragged to hell on his face. What a dreadful day for such individuals.

    Those who give the optional charity are well aware of their obligatory charity, zakah. They give annually 2.5% of their accumulated wealth to deserving people or have Islamic institutions pay out the money on their behalf. This is Allah’s right and only He rewards accordingly.

    Patience

    The Prophet (SAW) informed us about another gem of wisdom, patience. He said, “Patience is illumination.” Illumination refers to the use of a light source to view other objects by the light reflected from those objects. It is said that illumination is the light of the mind. Patience gives off light to the mind. The statement, “Salah is light” can be interpreted as the spiritual radiant energy (Divine light - Qur’an) that is capable of exciting the soul to act righteously. Similarly, the statement, “Patience is illumination,” may be understood as patience acting as the virtue that reflects light off of the divine light stimulating the mind to act sensibly. The light the mind receives through patience enables the person in distress to think clearly, and with the help of salah, one is in total control of any difficult situation.

    Praying regularly and punctually as well as being patient is very difficult. Only the true and humble servants of Allah (SWT) appreciate the blessing of salah and patience. Allah (SWT) gives us a remedy to combat our laziness and impatience. He (SWT) says, “Seek help through patience and prayer - it is indeed difficult except for the humble ones, who know that they will meet their Lord and that it is to Him they will return” (al-Baqarah, 2:45,46).

    There are three types of patience: patience regarding obedience to Allah (SWT), (sabr ‘ala al-Ta’ah ), patience against committing sins (sabr ‘an al-Ma’siyyah), and patience in times of distress (sabr ‘ala al-Bala’).

    The first type, patience in obeying Allah (SWT) includes praying under conditions that are not conducive, fasting for very long hours and deprivation of sleep to ensure one’s dawn prayer is offered are some examples. The second type, patience against committing sins, means to restrain oneself from disobeying Allah (SWT) no matter how desirable or attractive the sin may be. One needs to have patience to be able to fight against the soul (nafs) that invites one to evil. “Man’s very soul incites him to evil” (Yusuf, 12:53).

    The third type of patience is patience in times of trials, (sabr ‘ala al-Bala’). Believers know that the life of this world is full of trials. They do not complain, rather they endure them patiently. Knowing that all trials in life come from Allah (SWT) and having full trust in Him, the true believer can overcome anxiety, anguish and mental torture. They are the ones whom Allah (SWT) will bestow grace and guide. “We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But give good news (O Prophet) to those who are patient, who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ It is they upon whom their Lord’s blessings and grace are bestowed, and it is they who are on the right path!(al-Baqarah, 2:155-157).
    It is not easy to overcome impatience. Patience helps control oneself and become the master of his own self. Exercising patience is a sign of real virtue and piety. We must keep in mind that Allah (SWT) will always support the patient ones. “Have patience. Verily, Allah is with those who are patient” (al-Anfal, 8:45).

  • "Purity" Part 1 – Purification and Glorification (December 27, 2013) Open or Close

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    Despite being unlettered, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was endowed with a special gift. He (SAW) said, “I was given jawami' al-kalim or the concise speech.” His gems of wisdom were concise yet comprehensive and meaningful. The following insightful hadith narrated by Abu Malik al-Ash’ari (RAA) demonstrates the Prophet (SAW)’s eloquence of speech.

    The Prophet (SAW) said, “Purity is half of faith; the praise of Allah (al-hamdulillah) fills the scale; the glory of Allah and the praise of Allah (subhanallah walhamdulillah) fill together – or each fill – what is between the heavens and earth; prayer is light; charity is proof; patience is illumination; and the Qur’an is either an argument either for or against you. Everyone goes out in the morning selling himself. He either emancipates it or destroys it.”

    The Prophet (SAW) concisely mentions eight gems of wisdom that can be elaborated at length, however, a simple sentence was enough to convey simple yet poignant points.

      

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  • Modesty and Chastity in Islam (December 6, 2013) Open or Close

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    The Prophet (SAW) in an authentic hadith said, “Iman (faith) has more than seventy or sixty branches. The most excellent of which is the declaration, ‘There is no god but Allah,’ and the humblest of which is the removal of what is harmful from the road. And modesty is a branch of iman” (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

    The Prophet (SAW) emphasized the importance of tawheed, our basic creed that begins with the expression la ilaha illalah, or the testimony of faith, “There is no god but Allah,” which determines our relationship with our Creator Allah (SWT). He (SAW) also emphasized the importance of making the road-ways safe for all by removing any injurious or harmful object(s), thus being beneficial to the created. The third important branch of iman the Prophet (SAW) mentioned in the hadith was modesty, a subject most relevant to everyone particularly Muslims.

    The following excerpt from IONA’s brochure on Modesty and Hijab reads, “There was a time in America when a woman did not go out in public with unrelated men, when men lowered their gaze to women and when women and men alike dressed tastefully with dignity and humility. Today, not only is it acceptable for women to dress provocatively, it is encouraged, particularly by the men who look on with no shame. It is easy to understand how the lack of modesty has evolved in the West in general, and in America in particular as virtuous ideals and morals are now scoffed at in the name of secularism. As the Prophet (SAW) said, without faith, there is no modesty. As our society loses its faith, so goes our modesty.”
    As believers we should be concerned. The immigrants who chose to make America their home came from a different experience. Modesty was an essential part of private and public life.Traces of modesty can still be witnessed perhaps in some remote towns and villages where the internet and social media have not yet invaded their lives.

    In today’s society, modesty and chastity are fading away. Unfortunately, our children who are born and raised in America, particularly the last couple of generations, did not experience what real modesty is. Living in America (or anywhere in the world for that matter since the world has been transformed into a global village, thanks to the internet) and influenced by the glamorous celebrities and the entertainment industry, people have lost the sense of modesty and chastity. Lewd, rude, vulgar and obscene images and articles circulate freely through cyberspace without any accountability. The publicized immodest and immoral behavior is a new phenomenon. This trend began in the 1950’s.

    Another excerpt reads, “The same immoral and indecent behavior was present in Arabia during the pre-Islam era. Over a thousand years ago, Islam sought to change the surrounding society that knew the word haya, roughly translated as modesty, bashfulness and shame, but did not understand its meaning. Nudity was not only common in every day life, it was even part of religious rituals. Islam changed the society in such a way that haya became one of its most cherished values. Today, we continue to celebrate this value and adhere to the teachings of modesty revealed by Allah (SWT) and exemplified by the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.’”

    Modesty is an intrinsic quality in humans that manifests itself in a natural human urge to cover one’s private parts. According to the Qur’an, when Adam and Hawa’ (Eve) ate from the forbidden tree, they became aware their private parts were exposed and began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden, as a natural result of their modesty. “Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves. Their Lord called to them, ‘Did I not forbid you to approach that tree? Did I not warn you that satan was your sworn enemy?’”(al-A’raf, 7:23)

    It was satan who seduced Adam and Hawa’ (AS) and stripped them naked exposing their shame. It is the same devil who is stripping the clothes off of our society, the garment of righteousness, exposing its shame through the immodest, indecent and lewd behavior of people through TV shows, entertainment, art and music, all in the name of freedom of expression and modernity. A clear instruction has reached us from Allah (SWT), “O Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; the garment of taqwa (God-consciousness) is the best of all garments- this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed” (al-A’raf, 7:27).

    When iman goes so does haya’ or modesty and chastity. Modesty is an integral part of iman. The Prophet (SAW) categorically said, “One who does not have haya’ (modesty) does not have iman.” In a similar fashion the Prophet (SAW) said, “Modesty and faith (iman) are interlinked, when one goes, the other follows.” No believer is a believer while committing shameful deeds. This phenomenon can be understood from a hadith recorded in Sunan Abu Dawud, where the Prophet (SAW) once said, “When a person commits zina (fornication), iman (faith) leaves him, until it is like a cloud over his head.”

    Modesty in Speech, Actions and Dress

    Modesty in speech: One should not be surprised in this day and age to learn that not only adults but even primary school students use dirty and shameful phrases in their speech. It is quite common to hear curse words casually flow from their mouths. This phenomenon is attributed to vulgar songs, movies and television shows. It is believed that such language brings them the attention they desire. There was a time when people would refrain from vain talk, let alone gossip and licentious speech.

    One of the Prophet (SAW)’s gems of wisdom is, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent.” To be quiet does not mean that one is dull or boring. One must say things that are meaningful and beneficial. He (SAW) gave good news when he informed us, “Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i.e. his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i.e., his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise.

    Not only should we refrain from useless and profane speech, the Qur’an instructs us to speak in a moderate tone. “And be moderate in your pace, and lower your voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the donkey” (Luqman, :). Unfortunately, we live in a culture where loud yelling matches are encouraged, particularly with reality and talk shows, with no regard to the lost value of this great faculty of speech.

    Modesty in walking: Both men and women appear to have lost their modesty and shyness even in walking. Some walk arrogantly and in a challenging, defiant or rebellious manner while others walk in a sexually seductive manner enticing the opposite sex.

    Ads and programs of lustful men and women are shaping the way we dress, walk and behave. There was a time in America where segregation of the sexes was a natural trend. Women dressed very modestly and walked bashfully lest they attract attention toward themselves, particularly the attention of men. This natural phenomenon is an inherent trait within people.

    The Qur’an mentions the story of the two women who sought to fetch water for their animals. They stood aside to avoid mixing with men. Musa (AS) helped them. Soon after, “one of the two women approached him walking bashfully, and said, ‘My father is asking for you: he wants to reward you for watering our flocks for us.’” (Al-Qasas 28:25). Their father was an old man who could not do the job and they had no male siblings. The natural instinct of modesty and shyness has always existed.

    We must recognize the obsession of sex in our culture and safeguard ourselves and families from such inclinations. The Prophet (SAW) described women who dress immodestly and walk seductively and shamelessly to be forbidden from entering paradise. He (SAW) said, “There will be women who are dressed yet appear to be naked, swaying and walking in a seductive and sensuous manner who will not enter paradise, nor smell its scent while its fragrance can be smelled a distance travelled of 500 years.”
    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، قَالَ : نِسَاءٌ كَاسِيَاتٌ عَارِيَاتٌ ، مَائِلاتٌ مُمِيلاتٌ ، لا يَدْخُلْنَ الْجَنَّةَ ، وَلا يَجِدْنَ رِيحَهَا ، وَرِيحُهَا يُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ خَمْسِمِائَةِ سَنَةٍ ،

    women who would be dressed but appear to be naked, who would be inclined (to evil) and make their husbands incline towards it. Their heads would be like the humps of the camel inclined to one side. They will not enter Paradise and they would not smell its odour whereas its odour would be smelt from such and such distance.

    Modesty in Dress: Men and women are dressing up in ways that leave little to the imagination. The purpose of provocative dress is simply to draw attention to ones’ self. Islam mandates certain dress codes for men and women alike. There is a clear and decisive scholarly consensus on the mandating of hijab for women. In the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) states, “Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty – they shouldn’t display their beauty and ornaments except what [must ordinarily] appear thereof and they should draw their headcovering over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment”(al-Nur, 24:31).

    Allah (SWT) commands the Prophet (SAW) to tell the believing women to take a series of steps: 1) to lower their gaze, which is mandated for both women and men alike; 2) to guard their chastity or sexuality, again applicable to both; and 3) to conceal their natural beauty, which scholars have interpreted to mean the whole body except for the face and hands.

    The word, “headcovering” or “khimar,” more familiar in our times as hijab, refers to the cloth that covers the head. Women at the time of revelation wore their headcovers tied back behind their necks, leaving the front of the neck and opening at the top of the dress exposed. The revelation confirmed the practice of covering the head, and directed women to tie the headcover in front and let it drape down to conceal the throat and dress opening at the top.

    In addition to the headcovering, modest dress includes opaque, loose fitting clothing that does not reveal a woman’s shape. Make-up and perfume would defeat the purpose of dressing modestly as it attracts negative attention from the opposite sex and exploits one’s sexuality.

    According to the Prophet (SAW), “There will be women who will be dressed but they will be naked. Their heads will be like the humps of camels. They will not enter paradise and will not even smell the scent of paradise while it can be smelled from a far distance.” He (SAW) also said, “If you have no modesty, do as you wish.” Today, it is not uncommon for women to dress provocatively in public and complain when they are not respected or treated negatively.

    The fact of the matter is that we live in a hyper-sexualized world obsessed with appearances, and this presents severe challenges upon the Muslim spiritual psyche. The way to restore this natural quality of modesty is to gain iman and taqwa, through which one is able to refuse to unveil what requires to be hidden. We must restrict ourselves from immodest speech, dress and conduct. We must also resist the temptations that lead to such immodest conduct. It is indeed a struggle.

    One may infer from the many hadiths that begin with, “Whoever believes in Allah and the last day…” the wisdom of the Prophet (SAW). Usually such a preamble is followed with specific instructions. It means that if you truly believe in Allah, then conduct yourself in a manner pleasing to Allah (SWT) and if you truly believe in the hereafter, then hold yourself accountable before Allah (SWT) holds you accountable. If we keep this in mind and do our very best to remain conscious of Allah, our sins would be reduced and our speech, dress and conduct would be in line with modesty and chastity.

    Allah (SWT) praised the ummah of the Prophet (SAW) for being the best ummah on the basis of its mission. We have been entrusted with the final universal message to be shared with the entire world until the Day of Judgment. It is we, Muslims, who need to set the correct example and be models for others to emulate, rather than emulating those who do not have the guidance and wisdom of Islam.

     

  • How to Taste the Sweetness of Iman (November 29, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           In a hadith narrated by al-Abbas Bin Abdul-Muttalib (the Prophet’s uncle) recorded by Imam Muslim, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Indeed he who is pleased (and content) with Allah as his Lord (Rubb), Islam as his Deen and Muhammad as his Messenger has tasted the sweetness of faith (iman).”

           How can one taste the sweetness of iman? We perceive taste through sensory organs called taste buds located on top of the tongue. The taste sensation and flavors are produced and determined when a substance in the mouth reacts with the receptors of taste buds. Thus sweet and bitter tastes can be experienced by the tongue.

           Iman is neither a food nor a substance that can be tasted by the tongue. How would one then taste iman and which organ is responsible for that? The organ responsible for the taste of iman is the heart. The Prophet (SAW) once pointed to his chest declaring taqwa is here; indicating that iman is in the heart. We know from an ayah in surat al-Hujurat where, in response to the Bedouin Arabs who came to the Prophet (SAW) claiming iman, Allah (SWT) rejected their claim saying, “You have not yet come to believe, all you may say is ‘We have surrendered,’ and not until iman enters your heart” (al-Hujurat, 49:14). This ayah is a clear proof that the organ responsible for iman is the heart. If the heart is sound one may experience the sweet taste of iman. Otherwise, one’s iman is either weak or the heart is so corrupt and damaged that there isn’t a mustard seed’s weight of iman in one’s heart.

           The tongue among other functions is used to articulate one’s thoughts. One may express his faith by saying I believe, however it is the heart that may or may not confirm that profession of faith. To patiently endure the trials one goes through as a test of one’s faith is a sign of a sound heart. Allah (SWT) says, “Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe,’ and not be tried? We have certainly tried those who came before so that Allah may for certain know the truthful ones and the liars” (al-Ankabut, 29:2,3).

           To taste the sweetness of iman, one must be convinced of Allah’s existence having a firm belief in Him as the only Supreme Being and Deity who is worthy of worship. One must put his full trust in Allah (SWT) and accept Him as his Lord and Master (Rubb). Thus the statement, I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, (Raditu Bil-Lahi Rubba).

           The word, raditu, in the hadith comes from the root (Ra Da Wa), which carries several meanings. It means, to acknowledge, to accept, to confirm, to approve, to be satisfied with, to be content with and to be pleased with, among other meanings. The statement Raditu Bil-Lahi Rubba, conveys all these meanings and the implications of such a statement are:

          1) Rida bil-uluhiyyah: To accept, be content and pleased with Allah (SWT) as the God, Ilah. In other words, nothing in the heavens nor on earth deserves or is worthy of worship except Allah (SWT). This is called Tawhid al-Uluhiyyah, or Unity of God, i.e. to single Him out in worship with utmost sincerity.

          2) Rida bil-Rububiyyah: To accept, be content and pleased with Allah (SWT) as the Lord or Master, Rubb. It is also to recognize Him as the sole Creator and Sustainer of everything and to firmly believe that He alone has the power to manage all affairs. Furthermore, to depend solely on Him and to seek help from no one else other than Him while accepting the Divine Decree He decreed for us. This can be summed up as Tawhid al-Rububiyyah or Unity of Lordship.

          3) Another implication is to accept all His commands. One must be happy and content with Allah’s final rulings and judgments for He is the true Ruler and Sovereign.

          4) Finally, to be pleased with Allah (SWT) as the Master (Rubb), one must have extreme love, respect and reverence for Allah (SWT). In describing the believers, Allah (SWT) says, “Those who (truly) believe, love Allah most passionately” (al-Baqarah, 2:165).

           The outcome of this contentment is for one to be happy and pleased with Islam as the only way of life Allah (SWT) decreed for His slaves and servants to follow; which confirms the statement from the hadith mentioned above, “I am pleased with Allah as my Lord and with Islam as my Deen.”

           To claim to be pleased with Islam as one’s deen means that one accepts Islam as the only legitimate way of life with the purpose of genuinely guiding individuals and societies. In other words, one is to accept the final divine legislation, the Shariah of Allah (SWT) in its entirety. Allah (SWT) completed His favor upon humankind. This declaration appears in surat al-Ma’idah, “Today I have perfected for you your Deen, completed My blessing upon you, and am well-pleased with Islam as your Deen (way of life)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). If Allah (SWT) is happy and pleased with Islam as our way of life, why can’t we then be happy with it as our way of life? After all it came from the One who knows and is Wise, (Hud, 11:1).

           It is noteworthy to mention that the progression of Shariah started with Nuh (AS) and then Ibrahim (AS). Musa (AS) received the Torah (al-Taurat) filled with guidance and light, the divine commandments and legislation, and the do’s and don’ts. The Prophets, Rabbis and scholars were entrusted to uphold and implement the Torah, so that the children of Israel may live with one another in peace and harmony and may prosper. Ending the legacy of Musa (AS), Isa (AS), the last messenger sent to the Children of Israel, was given the Injil or Gospel, which encompassed the Torah and confirmed the Shariah of Musa (AS). The Injil was again complete guidance to be followed. Allah (SWT) emphatically in surat al-Ma’idah, ayat 44-47, declared that those who don’t judge by that which Allah (SWT) had sent (the divine law) are disbelievers, unjust, and rebellious.

          Muhammad (SAW), Allah’s final Prophet and Messenger, receives the last complete book of guidance, the Qur’an, that contains the final Shariah (law), from the Supreme Law-Giver Allah (SWT). This was the ultimate manifestation of Allah’s grace and mercy upon His servants. Allah (SWT) promises those who follow His guidance to never fall in despair, be in a state of fear or be grieved. Whoever upholds and adheres to Allah’s commands shall never go astray or be depressed, while those who turn away from His guidance, Allah (SWT) has assured them a miserable life (al-Baqarah, 2:38 and TaHa, 20:123,124). Hence, if anyone desires a life of contentment and peace, let him find it in Islam. While at the same it must be clear that, “whoever desires a deen other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter” (Aal Imran, 3:86).

           Our faith and way of life should bring us utmost contentment and happiness. This joy comes only when we accept Islam in its entirety, “O you who believe enter into Islam totally” (al-Baqarah, 2:209). A true believer will never reject any of Allah’s commands in spite of his infallibility or inability to enforce all of Allah’s commands. The sweet taste of iman comes from the constant struggle against one’s baser self for the sole purpose of obeying Allah (SWT).

           Sadly, the Deen of Allah has been replaced by the deen of the king or the people. God has been stripped from His authority. The sweetness of iman may be tasted through the strenuous struggle exerting maximum effort to re-establish Allah’s authority in this world making Islam a concrete historical reality. Surat al-Shura lays this responsibility upon the believers, the same responsibility that was once enjoined upon the great willed and determined messengers. “In matters of faith, He ordained for you that which He enjoined upon Noah, that which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad), as well as that which We had enjoined upon Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, that you establish the deen and divide not therein” (al-Shura, 42:13).

           Conscious believers do their very best to uphold Islam in their lives wherever they may be. While recognizing our weaknesses one should never despair from Allah’s grace. One must implore Allah for help believing that He alone can help. One develops the sense of conviction (yaqin) and confidence that He, the almighty, will take care of him.

           Believers who are mindful of their duties promote and disseminate the ideology and world view of Islam to the masses sharing this great blessing as our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his noble companions did. It is through such efforts; treading the footsteps of Allah’s last and final noble, upright, honest and truthful Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (SAW), one may taste the sweetness of iman. Being pleased and content with Muhammad (SAW) as a messenger implies:

           1) Complete obedience to him: Allah (SWT) has commanded the believers to obey Muhammad (SAW). Obeying Allah’s Messenger is in essence obedience to Allah (SWT) (al-Nisa’, 4:59 and 80).

           2) Unconditional love for him: It is incumbent upon the believers to love Muhammad (SAW) more than anyone including oneself besides Allah (SWT). In an agreed upon hadith found in sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim, he (SAW) says, “None of you attains faith until I become dearer to him than his own son, father and all mankind.” Another authentic hadith found in the two sahih says, “[There are] three traits and whoever possesses them shall experience the sweetness of iman; to love Allah and His Messenger more than anyone else; to love people only for the sake of Allah; and to hate to return to disbelief after Allah has saved him from it as much as he hates to be thrown into Fire.”

           3) Follow his example: Contrary to obedience, one who is truly pleased and content with Muhammad (SAW) as Allah’s Messenger would want to follow him in every aspect of one’s life including the arduous journey he undertook to making His Lord Supreme. In one of His instructions, Allah (SWT) says, “Say (O Prophet): ‘If you love Allah, follow me, [and] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins;’ for Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (Aal Imran, 3:31).

           4) Defend him: It is not a choice to defend our noble Prophet (SAW). Allah (SWT) commanded us to do so, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not turn away from him now that you hear (his message)” (al-Anfal, 8:20). The Prophet of Allah survived many attacks in the past and will continue to triumph over the bigots and hate mongers who slander him and attack Islam. We must be proactive in our approach to dawah. The least we can do is convey to the masses one ayah on his behalf.

           The love of Allah's Messenger is connected with the love of Allah (SWT) and ranks second to it. The following ayah helps one appreciate the aforementioned hadith. “Say O Prophet! ‘If your fathers, sons, brothers, spouses, relatives, the wealth you have acquired, the trade which you fear will decline, and the dwellings you love are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and the struggle in His cause, then wait until Allah brings out His Decree.’ Allah will not guide the rebellious ones” (al-Tawbah, 9:24).

           Therefore, in order to taste the sweetness of iman, one must unconditionally be pleased and content with Allah as the Master and Lord, Islam as the only true deen and way of life and to be pleased with Muhammad (SAW) as the seal of all prophets and Messengers who continued the legacy of his predecessors and preached, there is no god but Allah.

           The Prophet (SAW) instructed the believers, “Whoever says, when one hears the call to prayer (adhan) I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my deen and with Muhammad as my Messenger, his sins will be forgiven” (Muslim). May this statement move our hearts whenever it is uttered.

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  • Innovations in Islam (August 23, 2013 ) Open or Close

     

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           Today’s khutba discusses the issue of newly invented matters or innovations (bid’ah) in deen that are neither sanctioned in the Qur’an nor in the Sunnah. It is believed and held that the last Qur’anic ayah to be revealed was the third ayah of Surat al-Ma’idah, in which Allah says, “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). It is to be clearly understood that Allah sent His last and final Messenger with the last and final Book of Guidance to guide the entire humanity to al-Islam—the way of life (deen) that pleases Him. The deen of Islam is complete in its entirety. Hence there is no question of introducing newly invented matters, and attributing the same to the religion of Islam.

           It is common observation that in compliance with the Prophetic practice, the Imam commences his Friday sermon by praising and thanking Allah followed by recitation of a few Qur’anic ayat and the hadith that says, “Indeed, the best of speeches is the Book of Allah, and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (SAW), and the worst of matters are those that are invented matters. Every newly invented matter is an innovation (bid’ah), and every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” Innovations in worldly matters are good as long as they are for the benefit, well-being, and progress of humanity, but innovations in matters of deen lead to misguidance, the consequences of which are disastrous. Hence any innovation (bid’ah) in matters of religion is prohibited.

           According to a hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said, “He who innovates something in this matter of ours (i.e. Islam) that is not of it will have it rejected.” Imam Nawawi is reported to have said that this hadith should be memorized by every Muslim. It follows that no matter how attractive or meritorious a bid’ah may appear, it will be not be accepted by Allah (SWT). Therefore, we have to be very careful about what we do. The word bid’ah comes from the three letters root word ba da a’ which means to create something without precedence. One of the attributive names of Allah is al-Badi’ or the One Who invents and creates something out of nothing. “He is the Originator (al-Badi’) of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He says only, Be! And it is” (al-Baqarah, 2:117).

           The term bid’ah generally carries a negative connotation and refers to innovations in matters of deen that have no basis or foundation as they are not found in the Qur’an or the Sunnah—the two primary sources of Islam.

           According to Imam Shafi’, “Innovation is of two types: praiseworthy innovation and blameworthy innovation. So whatever agrees with the Sunnah is praiseworthy, and whatever contradicts the Sunnah is blameworthy.” And he used as evidence the saying of ‘Umar (RA) about night prayer (tarawih) in Ramadan: “What a good innovation this is.” He further said that innovated matters are of two kinds: An innovation that contravenes the Qur'an or the Sunnah or a traceable tradition of the Companions (athar) or the consensus (ijma`); that innovation is misguidance; and an innovation that brings about that which is good. Such an innovation is not condemned.

           Islam being completed and perfected as a way of life does not leave room for innovations to be made in it, especially when such innovations are not sanctioned by Allah (SWT) or His Messenger (SAW). An ayah in Surat al-Nur tells us, “Let those who go against his (the Messenger’s) order beware lest some affliction befall them or they receive a painful punishment” (al-Nur, 24:63). This ayah should prompt us to think that the trials, tribulations, and crises through which the Muslim ummah is passing may well be because of our deviating from the pure teachings of Muhammad (SAW). People come up with strange innovations in deen and comfort themselves by labeling these innovations as ‘good innovations’ (bid’ah hasanah).

           The Qur’an warns the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and the Christians) from going to extremes in matters of religion. “Say, “O people of the Book! do not go to extremes in your deen, asserting other than the truth, and do not follow the whims and desires of people who were misguided previously and have misguided many others, and are far from the right way” (al-Ma’idah, 5:77). As a consequence of not heeding to Allah’s words, they fragmented into many sects. We should exercise extreme caution lest we also split into sects, each sect thinking itself to be on the right path. In fact, there is a hadith that says, “The Bani Isra'il was fragmented into seventy-two sects. My ummah will be fragmented into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in Hell Fire except one sect. They (the Companions) said: Allah's Messenger, which is that, whereupon he said: It is one to which I and my companions belong.”

           On one occasion, the Prophet (SAW) said, “I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey even if it be an Abyssinian slave, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my Sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error."

           Two main innovations that have crept into our deen are Qur’an Khwani (reciting Qur’an in a gathering with the intention to pass on the thawab of the recitation to a deceased person) and celebrating Mawlid al-Nabi (the Prophet’s birthday). Apparently Qur’an Khwani appears to be something good but this practice is unprecedented. There is neither an authentic hadith nor any incident in the sirah to show that the Prophet (SAW) gathered people in his home or in the masjid to recite the Qur’an with the intention to pass on the thawab (isaal-e-thawab) to a deceased person. Except his daughter Fatima (RA) who outlived him, all his children and many of his closest relatives died before him; but the practice of Qur’an Khwani was never practiced in the blessed life of Muhammad (SAW) or his companions.

           Reciting Qur’an in itself is a great virtue and source of reward. A hadith tells us, “Whoever reads a letter from the Allah’s Book, he will be rewarded for it. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “alif, laam, meem” is one letter, but “alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter.” There are a few narrations relating to the recitation of the Qur’an and passing on (gifting) the thawab thereof to a deceased, but such traditions are either very weak or fabricated. One such hadith related by Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) says, “Those who recite ‘ Qul Huwallahu Ahad ’ eleven times in a cemetery (maqbarah) and then send the reward to the dead, the person who sends it will gain the reward equivalent to the reward of all the dead people there.” Obviously, giving, receiving, and exchanging gifts is a good practice, but there is a difference of opinion among the ulama’ whether thawab gained out of reciting the Qur’an can be passed on to a deceased person or not. And Allah knows best. There is no evidence in the sirah, however, of people congregating to read the Qur’an for the purpose of sending the thawab gained out of it to the deceased. The people who support the bid’ah of reciting the Qur’an and passing over its rewards to the deceased often come up with another Prophetic tradition that says, “Read Yasin on your dead people.” This hadith is explained by the ‘ulama to mean reciting Surat Yasin on the person while he or she is on death bed. Surat Yasin is a reminder of afterlife. The main purpose of reciting the Qur’an is to be guided in this life so that one can lead a good and righteous life in this world and be among the righteous (abrar) after he or she has died. The deceased who is no more living, cannot benefit from the Qur’an any longer.

           Moreover, gatherings of Qur’an Khwani often end up with people engaging in discussing mundane matters, backbiting, and gossiping over delicious food. Even if the occasion were to be a meritorious one, as perhaps envisioned to be by the innovators, the same does not usually end up being so.

           Another bid’ah in terms of mourning the deceased is the practice of arranging periodic gatherings to remember and pray for the deceased, be he or she a close relative or a venerated saint. Such gatherings are held three days (Qul/Soyem), ten days (Daswaan), or forty days (Chehlum) after a person's death. The Gyarween Shareef is celebrated on the 11th of every month to send thawab (isaal-e-thawab) to the deceased saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. Then there is the celebration of barsi to commemorate the death anniversary of a close relative or dead saint. There is also the annual celebration of ‘Urs to commemorate the passing away of a saint on a specific date when his admirers, disciples, followers and relatives assemble together at the grave of the saint to obtain spiritual benefit and rejoice. The word ‘Urs has been taken from the tradition that says that the angels say to the pious in the grave, "Sleep with restfulness and comfort just like a bride."

           Mourning the dead in Islam is very simple. Men may mourn for one day only, and women (related to the deceased) for three days only provided her husband has no objection to it. On her husband’s death, a woman has to mourn for a period of four months and ten days as per the injunctions of the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. During the period of mourning, a woman is not to wear brightly colored dress, use adornment, wear perfume, do eye makeup, or dye her hands and feet with henna except at the end of her menstruation period when she may use cleaning and refreshing agents to get rid of any offensive smell left over from her period.

           Basically, the deen is easy (al-deenu yusrun). We should not make it complicated. The best thing to do for the deceased people is to make du’a for them and give charity on their behalf. The family members of the deceased can also fast or perform hajj on behalf of the deceased. It is reported from Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah that his mother died and he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died. Should I give charity on her behalf?’ He said: ‘Yes’. I said, ‘What is the best charity?’ He said, ‘Offering people a drink of water’. Having wells dug to procure clean drinking water is a big act of charity, especially nowadays when multitude of people are deprived of pure water in many third world countries. As long as these wells are up and running, the deceased will reap the benefits of the charitable deed done on their behalf. There can be many other forms of charitable deeds that may be done on the behalf of the deceased.

           People who indulge themselves in bid’ah should take heed of the numerous Prophetic traditions that disapprove and condemn it. One such tradition says, “Verily I shall proceed you to the fountain (Al-Kauthar). Whoever will pass by me shall drink (from it) and never get thirsty. People whom I know and who will know me will certainly come to me for drink but there will be a barrier between them and me. Then I will say, ‘Verily, they are of me.’ It will be said, ‘You certainly do not know what bid’ah (innovation) they made after you.’ Then I shall say, ‘Be off those who made bid’ah after me.’”

           To avoid falling into the trap of bid’ah, we have to make a concerted effort to accustom ourselves to the custom and culture of learning. Fiqh al-Sunnah is a good source to learn and comprehend the Prophetic practices. IONA’s book store and library have a good repository of authentic Islamic resources. May Allah increase us in knowledge, save us from innovations in matters of deen, and be pleased with us. Ameen.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

     

     

  • Follow the Straight Path (March 01, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           In continuation of the previous khutbas related to the construction of Islam, let us understand that the first of the three levels of the structure of Islam consists of the roof and four walls. The roof may be said to be representing complete and sincere servitude to Allah (‘ubudiyyatu lillahi ta’ala). The four walls may be thought to be denoting Islam, taqwa (God-consciousness), ita’ah (obedience), and ‘ibadah (worship). The wall representing Islam needs an entrance, and that entrance can be no other than Islam itself. “O you who believe! enter Islam (silm) totally and do not follow the footsteps of Satan for he is your avowed enemy” (al-Baqarah, 2:208). It is to be noted that in this ayah, the word used for ‘Islam’ is not Islam ( إسلام) but silm (سِلم peace), alluding to the fact that to live by the tenets of Islam is to live in peace, the most desired condition any human being could aspire for. On the other hand, the third ayah of Surat al-Ma’idah actually uses the word Islam to refer to Islam as a way of life or deen. “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). If they (the believers) honored their treaty of peace with Allah by being on the path of Islam, they would be at peace.

           It is clear that Muslims are being commanded to enter Islam in its entirety. Modes of worship in themselves do not constitute Islam in its totality. One has to submit and surrender to all of God’s commands, and to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). “This is My Path and it is straight, so follow it” (al-An’am, 6:153). We are told not to follow other paths lest we are cut off from the true path. “Do not follow other paths or you will become cut off from His path” (al-An’am, 6:153). Following the footsteps of the Prophet (SAW) is following the straight path, which leads to achieving taqwa (God-consciousness; righteousness; piety). “That is what He instructs you to do, so that hopefully you will have taqwa” (al-An’am, 6:153).

           We know that there are two paths—the one leading to good and the other to evil, and Allah has shown us both paths. “Have We not made for him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and shown him the two paths (of good and evil)?”(al-Balad, 90:10). There is a hadith through which we learn that one day Prophet Muhammad (SAW) drew a line in the sand and said, “This is Allah’s path.” He then drew several lines to the right and to the left and said, “These are the paths of misguidance on each of which is a devil inviting people to follow it.” Then, pointing to the middle line, he is reported to have recited ayah 153 of Surat al-An’am. "And verily, this is my straight path, so follow it, and follow not other paths, for they will separate you away from His path."

           Satan is always busy through various means to take people away from the straight path, and put them on the crooked path, whereby they are ruined and destroyed eternally. The means he employs to do this are many. He allures people to indulge in all sorts of prohibited (haram) activities by disobeying Allah’s commands and violating sacred laws. A few of these activities are consuming all sorts of drugs, alcohol, and other intoxicants, and engaging in gambling and sex related vices. Needless to say, all these evils are rampant. Unfortunately, not even Muslims are immune from all this. Sadly enough, reliable survey statistics show that there are a few Muslim countries that are high on the list of countries visiting pornographic websites most frequently.

           Satan is not shy to promote his evil designs and products. While browsing through web pages, it is not uncommon to see sexually charged pop-ups, often times displayed in the margins, inviting people to indulge in promiscuous sex, not to speak of other violent and lewd activities openly displayed on the internet and television. Satan uses all sorts of tools and tricks to invite people to his evil ways. The latest electronic social networking services including facebook, facetime, twitter, and others that are used for communicating through the internet, ipad, iphone, and more are often abused. And Satan is successful in dragging people from the path that leads to Allah and putting them on the path that leads to their perdition and hell. As things stand, there is more evil than good on this earth.

           Through different ‘isms’ (doctrine, theory, system, or practice such as) advocated by thinkers, elites, and intellectuals, Satan has been successful to instill in peoples’ minds that such ‘isms’are superior to Islam. He persuades us to respond to the base desires of our bodies and to starve our souls. He lures us to the charm and luxuries of this temporary world and makes us oblivious of the eternal world. We have to be wary of Satan. He makes us worship materialism and distracts us from worshipping Allah, our Creator, who has clearly and repeatedly warned us in unequivocal terms that Satan is our sworn enemy. “Surely Satan is your enemy: so treat him as an enemy: he calls on his followers only so that they should become inmates of the burning Fire” (Fatir, 35:6). Allah calls us to follow His path so that we are directed to the home of peace (Dar al-Salam/ Jannah). “Allah calls to the home of peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path” (Yunus, 10:25). There is only one path that can be chosen; either the path that leads to success and salvation or the path that leads to doom and eternal destruction.

           Treading the straight path is not quite easy. There are obstacles and challenges on the way. Satan waits in ambush and pounces upon anyone who resolves to walk on the straight path so that he or she is misled and misguided. “And then Satan said, ‘Because You have led me astray, I will lie in wait for them all on Your straight path. Then I will come at them- from their front and their back, from their right and their left- and You will find that most of them are ungrateful.’” (al-A’raf, 7:16-17).

           The good news is that Allah’s sincere devoted servants will be protected from Satan’s devious plots and snares. “He (Satan) said, My Lord, since You have led me astray. I shall make the path of error seem alluring to them on the earth and shall mislead them all except Your devoted servants” (al-Hijr, 15:39-40). Sincere devotion is the straight path that leads to Allah. “He (Allah) said, ‘This is the path which leads straight to Me. Surely, you shall have no power over My true servants, except those misguided ones who choose to follow you’” (al-Hijr, 15:41,42). Satan shall have no power over Allah’s true servants.

           Referring to the Prophet’s hadith, it is to be appreciated that the Prophet (SAW), in order to graphically explain to the people as to what the straight path was, drew lines on the sand, thus employing a visual method that was then in vogue. It is only to be imagined what methods he would have employed if he were living among us today. He would utilize the latest technological tools to call people to the straight path and to save them from the path of hell. We have to ask ourselves if we are doing this with all the modern tools of science and technology at our disposal.

           The path of Islam is the path of tauhid (la ilaha illallah); not the mere uttering of it but the implementation of it in our lives. What is to be done to remain on the straight path?

           Firstly, this is possible by having real faith in Allah. This is because He only guides the faithful to the straight path. “Allah will surely guide the faithful to a straight path” (al-Hajj, 22:54).

           Secondly, we have to cling on to Allah. “He who holds fast to Allah is indeed guided to the straight path” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:101). How do we cling on to Him? We cling on to Him by clinging on to His rope (the Qur’an). “Hold on firmly together to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). This entails reading, understanding, and practicing the Qur’an. To be able to really understand the Qur’an, we must make an effort to learn the language of the Qur’an. If one can spare a good many years of one’s life toward becoming a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, or any other professional, why can’t one devote even a fraction of that time (say, a year or so) to learning Arabic for the purpose of understanding the Qur’an. Understanding the Qur’an directly in its language will hopefully help us to cling on to it. After all, the rewards are immense and incalculable. “As for those who believe in God and hold fast to Him, He will admit them to His mercy and His grace; He will guide them towards Him on a straight path” (al-Nisa’, 4:175). The Qur’an is a clear Book of guidance through which Allah guides those who seek His pleasure. “A light has now come to you from Allah and a clear Book. By it, Allah guides to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him, bringing them from darkness out into light, by His will, and guiding them to a straight path” (al-Ma’idah, 5:15,16).

           Thirdly, we have to obey Allah, worship Him alone, and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Master. “Truly, Allah is my Lord and your Lord so worship (and obey) Him. That is a straight path” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:51). At the same time we are not to worship Satan by falling in his traps. “Did I not enjoin on you, sons of Adam, not to worship Satan for he is your sworn enemy?” (Ya Sin, 36:60).

           Fourthly, we should have an unshakable belief (yaqeen) in the hereafter (akhirah). Satan and his agents try to sow seeds in peoples’ minds about there being no hereafter at all. The realities about the Hour (Day of Judgment) and all other articles of faith based on the unseen can only be found in the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad (SAW) and abiding by those teachings alone is the way to the straight path. There is no doubt about it. “It (The Qur’an) gives knowledge of the Hour. Have no doubt about it. Follow me for this is the straight path” (al-Zukhruf, 43:61). Last but not least, we have to continue to be cautious of Satan and his ploys. “And do not let Satan hinder you, for he is your sworn enemy” (al-Zukhruf, 43:62).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

  • Islam is Built on Five (Feb 15, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           A well-known hadith, the essence of which is familiar to most Muslims states, “Islam is built on five (things): testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the salah (prayer), paying the zakah (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.”

           Despite this hadith being so famous, it is often misunderstood, and is thought to be just defining what Islam is. While it is correct to say that the five things mentioned in this hadith are integral to the Islamic faith as known from Hadith Jibril, which has been discussed in detail in the previous khutbas, yet this hadith talks more about the structure of Islam. The word بُنِىَ (buniya) in the hadith is made up of the three letters root ب ن ي which means ‘built on.’ From the same root letters, we also have the word بِنَايَة (binayah), which means a building, structure, or edifice. This hadith is at times mistranslated as ‘Islam is based on five (pillars),’ whereas there is no word in the hadith that means pillars. This hadith has also come to be known as ‘Arkan ul Islam’ (the Pillars of Islam).

           If we were to visualize Islam as it is presented in this hadith, it would be appropriate to conceive it as a structure with a foundation and pillars to support it. Islam is not just the pillars, but the floors, walls, roofing, and other bits and pieces that go to construct it into a proper building—one that would shelter us and keep us safe and secure from the storms of shirk, kufr, and other evils. Islam in its generic meaning includes the concepts of peace and submission, and from a spiritual perspective may be defined as attaining peace through submission to God alone. This concept of peace embraces peace within and peace without—peace with the Creator, peace with His creation, peace with oneself, and peace with one’s surroundings.

           Unfortunately, Islam has been reduced to connote only its ‘five pillars.’ It took Prophet Muhammad (SAW) 13 years at Mecca to lay the foundation of Islam, and 10 years at Madina to construct its pillars and other levels. It was only after 23 years that the edifice of Islam was constructed to its perfection with Allah’s approval; an approval that resonates with the voice of assurance: “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). This Islam is the only way of life (deen) that is acceptable to Allah (SWT). “Truly, the deen in the sight of Allah is Islam” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:19).
           Regrettably, this great structure of the Deen of Islam, so assiduously constructed by Muhammad (SAW) and his companions has been, over the past several hundred years and more notably after the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate decreased from a deen to just a religion. The essential components of human life—the political, economic, and social affairs, or the public and civic affairs, were taken out of the domain of Islam, reducing Islam to just a religion. In essence, Islam was reduced to merely a set of beliefs—the belief in One God, Angels, Books, Prophets, Resurrection, Judgment Day, and Heaven and Hell; a set of rituals such as salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj; a set of social customs detailing celebration and mourning of major life events such as birth, marriage, and death, and one’s personal and private affairs. Divine Guidance has no place in the collective affairs of people in the contemporary secular world.

           As opposed to this, Islam demands that Allah (SWT) be at the center of all human affairs, the private and the public; the individual and the collective. Islam is a complete structure with a politico-socio-economic order based on the ideology of tawheed. Traditionally and simply expressed, tawheed is the conviction and witnessing that “there is no god but God” (la ilaha illallah), and this brief statement, preached, practiced, and manifested in the life and teachings of the Messenger of Allah—Muhammad (SAW) is the foundation of the structure of Islam. Along with this foundation (the shahadatan), the other four constituents—salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj are integral to Islam and go together to support the super structure or the entire edifice of Islam.

           Essentially, the structure of Islam consists of three levels: the sub-level foundation, the plinth, and the structure above it. Faith (iman) as we know has to do with attestation by the tongue (the visible part of the foundation, plinth), and conviction in the heart (the invisible part of the foundation). The three levels on which Islam is to be built are basically our duties toward the deen of Allah (SWT). The last two ayat of Surat al-Hajj go hand in hand with the hadith under discussion. Thus, “O you who believe, bow and prostrate and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord, and do good, so you may be successful. And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due” (al-Hajj, 22:77-78). One has to be a believer in God (a Muslim) to begin with, and has to bow and prostrate to Allah (SWT). These gestures of bowing and prostrating according to the exegetes of the Qur’an (mufassirun) are indicative of fulfillment of the modes of worship of salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj. This covers the foundation of the building as well as its pillars.

           The second command, “and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord” may be perceived as the fist level of the structure of Islam. At this level, one should become mindful of God, accept Him as one’s true Master, surrender oneself completely to His will, and become His true slave (‘abd).

           Doing good unto others as commanded in this ayah goes toward completing the second level of the structure of Islam. The command to do good unto others as understood within the context of this ayah is not restricted to helping the poor and the needy only, but extends to calling humanity at large to the message of Islam and to trying to save people from the eternal doom in the hereafter. This involves calling people to the worship and obedience of One God rather than other deities, be they one’s lusts, one’s wealth, or the numerous man-made ‘isms’ such as secularism, socialism, communism, humanism, materialism, to mention only a few.

           The third and final level has to do with striving in the path of Allah. “Strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due” (al-Hajj, 22:78). This is to ensure that the entire way of life (deen) becomes wholly and totally as ordained by Allah. “And the deen is Allah´s alone” (al-Anfal, 8:39). This is also the manifestation of the prayer ‘Thy Kingdom come. Thy shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” so ardently chanted in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ by Christians of all denominations. God’s Kingdom refers to God’s Rule, the consequence of which is justice, here, on earth. Who is to bring about this justice on earth; only those who profess to believe in Allah. This calls for making the word of Allah reign supreme. “And the word of Allah is supreme. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise”(al-Taubah, 9:40).

           Sadly, the structure of Islam alluded to in the hadith is not comprehended by the majority of Muslims. Generally, they are self-satisfied with the mere performance of rituals and other mundane activities geared towards promoting their name, fame, status, and wealth. It is little wonder that there is no real Islam anywhere in the world. Islam in reality is following the Messenger of Allah (SAW) in all matters related to belief (aqidah) and implementing Allah’s laws (the shariah). The very purpose of our creation is to do ibadah (worship and obedience) of Allah. “I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me” (al-Dhariyat, 51:56).

           Islam has been the core of all Prophetic teachings throughout human history. Every Prophet and his followers who lived by the shariah revealed by Allah were Muslims. “For each among you We made a divine law and a way”(al-Ma’idah, 5:48). Ibrahim (AS) was an upright Muslim. “Ibrahim was neither a Jew, nor a Christian, but he was an upright Muslim” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:67). So were all prophets and their true followers. The Islam that we see as a deen which came 14 centuries ago was the final dispensation of Islam. The revelation bestowed upon Muhammad (SAW), the last and final Messenger of Allah contained the last and final shariah that supplants all other previous shariahs revealed through earlier divine scriptures. Therefore, it is now the eternal and universal shariah.

           To utter the testimony of faith (shahadatan) is to declare and live by tawheed and to believe in the final messengership of Muhammad (SAW) who was sent by Allah as a mercy to all the worlds. “We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds”(al-Anbiya’, 2:107). His mercy manifested itself in the just social order of ‘al-Islam’ that he established during his life time. Islam took people out from darkness into light; from misery into prosperity. Muhammad (SAW) was sent to the entire humanity. “Say, ‘O people, I am Allah’s Messenger to you all”(al-A’raf, 7:158). It was he who constructed Islam brick by brick. Even though many of us may be familiar with the blessed sirah of Muhammad (SAW), especially with things that deal with his habits, attire, and his conduct, not many of us are aware about the efforts he made at a human level to build the edifice of Islam.

           As for the four constituents mentioned in the hadith, the salah is a medium to connect spiritually with Allah (SWT); to implore Him, to seek His forgiveness and His help. It pacifies the soul and helps one to exercise self-restraint when one finds oneself overwhelmed by base desires. Salah is an obligatory duty to be performed at all times, during times of war or peace, health or sickness. Salah cannot be done without unless one is insane, or has become absolutely senile, or is in the throes of death.

           Zakah purifies one from the niggardliness of one’s soul. Allah asks the Prophet (SAW) to take zakah from people’s wealth. Zakah is spent in charitable causes and in Allah’s path. “Take alms (zakah) from their wealth to purify and cleanse them and pray for them” (al-Taubah, 9:103). There is a stern warning for those who are tight-fisted. “Those who are tight-fisted with the bounty Allah has given them should not suppose that that is better for them. No indeed, it is worse for them! What they were tight-fisted with will be hung around their necks on the Day of Rising. Allah is the inheritor of the heavens and the earth and Allah is aware of what you do” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:180).

           Sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadan is like taking a break for one month from the construction of Islam in order to get rejuvenated and in order to rededicate oneself to the ongoing task of construction. There is a hadith which says, “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” Besides the ordained compulsory fasting, the Prophet (SAW) used to fast on other days as well, such as Mondays and Thursdays, first ten days of Zul-Hijjah, during the month of Shaban, and other days.

           Hajj too is an obligation to be done once during one’s life time provided one has the bodily and financial capacity to do so. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever performs hajj to this Ka'ba and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commit sins (while performing hajj), will come out as sinless as a new-born child, (just delivered by his mother).”

           Thus, all the five things (shahadatan, salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj) are vital in the process of constructing the edifice of Islam. Hence the wording of the hadith, “Islam is built on five (things)…”

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

  • Islam Iman & Ihsan - Part 4 (Jan 25, 2013 ) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is the fourth one in the series of khutbas delivered previously on the subject of Islam, iman, and ihsan, and will focus mainly on the topic of ihsan. What does the word ihsan mean? It means perfection or excellence. It is derived from the Arabic root letters ha-seen-noon (ح س ن). It conveys two meanings: (1) to do something good to someone else, and (2) to do something at the level of perfection or itqan. According to a hadith, “Allah loves to see one's job done at the level of itqan (perfection).” Some people have the misconception that ihsan is restricted to the modes of worship. As a matter of fact, ihsan implies doing anything fee sabilillah in the best possible way. 

           The part of Hadith Jibril relating to ihsan says, “Then he (the man) said, ‘Inform me about ihsan. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) answered, ‘It is that you should worship (Ta’buda) Allah (ان تعبد الله) as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.’”

           Generally ‘ibadah is translated as worship, but its meaning is far more comprehensive and includes both worshipping Allah as well as obeying Him. It is derived from the root letters ‘ain-baa-daal (ع ب د) from which we have the word ‘abd, which means a slave. Ihsan, therefore, is to become a humble slave of Allah, submit completely to His will, and do everything commanded by Him in the best possible way with intense love, devotion, and conviction as if one is seeing Him. Since Allah is beyond time and space (transcendent), one cannot see Him physically. The expression “As though you could see Him” would therefore imply that one is constantly thinking about Allah. One is constantly conscious of Allah, and one is not living in heedlessness (ghaflah) any more.

           There is a hadith that describes the feelings of a companion of the Prophet (SAW) in the state of ihsan. It is narrated that the Prophet (SAW) met Awf bin Malik (RA) and said, “How have you become O Awf Bin Malik?” He answered, “I have become a true believer.” The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “There is a reality to everything, what is the reality of what you are saying.” He answered, “O messenger of Allah, I freed myself from the duniya (I let go of the duniya). I stay awake the whole night in worship and see myself enduring thirst by observing fasts during the day. And it is as if I see the throne of Allah and it is as if I see the dwellers of Paradise visiting each other, and it is as if I see the dwellers of Hell screaming.” Then the Prophet (SAW) said, “I know exactly what you are talking about.” This shows the reality of one’s deep faith in Allah.

           There are three narrations of the part relating to ihsan in Hadith Jibril: (1) “to do ‘ibadah of Allah as if you are seeing Him,” (2) “to fear Allah as if you are seeing Him,” and (3) “to work for Allah as if you are seeing Him.” All these three stages are beautifully summed up in the ayah, “Say, ‘My prayers and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, the Lord of all the Worlds’” (al-An’am, 6:162). Ihsan is a comprehensive term of the Qur’an and the hadith. It does not only refer to elevating oneself spiritually, but has to do with obeying Allah’s commands and struggling for His cause with full devotion.

           Unfortunately the term ihsan from the perspective of deen has been supplanted by the institution of Sufism. The word Sufism or Sufi is not to be found in the primary sources of Islam. It has crept into the body of ‘Islamic terms’ from an unknown foreign source. It is said that Sufi originally referred to an ascetic who clad himself in a garment made of suf or coarse wool as an indication of having renounced the world and of having devoted himself to the remembrance (zikr) of Allah. For some, the term Sufi is associated with the Greek term sophia (knowledge; wisdom) or sophis (wise; learned). Apparently, the Islamic Jurists (fuqaha’) have concentrated on Islam. The theologians (mutakallimun) have concentrated on iman, and in contemporary times the Sufis have concentrated on the ihsan perspective of our deen.

           Sufism strives to reach the level of ihsan through three steps: (1) To cleanse and purify oneself internally by constantly seeking Allah’s forgiveness; (2) To be constantly engaged in the remembrance (zikr) of Allah, and (3) To abundantly send salutations (durood & salam) on the Prophet (SAW). Ihsan for the sahaba was not restricted to the theory and practice of the Sufi orders. The iman in their hearts was like mountains; yet their efforts were not limited to only lifting themselves up spiritually. They led normal and balanced lives. They laughed when it was an occasion to laugh. It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) laughed till one could see the back of his molars.

           Ihsan for the sahaba was a balance between deen and duniya. They underwent a process of self-purification both during the Meccan period as well as during the Medinan period, the former through passive resistance when faced with persecution, and the latter through active resistance when required to confront the enemy. It was struggle (jihad) all through. Jihad in the path of Allah is an integral part of our deen and has to be carried on till the end of times. It is absolutely wrong to construe jihad as terrorism in the name of religion. The times we are living in requires jihad to be done with the Qur’an. This was the jihad which the Prophet (SAW) did during the Meccan period, and this is what we need to do now. “So do not yield to those who deny the truth, but strive with the utmost strenuousness by means of this (the message of the Qur’an) (al-Furqan, 25:52). There is another ayah that links jihad fee sabilillah with ihsan. “We will surely guide in Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause, God is surely with the righteous” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:69). Ihsan, therefore, is not simply to isolate oneself and engage oneself in strenuous exercises of zikr. Allah (SWT) will not be made supreme, here, in this world through this way. It is only possible through incessant jihad. No wonder that within a short span of about ten years after the Prophet’s demise, the sahaba through their jihad were able to bring the two super powers of their times—the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire to their knees. Indeed, the companions of the Prophet (SAW) were knights by day and monks by night.

           It is clear from ayah 93 of Surat al-Ma’idah that one keeps going higher and higher in one’s consciousness of Allah till one attains the level of ihsan. “Those who believe and do good deeds will not be blamed for what they may have consumed (in the past) as long as they are mindful of God (have taqwa), believe and do good deeds, and continue to be mindful of God (having more taqwa) and believe, and grow ever more mindful of God (having even more taqwa) and perfect their faith (Ihsan): God loves the Muhsineen (those who strive to perfect their faith)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93). The driving force to go up from one level to the next higher level is the taqwa of Allah. For one to qualify to be among the muhsineen, and to be loved by Allah, one has to love Allah at the level of ihsan.

           We learn from a hadith that human beings are like metals of silver and gold. This is interpreted to mean that their worth is based on the level of their taqwa of Allah. Analogically, the three levels of faith—Islam, iman, and ihsan could be compared with three coins made of copper, silver, and gold respectively. The gold coin has more worth than the silver coin, and the silver coin is more precious than the copper coin.

           A muhsin or one who reaches the level of ihsan has absolute reliance (tawakkul) on Allah, and understands that nothing happens to him, good or bad, except with the will of Allah. The muhsin comes to the conclusion, as the Qur’an says, “God! There is no god but He, so let the faithful put their trust in Him” (al-Taghabun, 64:13). A muhsin is the one whose heart resonates with the sound of la ilaha illallah (There is no god except Allah). Such people truly enjoy the tranquility of mind and heart, regardless of what is happening to them or around them. This phenomenon is explained in ayah 112 of Surat al-Baqarah, which says, “Indeed, those who submit themselves to God and is a muhsin shall be rewarded by their Lord: they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve” (al-Baqarah, 2:112). There is an ayah in Surat Luqman which explains this situation from another perspective. “And whosoever surrenders himself completely to God, while he is a muhsin, then he has taken hold of the strongest bond. And to God all matters will return” (Luqman, 31:22).

           The muhsineen are described as those who follow the way (millah) of Ibrahim (AS). “Who is better in faith than one who submits himself wholly to God, and is a muhsin, and follows the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in faith, whom God chose for a friend?” (al-Nisa’, 4:125). Allah (SWT) made Ibrahim (AS) His friend while certifying that he was not among the polytheists. Today, although there is no shirk among Muslims in terms of idol worship, but it will not be wrong to say that many if not most Muslims have made ‘materialism’ their idol.

           In Hadith Jibril, the Prophet (SAW) explained the concept of ihsan in a way that is comprehensible. Allah knows the capacities and capabilities of each one of us. We are told to have the taqwa of Allah as much as we possibly can. “So be mindful of God as best as you can; and listen, and obey; and spend in charity; it is for your own good. Those who guard themselves against their own greed will surely prosper” (al-Taghabun, 64:16).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • How to become Allah’s Friend? (October 04, 2013) Open or Close

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           Today’s sermon discusses how to become a friend (wali) of Allah and the benefits of becoming His friend. In a hadith qudsi, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah (SWT) says, ‘He who is hostile to a friend (wali) of Mine, I declare war against him. My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory for him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me by means of supererogatory (nawafil) acts of worship until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks Me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him.’”

           The Arabic word wali has several meanings, among others; protector, guardian, patron, supporter, ally and friend. The phrase wali al-amr (the father or guardian of a child), for example, is one who takes care of anything concerning the child. Similarly, if Allah (SWT) is someone’s wali, then Allah becomes his protective guardian. He takes care of him and becomes close to that person. Allah (SWT) is the protector of the believers. “Allah is the Protector (wali) of those who believe. He brings them out of darkness into light” (al-Baqarah, 2:257). Allah (SWT) says in Surat al-Taubah, He is the Master and Patron (maula) of the believers and they should put their trust in Him. “Say (O Prophet): ´Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Master (maula). It is in Allah that the believers should put their trust”(al-Taubah, 9:51). Similarly, in Surat al-Hajj, Allah (SWT) says, “So establish salat and pay zakat and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector (maula), the best Protector, the best Helper” (al-Hajj, 22:78).

           Of course a wali of Allah (SWT) does not act as a guardian to Allah, because He is the Creator, the Self-Sufficient, and the One who is beyond any need (Al-Ghani). A person who becomes Allah's wali is one who becomes Allah's friend and ally. A God-conscious, faithful believer who attains the rank of being Allah's ally and friend feels no fear and knows no sorrow. “Undoubtedly, the friends of Allah shall have no fear and nor shall they grieve” (Yunus, 10:62).

           There are good reasons for a believer to become the friend of Allah (SWT). First and foremost is that Allah (SWT) will be on the side of the believer to help and protect him. Second, Allah becomes his guardian and supporter. Third, there is a guarantee from Allah to His friends that they will live in peace and tranquility without any fear or grief.

           The awliya or friends of Allah (SWT) are pious and righteous people who endear themselves to Him. One should strive to emulate the good traits and teachings of these righteous people rather than erroneously elevating them to a status of divinity out of adoration and reverence. Unfortunately, this occurs in many parts of the world, particularly while visiting graves of such awliya. Beware of this incorrect practice, as this is a form of shirk. The Qur'an reminds, “Do not call on anyone else besides Allah” (al-Jinn, 72:18).

           Every Muslim should aspire to become the wali of Allah. Rather than merely paying lip service by saying, “I believe,” he or she should have real faith—a real personal conviction in the heart. Our predecessors, the companions (sahaba) of the Prophet (SAW), were at the level of the friends (awliya) of Allah (SWT).

           There are two things one needs to become the wali of Allah; iman and taqwa. “Undoubtedly, the friends (awliya) of Allah shall have no fear and nor shall they grieve. Those who have iman and are God-conscious (having taqwa)” (Yunus, 10:62-63). Iman implies real faith. Taqwa means to have the constant awareness of Allah (SWT) throughout one’s life and to fear the consequences of disobeying Him. Indeed one who lives one’s life with these two qualities and characteristics is a friend of Allah.

           The friend of Allah is a special person. Thoughtfully, carefully and obediently, he carries out the basic obligatory duties of worship (‘ibadat ). By doing this, he endears himself to Allah (SWT). We understand this by relating it to an obedient son who endears himself to his father. The father feels joy and pride to see his son fulfill all the duties assigned to him. This phenomenon can be understood from the hadith qudsi mentioned above which says, “My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory for him.”

           The friend of Allah does not stop at adhering meticulously to the obligatory duties (fara’id) of deen—salah, zakah, siyam, and hajj. He wants to draw himself closer to Allah (SWT) out of intense love for Him by doing voluntary acts, beyond the bare minimum that is obligatory upon every believer. It is to be understood that true believers love Allah the most. “And those who (truly) believe love Allah most” (al-Baqarah, 2:165). According to the hadith, Allah says, “My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me by means of supererogatory ( nawafil ) acts of worship until I love Him.”

           Thus, a friend of Allah, in addition to offering his obligatory prayers should also strive to pray the sunnah prayers that the Prophet (SAW) used to pray regularly (sunan al-mu'akkadah) and those that he prayed occasionally (sunan ghayr mu'akkadah). Naturally, those who want to become the friends (awliya) of Allah strive to emulate the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). They offer these practices (sunan) with a religious fervor, careful not to miss any of the supererogatory prayers that among others include the twelve sunnah prayers, the salah offered after daybreak (Dhuha/Ishraq), the witr prayers (which is wajib), the tahajjud prayers, etc.

           Similarly, in addition to the fasting observed in the month of Ramadan, the friends of Allah, in accordance with the prophetic practice, fast on other days as well. For instance, they fast every Monday and Thursday of the week, the six days of Shawwal, the three white days (ayyam al-beedh) corresponding to the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every lunar month, the first nine days of Thul Hijjah, the day of Ashura and a day preceding or following it, etc. In matters of spending (infaq ) in the way of Allah, the friends of Allah do not stop at the obligatory charity (zakah), but keep spending in the way of Allah (fee sabilillah) from whatever resources they have. The friends of Allah, if they are able to afford, and if circumstances allow them, may, out of intense love for Allah, perform hajj and ‘umrah as many times as they can.

            The ultimate manifestation of Allah (SWT)'s favor upon His friends or awliya is laid out in the hadith qudsi cited above, “And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks Me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him.” This allegorical depiction indicates that Allah guides such a person to do only the things that pleases Him. He begins to use his eyes and ears to hear and see the lawful, desirable and useful, and not the unlawful, undesirable and useless. He begins to use his limbs only for engaging in permissible deeds and other works of righteousness, and avoids using them for impermissible and sinful activities. The steps he was taking toward eternal doom (hellfire) he now takes toward eternal bliss (paradise).

           Allah and His friend love each other. The way to love Allah, as the Qur’an says, is to follow the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). “Say (O Prophet), if you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful”(Aal ‘Imran, 3:31). Following the Prophet means to follow his footsteps and emulate his example.

           When one strives to become the friend of Allah (SWT), He makes angels and people love him. The Prophet (SAW) says, “When Allah loves someone He calls to Jibril (AS) saying, ‘O Jibril, I love such and such a person, so love him.’ Then Jibril will call to the (angels) of the heavens, ‘Allah loves such and such a person so love him.’ And the angels will love [that person]. And then Allah will place acceptance on earth for that believer.” An ayah in Surat Maryam tells us, “Verily, the most gracious God will appoint enduring love (in the hearts of people) for those who believe and do righteous deeds.” (Maryam, 19:96).

           The friend of Allah also becomes among those whose supplications are accepted by Allah (SWT) - (al-Du’a al-Mustajab). The hadith qudsi quoted earlier mentions this truth, “If he asks Me, I will surely give to him.” And finally, Allah protects His friends in this world and in the hereafter. The same hadith tells us, “If he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him.” Allah protects them from satan, his agents and all types of evil in this world, and keeps them on the path that leads to His pleasure on the Day of Judgment.

           The obligatory acts of worship (‘ibadat) constitute the very pillars on which the edifice of Islam is built. In this day and age, we need more and more friends of Allah to build this beautiful structure of Islam. If we desire a change, we first have to deserve it. If we do not move in the direction shown to us by Allah, and do not struggle in His path, Allah (SWT) may replace us with others who will do the job that is required to be done. The characteristics of such friends of Allah are described in Surat al-Ma’idah. “O you who believe! If any of you forsake (renounce part or all) your deen (way of life), Allah will soon replace you with people whom He loves and who love Him, who are humble toward the believers, hard on the disbelievers, and who strive in the Way of Allah without fearing anyone's reproach. Such is Allah's favor. He grants it to whomever He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing” (al-Ma’idah, 5:54).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • The Hajj and the Legacy of Ibrahim (AS) (Sept 20, 2013 ) Open or Close

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         Every season of Hajj reminds us the legacy of Ibrahim (AS), who along with his son, Ismail (AS) raised the Ancient House (al-Bayt al-Ateeq) or Ka’bah from its foundations to restore the worship of One God. “And We located the position of the House for Ibrahim: ´Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circle it, and those who stand and bow and prostrate” (al-Hajj, 22:26).

           Ibrahim (AS)’s search of truth began when he was a teenager living in the household of Azar—his father, who was engaged in the making and worshipping of idols. Guided by his pure nature, sound intellect and rationalist mind, Ibrahim (AS) questioned his father about idol-worship pointing out to him that he and his people were in clear error. “Remember when Ibrahim said to his father, Azar, “Do you take idols as gods? I see that you and your people are clearly misguided” (al-An’am, 6:74).

           Testifying to Ibrahim (AS)’s firm belief in tawhid, Allah likens him to an entire nation or community (ummah), and affirms more than once that he was not from among the polytheists (mushrikeen). “Ibrahim was a community in himself devoted to Allah and true in faith, He was not one of the polytheists” (al-Nahl, 16:120). Another ayah says, “Then We revealed to you: ´Follow the religion of Ibrahim, a man of pure natural belief. He was not one of the polytheists” (al-Nahl, 16:123). Ibrahim (AS)’s firm stand led him eventually to distance himself from his household and his people. “When Ibrahim said to his father and his people, ´I am free of everything you worship, except for Him who brought me into being. He will certainly guide me” (al-Zukhruf, 43:26-27).

           Allah (SWT) had blessed Ibrahim (AS) with a discerning mind. He clearly distinguished between the Creator and His creation. Observing keenly the heavenly bodies, especially the stars, the moon, and the sun, and using his intellect, Ibrahim (AS) reinforced his faith in the Creator of everything, who alone should be worshipped. This story of Ibrahim (AS)’s search is beautifully depicted in Surat al-An’am. “When night descended on him, he saw a star. He said, ‘This is my Lord!’ Then when it set he said, ‘I do not love things that set.’ When he saw the moon rise and spread its light, he said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me, I will be one of the misguided people.’ Then, when he saw the sun shining, he said, ‘This is my Lord! This is the greatest of all!’ Then when it set, he said, ‘My people, I disown all that you worship besides Allah’” (al-An’am, 6:76-78)

           Possessing an intuitive and unflinching faith in Allah, Ibrahim (AS) now discovers God even through his rational faculty, and cannot help but cry out, “I have set my face with sincere devotion, towards Him who has created the heavens and the earth, and I am not one of the polytheists”(al-An’am, 6:79). He rebuts those who argue with him, “Are you arguing with me about Allah, while He has guided me?” (al-An’am, 6:79).

           As evident from the Qur’an, Ibrahim (AS) was put to severe trials and tribulations along his journey in search of truth. He succeeded in all the tests he was subjected to. As a result, Allah (SWT) made him the leader of humanity (Imam un-Nas). “And remember when Ibrahim was tested by his Lord with certain commandments which he carried out completely. He said, ´I will make you a leader for mankind.´ (al-Baqarah, 2:124). Being concerned about his progeny, Ibrahim (AS) implored Allah, “And what of my descendants?”(al-Baqarah, 2:124), and Allah replied him by saying, “My contract does not include the wrongdoers” (al-Baqarah, 2:124). This reply implied that as long as Ibrahim (AS)’s children would be on the path shown by him, they would be leaders of mankind, but when they indulge in wrongdoing and injustice, they would be deprived of their leadership role.

          Being disgusted with idols and idol-worship, and in his anxiousness to teach a lesson to the people that their false deities were absolutely powerless, Ibrahim (AS) smashed them. This story is described graphically in Surat al-Baqarah, “He broke them all into pieces, except for the biggest one of them, so that they might return to it. They said, ‘Who has done this to our gods? He is surely an evil-doer.’ Some said, ‘We heard a young man, called Ibrahim, talking about them.’ Others said, ‘Bring him before the people´s eyes so they may witness (against him).’ They said, ‘Did you do this to our gods O Ibrahim.’ He answered, ‘Rather this biggest one of them did it. Ask them, if they can speak.’ They turned to one another and said, ‘You yourselves are the wrongdoers.’ But then they lapsed again and said, ‘(O Ibrahim!) You know very well that they cannot speak.’ He said, ´Do you then worship, instead of Allah, what cannot help or harm you in any way? Shame on you and what you worship besides Allah! Will you not use your intellect’” (al-Anbiya’, 21:58-67). We too have to be concerned if we have enslaved ourselves to modern-day idolatry—consumerism and materialism, in all their different ramifications. Our salvation lies in extricating ourselves from the grip of these and other modern-day idols, and become true, humble, and obedient slaves of Allah (SWT) alone.

           The story goes on that Ibrahim (AS) was thrown into a blazing fire. “They said, Burn him and help your gods, if you are resolved to do something. But We said, ‘Fire! Be cool and safe for Ibrahim” (al-Anbiya’, 21:58-69). Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercy ordered the fire to become cool and safe for Ibrahim, and hence he miraculously remained unscathed.

           This story about remaining safe in the face of extreme danger is reminiscent of the story of Musa (AS) and his people when they were caught between Firaun’s army and the sea—visible danger from both sides. Hearing his people cry out, Musa (AS) simply said, “No, my Lord is with me and He will guide me” (al-Shura, 26:62). It also brings to memory the incident of the hijrah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) along with Abu Bakr (RA). While hiding themselves in the cave, Abu Bakr (RA) saw that the enemy was just to get a glimpse of them to be able to pounce upon them. He was aggrieved about the safety of Muhammad (SAW). At that moment Muhammad (SAW) in his usual calm and composure said to him not to worry, for Allah was with them. “When they were both in the cave, he (Muhammad – SAW) told his companion (Abu Bakr – RA), Do not worry; for Allah is with us” (al-Taubah, 9:40). These real stories of the prophets are meant to reinforce our faith in and strengthen our reliance on the One whose power is limitless. Allah (SWT) will always support those who are on Haq.

        In his youth, Ibrahim (AS) used his power of logical reasoning when confronting Nimrod, the king, in an argument. The Qur’an depicts this incident as follows: “Have you not (O prophet) thought about the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord, on the basis that Allah had given him sovereignty? Ibrahim said, ´My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die.´ He said, ´I too give life and cause to die.´ Ibrahim said, ´Allah brings the sun from the East, so bring it come from the West.´ And the one who denied faith (Nimrod) was dumbfounded. Allah does not guide those who are unjust” (al-Baqarah, 2:258). Islam makes sense. There is no dispute between reason and revelation. There are occasions when we have to use our logical reasoning more than our intuition. This story also tells us about confronting falsehood (Batil) with truth (Haq).

           Despite his firm conviction in Allah’s powers (qudrah), Ibrahim (AS) expressed his desire to Allah to show him how He brought the dead to life. Ibrahim (AS)’s curiosity and Allah’s response thereto is mentioned in Surat al-Baqarah. “When Ibrahim said, ‘My Lord, show me how You bring the dead to life.’ He asked, ‘Do you not then have faith?’ He replied, ´Indeed I do! But so that my heart may be at peace.’ He said, ‘Take four birds and train them to come back to you, cut their bodies to pieces, scatter them over mountain-tops, then call them back, they will swiftly come to you. And know that Allah is Mighty, Wise’” (al-Baqarah, 2:260).

           In compliance of Allah’s orders, another severe trial for Ibrahim (AS) was to leave his wife Hagar and their infant son Ismail in the harsh, desolate, and desert land of Mecca, where there was no water, no cultivation, and no humans. He knew exactly what he was doing. His human side made him cry out, “O Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in an uncultivable valley near Your Sacred House, Lord, so that they may say their prayers regularly. So, make people’s hearts incline towards them and provide them with fruits so that they may be grateful” (Ibrahim, 14:37). Again in His infinite mercy, Allah (SWT) saved both mother and child by making the spring of zamzam gush forth from that desert land. The seven rounds (al-Sai’) between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa that Hagar took to search for water for her baby son has become one of the important rituals (manasik) that pilgrims have to perform at Hajj.

           Finally, Ibrahim (AS) was tested all the more severely by having to sacrifice his young son Ismail at Allah’s command. “When he (Ismail) was old enough to work with him (Ibrahim), he said, ´My son, I saw myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?´ He said, ´Father, do as you are commanded. You shall, In sha Allah (God-willing) find me among those who are patient (and steadfast)” (al-Saffat, 37:102). Both father and son displaying submissive obedience and steadfastness willingly complied with Allah’s command. Again miraculously, Allah replaced the person of Ismail with a lamb which was slain instead, making henceforth the offering of a sacrificial animal an important ritual of Hajj.

           In reality, the Hajj season traces back the legacy of Ibrahim (AS) and his quest for truth. He established the center of tawhid that remains till this day the Qiblah for all Muslims in every nook and corner of the world.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

  • Have Taqwa of Allah Wherever You Are (Part 5) (Sept 06, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           This is the fifth and last of the series of sermons on the subject, “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are”. A Muslim is required to become an obedient humble slave of Allah (SWT). He is required to mold his life, values, priorities, and ambitions according to the commands of his Lord. He is also required to preach and disseminate the message, the ideology, and the practical guidance of Islam to his fellow human beings, enjoining all that is good and forbidding all that is evil. Finally he is required to try his utmost to establish God’s kingdom of heaven, here on earth, so that divine justice reigns supreme.

           To fulfill these requirements, it would behoove a Muslim to comply with the teachings of Islam in all spheres of life, be they economical, social, or otherwise. One’s financial dealings should be free of interest (riba), and one’s income should be from lawful (halal) sources. The mutual relationship between the spouses should be good, respectful, and pleasing to Allah (SWT). They are charged with the responsibility of reforming the society. They are in need of one another and are helpful and supportive of each other. “The believers, both men and women, support each other; they enjoin what is good and forbid evil, they establish salat and pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. It is they upon whom Allah will bestow His grace, for Allah is almighty and wise” (al-Taubah, 9:71).

           When married couples realize their duties towards Allah (SWT) and towards the people, and have the taqwa of Allah, it is more likely that they will succeed in their mission, because they understand that they are here on earth to please Allah (SWT) by fulfilling their religious obligations and duties. They also understand that this life is fleeting and short-lived. They look forward to the eternal blissful life of paradise and work for it. “The satisfaction of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, and pedigreed horses, and cattle and lands is attractive to people. All this is the provision of the worldly life; but the most excellent abode is with Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:14). Those who have taqwa are promised everlasting blessings and bounties in the next life. “Say, Shall I tell you of something better than that?´ Those who have taqwa will have Gardens with their Lord, with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever, and purified wives, and the Pleasure of Allah. Allah sees His slaves” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:15). An ayah in Surat Yasin tells us, “The Companions of the Garden are busy enjoying themselves today. They and their wives will be reclining on couches in the shade. They will have fruits there and whatever they request. Peace! shall be the greeting from the Merciful Lord.” (Ya Sin, 36:55-58).

           To merit such rewards, the couples need to be patient and need to have the taqwa of Allah (SWT) in all matters of life. If ever they commit a sin, they should repent immediately. Human beings are not angels. They can and they do commit sins. According to a hadith, “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” We should also abide by the teachings of the hadith that says, “Fear Allah wherever you are, and follow up a bad deed with a good one, it will wipe it out, and behave well towards people.” A God-fearing and God-conscious person is not necessarily a perfect human being, and may fall in error or sin. He knows that doing a good deed after realizing his mistake will expiate the sin that was committed by him. 

           Returning back to Allah’s obedience and doing what pleases Him will take away the sins of the disobedience and will expiate the sins. One of the good deeds (hasanat) according to some scholars is the salat (prayers). “Establish salat at each end of the day and in the first part of the night. Good actions (hasanat) eradicate bad actions (sayyiat). This is a reminder for people who pay heed” (Hud, 11:114). A hadith tells us, “Five prayers and from one Friday prayer to (the next) Friday prayer is an expiation (of the sins committed in between their intervals) if major sins are not committed.” One of the many benefits of salat is that it restrains one from indecency (al-fahsha’) and evil (al-munkar). “Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and evil and remembrance of Allah is greater. Allah has knowledge of all your actions” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:45). Muslims who offer their five daily prayers regularly are definitely less prone to commit sins than those who only perform the Jumua prayers on Fridays.

           Often times, when someone has done bad to us, we retaliate by doing something bad to him, and that worsens matters. The Qur’an tells us to repel evil with good. “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend” (Fussilat, 41:34). This means that whatever is done to repel evil should be good in itself. For example, a charity given to expiate a sin should be from halal and not haram sources.

           To behave well towards people, one has to have good manners, and this is a condition for achieving piety. Manners and character be they good or bad are traits that are acquired through influences of one’s environment and surroundings. The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.” He (SAW) also said, “The believers with the most complete faith (iman) are those with the best manners.” There is another hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) said, “I have only been sent to complete good character.” Highlighting the importance and virtue of good manners, according to the Prophet (SAW) a person can reach the level of a person who prays all night and fasts all day just because of his good manners. There is also a hadith according to which the Prophet (SAW) said, “Should I not inform you of the most beloved and the closest of you to me on the Day of judgment?” The sahaba said, “Yes”. He (SAW) said, “The best of you in manners.”

           Who is our model? Most certainly, it is none other than the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). “You have indeed in the messenger of Allah a good example for those of you who look to Allah and the Last Day, and remember Allah always” (al-Ahzab, 33:21). Testifying his sublime character, Allah (SWT) says to His beloved messenger, “And surely you are indeed of a sublime character” (al-Qalam, 68:4).

           Every human being is born with a sound intellect and an unpolluted nature (al-fitrah al-saleemah). Fitrah is the inborn natural predisposition, which exists at birth in all human beings. According to a hadith, “Every new-born child is born in a state of fitrah. Then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian…” It is the influence of the immediate environment, primarily at home, secondarily at school, and thirdly everything in the surroundings that impacts the minds of people. Negative effects of these influences pollute their pure nature. Hence, it is crucial that we maintain and guard our sound intellect and pure nature. We should not only shun all false notions and worldviews, but also challenge and confront them. At the same time, we have to develop a correct attitude towards our basic beliefs in Tawhid, Risalah, and Akhirah.

           From the dawn of times till the advent of Muhammad (SAW), prophets and messengers were sent by Allah to guide human beings. They provided answers to the basic, fundamental, primordial questions regarding the Creator, the creation, the purpose of life, the role of man, the right and wrong, the lawful and the unlawful, accountability on the Day of Judgment, the eternal reward and punishment, and so on.

           What is the source of information to know what is good and what is evil? The Qur’an and the Sunnah are our primary sources to know this. Any man-made legal, moral and ethical rule, however sound and rational it may appear to be will always remain imperfect because of limitations, prejudices, and weaknesses of human beings. Muslims believe that prohibited things ordained by Allah are harmful and cannot become beneficial or permissible even if the whole world and the entire mankind may say to the contrary. The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) movement that is being promoted and that is spreading like wild fire is a prominent example of this. Vice is depicted as virtue, and people get carried away.

           Restoring sound intellect and pure nature is very important, because it is only then that one can begin to be sincere to one’s fellow human beings. Our actions start with our intentions. Sincerity of intention, therefore, is absolutely necessary. As far as piety is concerned, it is not enough to fulfill the rights of Allah (SWT) in terms of adhering to the modes of worship. It is also essential to have good attitude and behavior towards one’s parents, wife, children, relatives, neighbors, and other members of the community. There are numerous Qur’anic ayat and Prophetic traditions that allude to the importance of behaving well towards one’s parents, wives, neighbors and others. As for treatment of parents, the Qur’an says, “Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and show kindness to your parents. If either or both of them attain old age with you, say no word of contempt to them and do not rebuke them, but always speak gently to them” (al-‘Isra’, 17:23). As for treating one’s wife, the Prophet (SAW) said: “Among the Muslims the most perfect, as regards his faith, is the one whose character is excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well.” And as for regard for one’s neighbor, a hadith tells us, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should talk what is good or keep quiet.”

           Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was sent as mercy to the entire humanity. He taught us to be respectful to all people—close and distant. Particularly we should be respectful to our elders, teachers, scholars, Imams, and those in authority. One may express one’s difference of opinion with them, if and when required, but this should be done with due respect and politeness; not rudely or arrogantly.

           Being truthful and trustworthy is integral to having good manners. The Prophet (SAW) was known as ‘the truthful and the trustworthy’ (al-Sadiq al-Ameen). We know from the sirah how even the polytheists (mushrikun) of Mecca who neither believed in him nor in his message kept their possessions with him in trust. We also learn that before his emigration to Madinah, Muhammad (SAW) made sure that the things kept in his trust were returned back to their rightful owners before he left Mecca for Madinah. Keeping promises is also important. Describing the true believers, the Qur’an says that they are “those who are faithful to their trusts and promises” (al-Mu’minun, 23:8). A hadith addresses both these issues of honoring trusts and fulfilling promises. The Prophet (SAW) said, “There is no faith for the one who has no trust, and there is no religion for the one that does not fulfill his promises.”

           Among other Islamic etiquette of dealing with people is to be humble, patient, just, fair, caring, and courageous. One should also be punctual, especially during appointments and meetings. One should also visit the sick and accompany the funeral of a deceased Muslim. We have to try our best to emulate the example of our Prophet (SAW). Once when Aisha (the Prophet’s wife - RA) was asked about the Prophet’s character, her response was very brief, but very meaningful. She said, “His character was the Qur'an”. To be close to the Prophet (SAW) on the Day of Judgment and to be successful in the hereafter, we have to mold ourselves to be able to lead a God-conscious life. As Muslims living in America, we have no choice but to set an example to our non-Muslim fellow human beings. The message we preach has to be practiced by us. After all, example is better than precept.

           May Allah (SWT) bless us all with physical, mental, and spiritual health, and with pure Islamic fitrah. May we have the taqwa of Allah wherever we are. May Allah bless our families, the community, and the humanity at large. Ameen.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

     

     

  • Have Taqwa of Allah Wherever You Are (Part 4) (August 30, 2013) Open or Close

     

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    Taqwa in Marriage

     

           Today’s khutba is the fourth in the series of khutbas on the topic: “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are.” Having taqwa of Allah is not just limited to one’s outward piety or modes of worship. It extends to one’s dealings with all the creations of Allah. Among them is one’s spouse. Today’s khutba focuses on having taqwa of Allah in marriage.

           Surat al-Nisa’ begins by addressing mankind in the mode of command to have the taqwa of Allah. “O people, be conscious of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of Allah, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: Allah is always watching over you” (al-Nisa’, 4:1).

           Among other issues dealing with moral, cultural, social, economic, and political issues, principles for the smooth running of family life have been laid down in this surah. Rules have been prescribed for marriage, and rights of wife and husband have been allocated. The status of women in the society has been determined. The only way to ensure a good relationship with one’s relatives, other human beings, and orphans, is to have the fear of Allah and the fear of the consequences in the hereafter of not having acted according to divine injunctions. It is perhaps for this reason that the Prophet (SAW) used to recite this ayah when delivering a nikah sermon. Most certainly, having taqwa of Allah with one’s spouse ensures a happy and successful marital life.

           This ayah is a reminder to everyone to be mindful of Allah and to fear the consequences of the hereafter, lest this bond of humanity built upon honoring each other’s rights through mutual love, sympathy, and care, especially between the spouses remains unfulfilled. Another ayah that is typically recited and remembered at the time of conducting nikah, and that specifically elucidates the divine wisdom behind marriage is ayah 30 of Surat al-Rum. “Among His Signs is that He created spouses for you of your own kind so that you might find tranquility in them. And He has placed affection and compassion between you. There are certainly Signs in that for people who reflect (al-Rum, 30:21).

           The Creator’s perfect wisdom is that He has created both men and women from the same genus or species, and He has created them both with the same matter. Yet the two have been created with different physical structures, different mental and psychological qualities, and different emotions and desires. And then there has been created such a wonderful harmony between the two that each is a perfect counterpart of the other. The physical and psychological demands of one squarely match with the physical and psychological demands of the other. This system has not come about by chance, but the Creator has brought it about deliberately with the object that the man should find fulfillment of the demands of his nature with the woman and the woman with the man, and the two should find peace and tranquility in association and attachment with each other. This is the means of bringing the human civilization into existence, on the one hand, and of the survival of the human race, on the other.

           In case one is confronted with problems in one’s married life, whatever the predicament may be, one should first and foremost seek counsel with Allah (SWT). Those who have the taqwa of Allah (SWT) can rest assured that Allah will help them out of their problems, and will make their matters easy for them. Incidentally, both these assurances are mentioned in Surat al-Talaq. “Whoever has taqwa of Allah; He will make a way out for him” (al-Talaq, 65:2). “Whoever has taqwa of Allah; He will make matters easy for him” (al- Talaq, 65:4). The Qur’an introduces a system of married life that takes into consideration the feelings of both the spouses. Such divine guidance when followed engenders feelings of love and harmony between the spouses and eliminates any bitterness, resentment or anger that may have existed between them.

           The Qur’an does not only provide guidance for a healthy and harmonious spousal relationship, but also advocates the steps to be taken to settle disputes and discords that may take place between the husband and the wife. Promoting and encouraging reconciliation in the marital relationship, the Qur’an says, “If a woman fears ill-treatment or indifference on the part of her husband, it shall be no offence for her to seek reconciliation, for reconciliation is best. But people are prone to selfish greed. If you do good and fear Him, surely Allah is aware of what you do” (al-Nisa’, 4:128). The mutual displeasure between the married couple if not checked, and the mutual discord between them if not reconciled may lead to serious problems resulting in family feuds and perhaps killings.

           Even if circumstances force the couple to end their married life, the same should be done properly with the taqwa of Allah (SWT). This will ensure that the parting process remains smooth and painless without any mutual hatred or animosity. The couple would then understand that the mishap was destined. This will make them part from each other in peace, each going his or her own way as destined.

           In case all efforts of reconciliation fail and separation takes place, then the couple is advised to separate amicably, being gracious and kind to each other “Divorce may be pronounced twice, and then a woman must be retained honorably or released with kindness. It is not lawful for you to take away anything of what you have given your wives, unless both fear that they would not be able to observe the bounds set by Allah. In such a case it shall be no sin for either of them if the woman opts to give something for her release. These are the bounds set by Allah; do not transgress them. Those who transgress the bounds of Allah are wrongdoers” (al-Baqarah, 2:229).

           The husbands who are in a position of strength over their wives are especially admonished to be kind and charitable to their wives. This is because often times they inflict harm upon their wives in various ways in defiance of the divine injunctions. “Once you divorce women, and they have reached the end of their waiting period (‘iddah), then either retain them in all decency or part from them decently. Do not retain them in order to harm them or to wrong them. Whoever does this, wrongs his own soul. Do not make a mockery of Allah’s revelations. Remember the favors Allah has bestowed upon you, and the Book and the wisdom He has revealed to exhort you. Fear Allah and know that Allah is aware of everything” (al-Baqarah, 2:231).

           The family members (especially the parents) are instructed not to be an obstacle in the way of conciliation between the man and woman who may want to come back to each other in a marital relationship after she is separated from her husband. “When you divorce women and they have reached their waiting peroid, do not prevent them from remarrying their (former) husbands if they both agree to do so in a fair manner. Let those of you who believe in Allah and the Last Day take this to heart: that is more wholesome and purer for you. Allah knows and you do not.” (al-Baqarah, 2:232).

           Allah has admonished men not to leave their wives suspended. Often times, men leave their wives in the lurch; neither divorcing them nor treating them as their wives. This may also happen when a man may have more than one wife and his treatment of his wives is not equitable. He favors one over the other(s). Surat al-Nisa’ addresses this situation: “But do not ignore one wife altogether, leaving her suspended [between marriage and divorce]. And if you make amends and act righteously, surely Allah is most forgiving and merciful” (al-Nisa’, 4:129).

           A woman who is persistently ill treated by her husband, or if her husband is mafqood al-khabar (absent for an unreasonably long period of time and there is no news about him), or for any other valid reason, may exercise her right of khula, which means her right to legally seek release from her husband. This enables her to live singly or marry another man after she completes her waiting period (‘iddah).

           Another area of concern in the marital relationship is the time when the woman is going through her menses. To make it very clear that intimate spousal relationship is forbidden with one’s wife during her menstruation, the Qur’an tells us, “They ask you about menstruation. Say, It is an impurity, so keep away from women during it and do not approach them until they are clean; when they have cleansed themselves you may approach them as Allah has ordained. Allah loves those who turn to Him in sincere repentance and He loves those who keep themselves clean” (al-Baqarah, 2:222). A man who either carelessly or unknowingly has not observed this prohibition or has approached his wife improperly must make sincere repentance for having violated a divine ruling.

           The next ayah outlines the lawful way of having intimate relationship with one’s wife. “Your women are fertile fields for you, so come to your fertile fields however you like. Send good ahead for yourselves and have taqwa of Allah. Know that you are going to meet Him. And give good news to the mu’minun’ (Al-Baqarah, 2:223). It is unlawful (haram) for a man to approach his wife from any other place other than the place ordained by Allah (SWT), and that is where the seed is sown, and from where the progeny comes forth. A man who has taqwa of Allah in such matters will find Allah (SWT) blessing his conjugal life with happiness and tranquility.

           Before the advent of Islam, women were regarded inferior to men. They were bereft of the usual human rights. They were treated as chattel and objects of sex. They were deprived from inheritance. Pagan custom allowed an infant baby girl to be buried alive. “And when the female infant buried alive is asked; for what sin she was killed” (al-Takwir, 81:8-9). With the advent of Islam, divine rules and regulations touching upon justice, family life, inheritance, the lawful and the unlawful, ethics and morality, and all other areas of human life were revealed to the Prophet (SAW).

           In his sermon of Hajjat ul wada’, the Prophet (SAW), besides giving many advices and admonitions, reminded the people about rights of women over men and rights of men over women, about treating women with kindness, and about maintaining modesty and chastity. He said, “O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”At the end of his sermon, he said, “All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people."

           In a hadith narrated by Abu Huraira (RA), the Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of women, for they are created from a rib and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain curved, so I urge you to take care of women.” It is also narrated by Abu Huraira (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “The most perfect among the believers in faith is one who has the best manners and best of you are those who are best to their wives.”'

           It is crucial that we take heed and pay attention to the divine laws and prophetic teachings related to marital relationship so as to have the taqwa of Allah (SWT) in marriage.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque

    IONA Research h& Publications

     

  • Have Taqwa of Allah Wherever You Are (Part 3) (August 16, 2013) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is the third in the series of khutbas on the topic: “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are.” The focus of today’s discussion is on having the taqwa of Allah in one’s financial transactions and endeavors. Allah says, “O you who believe, do not devour usury multiplied many times over. Fear Allah so that you may prosper. Have fear of the fire which has been prepared for the kafirun (those who deny the truth). And obey God and the Messenger, so that you may be shown mercy” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:130-132).

           The only sin mentioned in the Qur’an in which war has been declared by Allah and His Messenger against those who commit it, is the heinous sin of usury (riba). “O you who believe, fear Allah, and give up what is still due to you from usury (riba), if you are true believers. If you do not do so, then know that you are at war with Allah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your capital; do not wrong others and you will not be wronged.”(al-Baqarah, 2:278-279).

    What is riba? It is an Arabic word meaning increase, addition, excess or growth. In the terminology of the Qur’an, it signifies any unlawful addition, by way of interest, to a sum of money or goods lent by one person or institutions to another. Therefore, riba is earned when a person or institution lends its capital to another on the condition that after a certain time it would charge a fixed amount of money in addition to its capital. This additional amount, which is riba (interest), is a consideration not for any labor or commodity but of the time for which the principle has been borrowed.

           Of all prohibitions legislated in the Qur’an, riba was the last of them. Ayat 275 to 281of Surat al-Baqarah lay down the concept of riba and its prohibition. It appears that riba was incorporated as the last and final sin in the last and final Book of Allah because no other sin including polytheism (shirk) has been condemned in such stern and harsh terms as has been the sin of riba. According to Sheikh Imran Hussein, a well-known Muslim scholar, and an authority on the subject of riba, if the poison of riba is allowed to be injected in someone, he will be paralyzed and his enemy will be able to take control of him.

           Sheikh Imran Hussein argues that the concept and implication of riba was explained by Allah (SWT) even before the introduction of the term riba. He bases his argument on the ayah “And that man will only have what he has worked towards” (al-Najm, 53:39), and contends that if one does not plant, one does not reap. The money lender does not plant, and yet he reaps without making any effort. As a matter of fact, this practice has been institutionalized by banks. Thus, the money lenders and bankers live on the sweat and toil of others. This, according to the Qur’an is zulm (injustice).

           The economy is controlled by the banking industry, which is based on riba, and as a consequence of this, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Here in America, the financial crisis of 2008 saw the bankers, instead of being brought to book, go scot free, while the masses suffered the agonies of economic recession, unemployment, layoffs, escalating prices, and forced eviction from their mortgaged houses.

           The institution of riba had become a part and parcel of the economic system of the people of Arabia in the Pre-Islamic days—as is also as the case today. Riba was eradicated from the economy of Medina before the Prophet (SAW) passed away. Allah (SWT) revealed His commandments about the prohibition of riba in stages (like that of the prohibition of alcohol) so that it might not upset the economic life of the people and cause unnecessary inconvenience and hardship to them. The stage-by-stage divine method of dealing with riba in the Qur’an consists of three distinct stages: (1) Education concerning the evil of riba, but with no legislation prohibiting riba. The language which is used is mild, and its basic purpose is to teach; (2) Legislation prohibiting riba while yet refraining from enforcement of the legislation, as the process of education continues, and the believers are expected to be able to recognize the evil of riba; (3) Retroactive enforcement of the legislation prohibiting riba through sanction for waging war to eradicate riba and provide debt relief.

           The first injunction of the Qur’an lays stress upon the fact that riba does not increase individual or national wealth, but on the other hand, it decreases wealth. During the Meccan era while the subject of riba being introduced, “Whatever you lend out in usury to gain in value through other peoples wealth will not increase in Allah’s eyes, but whatever you give in zakah (alms)desiring Allah’s pleasure will be multiplied” (al-Rum, 30:39) the term zakah was understood to mean voluntary charity. In contrast to riba, charity involves giving and taking nothing in return. This phenomenon is explained in Surat al-Insan, where the attitude and conduct of people seeking Allah’s pleasure through their charitable deeds is portrayed. “We feed you for the sake of Allah, desiring neither recompense nor thanks”(al-Insan, 76:9). The gradual injunctions regarding riba culminating in its complete prohibition in Medina was well understood by the sahaba. While giving up all usurious transactions, they began instead to practice charity with no other motive than to seek the pleasure of Allah.

           In the second injunction, the Muslims are also warned to obey Allah’s command regarding interest or suffer the same fate as the Jews who were forbidden in their scripture to take interest but they continued to do so. “And because of their practicing usury when they were forbidden to do it, and because of their consuming people´s wealth by wrongful means, We have prepared for those who reject faith among them a painful punishment” (al-Nisa’, 4:161).

           In the third injunction, the Muslims are told not to take compound interest if they want real success in life. “O you who believe, do not devour usury multiplied many times over. Fear Allah so that you may prosper” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:130).

           The Qur’an distinguishes between trade and riba (interest) and points out that whereas legitimate trade or industry increases the prosperity and stability of men and nations; a dependence on usury would merely encourage a race of idlers, cruel blood-suckers, and worthless fellows who do not know their own good and therefore are like those who are driven to madness. Then it admonishes the believers to refrain from interest or else they shall suffer evil consequences both in this world and in the Hereafter. “Those who practice usury will not rise from the grave except as someone driven mad by Satan´s touch. That is because they say, ´Trade is the same as usury.´ But Allah has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury...” (al-Baqarah, 2:275-276). While business (bay’) involves the possibility of both profit and loss, the possibility of loss is totally eliminated in riba. Risk-free venture is not business, and that is the fundamental difference between bay’ (business/trade) and riba (usury/interest). Therefore riba does not qualify as business.

           The final injunction prohibited interest and declared it unlawful in a Muslim Society. “O you who believe, fear Allah, and give up what is still due to you from usury, if you are true believers. For, if you do not do so, then know that you are at war with God and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may retain your capital. Do not wrong and you will not be wronged. If the debtor is in difficulty, then delay things until matters become easier for him; still, if you were to write it off as an act of charity, that would be better for you, if only you knew” (al-Baqarah, 278-280).

           Among the established facts that riba corrupts society, implies improper appropriation of other people’s property, contributes to negative growth, demeans and diminishes human personality, and is grossly unjust, one of the wisdoms behind its prohibition is to let the wealth circulate in the economy rather than remain amassed and stagnant in the hands of the rich—of those who themselves lead opulent life-styles, but subject the masses to economic slavery and oppression. This is why while laying down the laws of distribution of spoils of war (ghaneemah), Allah says, “Whatever booty Allah gives to His Messenger from city dwellers belongs to Allah and to the Messenger and to near relatives and orphans and the very poor and travelers, so that it does not circulate between the rich among you…” (al-Hashr, 59:7).

           According to the economic system of Islam, genuine ownership of everything in this universe belongs to Allah (SWT) and not to an individual, a group of people, or even nations. The Qur’an explains this concept very clearly by saying, “Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Allah and, whether you reveal or conceal your thoughts, Allah will call you to account for them”(al-Baqarah, 2:284). Allah (SWT) is the Provider (al-Razzaq). The system of distribution of wealth that He has laid out ensures equitable distribution of resources. As against riba, the element of risk in business ensures that wealth keeps changing hands. This is the Islamic model of economy. But unfortunately, this is nowhere in practice, except may be, here and there, in bits and pieces.

           The enormity of the sin of riba regardless of the actual amount involved in the usurious transaction, has been emphasized in many Prophetic traditions one of which says, “Allah has cursed the one who consumes riba, the one who gives it, the one who witnesses over it, and the one who writes down the transaction.” Another hadith says, “A dirham of riba which a man receives knowingly is worse than committing adultery thirty-six times.” Riba is one of the seven major sins as is mentioned in a hadith that says, “Avoid the seven noxious things: associating anything with Allah, magic, killing one whom Allah has declared inviolate without a just cause, consuming the property of an orphan, devouring riba (interest), turning back when the army advances, and slandering chaste women who are believers but naïve (innocent).”

           Living in a predominantly non-Muslim country where the usurious banking system is the norm, and where it is indeed difficult to avoid the filth of riba, yet this should not be a justification for Muslims to deliberately deal in usurious transactions. In America, unlike a decade or two ago, quite a few Islamic financial institutions are now in operation. These institutions, although they may not be fully Shari’ah compliant, as of now, because of the all-embracing usurious climate of the predominant economic system, yet they are better to work with than normal banks. We should avoid and resist riba at all cost. If we are sincere in our intentions and have the taqwa of Allah, He will find a way out for us and provide us from sources that we cannot even imagine. “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will find a way out for him (of every difficulty), and will provide for him from an unexpected source” (al-Talaq, 65:3).

           No one is perfect, but those who are from the people of taqwa, do not persist in their sins. When they remember Allah (SWT), they immediately perform a good deed to outweigh the negative effects of a bad one. So, “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are and follow up a bad deed with a good deed, it will wipe it out. And behave towards the people with a good behavior.”

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

     

  • Synopsis of the Eid al-Fitr (Aug 8, 2013) Open or Close

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           We have gathered here this morning on this blessed day of Eid al-Fitr to exalt, glorify, praise, and thank Allah for His infinite blessings. We thank Allah for giving us the will, the strength and the endurance to observe fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. We rejoice and celebrate the joy of Eid in the celebration of the One God—Allah (SWT). This expression of joy is to show our gratitude to Allah for his bounties, favors and mercy upon us.“Say: ´It is the bounty of Allah and His mercy that should be the cause of their rejoicing. That is better than anything they accumulate” (Yunus, 10:58).

           “It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful” (al-Baqarah, 2:185).

           We learn in light of the above ayah that Allah instituted fasting (al-siyam) in the month of Ramadan and made it an obligatory mode of worship. The Qur’an, which contains divine guidance for mankind was also revealed in the month of Ramadan. We have to be thankful to Allah for these blessings. People who could not fast for reasons of illness or travelling should make up those fasting days as soon as possible and in any case before the next Ramadan, unless they have been exempted from fasting because of chronic illness or weakness or mental infirmity of old age, in which case they have to pay a ransom (fidya) for the missed days without the obligation to make up for the missed days. These prescribed days of fasting are like a debt (dayn) that we owe to Allah and have to pay back to Him.

           We are among the most blessed people in the world for the simple reason that we have been guided to Islam, the only way of life (deen) with which Allah is pleased. “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” ” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). We have to ensure that we live Islam; that we honor and exalt Allah, and that we thank Him.

           The best way we can show and continue to show our gratitude to Allah is to continue the ‘ibadah of supererogatory (nawafil) prayers and fasting, even after Ramadan. It is learnt from the Sirah of the Prophet (SAW) that he stood in voluntary night prayers so long that his legs used to get swelled. When his wife Ayesha (RA) asked him as to why he was doing this to himself, he said, “Should I not be a thankful slave of Allah?” To show our gratitude to Allah, we too should continue this practice of offering voluntary prayers in the night; especially the tahajjud prayers and observe voluntary fasts. There is a hadith Qudsi that says, “Every deed of a son of Adam is for himself, except fasting - it is for Me, and I reward for it.”

           Another thing we learned from Ramadan is spending in the way of Allah. With Allah’s tawfiq, each one of us in our own small way was able to contribute in His path. This included charities given to Islamic institutions, Islamic centers, Islamic schools, Islamic organizations, and other Islamic projects, and also to the indigent and needy people. There is a clear Qur’anic mandate that says, “Help one another in goodness and in piety. Do not help one another in sin and transgression” (al-Ma’idah, 5:2).

           Thus, the three main highlights of Ramadan are fasting, nightly prayers, and spending (siyam, qiyam, and infaq). We have to live with these practices to show our gratefulness to Allah. This is to our advantage because being grateful to our Lord (Rabb) increases His blessings upon us. “Remember also the time when your Lord declared, If you are grateful, I will surely bestow more favors on you” (Ibrahim, 14:7).

           Fasting has been legislated so that we may attain the taqwa of Allah. The very objective of fasting, as mentioned in the Qur’an is to attain taqwa. To have taqwa means to be conscious and mindful of Allah. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you — so that hopefully you will have taqwa” (al-Baqarah, 2:183). Ramadan drew us closer to Allah. Even after Ramadan, we need to remain close to Him. We need Him. He does not need us. 

           Ramadan also brought in its wake the value of discipline. Fasting from dawn to sundown, we had to follow a rigorous timetable of taking predawn meal (suhoor), fast-breaking meal (iftar), nightly prayers (tarawih / tahajjud / qiyam), besides the five daily prayers, recitation of the Qur’an, and attending to other daily routine mundane duties. All these had to be carried out in their allotted times. Such discipline emerging out of the spiritual boot camp of Ramadan has to be maintained after Ramadan as well.

           Ramadan also taught and trained us to exercise patience (sabr). Fasting is a lesson in self-restraint and patience. The Prophet (SAW) named Ramadan as shahr ul- sabr or the month of patience, because one has to remain patient by restraining oneself even from the lawful such as eating, drinking, and spousal relations, among other things. We learn through a hadith that addressing the young people, the Prophet (SAW) said, “O young men! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, because it will be a shield for him.” This is because fasting would diminish his sexual power.

           It is Sunnah to fast six days of Shawwal (the lunar month following Ramadan). According to a hadith, “Whoever fasts Ramadan, and follows it with six days of Shawwal will be rewarded as if one had fasted the entire year.” Other recommended days to fast as per the practice of the Prophet (SAW) are Mondays and Thursdays. Here at IONA, there is a weekly program called ‘Fast and Learn,” in which people from the community, especially the youth, get together every Thursday and share their meals by breaking their fasts together. They also study the Qur’an in congregation. This is highly conducive to help members of the community to maintain the spirit of Ramadan. Other days of fasting may include the first ten days of Zul-Hijjah, the tenth day of Muharram (Ashura) followed by another day preceding or following it, and the three white days (ayyam al-beedh) corresponding to the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every lunar month.

           We also cultivated good manners in the month of Ramadan. We guarded our eyes, ears, and mouths by avoiding seeing evil, hearing evil, and speaking evil. According to a hadith, “Whoever does not give up false speech and false actions and ignorance, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”

           Ramadan also united us and brought us closer as a community. “Hold fast to God’s rope all together; do not split into factions” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:103). Sheikh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah is reported to have said, “The welfare of people will not be complete – neither in this world, nor in the Hereafter – except with ijtima` (collectiveness), ta`awun (mutual co-operation), and tanasur (mutual help); mutual co-operation in order to secure benefits, and mutual help in order to ward off harm. It is for this reason that man is said to be social and civil by nature.” Thus, Ramadan is a time to increase our sense of unity and brotherhood and our commitment to Allah and His deen—Al-Islam. The whole idea behind Ramadan is that when we exit from Ramadan, we are geared to truly work hard to make Allah supreme. But, how do we make Allah supreme? It is not just by uttering Allahu Akbar (takbeer), but by actually engaging oneself in real activism. Are we ready after a whole month of rigorous training to take up our real task—to serve humanity and to do amr bil ma’ruf wa nahi ‘anil munkar (enjoining virtues and forbidding evil).

           We learn through a Prophetic hadith that “The most beloved of deeds according to Allah are the continuous ones, even if they are little.” It is very important to have clear intent during acts of worship and establish consistency, rather than going overboard and then leaving the acts of worship all together. We have to try our level best to remain consistent in our acts of worship and not let all the benefits we derived from Ramadan get wasted. There may be some who know Allah only during Ramadan, and then become oblivious of Him. We have to strive to be like a Rabbani (God-conscious believer) throughout the entire year.

           What is the proof that our siyam, qiyam, infaq, and other good deeds that we did during the month of Ramadan have been accepted by Allah? This can only be known through self- monitoring. If whatever we learned during Ramadan is in practice even after Ramadan, then this means that our acts of worship (‘ibadat) in Ramadan were accepted. God forbid, if one remains indulged in sinful activities even after undergoing a month’s thorough training during Ramadan, then it is most likely that such a person has forsaken Allah. It is crucial that we continue to be guided as we were guided during Ramadan, because it is the lasting good works that are most rewarding. “Allah increases His guidance to those who follow guidance; and lasting good works are better in the sight of your Lord and are most rewarding” (Maryam, 1976).

           We have just exited the month of countless blessings.“If you tried to count Allah’s blessings you could never calculate them” (Ibrahim, 14:34).These blessings can continue if we continue to do what we were trained to do in Ramadan—striving for excellence in our devotion to Allah. According to a hadith, “He who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord.” According to another hadith, “Paradise has eight gates. One of them Al-Rayyan; only the fasting people (ahl ul-siyam - people who used to perform fasting during their lives) can come through it.” Rayyan also means ‘source of irrigation’. The name of the gate itself means that it stands to quench the thirst of those Muslims who fast. Muslims, especially towards the last ten days of Ramadan, begged Allah (SWT) to forgive them. One of the Prophetic supplications they made was, “O Allah! You are the Forgiver and You like forgiving; so forgive me” (Allah humma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘anni). May Allah (SWT) forgive us all and accept our worship and deeds. May He also help the Muslims everywhere and increase us in Iman and Taqwa, ameen.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

     

  • Calling on Allah and Responding to Him (Part 2) (August 2, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           Today’s khutba is a continuation of last week’s khutba on the topic: ‘Calling on Allah and Responding to Him’. Ayah 186 of Surat al-Baqarah forms the core subject of our discussion. It states, “When My servants ask you about Me, say that I am near. I respond to the call of one who calls, whenever he calls to Me.” Today’s discussion will focus on the second part of the same ayah, “let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided”

           This ayah tells us that Allah responds to the call of the one who calls Him, but the caller should respond to Him too, and believe in Him. To be able to respond to Allah, one has to know what Allah wants from him. This can only be known through the Qur’an, which mentions all that is to be known. But, this would require a person to read the Book of Allah in its entirety, paying attention to each and every word. This, in present times, is usually difficult for most people because of their busy lifestyles and constraints on time.

           This problem, however, can be overcome by benefiting from the advice of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA) who is reported to have said that special attention should be paid to the ayat that begin with “O people” (Ya Ayyuhannas) or “O you who believe” (Ya Ayyuhallazeena Aamanu) because Allah is addressing us directly in these ayat, and therefore, we better listen. These two styles of addresses appear in the Qur’an 20 and 89 times respectively. By reading these ayat, we can find out what Allah wants from us, and then we can respond to Him accordingly.

           A section of the Qur’an comprising of four ayat (102 to 105) from Surat Aal ‘Imran, somewhat summarizes what Allah wants from us. “O you who believe, be conscious of Allah as is His due and die not except as Muslims (ones who have surrendered completely to Allah). And holdfast, all together, to the rope of Allah and be not divided. And Remember Allah's favor on you when you were (once) enemies and He joined your hearts and became brothers by His grace. You were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you so you may be guided. And let there be a group from among you that calls to goodness, and ordain what is right and forbid what is wrong. And those are the successful ones. Do not be like those who, after they had been given clear evidence, split into factions and differed among themselves: a terrible punishment awaits such people” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102-105).

           At the individual level, Allah wants us to have His taqwa, which means that we become righteous and pious, and remain conscious of Him. This is to prepare us for our ‘real task’ that lies ahead, but to be able to embark upon that task, we are told to collectively hold on fast to the Qur’an, and to not get divided. We are asked to remain united, as we are members of one single Muslim ummah. As a matter of fact, Muslims do remain divided on the basis of their race, nationality, language and cultural backgrounds.

           To emphasize the importance of leaving behind all traces of tribalism, nationalism, and racism (‘asabiyyah) and to remain united, the Prophet (SAW) addressing a multitude of believers in his farewell sermon during Hajjat ul Wida’ said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa). Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.” Taqwa is something that is hidden. It is a state of the heart known only to Allah.

           In another hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said, “He is not one of us who calls for ‘asabiyyah or who fights for ‘asabiyyah, or who dies for ‘asabiyyah.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are witnessing in Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and other parts of the Muslim world—Muslims fighting each other and killing each other. There is no problem of being proud of one’s cultural heritage, but the same should not override one’s faith. We are Muslims first, and then we are who we are. After all, differences of race and tribe among people have been made by Allah Himself so that people may recognize each other. This diversity among human beings is something to be celebrated, and not something that should cause enmity among them. “O mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah´s sight is the one with the most taqwa. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (al-Hujurat, 49:13).

           The ummah has to remain united under the banner of la ilaha illallah. Then only it is possible to collectively embark upon the real task—the task of calling people towards what is right and good and forbidding them from what is wrong and evil. “Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong”(Aal ‘Imran, 3:104). A community or group has to rise from within the larger ummah to carry out this obligation entrusted upon the Muslim ummah. This would entail calling Muslims back to the Qur’an (da’wah ruju’ ilal Qur’an), and calling non-Muslims to Islam. Most Muslims, even though they may be praying, and fulfilling their other modes of worship, have either strayed away from or are unaware of the Qur’anic injunctions and guidance pertaining to different spheres of life, whether moral, ethical, personal, social, economic, or political.

           Before we go out to make da’wah to non-Muslims, the first and foremost people worthy of our da’wah are those who are close to us. This is the Prophetic methodology. The Prophet (SAW) began his da’wah with his own kith and kin and others who were very close to him. The invitation to come back to the Qur’an is invitation to all that is good. “Say: ‘It is the blessing and mercy of Allah; so rejoice in it. It is better than all that you amass’” (Yunus, 10:58). The ‘blessing and mercy of Allah’ mentioned in this ayah refers to the Qur’an, which is indeed better than all the wealth than one can accumulate.

           The non-Muslims have to be called to Islam. This has been the call of all the prophets and messengers of Allah. They all invited their people to the worship of One God. “O my people worship God; you have no other god but Him” (al-A’raf, 7:73). As Muslims, we have a responsibility toward all our brothers and sisters in humanity. This is because Allah sent prophets and messengers, specifically for their nations, their tribes, or their people. It was only Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the last and final messenger of Allah who was sent for the entire humankind for all times to come. Since the institution of prophethood has come to an end after his demise, the responsibility of guiding humanity now devolves upon the Muslims. The Prophet’s words said during his last sermon also accentuate the obligatory nature of da’wah work. He said, “All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.”

           Inviting people towards good is not enough unless it is complemented by forbidding them from evil. This is crucial because of the evil all around us. The shayateen among jinns and ins (humans) are busy corrupting people’s minds, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Social evils have spread like wild fire. There is a sharp decline in the standards of morals and universal values such as honesty, truthfulness, and trustworthiness among individuals as well as institutions. At the same time, bigotry, racism, and other malpractices and vices are on the rise everywhere. Drinking, drugs, gambling, prostitution, and all types of blatantly obscene activities (fawahish) are contributing to breakdown of families. Who are the people behind all this?

           Who are the people responsible for dragging our country into senseless wars and failing economies? Who are the people who have made our financial institutions breed on greed and have caused the gap between haves and have-nots to widen? Who are the evil geniuses behind the entertainment industry who under the garb of entertainment have devised provocative and sensational ways and means to make people get addicted to pornography and illicit sex? Who is behind the potent ‘Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender’ (LGBT) movement which now has its own insignia and flag? Even the Catholic Church has caved in to this wicked movement with the Pope publicly declaring, “Who am I to judge them?”

           Who are these devils who have declared war with Allah and His messenger and are spreading mischief and corruption on the earth? They are none but the devils among men; the human agents of Shaytan. They leave no stone unturned to ruin people’s lives both in this world, and the next. “We have assigned for every prophet an opponent, Satans from among men and jinn” (al-An’am, 6:112). Allah does not like such mischief makers. “And Allah does not love the evil-doers (mischief makers and corrupters)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:64). What are we as Muslims supposed to do in this situation? In compliance of the divine command that says, “Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong,”(Aal ‘Imran, 3:104), we have to stand up against this gigantic storm that has come up our way.

           Muslims are duty bound to fight evil (munkar). The Prophet (SAW) said, “He who amongst you sees something evil should change it with his hand; and if he does not have enough strength to change it, then he should change it with his tongue, and if he is unable to do it, (even) then he should abhor it from his heart, and that is the least of faith.”

           This ummah has been produced to serve humanity, and therefore it is our prime responsibility to command all that is good and forbid all that is evil (‘amr bil ma’ruf wa nahi ‘anil munkar). “You are indeed the best ummah evolved for mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong, and believe in Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110).

           The Qur’an repeatedly warns us that past nations who did not pay heed to Allah’s prophets and messengers, and kept committing major sins were utterly destroyed. “When We decide to destroy a town, We command those corrupted by wealth [to reform], but they [persist in their] disobedience; Our sentence is passed, and We destroy them utterly” (al-Isra’, 17:16). The humanity as of now is not going to be completely destroyed by divine punishment despite the evil, mischief, corruption, and transgressions of evil-doers, because Allah says, “We never punish until We have sent a Messenger” (al-Isra’, 17:15), and there is no prophet or messenger to come after Muhammad (SAW). The mischief makers, therefore, carry out their evil designs with impunity. They will be dealt with and taken to task on the Day of Judgment.

           However, being the last ummah, we have been entrusted to change the condition of the people for the better, and this is not possible if we do not change ourselves from within. There is hardly an evil that is not found in the Muslim community. We have to keep in mind that unless we change ourselves, we cannot change the society at large. The Prophet (SAW) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be answered."

           Basically, it is through fulfilling the obligation of enjoining good and forbidding evil that we respond to Allah (SWT). This is the basic implication of the text “let them, then, respond to Me” (falyastajeebuli).

           As for the text that says “and believe in Me” (walyu’minubi), the implication is that we should be calling only on Allah and not turning towards others for help. Unfortunately, there are Muslims who turn to dead saints, angels, palm-readers, fortune-tellers, and their like seeking their advice, help or intercession. To believe in Him is to truly believe in His attributes. Among such attributes al-Razzaq (the Provider), al-Shafi (the Healer), al-Rahman (the Merciful), and al-Mujib (the One who answers prayers).

           Belief in Allah is not just lip-service. It has to be deep rooted in the heart. Then, with conviction (yaqeen) in our hearts, we need to fulfill our duties to Allah and respond to Him. And all this has to be done not only at an individual level, but also at a collective level. This calls for organizing ourselves into a jama’ah. People who strive in this direction are those who will be rightly guided. The call of our predecessors as recorded in the Qur’an used to be, “Lord, we have heard a caller calling to the true faith saying, Believe in your Lord, and we believed. Lord, forgive us our sins and remove from us our bad deeds and make us die with the virtuous. Our Lord! Grant us what You have promised to us through Your messengers, and do not humiliate us on the Day of Resurrection. Surely, You never fail to fulfill Your promise.”(Aal ‘Imran, 3:193-194). Allah responded to them. “Their Lord accepted their prayer, saying, I will deny no man or woman among you the reward of their labors. You are members one of another. I will certainly forgive the sins of those who emigrated and were expelled from their homes, who suffered persecution in My cause, who fought and were killed. I will certainly admit them to Gardens through which rivers flow, as a reward from God: with God is the best reward” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:195). Enjoining good and forbidding evil is not an easy task.

           Rather than procrastinate our God-ordained obligations, we should live with a sense of urgency because once that day comes, there is no turning back. “So set your face firmly towards the True Deen, before a Day comes from Allah which cannot be turned back” (al-Rum, 30:43). There will be no refuge and no denial of one’s doings. “Respond to your Lord before a Day comes from Allah which cannot be turned back. On that Day you will have no refuge and no means of denial” (al-Shura, 42:47).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Calling on Allah and Responding to Him (Part 1) (July 26, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           The objective, wisdom, and rulings of fasting during the month of Ramadan are mentioned in ayat 183 to 189 of Surat al-Baqarah. Ayah 183 says, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may have taqwa” (al-Baqarah, 2:183). And ayah 189 says, “They ask you about the phases of the moon…” (al-Baqarah, 2:189).

           Incidentally, ayah 186 that lies just in the middle of these ayat broaches a subject that may not appear relevant to the topic or ruling of fasting (siyam), but in fact it is. The ayah states, “When My servants ask you about Me, say that I am near. I respond to the call of one who calls, whenever he calls to Me: let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:186). Ramadan, as we know, is a very blessed month. It is not only the month of fasting. It is also the month of the Qur’an, the month of charity, the month of kindness and compassion, the month of patience, and the month of supplication (du’a). This is the month when we consciously supplicate to Allah more than any other time. During the nights of Laylat ul-Qadr, we beseech Him to pardon us. A Prophetic supplication for this occasion is, “O Allah You are the One who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me” (Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun; tuhibbul ‘afwa; fa’fu ‘annee).

           It is narrated that the Prophet (SAW) on being asked by a Bedouin about the whereabouts of Allah, replied that Allah was in the Heavens on His throne, and then the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have recited the ayah, “The All-Merciful, established firmly upon the Throne” (Ta Ha, 20:5). It is said that it was on this occasion that ayah 186 of Surat al-Baqarah was revealed. There is another scholarly opinion that ayah 186 was revealed when the Prophet (SAW) was asked if one had to scream one’s lungs out to make Allah hear as He was very far off from the caller. And the ayah came down, “When My servants ask you about Me, say that I am near” (al-Baqarah, 2:186). Indeed, Allah is close by. We have in Surat al-Hadid, “He is with you wherever you are; He sees all that you do” (al-Hadid, 57:4).

           Supplication (du’a) means to invoke Allah for any help or need, whether it is for something of this world or the next. It is quite normal and justified in this worldly life to ask someone for something that one may need, but it is important that before we ask people, our first stop should be Allah. Based on our sincerity and intention, and His knowledge and wisdom, Allah will make things easy for us with or without a medium. According to a hadith, “Man should call upon Allah alone to provide for all his needs, so much so that even if a shoe-lace is broken, he should pray to Allah to provide him a shoe-lace, and if he needs salt, he should beseech Allah to send it to him.” Care should be taken however not to ask anyone about anything that has to do with things of the unseen (ghaybiyat) such as one’s future or fortune; otherwise one will fall into the grave sin of committing shirk with Allah.

           It is to Allah alone that we should supplicate for anything that has to do with the unseen, and this we are taught to do through Salat ul-Istikharah. Istikharah means to seek goodness from Allah. The one who does the Istikharah is asking Allah, the Knower of the unseen to guide him toward what is better for him in respect of any undertaking or important task that he intends to do. The meaning of the supplication is: “O Allah! I seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might) I seek strength and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and I do not have the power. You know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen…”

           As far as supplicating Allah for goodness in the hereafter is concerned, one may ask for Jannat ul-Firdaus. We learn through a Prophetic tradition that says, 'When you ask from Allah, ask Him for al-Firdaus…” One may also ask, for example, for being united with one’s loved ones in paradise, or for being blessed with the company of Muhammad (SAW) and so on.

           Du’a is a form of ‘ibadah. As a matter of fact, there is a hadith which says, “Du’a is ‘ibadah.” It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) after uttering these words, recited ayah 60 of Surat Ghafir, which says, “Your Lord has said, Call on Me, and I will answer your prayers. But those who are too arrogant to worship Me (‘ibadati) will certainly enter Hell, in disgrace” (Ghafir, 40:60).

           A hadith tells us that Allah responds to a believer’s du’a in three ways, “No Muslim who supplicates a supplication, that does not contain any sin or cutting of relations, Allah will grant him one of three things: either Allah will immediately respond to his supplication, or He may keep or store the answer for the Hereafter, or He will turn away from him an equivalent amount of evil or harm.”

           The latter part of ayah 186 of Surat al-Baqarah under discussion says, “let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:186). This means that calling on Allah and responding to Him go hand in hand. Responding to Allah means to help His cause. Some of the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and few exegetes such as Mujahid interpret the meaning of ‘let them then respond to me’ (fastajibuli) to mean ‘let them then obey me’ (falyouti’uli). This also implies that obedience to anyone should in no way result in the disobedience of Allah and His messenger.

           To find out what Allah needs from us, one has to read the entire Qur’an. In case, one is unable to do so because of constraint of time or otherwise, one should at least pay heed to all those ayat that begin with ‘O people!…” or “O you who believe!…” Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA) is reported to have said that special attention should be paid to the ayat that begin with “O people” or “O you who believe” because Allah is addressing us directly in these ayat, and therefore, we better listen.

           Ayat 102 to 104 of Surat Aal ‘Imran tell us, “O you who believe, be conscious of Allah as is His due and die not except as Muslims (ones who have surrendered completely to Allah). And holdfast, all together, to the rope of Allah and be not divided. And Remember Allah's favor on you when you were (once) enemies and He joined your hearts and became brothers by His grace. You were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you so you may be guided. And let there be a group from among you that calls to goodness, and ordain what is right and forbid what is wrong. And those are the successful ones” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102-104).

           The first thing that needs to be done individually is to carry out the modes of worship such as salah, zakah, siyam, hajj etc. Beyond that, there has to be total obedience of Allah and His messenger, unless there are obstacles in the way that are beyond one’s control. Yet, there has to be total conviction while saying, “You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help” (al-Fatiha, 1:5). This way, God willing, things will work out eventually.

           Once a believer worships and obeys Allah and is conscious of Him in all his actions and dealings, then he is commanded to hold on fast to the rope of Allah and not be divided. Muslims may be of different races, tribes, and different ethnic backgrounds, but they are all connected together as members of one community or nation (ummah).

           If we continue to be divided and if our Masajid and other institutions continue to be built on the basis of our ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, then we are bound to perish. We have the example of the two rival tribes of Medina—the Aus and the Khazraj who were engaged in constant blood feud in the days of ignorance (jahiliyyah). Allah says that they were on the brink of an abyss of fire. He rescued them from it; guided them, and made them brothers. We too have to remain united if we want to be guided. Getting trapped by our mentality of prejudices and tribalism (‘asabiyyah) is only going to disunite and weaken us at a time when we need to be absolutely united and strong, especially in the face of the ever-growing challenges the Muslim ummah is facing everywhere.

           It is only through unity that we can perform the ‘real task’ for which this ummah has been raised, which according to ayah 104 of Surat Aal ‘Imran is to call others to good; to enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong. Those who do this shall be successful. With the month of Ramadan coming to an end, we shall be graduating from a spiritual boot camp and going into the real world. With our batteries charged, and our taqwa raised, we have to move ahead to fulfill our duties and responsibilities. Our Ramadan should not end up being an exercise in futility.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

     

  • Ramadan – The Month of Giving and Receiving (July 19, 2013) Open or Close

    The month of Ramadan is the best month in the Islamic Calendar, because of the blessings one receives in it, if it is observed correctly. The fasting (siyam) in Ramadan is complemented with prayers (salah). The Qur’an that was revealed in Ramadan is meant to transform us from within into becoming God conscious humble slaves of Allah who are guided to paradise—the peaceful and safe eter-nal abode of unending bliss...Read more

  • The Qur’an in Ramadan (July 12, 2013) Open or Close

     

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            It is reported on the authority of Salman al-Farsi (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) addressed his companions on the last day of the month of Sha’ban, saying, “O People! A great month has reached you, a blessed month in which lay a night better than one thousand months. Allah has made the observance of fasting during the month as a compulsory duty, and the passing of its nights in prayer optional.” It is the month of Ramadan.

           One of the greatest blessings of this month is that the Qur’an, which is guidance for mankind, was sent down in it. “The month of Ramadan is the month when the Qur’an was sent down as guidance to mankind” (al-Baqarah, 2:185). Allah has guaranteed all those who follow this guidance that they shall neither have fear, nor shall they grieve. “Then when guidance comes to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will feel no fear and will know no sorrow” (al-Baqarah, 2:38).

           Indeed, the Qur’an is blessed. It was sent down on a blessed night—the ‘night of power’ (Laylat ul-Qadr) that is better than a thousand months. “Truly We sent it down on the night of power; and what will convey to you what the night of power is? The night of power is better than a thousand months” (al-Qadr, 97:1-3). Unfortunately, we tend to take the Qur’an very lightly. Do we really believe in it as we ought to believe in it? No! Had we truly believed in it, the Muslim ummah would not be in the state of fear, grief, and anxiety as it is today. This is because the actions, dealings, morals, and behavior of the multitude of Muslims are not quite in harmony with the teachings of the Qur’an. It is reported in one of the ahadith that once when the Prophet (SAW) said that there was going to be a fitnah (turmoil/ trial/ affliction), Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) asked him the way out of it, and the Prophet (SAW)’s succinct replied, “Kitabullah” (The Book of Allah).

           This is because the Qur’an, if approached sincerely and in earnest, transforms one from within. Rather than getting enslaved by their lustful desires, those who hold on to the Qur’an get purified by it. It purifies their thoughts, hearts, and deeds. One of the missions of the Prophet (SAW) was to purify his companions through the Qur’an. Indeed, he was the agent or the purifier in the process of purification. “It is He who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves who recites His revelations to them, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, for they had formerly been clearly misguided” (al-Jumu’ah, 62:2).

           If we are purified and changed from within, Allah (SWT) will change our condition for the better. This is the way of Allah (Sunnatullah). “Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves” (al-Ra’d, 13:11). It is Allah (SWT) who is in control and who is in charge, and not the powers that be. He does as He wills. He can change our condition whenever He wills. However, for us to desire a positive change in our state of affairs is not enough. We have first to make ourselves deserving of it.

           There can be no better time than the sacred month of Ramadan to take the initiative of getting connected with the Qur’an. Unless we do this, we would have missed the whole objective of Ramadan. Allah (SWT) does not want to punish us by asking us to abstain from food, drink, and spousal relations from dawn to dusk. Rather, the objective of fasting is to make us conscious of Him and grateful to Him for all His blessings that we so often take for granted. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of Allah” (al-Baqarah, 2:183). We are taught through prophetic traditions to praise and thank Allah on numerous occasions. For example, after taking a meal, we are advised to say, “Praise and thanks belongs to Allah, who fed us and quenched our thirst and made us Muslims.”

           The word Qur’an is a verbal noun (masdar) derived from the root letters qaaf-raa-hamza denoting ‘reading’ or ‘recitation’. Rather than being treated as a symbol of decoration, as is usually the case in many Muslim homes, the Qur’an is a Book that is meant to be read or recited. The Qur’an is known by many other names such as Al-Huda (The Guidance), Al-Kitab (the Book), Al-Nur (the Light), and so on. Allah chose ‘Al-Quran’ to be the formal name of the scripture revealed to Muhammad (SAW) just as He had earlier chosen the proper names of earlier scriptures as Al-Taurat, Al-Injil, and Al-Zabur.

           Indeed, the Qur’an is to be read; but it should not be read merely for the sake of reading it. Undoubtedly, there is virtue and reward (thawab) in reading it. But reading without understanding it and without following its teachings may become an exercise in futility, because neglecting its guidance may wipe of all the reward that one may have earned while reading it. This is because the sins one commits by not abiding by the injunctions of the Qur’an may well outweigh the rewards earned through just reading it. Reading of the Qur’an must be preceded by seeking Allah’s refuge from the accursed Satan. “When you read the Qur’an, seek Allah’s protection from Satan, the rejected one” (al-Nahl, 16:98).

           There are three different ways in which the Qur’an can be read or recited—through qira’a, through tartil, or through tilawah. Each of these three ways fulfills a particular function. The first way refers to simple reading. While this requires one to be able to read the Arabic script, it does not require knowledge of tajwid, which means giving every letter of the Qur’an its rights and dues of characteristics when reciting it and observing the rules that apply to those letters in different situations. Reading the Qur’an motivates one to learn the rules of tajwid, the basics of which can be learnt in a short while; perhaps an hour, but mastering the same calls for prolonged practice under supervision of a sheikh or scholar of tajwid.

           A step higher is to read with tartil, which according to Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) means that the Qur’an should be recited with tajwid and with due observance to the rules of waqf (pausing or stopping). Tartil is to recite the Qur’an in a slow, measured rhythmic tone. The Prophet (SAW) himself was asked by Allah to recite the Qur’an with tartil, “O you enwrapped one! stay up at night, except a little, half of it, or a little less, or a little more, and recite the Qur´an in a measured tone (tartil)” (al-Muzzammil, 73:4). Till the time of revelation of this particular surah, only a few ayat of the Qur’an of surahs al-Fatiha, al-‘Alaq, and al-Muddathir had been revealed. This implied that the Prophet (SAW) was being instructed to recite and repeat the recitation over and over again so that the Qur’an got hammered into his heart. Tartil also involves reflecting upon the divine words that are recited so that the Qur’an is internalized just as it had been internalized by the noble companions of Muhammad (SAW).

           The third way of reciting the Qur’an is through tilawah. Tilawah means to recite the Qur’an with the intention to follow it so as to be guided by it. “Those whom We have given this Book follow it as it ought to be followed” (al-Baqarah, 2:121). Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA) is reported to have said that special attention should be paid to the ayat that begin with “O people” or “O you who believe.” In such cases, we should immediately lend our ears to God’s words, for He is addressing us. Those who read and follow the Qur’an this way perforce call out, “We hear and obey” (al-Baqarah, 2:285).

           One of the subjective conditions of reciting the Qur’an is one’s intention (niyyah). Is it only to earn reward? Is it only to perform an intellectual exercise by exploring the numerous subjects it addresses? Our main intention should be to be guided by the Qur’an. Intention plays a very important part in how we approach the Qur’an. Ill intention could lead one astray, for Allah says, “He lets many go astray through it (the Qur’an), and guides many by it. But He makes only the disobedient go astray” (al-Baqarah, 2:26). Reciting the Qur’an is only one obligation among other obligations the Qur’an has on us. Reciting the Qur’an should be with the intention of understanding it. If we don’t understand the Qur’an, then we have missed the whole objective of the Qur’an. The Qur’an can be understood in two different ways: (1) tazakkur and (2) tadabbur. Both these modes of understanding are mentioned in the Qur’an.

           Tazakkur in the Qur’an means to understand its meaning as provided on the surface, and this is not difficult. In this sense the Qur’an is an easy book to follow. Allah tells us four times in ayat 17, 22, 32, and 40 of Surat al-Qamar, “And We made the Qur’an easy to learn. Do any of you wish to learn?” (al-Qamar, 54). For this, a basic knowledge of Qur’anic Arabic is required, and this is easy to acquire with a little effort.

           Tadabbur in the Qur’an is to dive deep into the Qur’an for the purpose of discovering the hidden treasure of knowledge and wisdom from the Qur’an. In this sense, it is the most difficult book because it is unfathomable. No one can claim to have found all the treasures of the Qur’an, even after devoting his whole life to its study. Tadabbur in the Qur’an makes it clear that the Qur’an cannot be the speech of anyone other than Allah. “Do they not ponder on the Quran? If it had been from anyone other than God, they would have found much inconsistency in it” (al-Nisa’, 4:82). Unlike the earlier scriptures, which are full of inconsistencies because of being manipulated through human intervention, the Qur’an is not only free of inconsistencies, but is preserved and safeguarded by Allah Himself. “Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it” (al-Hijr, 15:9).

           Only a deep understanding of the Qur’an can make one appreciate its splendor and grandeur. Allah makes this known to us through a parable because the greatness of the Qur’an is beyond human comprehension. “Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would certainly have seen it falling down and splitting asunder, because of the fear of God. We set forth these parables to men so that they may reflect” (al-Hashr, 59:21). Obviously, it is not the physical weight of any Qur’an that would crush a mountain. Rather, it is the weight of Allah’s speech contained in His Book that would conquer it, “We are going to deliver a weighty discourse upon you” (al-Muzzammil, 73:5). Imagine what this weighty discourse could do should we allow it to descend upon our hearts.

           Isn’t it regrettable that when it comes to using our intellect in routine worldly matters, we do it with such promptness and seriousness, but when it comes to understanding the Qur’an, our brains seem to get shut off and our hearts seem to get locked. “Will they not, then, ponder over this Quran? Or are there locks upon their hearts?” (Muhammad, 47:24).

           We need to open the Qur’an, read it, understand it, reflect upon it, and in sha Allah, we will be overwhelmed by it. This is what we need to do in this great month of Ramadan. The siyam in Ramadan is not merely a ritual but an act of worship and obedience (‘ibadah). Rather than wasting the precious moments of this blessed month, we should seek Allah through our ‘ibadat and righteous deeds. Allah does not need us. We need Him. The blessed month of Ramadan is our opportunity to seek Him.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • The Night Journey and Ascension (June 07, 2013 ) Open or Close

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           Muslims all over the world commemorate the occasion of ‘the Night Journey and Ascension’ (al-Isra’ wa’l-Mi’raj) around this time. This blessed event is mentioned in Surat al-Isra’. “Glory be to Him who took His slave on a journey by night from the Masjid al-Haram to the Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing” (al-Isra’, 17:1). Al-Aqsa means ‘the farthest’ and is called so because of the far distance of the mosque (referred to) in Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis) from the sacred mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram) in Makkah. This ayah is speaking about the miraculous night journey which took the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah to Jerusalem and thereafter to the farthest place in the heavens and back. This place is called the Sidrat ul-Muntaha (the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary), where no creation has or will ever reach, and where Muhammad (SAW) was brought to be in Allah’s divine presence.

           The first house of worship erected on the earth was the sacred mosque at Makkah. “The first House established for mankind was that at Bakka (Makkah), a place of blessing and guidance for all beings” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:96). Ibrahim (AS), who along with his son Ismail (AS) had erected this mosque (Ka’ba) had later after forty years built al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Both these mosques are considered holy, blessed and interlinked with one another, making it incumbent upon Muslims to protect their sacredness and sanctity from any intervention, invasion, destruction, or occupation—a trust (amanah) entrusted to the Muslim ummah.

           It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) said, “You should not undertake a special journey to visit any place (of worship) other than the three mosques: the sacred mosque of Makkah, this mosque of mine (in al-Madinah), and Al-Aqsa mosque (in Jerusalem).” According to another hadith, he (SAW) said, “The prayer prayed in the sacred mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram) is equivalent to one hundred thousand prayers, and the prayer in my mosque (al-Masjid al-Nabawi) is equivalent to one thousand prayers and the prayer in Jerusalem is equivalent to five hundred prayers.” These Prophetic traditions highlight the importance and significance of these three holy places of worship.

           The occasion of al-Isra’ wa’l-Mi’raj may be thought of as the transition from the Meccan phase to the Medinan phase. It represents a clear paradigm-shift in the mission of the noble messenger of Allah (SAW)—a shift from the peaceful and non-violent phase in Mecca to the confrontational and armed-conflict phase in Madinah. The specific date of this blessed night journey is not known. There are varying opinions. However, Imam al-Nawawi’s opinion that it took place on the 27th night of the month of Rajab prevails over other opinions, and is generally accepted by Muslims all over the world.

           There is no hadith, evidence from the Sunnah, or from the practice of the companions (sahaba) that emphasizes additional ‘ibadah on that particular night or the day preceding or following it. To do so with the intention that it will bring one closer to Allah is nothing but an innovation in deen (bid’ah). We are informed through a hadith that says, “…Beware of newly invented matters, for every invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is a going astray, and every going astray is in Hell-fire.” The occasion itself is very significant and invites us to remember it and draw useful lessons from it.

           During the ten long years of preaching in Makkah, the Prophet (SAW), his companions, and the small community of believers were subjected to all kinds of humiliation, abuses, imposition of economic sanctions, and boycott by the larger community of Makkah. As if this was not enough, following the deaths of his uncle Abu Talib and his beloved wife, Khadija (RA), both of whom had been supportive of him to their level best; plots were hatched to eliminate the Prophet (SAW). Cognizant of these developments, the Prophet (SAW) decided to move the base of his da’wah work from Makkah to al-Ta’if, a town in one of the suburbs of Makkah. Accompanied with Zayd ibn Haritha, he proceeded to al-Ta’if to spread God’s message, but alas only to be vehemently rejected by its cruel inhabitants. They drove the two out, pelting stones at them to the point that the Prophet (SAW) left al-Ta’if with his feet bleeding and his heart broken. This was one of the most difficult periods he had faced in his missionary work. Disappointed, dismayed, confused, and no one to turn to for support, he turned to his Lord with a lacerated heart to give vent to his wounded feelings in the following words: “O Allah! I appeal to you for the weakness in my strength, and my limited power, and the treatment of contempt and humiliation from people. To you, the most Merciful of all the Merciful ones, you are the Lord of the oppressed, and you are my Lord. Under whose care are you leaving me to? To an enemy oppressing me? Or to a friend you have given control of my affair? If there is no anger from you on me I will forever be content. However, your blessing is vastly important for me. I seek refuge with the glory of your light, which the heavens and earth are lit from that your anger does not befall on me, nor your displeasure descends on me. To you is the supplication until you are pleased, and there is no control or power except by you.”

           To pacify the Prophet (SAW), Allah (SWT) responded to this du’a in an unusual way. He called him to His Divine Presence; thus the occurrence of the night journey followed by the ascension, and the Prophet’s coming to the Divine Presence of the Lord of all worlds.

           Under the protection of a polytheist (mushrik) by the name of Mut’am ibn Ali, the Prophet (SAW) left al-Ta’if for Makkah. The stage was being set for the Prophet (SAW) and his followers to migrate from Makkah to Madinah. It was during this period of time that one night Jibril (AS) asked Muhammad (SAW) to mount a white, winged horse-like creature named Buraq. The Buraq took him to al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, where gathered together in one place were the prophets from Adam (AS) to ‘Isa ibn Maryam (AS). Muhammad (SAW) led them all in prayer, as a token of confirmation of being the seal of all prophets and messengers. From there Muhammad (SAW) and Jibril (AS) began the final leg of their journey, up to the heavens. This is known as the Ascension of the Prophet. While travelling upward toward his destination at Sidrat ul-Muntaha, the Prophet (SAW) met Adam, Yahya, ‘Isa ibn Maryam, Yusuf, Idris, Harun, Musa, and Ibrahim (peace be upon them all) at each of the seven heavenly stations as they affirmed and expressed faith in his Prophethood.

           At Sidrat ul-Muntaha, the Prophet (SAW) witnessed the ‘Much Frequented House (Bayt al-Ma’mur), a replica of the Holy Ka’ba on earth. It is said that seventy thousand angels encompass it every day while they are glorifying Allah (SWT). Engulfed in the glory and light of the Divine Presence, Muhammad (SAW) experienced an ineffable ecstasy.
           The gift of fifty daily prayers, which in consultation with Musa (AS) were reduced to five were given to the Prophet (SAW) and his followers. The reward of the reduced five prayers was kept equivalent to that of fifty prayers.

           Al-Isra’ wa’l-Mi’raj not only signifies the end of the period of persecution and passive resistance through transition to Madinah, but also signifies the role of leadership over Makkah and Jerusalem (al-Quds). It so happened that as a result of Bani Israel’s constant breach of their covenant made with Allah, and other crimes and transgressions, the two thousand years old leadership role of the ummah of Musa (AS)—the Bani Israel was transferred to the ummah of Muhammad (SAW). This happened just about two years after the hijrah bringing the history of Bani Israel to an end.

           This shift in leadership is very significant to Muslims because after Muhammad (SAW), it is the Muslims who assume the role of being in charge. Allah’s Sunnah of preferring one ummah over another is based on how it conducts itself. There was a time when Bani Israel was given preference over all other nations. This was followed by a time when Bani Israel fell into ignominy for rejecting the signs of Allah, for killing prophets without any justification, and for their disobedience and transgressions. “O Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you and favored you over other people” (al-Baqarah, 2:47).“They are stricken with disgrace wherever they are found, except through a rope (covenant) from God and a rope from the people. And they have incurred the wrath of God unto themselves and have been struck with with humiliation; that is because they have persistently disbelieved in God’s revelation and killed prophets without any right, all because of their disobedience and boundless transgression” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:112). Praising the newly installed ummah, Allah says, “You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and have faith in Allah” (Aal Imran, 3:110).

           Consequently, it behooves the Muslim ummah to be responsible for the safety, security, and protection of al-Masjid al-Aqsa and Palestine. The significance of the whole episode of al-Isra’ wa’l-Mi’raj can hardly be over emphasized. The incidents that took place during this journey show the significance of the occasion while providing useful lessons at the same time.

           The Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s leading other prophets and messengers in prayer at al-Masjid al-Aqsa signifies the importance of that land of the prophets. His meeting with Adam (AS), the father of all humanity (Abul Bashar) in the first heaven, and Adam (AS) pleading him to save his children from hell is also significant as the responsibility of conveying the message now devolves upon us Muslims. We become responsible today for guiding humanity to what pleases Allah, and to take people out of darkness into light.

           In the second heaven he came across the last two Prophets that came immediately before him—‘Isa (AS) and Yahya (AS). Meeting them was a reminder to be wary of the plots and conspiracies of those and their like who had killed Yahya and attempted to crucify ‘Isa ibn Maryam. This is a message and reminder to us to remain united, and to be one against the enemy.

           In the third heaven he was greeted by Yusuf (AS), the symbol of honor and purity. He, as the Qur’an informs us was put to severe trials by the wife of al-Aziz, who had tried to seduce him. A quick lesson to derive from here is to be cautious of the trials (fitan) of women who may tempt one away from the work of da’wah. This is all the more relevant in the promiscuous society of North America where we live and work. According to a hadith, “The world is sweet and green, and Allah having put you in it in your turn watches how you act; so protect yourself from the world and from women, for the first trial of Bani Israel was with women.”

           In the fourth heaven, the Prophet (SAW) met Idris (AS) about whom Allah says, “Mention Idris in the Book. He was a true man and a Prophet” (Maryam, 19:56). The lesson to be derived is that we have to be truthful, honest, and sincere in what we do, and to be with those who are truthful. The Qur’an exhorts us to have taqwa of Allah and to be in the company of the truthful. “O you who believe! Have taqwa of Allah and be with the truly sincere ones” (al-Taubah, 9:119).

           In the fifth heaven, there was a meeting with Harun (AS), the symbol of eloquence in speech. As a caller to Allah (da’ee), one has to be articulate and eloquent in what one presents to the people. As we learn from the Qur’an, Musa (AS) recognizing his own limitation of eloquence in speech had taken Harun (AS) along with him to Firaun and his followers as Harun (AS) was more fluent and expressive than him in speech.

           In the sixth heaven, the Prophet (SAW) met Musa (AS), who had been honored with talking directly with Allah (SWT). “And Allah spoke directly to Musa”(al-Nisa’, 4:164). This was a sign as if Allah was saying to Muhammad (SAW) that just as He had made Musa (AS) victorious over Firaun, so would He make him victorious over the Firaun of his ummah—Abu Jahl. And indeed this happened, for shortly afterwards, Abu Jahl and many of his followers were killed in the Battle of Badr. Allah (SWT) tells us that Musa (AS) was truly sincere. “And mention Musa in the Book. He was truly sincere and was a Messenger and a Prophet” (Maryam, 19:51). We too have to be sincere. We also need to understand the Firaun; the rebellious, the transgressors, and the false gods (taghut) of our times. It is the system of godlessness (ilhad) and disbelief (kufr) prevalent everywhere that we have to grapple with.

    `1       Some of the other useful lessons to be drawn are: (1) To maintain and guard our salah that keeps us mindful of Allah, and connected to Him; (2) To continue the mission of the Prophet (SAW) by holding on persistently to the work of da’wah assigned to this ummah. The way of life of truth has to prevail ultimately. “It is He (Allah) who sent His Messenger with the Guidance and the way of life of Truth so that He may make it prevail over all other ways of life, and Allah is sufficient as a witness” (al-Fath, 48:28); (3) To do whatever we can within our means as an ummah to protect al-Masjid al-Aqsa and see to it that it remains standing and functional; (4) To work with our Jewish, Christian, and Muslim brothers and sisters, and people of conscience from all walks of life in order to end the occupation of Palestine and to end the legacy of usurping lands and violating human rights therein.

           The boycott movement has gained momentum in the West. Academicians, artists, and politicians among others have joined hands to express their solidarity in trying to stop the greatest and most blatant injustice of our time. Falsehood cannot remain forever. It has to vanish and give way to truth. However, the struggle against falsehood takes its toll by way of hard work and sacrifice. We have to do our part and Allah (SWT) will do His. “No! We hurl the truth against falsehood, and truth obliterates it- see how falsehood vanishes away! …” (Al-Anbiya’, 21:18).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

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  • Ramadan (July 5, 2013) Open or Close

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           “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be conscious of Allah ” (al-Baqarah, 2:183). Just as fasting was the way (Sunnah) of all prophets and their followers, it is also the way of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his followers. It is one of the important modes of worship, as explained through a hadith that says, “Islam is built on five: (1) The declaration of faith that that there is no god but God and that Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of God; (2) ritual prayers (salah), (3) obligatory charity (zakah), (4) fasting in the month of Ramadan (siyam), and (5) pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj), once in a life time if one is physically and financially capable of doing so.” The objective of fasting, as mentioned in the Qur’an is to attain taqwa. To have taqwa means to be conscious and mindful of Allah (SWT).

           The Arabic word sawm means to abstain from something. Thus, while we fast, we do not only abstain from food, drink, and spousal relations from dawn to dusk, but also refrain from committing any type of sin. The meaning of sawm also extends to not talking. We learn from the Qur’an that Maryam (AS) did not speak to anyone when she returned with ‘Isa (AS) to the town. “Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, ‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today’” (Maryam, 19:26).There is no imposition on us not to talk. When required to do so, we should engage ourselves only in useful and beneficial talk. The tongue is to be kept moist with the remembrance (zikr) of Allah (SWT).

           Fasting has been ordained upon every sane, mature and adult Muslim who is able to fast. Minors, travelers, sick, elderly, and men who have to perform difficult jobs under harsh circumstances, and have no other means of livelihood may miss their fast. Also, women who are pregnant, or breast-feeding, or menstruating, or those who are having postnatal bleeding (lochia) do not have to observe the fast. There are those who can miss their fast and make up for the missed days at a later date, and others who can pay a ransom (fidya) for the missed days without the obligation to make up for the missed days. Fidya payments are meant to feed a poor person (miskeen) for each of the fasting days missed.

           Parents may encourage their young children to fast, even if it means fasting for small part of the time of the actual duration of fasting, which these days is 17 hours or so. This is in order to make them accustomed to this mode of worship, at an early age, just as parents are supposed to encourage them to pray from an age of seven, as known from prophetic traditions. Care must be taken to see that no hardship is imposed on young children while training them to fast, as they are not obligated to fast. We have to be compassionate toward them.

           The Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan. “It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind.” (al-Baqarah, 2:185). Fasting was also prescribed to be observed during the month of Ramadan. Therefore, whoever of you is present in that month, should fast (al-Baqarah, 2:185).

           What is the objective of fasting? The attainment of God consciousness (taqwa) is the main objective and wisdom of fasting. “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be conscious of Allah” (al-Baqarah, 2:183).

           Among the duties assigned to the Prophet (SAW) by Allah (SWT) was to teach people the Book (al-Kitab) and wisdom (hikmah). “It is He who has raised among the unlettered people a messenger from among themselves who recites His revelations to them, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, for they had formerly been clearly misguided” (al-Jumu’ah, 62:2). Al-Kitab in this ayah refers to the laws (al-ahkam), i.e., the do’s and the don’ts. Among the do’s is to fast during the month of Ramadan, and the wisdom behind prescribing fasting is the attainment of taqwa or God consciousness. Similarly the wisdom of prayers (salat) is the constant remembrance of Allah (SWT), as Allah says, “Establish salah to remember Me” (Ta Ha, 20:14). We fast because Allah commanded us to fast. As believers, “We listen and obey” (al-Baqarah, 2:285).

           The month of Ramadan is very special and unique. One has to fast during the day and stand in prayers during the night. In submission to the divine commands, and to earn Allah’s pleasure, one has to abstain even from certain lawful (halal) things such as food, drink, and intimate spousal relationship during fasting hours. With light and empty stomach, one’s craving for passions is also reduced dramatically, which is not so with a full stomach. Hence fasting is conducive to increase one’s self-restraint. The month long rigorous training of Ramadan and the piety (taqwa) that one achieves in it should hopefully enable one to live with piety even after Ramadan.

           Ramadan is also a month of spending (infaq); a month of sympathizing and empathizing with others. Charity in Ramadan is regarded better than giving charity outside Ramadan. The Prophet (SAW) called the blessed month of Ramadan ‘the month of kindness’ (shahr al-muwasat), which implies being compassionate and kind towards fellow human beings, especially the less fortunate ones among us. It is good to pay the obligatory charity (zakah) during the month of Ramadan. This ensures that one Islamic year (haul) has passed over the savings on which zakah is payable. It also guarantees the reaping of greater rewards from Allah (SWT).

           If the objective of fasting is to attain taqwa, as mentioned in Surat al-Baqarah, one of the traits of those who have taqwa (muttaqeen) is that they spend out of what Allah has provided them. “That is the Book, without any doubt. It contains guidance for those who have taqwa: those who have iman in the Unseen and establish salah and spend from what We have provided for them” (al-Baqarah, 2:2-3). There is a direct relationship between spending in the way of Allah and taqwa. The Qur’an makes it very clear that one cannot attain piety and righteousness (taqwa) without spending from what one loves “You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love. Whatever you give away, Allah knows it” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:92). And usually, what one loves and holds on to dearly is wealth.

           The Prophet (SAW) was known to be the most generous of people. However, we find him to be even more generous in the month of Ramadan than outside it. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, the Prophet (SAW) was more generous during Ramadan than the wind sent forth from heaven. The blessings and rewards one gets for one’s act of worship and good deeds are more in Ramadan than other times. Spending in the way of Allah is a meritorious act worthy of praise and multiplied rewards. This is illustrated in a beautiful parable in the Qur’an. “The parable of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is that of a grain which produces seven ears; in every ear there are a hundred grains. Allah gives such multiplied increase to whomever He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing” (al-Baqarah, 2:261). This 700 times increase is only by way of parable. Allah does not restrict His reward and depending upon a person’s sincerity (ikhlas) and intention (niyyah), the reward could be manifold over. Thus, the safest and the most profitable investment one can make is to spend in the way of Allah, especially during the month of Ramadan. We should support organizations that help less fortunate people on our behalf.

           It is one thing to expect a reward for a charitable deed. It is another thing to do an act just to seek the pleasure of Allah. The Qur’an makes mention of such people who while feeding the poor people say, “We feed you for the sake of Allah alone, we seek neither recompense nor thanks from you” (al-Insan, 76:9). Those who spend for Allah’s sake are ensured peace and tranquility from Allah (SWT)—something that all of us need and desire. “Those who give away their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow” (al-Baqarah, 2:274). As for the righteous believers (muttaqun), they give in times of ease and hardship; control their anger and forgive others. In return for this, they are promised forgiveness and paradise from their Lord (Rabb). “Race each other to forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people who have taqwa: those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people — Allah loves the good-doers” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:133-134). The conduct and behavior of a muttaqi is such that if somebody fights with him or abuses him while he is in a state of fasting, he ignores them and says, “I am fasting.” By losing patience and getting enraged and not exercising self-restraint, one may lose the benefits of fasting (siyam).

           We want Allah (SWT) to be forgiving and compassionate to us. Therefore, we have to be forgiving and compassionate to others, especially to those who have wronged us, and this is the highest state of taqwa. Such are the people who qualify for Allah’s love. “Allah loves those who do good” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93).

           Ramadan is also the month of mercy (Rahmah). Giving glad tidings about this month, the Prophet (SAW) said that it is the month, whose beginning is mercy, its middle forgiveness, and its end emancipation from the fire of hell. The Prophet (SAW) also said, “Save yourself from Hell-fire even by giving half a date-fruit in charity.” Ramadan is a month of seeking closeness to Allah. We should often supplicate during this month, especially before breaking our fast. Allah listens and responds to our du’as. “When My servants ask you about Me, say that I am near. I respond to the call of one who calls, whenever he calls to Me: let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:186). One of the Prophet (SAW)’s favorite du’as was. “O Allah, I ask You for pardon and well-being in this life and the next.”

           Ramadan is also the month of the Qur’an. “The month of Ramadan is the month when the Qur’an was sent down” (al-Baqarah, 2:185). Here on this earth, if we have anything of Allah, who is beyond time and space, and beyond our comprehension, we have His speech (Kalam) in the shape of the Qur’an. Therefore, reading the Qur’an, understanding it, and reflecting upon it is something that must be consciously undertaken during the month of Ramadan for our own purification and guidance. This way, we will find ourselves closer to Allah (SWT), and more peaceful within. If this positive change from within were to come on a collective basis, then our condition as an ummah will definitely change for the better, “Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves” (al-Ra’d, 13:11).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

  • Have Taqwa of Allah Wherever You Are (Part 2) (June 28, 2013) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is the second in the series of khutbas on the topic: “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are.” According to a hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Islam is public, whereas iman is in the heart.” Then he pointed to his chest three times, and said, “Taqwa is right here. Taqwa is right here.” Actions are manifest publicly, and faith, which is in the heart, does not become manifest. Taqwa, also, as discussed earlier, is in the heart. What is the connection or the relationship between iman and taqwa? An ayah of Surat al-Ma’idah explains this relationship. “Those who believe and do good deeds will not be blamed for what they may have consumed (in the past) as long as they are mindful of Allah (have taqwa), believe and do good deeds, and continue to be mindful of God (having more taqwa) and believe, and grow ever more mindful of God (having even more taqwa) and perfect their faith (Ihsan): God loves the Muhsineen (those who strive to perfect their faith)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93).

           Believers may be divided into three categories: the Muslimun, the Mu’minun (those who have reached a level of real iman), and the Muhsinun (those who have reached the level of ihsan). People from each one of these categories have taqwa, but at varying levels. The taqwa of Abu Bakr (RA), or of any of the top companions of the Prophet (SAW), for example, was at an exalted level that cannot be compared to anyone of us today. There were other companions, however, who belonged to other categories—Mu’minun and Muslimun. One’s level of taqwa is proportionate to one’s level of iman. The higher the level of taqwa, the higher is the level of faith (iman).

           We are told that the paradise is prepared for the Muttaqeen. “Race with one another towards forgiveness from your Lord and towards a paradise the width of which spans the heavens and the earth. It has been prepared for the (Muttaqeen) God conscious” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:133). The Mu’minun (true believers) are guaranteed success.“Successful indeed are the Mu’minun” (al-Mu’minun, 23:1). Hence the Muhsinun, being at a higher level than the Mu’minun, will by default qualify for success as well. The Muslimun (although have taqwa), however, are not guaranteed success like the earlier two categories. Allah (SWT) may pardon them and admit them into paradise or He may send them to hell for purging them of their sins before admitting them into paradise after the process of intercession of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We have no right to be judgmental as to who falls into which category. It is solely Allah’s prerogative to do so, for He knows and we do not know. We may, on the basis of apparent piety of a person, form a wrong opinion about him, but Allah knows the condition of every person’s heart. So, this issue should be left entirely to Allah.
           The Qur’an informs us about the traits of the people of taqwa. Their first conspicuous feature is outlined in the very beginning of Surat al-Baqarah. “This is the Book; there is no doubt in it. It is a guide for those who are mindful of Allah (Muttaqeen), who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided them with; those who believe in the revelation sent down to you and in what was sent before you, and firmly believe in the life to come. Such people are following their Lord’s guidance and it is they who shall be successful” (al-Baqarah, 2:2-5).

           The God conscious people spend in Allah’s cause in prosperity as well as in adversity. Ayah 134 of Surat Aal ‘Imran tells us, “The ones who give, both in prosperity and adversity, who restrain their anger and pardon people- Allah loves those who do good” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:134). Spending implies not only wealth but includes our time, our labor, our energy, our experience, our planning, and our priorities. So we have to ask ourselves how much we are spending from these things in the path of Allah and what priority does ‘deen’ have in our lives. People of taqwa also control their anger and do not even show that they are angry. They forgive others out of love, and this is something very difficult, because people generally tend to be unforgiving and vengeful.

           The following ayah outlines more traits, “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins - and who can forgive sins except Allah ? - And [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:135). Here immorality refers to all types of lewd, vulgar, and shameful deeds. A person wrongs himself when he commits sins because he puts himself in harm. We are not angels. We do commit sins—big or small; knowingly or unknowingly; intentionally or unintentionally. What is significant is how we react to our sins and misdeeds. The Muttaqi, as soon as he finds he has fallen into sin immediately remembers Allah (SWT) and asks for His forgiveness and his faith gives him hope. He abandons his wrong conduct and makes amends. He does not persist to do anything wrong that he may have done.

           In the event of having committed an evil deed, one should immediately try to follow it up with a good deed. This is in line with divine revelation. “Surely, Good actions eradicate bad actions” (Hud, 11:114). It is also in line with the Prophetic tradition, which is the subject of the topic under discussion. The hadith says, “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat the people with good behavior.”

           The people of taqwa fulfill their promises and honor their pledges and contracts. “Indeed Allah loves those who honor their covenants and fear Him. Allah loves the righteous” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:76). The same message is conveyed to us in Surat al-Baqarah. “And those who keep their word whenever they promise anything” (al-Baqarah, 2:177).

           While speaking about the blessed state in which the God-fearing, pious people will find themselves in the hereafter, Allah describes in Surat al-Dhariyat some of their special traits in this worldly life. “The people with taqwa will be among gardens and fountains, receiving what their Lord has given them. Certainly before that they were good-doers. They used to sleep but little in the night; and before dawn, they would seek forgiveness; and in their money was a portion for the beggar and the needy.”(al-Dhariyat, 51:15-19). Rather than wasting time over frivolous things and being in places where they should not be, especially during nights, people of taqwa sleep only a little, and are engaged for the rest of the night in worship and remembrance of their Lord, seeking forgiveness from Him. They are also conscious of the fact that those who are deprived of necessities have a right over their wealth, and hence they fulfill that right. Despite the natural propensity everyone has for wealth, the virtuous people (muttaqun) give away their wealth in various good causes as certified in Surat al-Baqarah. “The virtuous are those who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and those who ask [for charity], and to set slaves free” (al-Baqarah, 2:177). The same ayah informs us that such righteous and God-fearing people demonstrate patience in times of hardship and adversity. “And (they) show patience in hardship and adversity, and in times of distress. Such are the true believers; and such are the God-conscious”: (2:177).

           The Qur’an tells us that the reward of people who are righteous and steadfast and do good will never be wasted. “The truth is that Allah does not waste the reward of those who do good, who are righteous and steadfast” (Yusuf, 12:90). In order to have taqwa in our lives, it is necessary to be with the people who are truthful. They are the ones who are mindful of Allah (SWT). They help us to increase our iman and taqwa. Allah emphatically says, “O you who believe; have taqwa of Allah and be with those who are truthful” (al-Tawbah, 9:119). We are informed through an authentic hadith that, “A person follows the way (deen) of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” God forbid, if we were to befriend those who were unmindful of Allah (SWT), they would definitely take us away from the path of Allah.

           Allah (SWT) finds a way out for those who have taqwa, from every difficulty and provides them from sources they cannot even imagine. “And whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will find a way out for them and will provide for them from an unexpected source” (al-Talaq, 65:2-3). With such glad tidings, one should immediately stop all types of sinful, evil, and unlawful activities including indulging in usurious transactions, and sincerely repent to Allah seeking His forgiveness. Allah will extricate that person from the evil he or she may be indulged in and make his or her way smooth and blessed. Once we have implicit faith and trust in Allah, He will be sufficient for us.“Allah suffices for anyone who puts his trust in Him” (al-Talaq, 65:3). Allah (SWT) will also make things easy for those who are mindful of Him. “Allah makes things easy for those who are mindful of Him”(al-Talaq, 65:4). Additionally, He will erase the sins of the God-fearing person. “Whoever has taqwa of Allah – He will erase his bad actions from him and greatly increase his reward” (At-Talaq, 65:5).

           In reality, a true God conscious believer has nothing to lose as long as he or she is aware of his or her Lord wherever he or she may be—in private or in public; at home or at work. Allah (SWT) never abandons the people of taqwa. He is with them all the time. “Allah is with those who are righteous and those who do good” (al-Nahl, 16:128). This is a guarantee and a source of comfort for the righteous believers. “And who is truer to his promise than Allah?”(al-Tawbah, 9:111). We have to constantly remind ourselves of the hadith on taqwa that is the subject of our discussion. “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat the people with good behavior.”

           We have to be conscious of Allah and be careful of what we send ahead for tomorrow. “O you who believe! Be conscious of Allah, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; be conscious of Allah, for Allah is well aware of everything you do” (al-Hashr, 59:18). We have to be prepared for that grave day of accountability when we will be standing before our Lord, without any help from any quarter. The enormity of that day will be such that the closest of kin will be fleeing from each other as each one of them will have enough concern to keep him or her preoccupied. We have in Surat ‘Abasa, “On that Day a man shall flee from his own brother, his mother, his father, his wife and his sons, for each of them will be absorbed in concerns of their own on that Day” (‘Abasa, 80:34-37). Allah is well aware of everything we do. The intentions we make, the words we utter, and the actions we do are all being recorded moment by moment. It will be a grievous loss to be unmindful of Allah and to forget Him, for we are warned, “And do not be like those who forgot God, so He made them forget themselves. These are the disobedient ones”(al-Hashr, 59:19).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

     

  • Have Taqwa of Allah Wherever You Are (Part 1) (June 21, 2013) Open or Close

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           A Muslim is supposed to be a humble, obedient slave of Allah. He is required to mold his life, his values, his priorities, and his ambitions according to the command of his Lord. He must practice and preach the ideology and practical guidance of Islam to his fellow human beings. He should enjoin all that is good and forbid from all that is evil. Finally, he is required to try his utmost to establish God’s kingdom of heaven, here on earth, where divine justice reigns supreme.

           Islam is a deen or a comprehensive way of life that encompasses the individual as well as the collective spheres of life. In order to fulfill the obligations of our deen, one must be conscious of those duties and must be conscious of Allah (SWT) who assigned those duties to us. This concept of God consciousness is called taqwa, which we are commanded to have wherever we are. In a hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Have taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat the people with good behavior.”

           The Qur’an says, “This is the Book, without any doubt. It contains guidance for those who have taqwa” (al-Baqarah, 2:2). What exactly is taqwa? The term taqwa has to be understood in the context in which it is used in the Qur’an because it has different shades of meanings, some of which are: God-consciousness, God-mindfulness, Godliness, righteousness, piety, and fear.

           The word taqwa connotes ‘fear of Allah’ when there is an expression of threatening in an ayah of the Qur’an; such as, “O you who believe! Have taqwa (fear) of Allah, and give up what is still due to you from usury, if you are true believers. If you do not, then be warned of war from Allah and His Messenger”(al-Baqarah, 2:278-279).

           Words in the Arabic language are made up of mainly three or more root letters. The derivatives of a root word invariably have connection with the root word and its meaning. Taqwa is derived from the root ‘waqa’ made up of the three letters Waw-Qaf-Ya, which means “to protect or to save from harm.” The word wiqayah from the same root means preventing or protecting something from that which may harm it. As a Shari’ah term, wiqayah means to protect oneself from acts that are sinful by leaving what is forbidden. These definitions are offered by Imam al-Raghib al-Asfahani in his work Mufradat al-Fadh al-Qur’an. We are also familiar with the adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’.

           There are many ayat in the Qur’an that make reference to the concept of taqwa. One of them is “Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter, and protect us (waqina) from the torment of the Fire” (al-Baqarah, 2:201). This used to be one of the most beloved du’as of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW). There is an ayah in Surat al-Tahrim that says, “O you who believe, protect yourselves (qoo anfusakum) and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones” (al-Tahrim, 66:6).

           All prophets and messengers of Allah who came before Muhammad (SAW) conveyed the same message of tawhid to the people to whom they were sent, and said, “O my people worship Allah; you have no other god but He” (al-A’raf, 7:59). Being the last and final messenger of Allah sent to the entire humanity, Muhammad (SAW) shared the message of tawhid with all peoples of the world for all times to come. “O people, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be saved (tat-taqoon)” (al-Baqarah, 2:21). Taqwa involves struggle, here in this world, in order to earn the pleasure of Allah and be saved from His wrath, and that can only be done through complete submission and obedience to Him.

           Taqwa is profoundly explained in a discussion between Umar ibn al-Khattab and Ubay ibn Ka'b (RAA). The latter was one of the scribes of the Prophet (SAW) and renowned for his deep understanding of the Qur'an. Ubay Ibn Ka'b gave a comprehensive explanation of taqwa in response to a query from Umar (RAA). Ka’b asked Umar if he had walked through a thorny bush path. Umar replied, “Yes.” Ka’b then inquired, “What did you do?” Umar said, “I tucked in my cloak, (so as not to tear his clothes), and struggled my way through.” Ka’b said, “This is taqwa.” To have taqwa is to protect oneself from the thorny paths of life—the temptations and attractions that lure man toward satisfying his passion and desires through forbidden means. It is a constant struggle against falsehood (batil). There are glad tidings for those who have the taqwa of Allah, “O you who believe, if you taqwa of Allah, He will grant you Furqan (the ability to discriminate between right and wrong), and will forgive you your sins: for Allah is limitless in His great bounty” (al-Anfal, 8:29). Regarding Furqan, Ibn Ishaq says that Allah gives insight to the God fearing person to enable him to differentiate between right and wrong. Ibn Kathir says the same thing, adding that this knowledge of differentiating between truth and falsehood will induce the person’s victory, safety, and relief from the difficulties of this world, and will also ensure his happiness and forgiveness of his sins on the Day of Judgment. Ali ibn Talib (RA) defined taqwa as “fearing Allah, adhering to His commandments, being content with what He provides one with, and getting ready for the Day of Judgment.”

           Struggling to save oneself from the wrath of Allah is induced by the fear of His punishment, and this is positive fear. This is complemented by positive hope which comes from staying away from that which displeases Allah and doing what He commands us to do, thus becoming successful on the Day of Judgment. After all, the ultimate goal and objective of Muslims should be to live in this world for the next world. We are here in this world on a journey; to be tested by Allah. We are returning back to Him. If we are conscious of this fact, then we should do whatever we can within our means to go back to Allah in a state where He is pleased with us and we are pleased with Him. “Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him. Thus shall the God-fearing be rewarded” (al-Bayyinah, 98:8).

           Having taqwa of Allah does not have to do only with the mode or place of worship, or the mere pretense of one’s piety. A hadith warns us, “The one who prays and wants people to see him has committed shirk. The one who fasts and wants the people to know about his fasting has committed shirk. The one who gives sadaqah (charity) and wants people to know about his charity has committed shirk.” One has to sincerely and keenly assess oneself in light of this hadith and see if he or she is on the threshold of hypocrisy (nifaq) or shirk, however hidden these may be.

           While Islam has to do with one’s outward manifestation of faith, iman has to do with one’s inward state of faith and resides in the heart. It is only Allah who knows the state or degree of an individual’s iman. Similarly, the seat of taqwa is the heart. On one occasion the Prophet (SAW) pointing his finger toward his heart said, “Taqwa is here.” Only Allah knows what is in the heart of a person. “Surely, He is All Aware of what lies in the hearts” (Hud, 11:5). Real piety or righteousness (taqwa) is to be practiced in whatever situation one may be. For example, honoring one’s contracts and covenants with people or paying employees their wages in time are also manifestations of taqwa.

           The companions of the Prophet (SAW) were so mindful of Allah that they got genuinely concerned when ayah 103 of Surat Aal ‘Imran was revealed. The ayah says, “O you who believe, have taqwa of Allah as is His due, and do not die except as Muslims” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102). They expressed their inability to the Prophet (SAW) to abide by this divine command, saying that because of their worldly preoccupations, they simply could not be mindful of Allah all the time to a degree that He merited. In His infinite mercy Allah (SWT) revealed the ayah, “So be mindful of Allah as best as you can; and listen, and obey; and spend in charity: it is for your own good” (al-Taghabun, 64:16).

           There is another ayah that says, “Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear” (al-Baqarah, 2:286). While such ayat provide tremendous relief to the believers, they also imply that one’s effort toward achieving taqwa should be stretched to the utmost. Allah knows the potential and the capability of each one of us. Each one of us has to exert his or her level best. “Race with one another towards forgiveness from your Lord and towards a paradise the width of which spans the heavens and the earth. It has been prepared for the (Muttaqeen) God Conscious” (Aal Imran, 3:133).
           Taqwa is an advice (wasiyyah) given by all of Allah’s prophets and messengers to their people. “We have commanded those who were given the Scripture before you, and We command you to be mindful of Allah” (al-Nisa’, 4:131). We should know that if we are doing something good for Allah’s sake, He will not abandon us. “Allah is with those who have taqwa of Him and who do good” (al-Nahl, 16:128). Another ayah tells us, “Allah is with the believers”(al-Anfal, 8:19).

           The most precious advice that can be given to anyone is to have taqwa of Allah. Every Friday during the sermon, the Imam following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) recites a few Qur’anic ayat that admonish and advise people to have taqwa of Allah. These include ayat such as, “O you who believe, have taqwa of Allah as is His due, and do not die except as Muslims” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102); “O you who believe! Be conscious of Allah, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; be conscious of Allah, for Allah is well aware of everything you do” (al-Hashr, 59:18); and “O you who believe, be conscious of Allah, and speak the right words. He will put your actions right for you and forgive you your wrong deeds. Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly achieved a great success” (al-Ahzab, 33:70-71). ‘Right words’ (Qaulan sadida) in this ayah refers to saying the truth to uphold justice under all circumstances. “O you who believe, be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives” (al-Nisa’, 4:135). People of taqwa who do that are promised forgiveness from their Lord.

           In sha’Allah, the subject under discussion will be continued.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research h& Publications

  • The Lawful and the Unlawful in Islam (Part 1) (April 19, 2013) Open or Close

     

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            Al-Numan bin Basheer (RAA) relates that he heard Allah’s Messenger (SAW) say, “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear. Between the two are doubtful matters that few people have knowledge about. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, just like the shepherd who grazes his flock too close to a pasture is liable to have some of his flock stray into it. Every king has a pasture, and Allah’s pasture is what He has prohibited. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy and if it is diseased, the whole body is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

           This hadith reported in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim is considered by Imam Nawawi and many other scholars to be one of the most crucial ahadith around which the entire deen of Islam is understood. It sets down an important principle of conduct for Muslims by dividing all matters with respect to their Islamic rulings into three categories: (1) Matters that are clearly lawful (halal); (2) Matters that are clearly unlawful (haram); and (3) Matters wherein it is unclear whether or not they are permissible.

           Basically, a Muslim is one who surrenders his will to Allah’s will, accepts Him as the Sovereign and Law-Giver, and acknowledges himself to be His vicegerent on earth, responsible for all duties and obligations Allah (SWT) has entrusted him with. This responsibility is the basis on which humans will be judged by Allah (SWT) and rewarded or punished accordingly in the hereafter. When offered to undertake this burdensome trust, the heavens, the earth, and the mountains declined to do so, but man undertook it. It was to safeguard this trust that through the course of time, Allah (SWT) sent prophets and messengers to guide people to what is lawful and what is not.

           The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the last and final messenger of Allah (SWT.) Unlike his predecessors who were sent to their respective peoples or nations, he was a universal messenger sent as a mercy to the worlds and to entire humanity. “We have sent you as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner for the whole of mankind, but most people have no knowledge” (Saba’, 34:28). Another ayah tells us, “We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds” (al-Anbiya’, 21:107). Islam came as a mercy to humankind to take people out of darkness into light. It is the only way of life that Allah (SWT) accepts and is pleased with; hence the declaration, “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3). This ayah was revealed during the farewell sermon of the Prophet (SAW), just a few months before he died. Thus, Islam is the comprehensive, complete, and final guidance to humanity. The two primary sources of Islamic law and guidance are the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).

           Under the overpowering influence of secularism and modernity all around the world, and more so in the West, there are Muslims who act in defiance of divine commandments by indulging in practices that are Islamically unlawful. Engaging in sex outside wedlock, selling liquor, consuming intoxicants, dealing in usury (riba), Muslim men marrying polytheist (mushrik) women, and Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men such as Jewish and Christian men are just a few of these unlawful practices. Ignorance of law is no excuse or justification for actions that are haram. To overcome this situation, Muslims, especially those who have made construction of Islam their mission need to understand the basic and fundamental principles of the Islamic law or Shariah, which among other guidance, provides a simple and clear manifesto of the do’s and don’ts, and of the halal and the haram. Such rulings are based on Allah’s absolute wisdom, and His sole authority to legislate.

           In his book The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi defines the lawful or al-halal as that which is permitted; with respect to which no restriction exists, and the doing of which the Law-Giver has allowed. The unlawful or al-haram is that which the Law-Giver has prohibited absolutely, and anyone who engages in it is liable to incur Allah’s punishment in the hereafter, as well as legal punishment in this world. The detested or al-makruh actions are those that are disapproved by Allah (SWT), but are lesser in degree than al-haram. However, one must refrain from them lest committing them leads one to committing the haram.

           Some of the preliminary points relevant to the topic of the lawful and the prohibited are as follows:

           1. The general rule is that everything is lawful except what has been declared to be unlawful. This is in contrast to the trend of thinking that everything is unlawful except what has been declared to be lawful. Such distorted premise can only discourage, demotivate, and depress one rather than encourage, motivate, and elate him or her. A hadith tells us, “What Allah has made lawful in His Book is halal and what He has forbidden is haram, and that concerning which He is silent is allowed as His favor. So accept from Allah His favor, for Allah is not forgetful of anything.” It is reported that after saying this, the Prophet (SAW) recited ayah 64 of Surat Maryam, “Your Lord is not forgetful”(Maryam, 19:64). Another version of the hadith says, “Allah has prescribed certain obligations for you, so do not neglect them; He has defined certain limits, so do not transgress them; He has prohibited certain things, so do not do them; and He has kept silent concerning other things out of mercy for you and not because of forgetfulness, so do not ask questions concerning them.”

           2. It is only Allah’s prerogative and privilege to ordain what is halal and what is haram.
    “Say, Who has forbidden the adornment of God, which He has brought forth for His servants and good things, clean and pure, which God has provided for His servants?” (al-A’raf, 7:32). The next ayah tells us, “Say, My Lord has forbidden indecency, both open and hidden, sin and wrongful oppression and that, without His sanction, you associate things with Him, and that you say things about Him without knowledge” (al-A’raf, 7:33).
           3. The Prophet (SAW) was given the privilege to enact laws subject to God’s laws, and in this sense, he did exercise the right of legislation under divine supervision and approval. The Prophet (SAW) never spoke of his own. “He (the Prophet) does not speak from his own desire. It is but a divine inspiration” (al-Najm, 53:3-4). There are issues not addressed directly in the Qur’an. Prophetic rulings forbidding men to wear silk or adorn themselves with gold, for example is not to be found in the Qur’an. There is no choice for Muslims in matters which Allah (SWT) and His messenger have decreed. “It is not fitting for a believing man or woman when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any choice in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed gone far astray” (al-Ahzab, 33:36). 

           4. Prohibiting what is lawful and making unlawful permissible is transgressing the limits of Allah (SWT). “O you who believe, do not forbid the good things God has made lawful for you; and do not transgress. God does not love transgressors” (al-Ma’idah, 5:87). Doing so is tantamount to shirk. No human being regardless of his worldly or religious position and status has any right in matters of halal and haram. “Do they have partners (with Allah) who ordain for them matters of faith that which Allah has not authorized?” (al-Shura, 42:21). The Qur’an severely chastises the Jews and the Christians for empowering their rabbis and monks to decree what is lawful and unlawful. “They have taken their rabbis and their monks, as well as the Messiah, son of Mary, as lords beside God, when they were commanded to worship only the One God. There is no deity but He. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him” (al-Taubah, 9:31). It is reported that when the Messenger of Allah recited this ayah, Adi bin Hatim (RAA), who was a Christian during the time of ignorance (jahiliyyah) commented, “They did not worship them.” The Prophet said, “Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshipped them.” According to the Qur’an, shirk is the only unpardonable sin in Islam. “Verily, Allah does not forgive those who join partners with Him, while He may forgive whomever He wills for anything less than that. And whoever ascribes partners to Allah is guilty of the greatest sin” (al-Nisa’, 4:48). It is clearly stated elsewhere, “And do not knowingly set up rivals to God” (al-Baqarah, 2:22).

           5. The divine injunction prohibiting anything is due to its impurity and harmfulness. It is Allah (SWT) alone who knows through His infinite wisdom what is ultimately good for us and what is not. If something is entirely harmful, it is haram, and if it is entirely beneficial, it is halal. If the haram of it outweighs its benefits, then it becomes haram, while if its benefit outweighs its harm, it becomes halal. This principle is explained in the Qur’an. “They ask you about intoxicants and gambling. Say, There is great sin in both, although they have some benefit for people: but their harm is greater than their benefit” (al-Baqarah, 2:219). The Qur’an tells us that all good things have been made lawful in Islam. “If they ask you what has been made lawful for them, say, All good things have been made lawful for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:4).

           6. Whatever leads to haram is also haram. Islam employs the principle of Sadd al-Zarai’ (blocking the means to unlawful ends). For example, to prevent the unlawful practice of sex outside marriage, all doors that may lead to it have been closed. Obscene literature, vulgar songs, display of nudity, putting on sexually appealing or scanty clothing, private and casual mixing between men and women, and all actions that may lead to the evil of adultery or fornication have been prohibited. It is also important to note that the sin of the haram is not limited to the perpetrator of the sin, but extends to all those who have contributed to or have been a party to that sinful act. This principle is very clearly illustrated in a hadith that says, “Allah's Messenger (SAW) cursed ten people in connection with wine: the wine-presser, the one who has it pressed, the one who drinks it, the one who conveys it, the one to whom it is conveyed, the one who serves it, the one who sells it, the one who benefits from the price paid for it, the one who buys it, and the one for whom it is bought.” Each one is held accountable according to his share.

           7. Good intentions do not make the haram acceptable. Any ill-gotten wealth, for example cannot be used toward investing in a cause, however noble it may be. Islam does not consent to employing haram means to achieve praise-worthy ends. It does not subscribe to the maxim, “End justifies the means.” The intention, the means employed, and the end should all be honorable. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah is pure and accepts nothing but what is pure.”

           8. Allah (SWT) has made it explicitly clear what is halal and what is haram. However, there is a gray area between the clearly halal and the clearly haram. This is the area of what is doubtful. Some people may not be able to decide whether a particular matter is permissible or forbidden. In relation to such matters, Islam considers it an act of piety for the Muslim to avoid doing what is doubtful in order to stay clear of doing something haram.

           9. ‘Necessity dictates exception’ is one of the legal maxims formulated by the fuqaha (Muslim jurists). Islam takes cognizance of the demands of life and to human weakness and capacity to face them. For example, it permits the Muslim, under the compulsion of necessity to eat a prohibited food in quantities sufficient to remove the necessity and save himself from death. After listing the prohibited foods in the form of dead animals, blood, and pork, Allah (SWT) says, “But if one is compelled by necessity, neither craving (it) nor transgressing, there is no sin on him; indeed, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (al-Baqarah, 2:173). The Qur’an also informs us, “He (Allah) has chosen you and placed no hardship in your deen” (al-Hajj, 22:78). We are also reminded that “God desires ease for you, not hardship” (al-Baqarah, 2:185).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Be a Stranger in this World (March 22, 2013) Open or Close

     

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           Ibn `Umar (RA) relates that the Prophet (SAW) placed his hand on his shoulder and said: “Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” In essence, this hadith explains to us the relationship between us and this world (duniya). Allah (SWT) put us in this world for a purpose, and this purpose was told to us through another hadith that says,

           “The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allah is going to install you as successors (vicegerents) in it in order to see how you act…” Allah has set us on a path and instructed us what to do. He requires us (1) to worship Him; (2) to call people unto Him; (3) to establish His Kingdom, here on earth, and (4) to construct Islam. These are divine targets for people in general and for Muslims in particular. Hence, there is plenty of work to be done. We should be serious and not get distracted by this tempting world. It is for this reason that the Prophet (SAW) told us to live in this world as strangers.

           What is the concept of being a stranger in this world? To understand this, we should first know who we are and what this world is about. The only authentic guidance regarding this comes through the Qur’an and the Sunnah—the primary sources of Islam. All other sources, be they from philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, or other scientists and thinkers can at best be mere assumptions. Therefore we should not be deceived by such conjectures. We have the truth based on divine revelation and not on speculation.

           We need to understand that human beings are weak by their very nature. “And man was created weak” (al-Nisa’, 4:28). Among other interpretations, this means that it is very difficult for human beings to control their passions and desires. By the dint of their nature, they also have an excessive craving for wealth. “And you love wealth with inordinate love” (al-Fajr, 89:20).

           Generally, human beings are also envious by nature, always wanting to have what others have more than them in terms of worldly possessions. A glimpse of this can be seen in the Qur’anic story of Qarun when he publicly came out in a procession full of pomp and show, to flaunt his huge treasures, and how the people began to be jealous of him. “He went out among his people in all his pomp, and those whose aim was the life of this world said, ‘If only we had been given something like what Qarun has been given: he really is a very fortunate man’” (al-Qasas, 28:79).

           Allah (SWT) also explains to us that the love of desirable things is made alluring for people. “The love of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, and pedigreed horses, and cattle and lands is attractive to people. All this is the provision of the worldly life; but God has the best place to return to” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:14). Horses of high breed and ‘cattle and lands’ may be understood in contemporary times to refer to expensive, luxurious, and stylish modes of transport and sprawling industries respectively.

           We also need to understand that we are here on this earth for a small period of time to contribute towards fulfilling a divine project. Allah (SWT) will claim us back at the appointed time that has been destined for each one of us. “Every human being is bound to taste death” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:185).

           What is the reality of this world? As real as it may appear, it is no more than an illusion and a deception. The Qur’an says, “The present world is only an illusory pleasure” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:185). At another place the Qur’an tells us, “The life of this world is nothing but an amusement and a diversion. The true life is in the Hereafter, if only they knew.” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:64). This world is temporary; all that is in it will perish and come to an end. It is only the divine countenance that will remain. “All that is on earth will perish. Only the “Face” (Supreme Essence) of your Glorious and Gracious Lord will remain.” (al-Rahman, 55;26,27).

           The reality about the impermanence of worldly life, about its glitter and glamour, about the vying with each other and the boasting about one’s worldly possessions that people engage in has been explained in the Qur’an through different examples. In Surat al-Hadid, for example, we have, “Bear in mind that the present life is just a game, a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children. It is like plants that spring up after the rain: their growth at first delights the sowers, but then you see them wither away, turn yellow, and become stubble. There is terrible punishment in the next life as well as forgiveness and approval from God; the life of this world is only an illusory pleasure” (al-Hadid, 57:20). And yet, it is the passing and fleeting life of this world that the multitude of humanity prefers over the real and permanent life of the hereafter. “But you prefer the life of this world, although the hereafter is better and everlasting” (al-A’la, 87:17). Having understood a little about ourselves and the world around us, we can now appreciate the advice given to us by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.”

           What does it mean to be a stranger in this world? It is to have a feeling that this world is not our home; that we are aliens and can’t wait to return home. It is to behave in a way that may appear strange to most people. This is because we are engaged in a mission—a divine project that calls for constructing Islam and establishing God’s Kingdom, here on earth. We have to remain focused on this project and not waste our valuable time. We have also to remain wary of those who are always trying to take us away from our real task through various temptations. Our only true friends can be those true believers who, like us, lead their lives as if they were strangers in this world. We are told to be mindful of Allah (SWT) (our obligations toward Him) and be with the truthful ones, “O you who believe, be mindful of Allah, and be in the company of the truthful” (al-Taubah, 9:119).

           We learn through a hadith that “Islam began strange, and it will become strange again just like it was at the beginning, so blessed are the strangers.” These strangers are the ones who will re-construct Islam in order to bring back its legacy and honor (‘izzah). They are the ones who adhere to the instructions of Allah (SWT) and His messenger. They are the ones who will follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (SAW) and his noble companions who had so ardently and assiduously constructed Islam. They did not go with the norm. They were looked upon as strangers.

           The concepts of an eternal life in the hereafter, of accounting on the Day of Judgment, and of ultimate reward or punishment in shape of heaven and hell are seen today as strange ideas by most people in this largely atheistic and agnostic world. Strangers alone understand these concepts, believe in them, and are in a position to explain them to others. They are serious about constructing the structure of Islam. They know very well that they are aliens here on this earth because it is not their home. Their real home is the abode of peace (Dar us-Salam) which they shall inhabit in the hereafter (al-Akhirah). The world is full of hardship (mushaqqah) where one has to struggle. The believers channelize their efforts in the construction of Islam and in worshipping and obeying Allah in order to seek His pleasure. They are careful not to dissipate their time and energies in things that lead to His displeasure.

           In the hadith mentioned above, “the world is sweet and green, and Allah is going to install you as successors (vicegerents) in it in order to see how you act…” The Prophet (SAW) concluded the hadith by saying, “… so fear the world and fear women, for the trial of the Bani Israel had to do with woman.” The temptation of women may divert one from the true path, the path of salvation. There is a possibility that one’s spouses or children also become one’s enemies by becoming an obstruction in one’s journey in the path of Allah (SWT). Believers have to be cautious and careful of this situation and handle matters wisely. They also have to be gracious, kind, and forgiving. “O believers, some of your spouses and children are your enemies, so beware of them! Yet if you forbear, overlook, and forgive, God is indeed forgiving and kind” (al-Taghabun, 64:14). While believing women do play supportive roles, the work of construction of Islam is mainly on the shoulders of men.

           “Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” While a stranger is one who behaves in contravention to the norm, a wayfarer or traveler is one who goes on a journey. A traveler is always cautious in the land where he goes to. He is careful about his belongings and about his safety. Even though he resides there for a time, he is basically an alien to that place and wants to return back safely to the place from where he came after fulfilling the purpose for which he came to that land. He is watchful about the people of that land, and about their culture and habits. Likewise, the believers should consider themselves as wayfarers or travelers who have come to accomplish a mission here on earth and travel back to their permanent residence in the hereafter.

           This phenomenon has been explained profoundly through a saying of Ibn `Umar (RA) who used to say, “When the night comes, do not wait for the day, and when the day comes, do not wait for the night. Take from your health for your sickness, and take from your life for your death.” This means that we should never postpone and delay matters, when it comes to doing righteous deeds. Further, we should take advantage of being able to do righteous deeds with what remains of our health before sickness prevents us from doing so, and we should take advantage of our life before death prevents us from doing so. True believers are conscious of the Qur’anic ayah, “We belong to God and to Him we shall return” (al-Baqarah, 2:156).

           The Qur’an warns that on the Day of Judgment Allah (SWT) will forget those people who did not heed to the revelations; forgot that they have to face Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment, got deluded by the charms of this life, and remained indulged in the amusement and enjoyment of this world, forgetting and ignoring the project that they had been sent for on earth. “Those who took their deen as a diversion and a game, and were deluded by the life of the dunya.´ Today We will forget them just as they forgot the encounter of this Day and denied Our Revelations” (al-A’raf, 7:51).

           Human beings do get influenced by their environment and surroundings. Unless we understand what is in store for us and believe in it, we will not be able to make the desired changes and adjustments in our lifestyles. Rather than Allah (SWT) forget us and humiliate us, we have to gird up our loins and work to build a better world, cooperating with everyone in all that is good and righteous, and not cooperating with anyone in acts of sin and transgression. Being observant of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, we have to show the world the true path. It is important that we make friends with those who understand us. Let the disbelievers call us what they like; let them be displeased with us. Our goal and mission is to work for Allah (SWT); to seek His pleasure. Don’t be afraid to be that stranger in this world.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • The Lawful and the Unlawful in Islam (Part 2) (May 17, 2013) Open or Close

       

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           Today’s sermon is a continuation of the previous sermon on the topic of ‘the lawful and the unlawful in Islam.’ It is to be remembered that the hadith on the issue under discussion is considered by Imam Nawawi and many other scholars to be one of the four or five ahadith around which the entire deen of Islam is understood. 

           An ayah in Surat Ibrahim says, “We have never sent a messenger who did not use his own people’s language to make things clear for them” (Ibrahim, 14:4). This implies that any prophet or messenger of Allah (SWT) while speaking the language of his people would also communicate with them in a way that made his message clear to them. The role of the messenger was to convey the message clearly so that no ambiguity remained about what Allah (SWT) expected from his slaves (‘ibad). Muhammad (SAW)’s role par excellence in conveying and sharing the message of the deen (al-Islam) pleased Allah (SWT) as reflected in the ayah, “Today I have perfected your deen for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you” (al-Ma’idah, 5:3).

           The general jurisprudential rule stating that everything is lawful except what has been declared to be unlawful has already been discussed in the last sermon. The lawful and the unlawful are clear without any shadow of doubt. However, the Prophet (SAW) did inform us that between these two positions, there are matters which are ambiguous and which most people don’t know about; whether they are permissible or impermissible. These are matters about which there are differences of opinion among the scholars of Islam. The issue of consumption of meat found in a market dominated by the Judeo-Christian population and the issue of a Muslim working in a bank or an insurance company are just few among the many issues where differences of opinion exist. Practical solutions are required for such problems.

           In this regard, the Prophet (SAW) gave some practical solutions that are known through the prophetic traditions. Wabisah bin Ma`bad (RA) reported, “I went to Messenger of Allah (SAW) and he asked me, “Have you come to inquire about piety?” I replied in the affirmative. Then he said, “Ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.” In another hadith, on being asked about piety and sin, he said, “Piety is good manner, and sin is that which creates doubt and you do not like people to know of it.” When having to encounter a doubtful matter, the teachings of these ahadith guide us to follow the instincts of our heart rather than blindly rely on the fatwas (juridical rulings) of muftis (those entrusted to issue fatwas).

           There is another beautiful advice given through a hadith reported by Hassan ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, the grandson of the Prophet (SAW) who said, “I memorized from the Messenger of Allah (SAW),” “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.” A God-fearing and God-conscious person (muttaqi) follows such recommendations without any hesitation. Following the advice of the Prophet (SAW) who was sent as a mercy to the worlds ensures true contentment and tranquility of the heart. This is all about God-consciousness, righteousness and piety (taqwa). A hadith tells us, “No one will attain complete righteousness until he abandons certain unobjectionable but doubtful things so as to remain on his guard against something objectionable.” This is the position that a true righteous believer maintains. He remains at the center of a circle inside which all is lawful (halal) and outside which all is unlawful (haram).

           The parameter of this imaginary circle represents the limits (hudood) set by Allah (SWT). “These are the bounds set by Allah; do not transgress them” (al-Baqarah, 2:229). Another ayah says, “These are the limits set by Allah; whoever oversteps Allah’s limits wrongs his own soul” (al-Talaq, 65:1). Getting closer to the parameter of the circle is getting into the doubtful matters. Hence, “These are Allah´s limits, so do not go near them. It is thus that Allah makes His revelations clear to the people that they may be righteous” (al-Baqarah, 2:187). The concept of staying away from the doubtful is clearly explained in the part of the hadith that says, “Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, just like the shepherd who grazes his flock too close to a pasture is liable to have some of his flock stray into it.” The pasture refers to a private pasture. A person who grazes his sheep near such a pasture is not trespassing at that moment, but will certainly have a difficult time keeping his flock from straying into it, eventually leading to breaking the law.

           It becomes difficult for a person who engages in doubtful matters to prevent himself from falling into sin. On the other hand, by staying away from doubtful matters, he protects himself from falling into sin. Therefore, staying at the center of the circle or sphere of the permissible is the safest way to remain happy and content. A person should never regret for having to abandon the doubtful in order to please Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) will bless such a person in ways he cannot imagine. “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will give him a way out” (al-Talaq, 65:2). “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will make matters easy for him” (al-Talaq, 65:4). “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will erase his bad actions from him and greatly increase his reward” (al-Talaq, 65:5).

           Scholars may be asked for clarifications and rulings when confronted with matters that are doubtful. After all, trusted, well-known, authentic scholars carry the trust (amanah) of guiding the believers to the straight path. This is why Allah (SWT) says, “Ask the People of the Reminder (People possessing knowledge of the Divine Revelation) if you do not know” (al-Nahl, 16:43). However, one should be prudent and discreet enough not to rely on rulings of unauthentic scholars or on information gathered through searches conducted on the internet.

           A point to note is that the scholar should preferably be living in the community or vicinity of the person who is seeking a fatwa. This enables the scholar to better understand the nature of the query made, as fatwa on certain matters may change radically with variations of time place, and circumstances. It is said that Imam Shafi would not give the same fatwa in Iraq that he gave in Egypt. We learn from the seerah of the Prophet (SAW) that he did not permit a young man to kiss his wife in the state of fasting during Ramadan while he allowed an old man to do so, the reason being that the former could get sexually charged and engage in intimate relation with his wife while no such reaction was expected from the old man whose sexual urge had diminished with age.

           Despite the issuance of any fatwa, it is basically the heart that should be engaged in the decision making process. The heart is the seat of intellect, logic, and reasoning. Moreover, it is the abode of taqwa. In a well-known hadith, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, “Taqwa is here”, and he pointed to his chest. After making one’s heart the last resort for arriving at a decision, if one is still fumbling to choose between options, then one should exercise the use of the Istikhara prayer. Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right thing concerning any affair in one’s life, especially when one has to choose between two or more alternatives. The text of the supplication, which is made after offering two rakas of nafil prayers, clearly reflects our plea to Allah to make the desired decision work for us if it’s good for us, or to ward it off if it’s not. By doing so, we consciously put our faith in Allah (SWT) to guide us.

           The meaning of the text of the Istikhara prayer in the English language is, “O Allah, I consult You as You are All-Knowing and I appeal to You to give me power as You are Omnipotent, I ask You for Your great favor, for You have power and I do not, and You know all of the hidden matters. O Allah! If you know that this matter is good for me in my religion, my livelihood, and for my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then make it (easy) for me. And if you know that this matter is not good for me in my religion, my livelihood and my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then keep it away from me and take me away from it and choose what is good for me wherever it is and please me with it.”

           This is the attitude toward decision making that a God-fearing and God-conscious person possessing a sound heart has. One who follows Allah’s instructions given in the Qur’an and follows the Prophet’s teachings through his ahadith is the one who has a spiritually healthy heart, and hence his whole body is healthy and wholesome. And the one who does not do so has a spiritually sick heart, and consequently his whole body is sick. The former is the one who holds on to the lawful and the latter is the one who gets stuck to the unlawful.

           Indeed, Allah (SWT) chose Islam as the complete and perfect deen for us, showered His favors upon us, and blessed us with the best of humanity—Muhammad (SAW), who taught us our deen.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Faith and Steadfastness (Feb 22, 2013 ) Open or Close

     

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           There was a discussion in last Friday’s sermon on the structure of Islam based on the hadith, “Islam is built on five (things): testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the salah (prayer), paying the zakah (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.”

           Today’s sermon will focus on the crucial and urgent need to get involved in constructing the edifice of Islam—layer by layer, wall by wall, and brick by brick. This work of construction of Islam is our primary objective. The rituals or modes of worship such as salah, zakah, sawm, and hajj are in reality the means of achieving this objective. To remain self-satisfied with rituals alone is to remain excluded from the work of constructing Islam—an obligation that has been entrusted upon Muslims by Allah (SWT).

           This task of construction has to be done by both believing men and believing women. They are supporters of each other. “The believers, both men and women, support each other; they order what is right and forbid what is wrong; they keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; they obey God and His Messenger. God will give His mercy to such people: God is almighty and wise.” (al-Taubah, 9:71). Indeed, the first person to accept Islam was a woman—Khadija (RA), and the first person to be martyred in the cause of upholding Islam was a woman—Sumaiyya (RA), and there are numerous other women who have contributed in building the structure of Islam.

           It is sad but true that Islam, in its totality, cannot be found anywhere in the world. Living in America, we have the freedom to begin the construction of Islam. Rather than wasting time by indulging in procrastination, we have to roll up our sleeves and get started immediately. As mentioned in the last sermon, the three levels on which Islam is to be built are basically our duties toward the deen of Allah (SWT). “O you who believe, bow and prostrate and worship (make ‘ibadah to) your Lord, and do good, so you may be successful. And strive hard for (the cause of) Allah as is His due” (al-Hajj, 22:77-78). Faith (iman) as we know has to do with attestation by the tongue and its manifestation or confirmation through action.
           The first of the three levels of the structure of Islam consists of the roof and four walls. The roof may be said to be the ubudiyyah or complete and sincere servitude to Allah (SWT). The four walls may be thought to be denoting (1) Islam, (2) taqwa, (3) ita’ah, and (4) ‘ibadah. The second level is da’wah, and the third level is establishing the deen of Allah.

           To begin with, we need to understand what needs to be done when undertaking the arduous journey of constructing Islam. The best way to begin this journey is to repent sincerely to Allah, to have firm faith in Him, and to take to the straight path.

           It is reported that a man by the name of Abu `Amr—also known as Abu `Amrah, Sufyan ibn Abdullah Al-Thaqafi (RA) said to the Prophet (SAW), “O Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which I can ask of no one but you.” He (SAW) replied, “Say, ‘I believe in Allah, and then be Steadfast.’” Prophet Muhammad (SAW) even though unlettered, was blessed with the most concise and meaningful speech (jawami'ul kalim). Brevity and profundity were the hallmarks of our beloved Prophet’s speech. What he uttered were no more than few simple words, but the meanings behind them were very profound, and the benefits and blessings that can be derived from them are numerous.

           The two statements mentioned in the hadith explain in the simplest of terms what one needs to know about Islam. The first verbal statement or declaration, “I believe in Allah” implies that this declaration is embedded in the heart at the level of firm conviction. This necessitates one to be purified of all types of false belief (aqidah al-fasidah) and live by the true aqidah of Islam. Linguistically, iman means ‘to confirm something’ (al-tasdeeq) or to believe in something that is true. To say ‘I believe in Allah’ (amantu billah), therefore, refers to al-Iman al-Mujmal, or the generalized form of iman, which implies believing in Allah (SWT) as He is in His names and His attributes, and in accepting all His commands and teachings mentioned in the Qur’an and the ahadith of the Prophet (SAW).

           Iman is the very foundation on which the edifice of Islam stands. It is only through strong iman having deep roots that the tree of Islam blossoms and bears excellent fruits. It took the Prophet (SAW) 13 long years to extricate his followers from the superstitious beliefs of the period of ignorance (jahiliyyah) and to simultaneously instill in them the correct aqidah of Islam—belief in One God, Angels, Books, Prophets, Resurrection, Judgment Day, Heaven, Hell, the Divine Decree (al-Qadar), and all that he said, did or approve to guide mankind.

           To believe in Allah is to reject any notion or belief that contradicts this true aqidah. False notions would include all ‘isms’ (social orders) contrived by man and all other theories based on speculative thought that keep changing. The notion that facts verifiable by the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge is also a false notion, because the reality about the ‘unseen’ (ghayb) which constitutes part of our creed (aqidah) is not verifiable by empirical means. False but popular notions such as Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’ do influence people, especially the students in higher institutions of learning. As true believers, we must believe in everything that is contained in the final Divine Revelation—the Qur’an. “This is the Book; there is no doubt in it. It is a guide for those who are mindful of God” (al-Baqarah, 2:2).

           Despite being persecuted, exiled, and even tortured at times, the sahaba, once they affirmed their faith in Allah never wavered from their position and never compromised on their faith. They did all they could to proclaim the greatness of Allah (SWT). “And proclaim the greatness of your Lord” (al-Muddathir, 74:3). Describing them the Qur’an says, “They are those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly, only because they said, Our Lord is God” (al-Hajj, 22:40).

          The second part of the hadith under discussion says, “And then be steadfast (thummastaqim).” This implies remaining steadfast in action and embracing Islam totally and whole-heartedly. “O you who believe! Enter Islam totally”(al-Baqarah, 2:208). This also means to be conscious and mindful of Allah till one’s last breath. “O you who believe, be conscious of Allah as is His due, and do not die except as Muslims” (al-Baqarah, 2:132). This also means to hold fast to God. “Whoever holds fast to God will be guided to the straight path” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:101).

           Allah (SWT) commands the believers to obey Him and His Messenger so that they are rightly guided. “Obey God and obey the Messenger. If you turn away, then he is responsible for what he is charged with and you are responsible for what you are charged with. If you obey him, you will be rightly guided. The Messenger is responsible only for delivering the message clearly” (al-Nur, 24:54). Since the Messenger of Allah delivered the message and showed the way, the onus of responsibility is now on the believers to keep the edifice of Islam so arduously constructed by him and his sahaba intact, lest they be charged on the Day of Judgment for not discharging their obligation. Their attitude should not be to rely on the Prophet’s intercession on the Day of Judgment in the manner Christians rely on ‘Isa (AS) as being their savior. The Prophet’s intercession will be granted only after due process of justice on the Day of Judgment. Even the thought of being in hell-fire for a moment should be enough to send shudder down the spine of any believer. We have to obey Allah and become His humble slaves (‘ibad). “God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:151).

           It is noteworthy that the advice given to Sufyan ibn Abdullah Al-Thaqafi (RA) was in reality the very command that Muhammad (SAW) received from his Lord. “So be steadfast as you have been commanded, together with those who have turned to God with you. Do not overstep the limits, for He sees everything you do” (Hud, 11:112). Surat al-Shura spells out this command in yet another profound way, “So call people to that faith and be steadfast as you are commanded, and do not follow their desires” (al-Shura, 42:15). We learn from the sirah that when the followers of the new deen started to grow, the elders of Quraish started to persuade the Prophet with offers of kingship over them, with abundant wealth and with marriage to the most beautiful women of Arabia if he renounced his mission of calling people to Islam. The Prophet (SAW) did not succumb to their desires. The messenger of Allah told his trusted uncle Abu Talib, who was mediating between Quraish and him, “O my uncle, by Allah, even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand on the condition that I abandon this matter, I will never abandon it until either Allah has made me victorious or I perish therein.”

           Muhammad (SAW) stuck tenaciously to what he was commanded by Allah (SWT). “So call people to that faith and be steadfast as you are commanded, and do not follow their desires, but say, I believe in the Book which God has sent down, and I am commanded to do justice between you” (al-Shura, 42”15). The process of construction of Islam involves taking out people out of darkness into light and bringing justice to them by eliminating oppression and closing the gap between the ‘Haves and the Have Nots.’

           There is peace for those who believe in Allah as their Lord and at the same time remain on the straight path. “For those who say, ‘Our lord is Allah,’ and then follow the straight path there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (al-Ahqaf, 46:13). There is another narration by the same companion in which the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have told him, “Say, ‘My Lord is Allah and then be steadfast (follow the straight path).’” The two narrations allude to the majesties of uluhiyyah and rububiyyah of Allah (SWT).

           We are also informed in surat Fussilat, “As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is God,’ and then steadfastly pursue the right way, the angels come down to them and say, ‘Have no fear or grief, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise, which you have been promised. We are your allies in this world and in the world to come. There you will have everything you desire and ask for, a welcoming gift from the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful One.’” (Fussilat, 41:30-32). The bounties of paradise are indescribable. References have been made toward them only to get a glimpse of what could be expected or to imagine what paradise would be like. According to a hadith qudsi, “I have prepared for My slaves what no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no human heart can imagine. Recite if you wish, “No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.” This is not to say that those who say, “Our Lord is Allah” and are steadfast will not be tested. “Do people think that once they say, We believe, they will be left alone and not be put to the test?” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:2).

           “And who speaks better than someone who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘Verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves to God?’” (Fussilat, 41:33). This ayah outlines the task ahead of those who assert their faith in Allah and are steadfast. Calling people unto Allah is the next phase in the construction of Islam. It does not matter whether people respond to them positively or turn away from them. They will always have God’s help and protection.“But if they turn away, know that God is your Protector; the Best of Protectors and the Best of Helpers!” (al-Anfal, 8:40).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Islam Iman & Ihsan - Part 5 (Feb 01, 2013) Open or Close


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           Today’s khutba is the fifth and concluding one in a series of khutbas delivered earlier on Hadith Jibril and the three levels of faith—Islam, iman, and ihsan referred to therein. The khutba today will focus mainly on discussing the last part of the hadith that alludes to the ‘Hour’ or the Day of Reckoning. The part of Hadith Jibril relating to the Hour says, “He (Jibril) said, ‘Inform me about the Hour.’ He (the Messenger of Allah) said, ‘About that, the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.’ So he said, ‘Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming).’ He said, ‘They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.’”

           The ‘Hour’ (al-Sa’ah) refers to the Day of Judgment when human beings will be resurrected and brought before Allah (SWT) for the final reckoning. This has been alluded to in numerous ayat of the Qur’an. “The Last Hour is bound to come. There is no doubt about it. God will raise up those who are in their graves” (al-Hajj, 22:7). The knowledge of the timing of the Hour is with Allah alone because it is from the unseen (ghayb). “He alone has knowledge of the Hour, and to Him you shall be returned” (al-Zukhruf, 43:85). “The people question you concerning the Hour. Say, ‘Its knowledge is only with Allah.’ What do you know, maybe the Hour is near” (al-Ahzab, 33:63).

           That is why the Prophet (SAW) when asked by Jibril (AS) about the Hour expressed his ignorance of it. Allah had revealed to the Prophet (SAW) only some of the scenes that will come to pass on that momentous day. In fact, Allah advised him what to say to the people when they approached him asking about the Hour. “They will ask you about the Hour: when is it due? Say: ´Knowledge of it rests with my Lord alone. He alone will reveal it at its proper time. It hangs heavy in the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except suddenly” (al-A’raf, 7:187). He is also asked to tell the people, “Say: ´I possess no power to help or harm myself, except as God wills. If I had had knowledge of the Unseen, I would have sought to gain much good and no evil would have touched me. I am no more than a warner and bearer of good news to those who believe” (al-A’raf, 7:188).

           The Hour is something, which everyone will come to know potentially very soon. Essentially, the Hour of every man comes when he dies here in this world, and one could die at any moment. The Qur’an mentions five things the knowledge of which is only with Allah. “Truly, God alone has knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Surely, God is all knowing, all-aware” (Luqman, 31:34).

           Just as all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah came with the news of the Hour to their people, so did Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came and informed us about the Hour and its signs through the verses revealed to him in the Qur’an, and through his ahadith. “What are the disbelievers waiting for, other than the Hour which will come upon them unawares? Its signs are already here, but once the Hour has actually arrived, what use will it be then to take heed?” (Muhammad, 47:18). We are also told, “The time of reckoning has drawn near for mankind, yet they are heedless and turn away” (al-Anbiya’, 21:1).

           The first sign of the Hour is the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He was the last and final Messenger of Allah and the Qur’an that was revealed to him is the final divine guidance to the entire humankind for all times to come. People were given the choice to accept or reject this guidance. “And Say, ‘the truth is from your Lord, so let whomever desires believe, and whomever desires reject’” (al-Kahf, 18:29). Imam al-Bukhari recorded from Sahl Bin Sa’d (RA) that he saw Allah’s Messenger bring his index and middle fingers together, while he said, “I have been sent before the Hour as these two fingers.” This indicates that the Hour is close at hand. As against this statement about the Hour being very near to us, some may argue that a period of 14 centuries has already passed since the time of the Prophet (SAW), and that is a pretty long time. We have to understand that we are used to measuring days according to our serial time, whereas each day with Allah is like one thousand years of our counting. According to Allah’s measure, therefore, the Prophet’s advent had been only a day or a day and a half away from our present times.

           The two signs of the Hour stated by the Prophet (SAW) in Hadith Jibril are: (1) the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and (2) you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings. As for the first sign, one of the interpretations is that increased slave-trade will entail that a daughter is transported for the sake of trade and subsequently freed, and later her mother will be transported for the sake of trade, and the daughter will buy her and make use of her services unaware that she is her mother. It has also been said that it means that slave women will give birth to kings. Another way this is explained is that children will show disrespect to their parents. Indeed, it is not uncommon these days to see this phenomenon, even within Muslim families. Rather than being home and family oriented, and contributing their best toward strengthening the institution of family, more and more women are seen lobbying for feminism, women’s liberation, equal rights as men, and so on.

            As for the second sign, it is true that the Arabs of the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain etc) used to be poor barefooted shepherds and today we see them to be owners of imposing tall buildings that grace the skyline of the main cities of these regions. One has only to visit Dubai, Riyadh or any major city in the Gulf States to witness this. A search on the internet is enough to take a glimpse of this ‘rags to riches’ phenomenon. The oil-rich rulers, the coterie of advisers around them, and the exceedingly rich individuals and families in these desert lands are by and large exactly how the sign of the Hour depicts about them.

           There are numerous ahadith that depict the sign of the Hour, and most of these signs are being witnessed before our own eyes. Some of these ahadith are:

           1. “The Hour will not arise until every tribe is led by its hypocrites.” When the kings and leaders of people are in this circumstance every other circumstance will be reversed: the liar will be believed and the truthful person disbelieved, the unreliable person will be trusted and the trustworthy person distrusted, the ignorant person will speak and the knowledgeable person will be silent or totally non-existent, as is authentically narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Some of the signs of the Hour are that knowledge will be removed and ignorance will dominate,” and he advised, “that knowledge will be removed with the death of people of knowledge so that when not one person of knowledge remains, people will take ignorant leaders who will be asked and thus give judgment without knowledge and will go astray and lead others astray.”
           Indeed, it is scary to see that many of the great ulama’ have died in the last century, not to talk of the great classical scholars of the past. The number of authentic ulama’ are very few and diminishing fast with the passage of time. We see that this prophecy also has come to pass.

           2. In his Musnad, Imam Ahmad reported via Abu Nudrah that Abu Sa’id (RA) said, “One day the Prophet (SAW) led us in praying the afternoon prayer (Salat al-‘Asr). Then he stood and addressed us until sunset. He mentioned everything that was to happen until the Day of Resurrection, and left nothing unsaid. Some of us remembered it, and some of us forgot it. One of the things he said was: ‘O people, this world is full of attractive temptations. Allah has appointed you as vicegerents (Khulafa’) in this world, and He will see how you will act. So guard yourselves against the temptations of this world and of women.’ Toward the end of the speech, he said, ‘The sun is about to set, and what remains of this world, compared to what has passed, is like what remains of this day compared to what has passed.’”

           3. Anas ibn Malik (RA) is reported to have said that he will relate a hadith that no one else can relate. He said, “I have heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) saying, ‘The signs of the Hour are that religious knowledge will be diminished, ignorance will prevail, adultery will be committed openly, and women will outnumber men until there will be one man to every fifty women.’”
    Indeed, this is what is taking place everywhere, be they lands dominated by Muslims or non-Muslims.

           4. Abdullah (RA) said, “The Prophet said, ‘Just before the Hour, there will be days in which knowledge will disappear and ignorance will appear, and there will be much killing.’”
           Again, this is what we are witnessing today. Genocide and ethnic cleansing among other acts of aggression have decimated entire populations in our so called civilized world.

           5. Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) came to us and said, ‘O Muhajirun! (emigrants from Makkah to al-Madinah) you may be afflicted by five things; God forbid that you should live to see them. If fornication should become widespread, you should realize that this has never happened without new diseases befalling the people which their forebears never suffered. If people should begin to cheat in weighing out goods, you should realize that this has never happened without drought and famine befalling the people, and their rulers oppressing them. If people should withhold zakat, you should realize that this has never happened without the rain being stopped from falling; and were it not for the animals’ sake, it would never rain again. If people should break their covenant with Allah and His Messenger, you should realize that his has never happened without Allah sending an enemy against them to take some of their possessions by force. If the leaders do not govern according to the Book of Allah, you should realize that this has never happened without Allah making them into groups and making them fight one another.’”
           Indeed, we see all this happening today. Fornication is rife; diseases such as ‘Aids’ is a malady, which was never heard of before. There is swindling in commercial transactions, and we see frequent draughts and famines in different parts of the world. Many if not most rulers do oppress their subjects. Many Muslims tend to pay zakat reluctantly. There are some who argue that since they already pay hefty taxes to the Government, payment of zakat is therefore no longer obligatory upon them. Muslims have broken their covenant with Allah, as a consequence of which, Muslim lands are being pillaged and plundered by outside forces. Muslim leaders do not govern according to the Book of Allah, and we can see the Muslim ummah engulfed in sectarianism with Muslims fighting with each other. There is not one Muslim country in the world where Shariah is being followed in toto. The Prophet had prophesied just as things stand.

           6. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) said, “The Prophet said, ‘If my Ummah bears fifteen traits, tribulation will befall it.’ Someone asked, ‘What are they, O Messenger of Allah?’ He (SAW) said, ‘When any gain is shared out only among the rich, with no benefit to the poor; when a trust becomes a means of making a profit; when paying Zakat becomes a burden; when a man obeys his wife and disobeys his mother; and treats his friend kindly while shunning his father; when voices are raised in the mosques; when the leader of a people is the worst of them; when people treat a man with respect because they fear some evil he may do; when much wine is drunk; when men wear silk; when female singers and musical instruments become popular; when the last ones of this Ummah curse the first ones - then let them expect a red wind, or the earth to swallow them, or to be transformed into animals.’”

           7. In another r narration, Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) said, “The Prophet led us in praying Salat al-Fajr. When he had finished, a man called to him, ‘When will the Hour be? The Prophet reprimanded him and said ‘Be quiet!’ After a while he raised his eyes to the sky and said, ‘Glorified be the One Who raised it and is taking care of it.’ Then he lowered his gaze to the earth and said, ‘Glory be to the One Who has outspread it and has created it.’ Then the Prophet said, ‘Where is the one who asked me about the Hour?’ The man knelt down and said, ‘I asked you.’ The Prophet said, ‘The Hour will come when leaders are oppressors, when people believe in the stars and reject al-Qadar (the Divine Decree of destiny) when a trust becomes a way of making a profit, when people give to charity (sadaqah) reluctantly, when adultery becomes widespread - when this happens, then your people will perish.’”

           Among the greater signs of the Hour are that the awaited Mahdi will appear; he is the first of the greater, and clear, signs of the Hour. There will be no doubt about his existence, but this will only be clear to the knowledgeable people. The Mahdi will rule until the false Messiah (al-Masih al-Dajjal) appears who will spread oppression and corruption. The only ones who will know him well and avoid his evil will be those who have great knowledge and iman . The false Messiah will remain for a while, destroying mankind completely, and the earth will witness the greatest fitnah (tribulation) in its history. Then the Messiah - ‘Isa (AS) will descend, bringing justice from heaven. He will kill the Dajjal, and there will be years of safety and security. Then the appearance of Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog) will take mankind by surprise, and corruption will overtake them again. In answer to the faithful prayer of ‘Isa (AS) to Allah, the Most High, they will die, and safety, security, justice and stability will return. This state of affairs will continue for some years, until the death of ‘Isa (AS).

           The scholars differ concerning the order in which the other greater signs of the Hour will come about. They are:
              1. The destruction of the Ka'bah and the recovery of its treasure.
              2. The rising of the sun from the west.
              3. The emergence of the Beast from the earth.
              4. The smoke.
              5. A wind will take the souls of the believers.
              6. The Qur'an will be taken up into heaven.
              7. A fire will drive the people to their last gathering place, and
              8. The Trumpet will be sounded: at the first sound everyone will feel terror; at the second sound all will be struck down; at the last sound all will be resurrected.

           We are living in times pervaded with Secularism and Godlessness. A multitude of mankind is disenchanted with the ‘Sacred’ and with anything to do with the ‘Unseen’. They believe in empiricism or the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from observation, experiment and sense experience. We need to understand that this life is nothing but a life of deception and illusory pleasure. We need to understand that there is God, and that the real life is the life of the hereafter.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Islam Iman & Ihsan - Part 3 (Jan 18, 2013) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is a continuation of the previous khutba that discussed Hadith Jibril on the subject of Islam, iman, and ihsan. The discussion will focus on the topic of divine destiny or decree (qadar), which constitutes the sixth article of faith (iman). The concept of qadar, although philosophical and esoteric in nature, becomes less obscure and easier to understand when we take recourse to the abundant guidance provided on this subject in the Qur’an, the ahadith, and the sayings of the sahaba (athar). 

           It is said that one of the tabi’een (followers of the companions) came from al-Basra to al-Madinah and told Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) about the doctrine of qadar founded and advocated by Ma’bad al-Juhani, and later propagated by Ghaylan al-Dimashqi. He told Ibn Umar that the Qadariyyah (followers of the doctrine of qadar) denied qadar. They were of the opinion that after Allah created the creation all matters are happening for the first time without any prior decree. Ibn Umar (RA) is reported to have expressed his aversion and disassociation with the Qadariyyah and to have totally subscribed to Hadith Jibril narrated by his own father Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA) according to which belief in divine destiny (qadar) was an integral part of one’s faith.

          Basically the concept of qadar is to believe that (1) Allah (SWT) has prior knowledge of what good and evil His servants will do; of who will be obedient and who will be defiant; of who will go to hell and who will go to paradise. In order to compensate His servants for their actions, He created reward and punishment even before creating them. He wrote down everything that is to happen till the end of times in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfouz). Everything in the universe is running according to what is decreed in His knowledge; and that (2) All actions of Allah’s servants, good or bad, are carried out only with His permission and will (mashi’ah).

           These two points make it clear that Allah (SWT) ordained the destiny of all creatures before their creation and that nothing takes place in His universe without His will. This fact is upheld by the ayah 49 of Surat al-Qamar, “Indeed, We have created everything in due measure and proportion (qadar).” The term qadar mentioned in this ayah literally means measure or proportion but has been interpreted variously by different exegetes of the Qur’an. Some of the well-known translations of the meaning of the ayah are, “Indeed we created all things with predestination.” “We have created everything to fulfill a certain purpose.” “Verily we have created everything according to Our predestination.” “Indeed we created all things with a predestined fate.” “Verily we have created all things with qadar (the divine pre-ordainments of all things before their creation as written in the Book of Decrees or al-Lawh al-Mahfouz).” Another ayah of the Qur’an lends support to this concept of qadar, and that is, “Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves, without its being in a Book before We make it happen.” (al-Hadid, 57:22).

           There is a hadith which says, “Allah wrote down the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” The word ‘years’ is not necessarily the limited span of time of 365 days but refers to an unknown epoch of time, only known to Allah (SWT). According to the meaning of another hadith, the acts of everyone will be facilitated in that which has been created for him so that whoever belongs to the company of the blessed ones will have good works made easier for him and whoever belongs to the unfortunate ones will have evil acts made easier for him. It is said that the Prophet (SAW) after narrating this hadith recited these ayat of Surat al-Layl, “Then, who gives to the needy and guards against evil and accepts the excellent (the truth of Islam and the path of righteousness it prescribes), We shall make easy for him the easy end and who is miserly and considers himself above need, We shall make easy for him the difficult end.” (al-Layl, 92:5-10). There is another hadith which tells us, “Verily, the first thing which Allah (SWT) created was the pen, and He said to it, ‘Write;’ The pen inquired, ‘What do I write?’ Allah told the pen, ‘Write the destiny (qadar)’. The pen wrote everything that will happen from now up to the Day of Resurrection.” It is reported that the prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever disbelieved in al-Qadar, the good and the bad of it, will be burnt in the Hell-fire.”

           Unfortunately, this was the position of ahl al-Qadariyyah (the people of Qadariyyah). Their belief indicated that Allah (SWT) was not aware of things until after they came to pass and this was a clear negation of Allah’s pre-knowledge of all things. Our ulama have opined that those who subscribe to the doctrine of Qadariyyah have committed disbelief (kufr). Anyone who openly declares disbelief in any one of the six articles of faith makes the person step outside the fold of Islam even though that person may be holding on to other articles of faith and fulfilling other modes and requirements of worship.

           It is important, however, to understand that there are certain things that are completely outside our control. Among them are our sustenance (rizq) and our life span, here on earth. A very well-known hadith says, “On the authority of Abu Abdul Rahman Abdullah ibn Masood (RA) who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah (SAW) and he is the truthful, the believed (al-Sadiq al-Masduq), narrated to us, ‘Verily, each of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a drop of fluid. Then it is a clinging object for a similar [period]. Thereafter, it is a lump looking like it has been chewed for a similar [period]. The angel is then sent to him and he breathes into him the spirit. He is also commanded to issue four decrees: to record his sustenance, his life span, his deeds, and [whether he will be] unhappy [by entering Hell] or happy [by entering Paradise].’ I swear by Allah, other than whom there is no God, certainly one of you will perform the deeds of the people of Paradise until there is between him and Paradise except an arm’s length, and then performs the deeds of the people of Hell and enter it. And, certainly, one of you will definitely perform the acts of the people of Hell until there is not between him and Hell except an arm’s length and then performs the deeds of the people of Paradise and enter it.’”

           A very significant lesson from this hadith is that we as humans should not judge any person based on his or her outwardly actions whether he or she is a dweller of heaven or hell. The destiny of that person has already been ordained by Allah (SWT) but this pre-ordainment is based on the knowledge of Allah of what this person is going to do in this world.

           There is a fine line between the concepts of destiny and pre-destiny. Pre-destiny means that we have already been programmed by Allah (SWT) to do what is to be done, and if this is so, then the concepts of accountability in the hereafter and that of reward and punishment are meaningless. Verses such as the ones in Surat al-Kahf and Surat al-Insan clearly lay bare the fact that man has the power to choose for himself and that he is not compelled by Allah (SWT) for the choices he makes. “Say, ‘Now the truth has come from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so.” (al-Kahf, 18:29). “We showed him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful” (al-Insan, 76:3).

           We conclude that we do have a will and a choice of our own but these have been known to Allah (SWT) even before our creation. This is the existing pre-knowledge of Allah (SWT) of all things. Thus, everything that has happened in the past since the time of creation, or that is happening now in the present, or that is to happen in the future has been in the knowledge of Allah (SWT) before He created His creation.

           Even though man has been granted the freedom of choice, his actions are carried out by Allah’s will (mashi’ah) based on His infinite knowledge of everything and His power over everything. “This is merely a reminder to all mankind; to every one of you who wishes to take the straight path. But you will only wish to do so by the will of God, the Lord of the worlds” (al-Takwir, 81: 27-29). This is why it is a practice among Muslims to say in sha’Allah (if God wills) whenever they intend to do something in the future. “Never say of anything, I shall certainly do this tomorrow without adding, ‘God willing’” (al-Kahf, 18:23-24).

           Using the concept of qadar as a pretext for committing sins is unacceptable. A murderer cannot take the plea that he was compelled to murder because it was with Allah’s will and permission that he did so. Allah’s letting someone commit a crime does not mean that Allah is pleased with the criminal act of the person responsible for the crime. Most certainly man is responsible for the moral choices he makes. Indeed, in this sense, it is man himself who makes his destiny, either to hell or to paradise, and he better be mindful of this.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Islam Iman & Ihsan - Part 2 (Jan 4, 2013) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is a continuation of the previous khutba that discussed ayah 93 of Surat al-Ma’idah and Hadith Jibril. We learnt from the ayah about the three levels of deen (maratib al-deen) or the three levels of faith (iman). One’s iman or faith may be (1) at the level of Islam (2) at the level of iman or (3) at the level of ihsan. These three elements constitute the essence of the Islamic faith. As for the hadith under discussion, what appears to be strange is that Jibril (AS) himself came in the form of a man to teach the companions (sahaba) their religion. Strangely enough, even though this incident took place in the latter part of the Prophet’s life, it had not dawned upon the sahaba despite their having spent good time with him to ask him these fundamental questions, “What is Islam?” What is iman?” and “What is ihsan?”

           The sahaba did know what Islam is as they had learnt from a hadith that Islam is built upon five (pillars): testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayers, giving zakat, making pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadan. Hadith Jibril, however, gives us a different dimension—the knowledge as to who can be considered as a Muslim in an Islamic State. A Muslim is one who accepts all the six articles of faith, professes the testimony of faith, and accepts the modes of worship. He will continue to remain a Muslim legally, even though he may not be a practicing Muslim, unless he openly declares his disbelief in any of the articles of faith or rejects any one of the modes of worship. Accordingly, on legal grounds, we have the ruling from Imam Abu Hanifa, that iman neither increases nor decreases. It remains the same.

           It is important to understand the fundamental difference between Islam (legal iman) and iman at the level of conviction in the heart (yaqeenun fil qalb). This distinction is mentioned in Surat al-Hujurat, which says,“The desert Arabs say, ´We have iman.´ Say,´You do not have iman. Say rather, We have become Muslim, for iman has not yet entered into your hearts’” (al-Hujurat, 49:14). Here the Prophet (SAW) is told to inform the desert Arabs that they have no iman, because it is not found in their hearts. In connection with this ayah, Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (May Allah bestow His mercy upon them) have concluded that Allah (SWT) Himself had proved that there could be a state of Islam without the element of iman in it. In other words, while every Mu’min is a Muslim, every Muslim is not necessarily a Mu’min. Islam is a legal status based on things which can be verified through the verbal declaration of faith.

           As far as iman is concerned, it is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and fate (qadar), both the good and the bad of it. These are unseen realities that a Muslim must believe in. Any Muslim who denies any one of these articles of faith will cease to be a Muslim, even if he or she performs all the prescribed modes of worship.

           Reffering to the question, “What is iman?” It is to be noticed that there is no mention of declaration of faith (shahadah) in the articles of faith. This is because what is being referred to is real iman or conviction of faith in the heart. However, the depth of the conviction depends on the level of God-consciousness or taqwa a person has and varies from person to person. The iman as spelled out in the hadith is also called al-iman al-mufassal or the detailed iman.

           There is another definition of iman that basically constitutes only one article of faith, and that is belief in Allah (SWT). It is called al-iman al-mujmal or the generalized form of iman. It implies to have faith in Allah as He is known by His names and attributes and to accept all His commands, to profess the faith with the tongue while having full conviction in the heart. Real iman rests on how much iman one has in one’s heart. It is important to bear in mind that on the Day of Judgment, Allah (SWT) is not going to judge us on the basis of Islam. Rather He will judge us on the basis of our iman.

           A Muslim is one who declares the testimony of faith, accepts the modes of worship, and believes in the six articles of faith. A Mu’min, on the other hand is one whose life is a reflection of Islam in practice for the sole attention of seeking the pleasure of Allah (SWT). A Muslim will be considered a Mu’min only when one lives Islam in letter and spirit, avoiding anything that may hurt or harm anyone or anything including humans, plants, animals, and one’s surroundings. A Muslim may pray for the sole purpose of fulfilling an obligation and that’s it. A Mu’min, however, is delighted when he prays, and the prayers (salah) become a source of his elevation. The Prophet (SAW) said in a hadith that prayers (salah) had been made a delight for him. In another hadith he said that salah is what elevates a Mu’min. We have to keep measuring ourselves in light of these examples and see where we stand.

           Allah (SWT) is Just, Wise, Mighty, and Merciful. It is solely His prerogative to decide the fate of a person in the hereafter in terms of that person’s entry into hell or paradise. A Muslim may because of his disobedience to Allah be sent to hell in order to purge him before he is sent to paradise. There is a hadith that says that whoever says the shahadah will enter paradise. A Mu’min, however, is promised paradise. It is in all fairness that the treatment of the two should be different. The qualities of a Mu’min are described in detail in Surat al-Mu’minun. “Successful indeed are the believers; those who are humble in their prayer; those who turn away from all that is frivolous; those who purify themselves; those who safeguard their chastity; except with their wives, and what their right hands possess for then they are free from blame, but those who seek to go beyond that are transgressors; those who are faithful to their trusts and promises; and those who safeguard their prayers; these are the heirs of Paradise; they shall abide in it forever” (al-Mu’minun, 23:1-11).

           Indeed, only when one’s consciousness of Allah (SWT) reaches the level of certainty (yaqeen) and one’s actions become a proof of it can one be called a Mu’min. To reach that level, we have to make a concerted effort to be mindful of Allah (SWT) at all times, and not only at the time of praying or performing other rituals. The ayah from surat al-Mai’dah clearly illustrates this notion, “Those who believe and do good deeds will not be blamed for what they may have consumed (in the past) as long as they are mindful of God (have taqwa), believe and do good deeds, and continue to be mindful of God (having more taqwa) and believe.” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93). Struggling in the path of Allah (jihad) to honor the Creator becomes the passion of a real believer. Struggling in the path of Allah (jihad) is an integral part of real iman. The link between the two is explained in surat al-Hujurat, “The true believers (Mu’minun) are only those who have faith in God and His Messenger and then doubt not, but strive hard with their wealth and their persons for the cause of God. Such are the truthful ones” (al-Hujurat, 49:15).

           Surat al-Nisa’ lays down the first five articles of faith. “O you who believe! Believe in God and His Messenger and in the Scripture He sent down to His Messenger, as well as what He sent down before. He who denies God, His angels, His Scriptures, His messengers and the Last Day has surely gone far astray” (al-Nisa,. 4:136). We come to know of the sixth article of faith through Hadith Jibril, and that is to believe in divine decree (qadar), both, the good and the bad of it. The term qadar refers to destiny, and should not be confused with the term qadr, which has to do with power, and the qudrah of Allah. The term qadr is found in the ayah, “Truly, We sent it down on the Night of Power” (al-Qadr, 97:1). Qadar literally means proportion or measure. Its usage can be found in the ayah, “We have created everything in due measure/proportion (qadar).”(al-Qamar, 54:49), and in the ayah, “It is He who created everything and determined its exact measure (qadar)” (al-Furqan, 25:2). Qadar is understood as the infinite Knowledge of Allah (SWT). When Allah (SWT) created each thing, He determined when it would come into existence and when it would cease to exist. He also determined its qualities and nature. All this is documented in the eternally preserved tablet (Lawh al-Mahfouz). “Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves, without its being in a Book before We make it happen. That is something easy for Allah” (al-Hadid, 57:22). And everything in the universe, both in the realms of the seen and the unseen, is completely subject to     the overriding power of Allah. Nothing can happen outside His Will.“He has knowledge of all things”(al-Baqarah, 2:29).

            It is to be understood clearly that pre-knowledge of everything does not necessarily mean predestination. We are not compelled by Allah to do acts which we do of our own choice. We are not programmed robots; rather we have been given freedom of choice to follow the right path and be grateful or take the wrong path and be ungrateful. The way has been shown to us. “We guided him on the Way, whether he is thankful or unthankful”(al-   Insan, 76:3). Man is solely responsible for the choices he makes. In order to have faith in the qadar, we need to understand the qudrah of Allah. “Truly, Allah has power over all things” (al-Baqarah, 2:109).

           To believe in and to understand the concept of qadar helps us to have complete reliance (tawakkul) on Allah. We then begin to appreciate that whatever happens, (good or bad) is from Allah (SWT).

     

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque 

    IONA Research & Publications

  • Islam Iman & Ihsan - Part 1 (Dec 28, 2012 ) Open or Close

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    “Those who believe and do good deeds will not be blamed for what they may have consumed (in the past) as long as they are mindful of God (have taqwa), believe and do good deeds, and continue to be mindful of God (having more taqwa) and believe, and grow ever more mindful of God (having even more taqwa) and perfect their faith (Ihsan): God loves the Muhsineen (those who strive to perfect their faith)” (al-Ma’idah, 5:93). What is inferred from this ayah of Surat al-Ma’idah is that there are three different levels of deen (maratib al-deen). One’s iman or faith may be (1) at the level of Islam (legal iman), (2) at the level of personal conviction, i.e., iman in the heart, or (3) at the level of ihsan, which is the highest level of iman

           The Qur’an refers to several inquires directed by the companions (sahaba) to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). A few examples of such inquiries are: “They ask you about the phases of the moon.” (al-Baqarah, 2:189), “They will ask you what they should spend on others” (al-Baqarah, 2:215), “They ask you about fighting in the sacred month” (al-Baqarah, 2:217), and so on. However, they never asked the Prophet (SAW) about the different levels of iman. It took a strange man to have come out of nowhere to ask the Prophet (SAW) these very important and fundamental questions.

           These questions were answered by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in a well-known hadith, commonly known as Hadith Jibril that has been narrated by many prominent companions and collected by various collectors of ahadith including Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim. According to the Sahih of Imam Muslim, it is narrated that ‘Umar ibn Khattab (RA) said,

      “While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah (SAW), there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with extremely black hair. No traces of travel were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet (SAW) and rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs, and said, ‘O Muhammad! Tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, ‘Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka'bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it).’ He (the man) said, ‘You have told the truth.’ We were astonished at him questioning him and telling him that he was right, he went on to ask, ‘Tell me about iman (faith).’ He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, ‘It is that you believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects.’ He said, ‘You have told the truth.’ Then he (the man) said, ‘Tell me about Ihsan.’ He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, ‘It is that you worship Allah as though you could see Him, for if you can’t see Him then truly He sees you.’ He said, ‘Tell me about the Hour.’ He (the Messenger of Allah) said, ‘the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.’ So he said, ‘Well, tell me about its signs (i.e. of its coming).’ He (SAW) said, ‘They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.’ Thereupon the man went away. I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, ‘O 'Umar, do you know who that questioner was?’ I replied, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion (deen).’”

           There are different narrations to this hadith, but what it tells us is that the strange man was none other than angel Jibril (AS) who had come to teach the companions their deen. According to one narration the man who had just appeared out of nowhere, also disappeared mysteriously, and could not be traced by the companions who in compliance of the Prophet’s instructions, went out to search for him. Even the Prophet (SAW) did not recognize him until such time that it dawned upon him that the person was Jibril. Another narration says that Umar (RA) kept thinking for three days about this man who had asked the Prophet (SAW) such fundamental and crucial questions which the companions themselves had not asked him. It was then that the Prophet (SAW) informed him that the man was Jibril who had come to teach them their religion, and that whenever Jibril had come earlier as a man, he had recognized him. What was strange about this man was that he would ask the Prophet (SAW) a question and confirm the answer given by the Prophet (SAW) just as a teacher asks his students questions and then gives them his feedback.

           The above mentioned hadith describes what Islam, iman, and ihsan are. The two terms, Islam and iman are often taken for granted to be the same as they usually appear to be used synonymously in the Qur’an. Would it be correct to say that a Muslim is a Mu’min and a Mu’min is a Muslim? Indeed, at the legal level, every Muslim is a Mu’min and every Mu’min is a Muslim. But at the spiritual level, this may not be so.

           In the hadith under reference, The Prophet (SAW) explained that Islam relates to the outward actions of the limbs in words and deeds, the first being the action of the tongue, which declares the testimony of faith: “I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Then there are the modes of worship that involve one’s limbs. These are, prayers (salah), obligatory charity (zakah), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (hajj). The two testimonies of faith (al-shahadatan) are the basis of monotheism (tauhid). Prayers are a means to be constantly connected with Allah (SWT), because a true believer needs Him every moment of his or her life. The concept of monotheism and the need to pray are beautifully blended in the ayah, “Verily, I am God; there is no god but Me. So worship Me and keep up the prayer so that you remember Me” (Ta Ha, 20:14). Zakah entails action pertaining to production of wealth, and its purification through spending in charitable causes as ordained by Allah (SWT). Fasting too is a mode of worship that besides many other benefits raises one’s level of piety, and strengthens one spiritually. Finally, performance of hajj, which is all about sincere repentance, eradicates one’s sins and makes one return, as if it were, to the day one was born.

           As far as iman is concerned, it is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and fate (qadar), both the good and the bad of it. These are unseen realities that a Muslim must believe in. Any Muslim who denies any one of these articles of faith will cease to be a Muslim, even if he or she performs all the prescribed modes of worship.

           It is important to understand the fundamental difference between Islam (legal iman) and iman, meaning iman at the level of conviction in the heart (yaqeen fil qalb). This distinction is mentioned in an ayah of Surat al-Hujurat, which says, “The desert Arabs say, ´We have iman.´ Say: ´You do not have iman. Say rather, ‘We have become Muslims’ for iman has not yet entered into your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not undervalue your actions in any way. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (al-Hujurat, 49:14). Here the Prophet (SAW) is told to inform the desert Arabs that they have no iman, because it is not found in their hearts. This means that they do not have the required recognition of the truth and commitment to it. It is God who alone can look into people’s hearts and judge their intentions and thoughts. If people obey God by doing what He asks them to do, and their works follow God’s command, they will be rewarded, even though these works are not necessarily accompanied by recognition of truth and commitment to it. In this case the desert Arabs have come to the Prophet (SAW) and surrendered to Islam. They became Muslims while real faith has not yet matured to the level of personal conviction. In connection with this ayah, Ibn Taymiyyah, a 13th century Islamic scholar and theologian, stated, ‘God has proved in the Qur’an Islam without Iman.’ Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn al-Qayyim (May Allah (SWT) bestow mercy upon their souls) are of the opinion that this particular ayah makes it very clear that while every Mu’min is a Muslim, every Muslim is not necessarily a Mu’min.

           This discussion brings us to another point, and that is to know the difference between a Muslim and a Mu’min. Interestingly, Imam Abu Hanifa (May Allah (SWT) bestow mercy upon his soul), one of the greatest Imams of the legal schools of thought (madhahib), arguing from a purely jurisprudential point of view contends in his work al-Fiqh al-Akbar that every believer is a Mu’min from a legalistic angle. That person, however, sinful or hypocrite he may be, will continue to enjoy all the rights and privileges of a Muslim in an Islamic state. For Imam Abu Hanifa, therefore, iman neither increases nor decreases. It remains the same. On the contrary, Imam al-Bukhari, the leading authority on hadith, argues from a purely spiritual point of view and asserts that iman does increase and decrease.

           There are numerous ahadith that tell us who a Muslim is and who a Mu’min is. For example, there is a hadith that says, “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are secure; and a muhajir (emigrant) is one who abandons what Allah has forbidden.” Another hadith tells us who a Mu’min is, Umar bin al-Khattab (RA) addressed Allah's Messenger saying, “Messenger of Allah! You are dearer to me than everything except myself.” Thereupon, the Prophet (SAW) said, “By the one in whose hand is my life, your iman will not be complete until I become dearer to you than your own self.” Then Umar said to him, “You are now dearer to me than my own self.” The Prophet (SAW) said, “Now! Umar your iman is complete.” Would then make one if he or she loves himself or someone else more than the Prophet (SAW) or perhaps if he or she are mischievous to others a non-believer (non-Muslim, or without iman)?

           These ahadith have to be understood in their context. It is not proper to label a Muslim as a disbeliever (kafir) unless that person outright rejects any of the articles of faith or modes of worship. As long as he does not deny them, he will be treated as a Muslim in an Islamic State even if he is not a practicing Muslim. While Islam has more to do with the outward actions and is a legal status, iman is a state of the heart that is known only to Allah (SWT).

           In a well-known incident, the Prophet (SAW) admonished Osama ibn Zayd (RA) for killing a man who had got the best of the Muslims in battle and then when Osama approached him to take off his head, he pronounced the kalmia (profession of faith). Thinking this was just an attempt to spare his life, Osama killed him anyway. When he mentioned the incident to the Prophet (SAW), he was very angry at Osama and told him, “Did you kill him in spite of his professing La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah).” And Osama replied, “O Messenger of Allah! He said it out of fear of our arms. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Why did you not cut his heart open to find out whether he had done so sincerely or not? ….”
    It is also learnt from a hadith that the iman leaves the heart when a person is in the act of committing certain major sins, and comes back to the heart after the act has been committed, and the person repents. The hadith says, “No adulterer is a believer (mu’min) at the time when he is committing adultery; no thief is a believer at the time when he is stealing; nor does the one who drinks wine do so while he is a believer. Yet, (the gate of) repentance is open thereafter.” Another version of the hadith says, “If a man commits zina (fornication/adultery), faith comes out of him and hovers over him like a cloud, then when he stops, faith returns to him.” It is evident from these prophetic sayings that a believer (legal mu’min) who commit sins (although may not be a believer -real mu’min- while committing the sin) remains a Muslim or a legal mu’min.

           There is a hadith which says, “What lies between a man and disbelief (kufr) is the abandonment of prayer.” The Ulama’ interpreting this hadith say that such kufr does not relate to the kufr of aqidah (belief) but is more related to fisq (transgression of a divine law).

           A politico-religious sectarian group of fanatical and radically extremist Muslims called the Khawarij (Kharijites) had emerged in the early history of Islam, just after about thirty years of the Prophet’s demise. According to their beliefs any Muslim who committed a major sin (fornication, intoxication, murder, stealing etc.) was regarded as a disbeliever, and hence an apostate. Accordingly that person could never re-enter the faith and had to be killed for his apostasy along with his wives and children. The Khawarij were defeated by Ali ibn Talib (RA) in the battle of Naharwan. Scholars of Islam consider such Muslims as fasiqs (transgressors of a divine law) and not kafirs (disbelievers).

           Even the hypocrites (munafiqs) during the Prophet’s blessed life were not declared to be outside the pale of Islam because they continued to remain Muslims in the legal sense and continued to enjoy full citizenship of the Islamic State despite the Qur’an’s stern warning about their ultimate fate: “The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell, and you will find no one to help them” (al-Nisa’, 4:145).

           Hence it is important that we understand these concepts and avoid being judgmental by calling or treating Muslims as disbelievers by questioning their faith.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

  • Purity of Intention - Part 2 (Dec 21, 2012) Open or Close

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    Purity of Intention - Part 2

           In continuation of the last sermon on the topic of ‘Purity of Intention,’ which discussed the hadith on the importance of sincerity of intention (ikhlas al-niyyah), today’s sermon will be focused more on the latter part of that hadith that talks about hijrah. The hadith states, 

    "Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each person will have what he or she intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a woman he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated."

           It can be inferred from the hadith that hijrah may be of two types: (1) Hijrah to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger and (2) Hijrah to this material world. Usually, one’s intention is inclined to either one of them. One could have a leaning toward both but that would be reflective of the attitude of a hypocrite (munafiq) whose tongue is with Allah and His Messenger but whose heart is with the world (dunya).

           The background of this hadith explains the last statement of the Prophet (SAW). During the time when the emigration from Mecca to Al-Medina was made compulsory on all Muslims living in Mecca, a person sent a proposal of marriage to a woman named Umm Qais, which she turned down saying that he would have to emigrate to Al-Madinah to marry her. Accordingly, he migrated to Al-Medina for this specific purpose, and the two were married there. On account of this event, the man came to be known among the Companions as Muhajir Umm Qais. It is learnt from another hadith that there is no hijrah (from Mecca to Al-Medina) after the conquest of Mecca, reason being that Islam had been established in Mecca after its conquest by the Muslims.

           It may well be asked if the immigration of most people in present times is toward Allah and His Messenger or toward the duniya. It is evident that it is toward the latter. The Qur’an does not ask us not to abandon the duniya; rather it advises us to use it as means to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). “Seek the life to come by means of what God has granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world. Do good to others as God has done good to you” (al-Qasas, 28:77). It is part of Allah’s plan that the duniya with all its adornments and attractions has been made alluring for people in order to test them. “It has been made attractive for people to love the desired things; that is, women and children, hoarded heaps of gold and silver, branded horses, cattle and farms. That is an enjoyment of the worldly life; while the best of abodes is with God” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:14).

           Apparently, the multitude of people who migrated to this land (United States) did not do so in the path of Allah and His Messenger; rather they did so for other reasons; perhaps for higher education, for livelihood, or for safer and better living conditions. We need to keep a watch on the intentions behind our actions. It is noteworthy that our intentions can also be transformed or sublimated from being purely world-driven to being driven for seeking the pleasure of Allah (SWT). As it is, nobody is aware of the remaining moments of one’s life. “No one can die except with God’s permission at a predestined time. If anyone desires the rewards of this world, We shall grant him thereof; and if anyone desires the rewards of the Hereafter, We shall grant him thereof; and We will reward the grateful” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:145).People get what they strive for. Allah (SWT) rewards them accordingly, but He is grateful to those individuals who put Him ahead of everything else.

           Death is inevitable at the appointed time. “Every human being is bound to taste death: and you shall receive your rewards in full on the Day of Resurrection. He who is kept away from the Fire and is admitted to Paradise, will surely triumph; for the life of this world is nothing but an illusory enjoyment” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:185). There are some people who get so captivated by the dunya that they desire nothing beyond its deceptive and fleeting enjoyment. The Qur’an captures their sentiments in ayah 200 of Surat al-Baqarah by stating, “There are some who say, Our Lord, give us abundance in this world.” However, the same ayah goes on to say, “These shall have no share in the world to come.” There are some others about whom the Qur’an tells us that they supplicate Allah (SWT) for good in both worlds and seek His protection from the fire of hell: “But there are others who pray, Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well as good in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the Fire” (al-Baqarah, 2:201). This supplication (du’a) is said to be one of the most adored supplications of the Prophet (SAW). The good in this world is not necessarily restricted to material possessions. The Prophet (SAW) died with nothing. The hasana (goodness) is this world is more related to one’s contentment of the heart with whatever Allah (SWT) has granted one. Of course, there is nothing wrong in asking Allah for anything that one may need.

           It is important that while pursuing the duniya for one’s sustenance, livelihood, and well-being, one’s gaze should be fixed toward the hereafter (akhirah). While a healthy balance needs to be maintained between the two, the focus should always be toward the akhirah. One will not be deprived of what has been decreed for one in terms of worldly provisions, but care should be taken to earn one’s livelihood through permissible (halal) means and not through prohibited (haram) means. Allah (SWT) has commanded us to be sincere to Him. “They were only ordered to worship Allah (alone), sincerely devoting their deen to Him as people of pure natural belief, and to establish salat and pay zakat — for that is the true deen” (al-Baiyinah, 98:5).

           There are two types of hijrah one may undertake when immigrating in the path of Allah and His Messenger: the physical hijrah and the spiritual hijrah. The spiritual hijrah means to depart from anything that is forbidden and to lead a life of complete submission to Allah (SWT) by fully complying with His commandments to the best of one’s ability. “So be dutiful to God as best as you can; and listen, and obey” (al-Taghabun, 64:16). As for the physical hijrah, it is to physically migrate from one place to another in the vast spacious land of Allah (SWT) for the purpose of seeking His good pleasure. “And if anyone leaves home as a migrant towards God and His Messenger and is then overtaken by death, his reward from God is sure. God is most forgiving and most merciful” (al-Nisa’, 4:100). It is the purity of intention that attracts Allah’s forgiveness and mercy.

           Hijrah may also be classified into being either individual or collective. As far as individual hijrah is concerned, there is a hadith that says, “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are secure; and a muhajir (emigrant) is one who abandons what Allah has forbidden.” Another hadith tells us, “The muhajir is the one who avoids what Allah has prohibited.” When asked as to which hijrah is the greatest, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said that it is to leave what displeases Allah (SWT). As for the collective hijrah, it is explained through a hadith according to which the Prophet (SAW) said, “I declare obligatory upon you five things; Allah (SWT) has commanded me to do so. They are: organization (jama’ah), listening, obeying, making hijrah and making jihad for the cause of Allah (SWT).” Having discussed about hijrah, it is also important to know about jihad (struggle). It is narrated that the Prophet of Allah (SAW) returned from one of his battles, and thereupon said, “You have arrived with an excellent arrival, you have come from al-jihad al-asghar (lesser jihad) to al-jihad al-akbar (greater jihad)—the striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires.” Then there is the jihad with the Qur’an (jihad bil Qur’an) in order to make Allah (SWT) supreme, here on earth. The blessed companions of the Prophet (SAW) exemplified the physical, the spiritual, the individual, as well as the collective hijrah in their lives.

           Hijrah and jihad are two sides of the same coin. Hijrah in the path of Allah (SWT) without the element of jihad embedded in it remains only a partial hijrah, because the two are inseparable. This truth can be derived from the ayah, “I will certainly wipe out the bad deeds of those who emigrated and were driven out of their homes, who suffered harm for My cause, who fought and were killed. I will certainly admit them to Gardens graced with flowing streams, as a reward from God: the best reward is with God” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:195).As a matter of fact, hijrah and jihad in the path of Allah (SWT) are only for the true believers who look forward to God’s mercy. “But those who have believed, migrated, and striven for God’s cause, it is they who can look forward to God’s mercy: God is most forgiving and merciful” (al-Baqarah, 2:218). They strive to qualify for Allah’s mercy for they understand the hadith which says that nothing would save one on the Day of Judgment, including one’s good deeds other than one is covered by the mercy (rahmah) of Allah (SWT).

           True believers have no doubt about what Allah (SWT) and His Messenger have promised them. As such they keep striving for the cause of Allah. The Qur’an calls them al-Sadiqun (the truthful ones). “The believers are only those who have faith in God and His Messenger and then doubt not, and strive, hard with their wealth and their persons for the cause of God. Such are the truthful ones” (al-Hujurat, 49:15). They do not stoop down to the level of the hypocrites who say what they do not do, and who are admonished by the Qur’an, “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do?”(al-Saff, 61:2). The true believers strive to live according to the ayah that says, “My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for God, the Lord of the worlds” (al-An’am, 6:162).

           It is crucial that our hijrah to this fertile land of opportunities is also with the purest of intentions and with the declaration that it is toward Allah and His Messenger; otherwise we may fall in the categories of those who will have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah knows best.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

  • Purity of Intention - Part 1 (Dec 7, 2012) Open or Close

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           The subject matter of today’s khutba is purity of intention in our actions. There is a hadith that highlights the importance of sincerity of intention (ikhlas al-niyyah) in all our actions. This hadith is so significant that most of the classical scholars of hadith (mhaddithun) begin their collection of ahadith with this particular hadith: It is narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu'minin, Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab (RA), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say: “Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”

           Allah (SWT) does not accept any deed, no matter how virtuous it might appear to be, unless the deed has been done with purity of intention and for His sake. In Arabic, niyyah (intention) is the intent and will. It is the intention behind what one wants or is willing to do, whether the action is carried out or not. It is also said to be the state of one’s mind at the time one carries out an action or the mental faculty by which one deliberately decides upon a course of action.

           Imam Rajab, a traditional Muslim scholar commenting on this hadith said, “The first sentence of the hadith, "innama al-a'mal bi-l-niyyat," is a declaration that the voluntary actions of a person are a consequence only of that person's purpose to perform the act or bring it into existence. The second sentence, "wa innama li-kulli imri` ma nawa," is a declaration of religion's judgment of the act in question. Thus, if the intention motivating an act is good, then performance of the act is good and the person receives its reward. As for the corrupt intention, if the action it motivates is corrupt, the person receives punishment for it. Therefore, acts in themselves, their goodness, foulness or neutrality, from the perspective of religion are judged according to the actor's intention that caused their existence.”

           Allah (SWT) has made it very clear in Surat al-Baiyinah that we should be sincere and have the purest of intentions in our ‘ibadah toward Him. “They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their deen sincerely His as people of pure natural belief, and to establish prayer (salat) and pay alms (zakat) — that is the true faith” (al-Baiyinah, 98:5). The word deen in the ayah refers to sincere devotion in the ‘ibadah (worship and obedience) of Allah (SWT), such ‘ibadah being all-inclusive, and not just partial. The ‘abd or true slave of Allah (SWT) should have sincere intention behind all of his or her actions, whether such actions involve the Creator or His creation. Two persons doing the same pious act with different intentions will be judged equally by us, but the judgment of their action with Allah (SWT) will depend upon the intentions behind their action—the states of their hearts at the time of performing the particular act, which is known only to Allah (SWT). To explain this phenomenon, there is a hadith that says, “The one who prays and wants people to see him has committed shirk. The one who fasts and wants the people to know about his fasting has committed shirk. The one who gave charity (sadaqah) and wants people to know about his charity has committed shirk.”

           Interestingly, the import and spirit of this hadith also appears in the Bible (Matthew, 6:1-16). Excerpts taken from it read as follows: “Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full.” “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full.” “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full.” All prophets of God share the same teachings coming from the same source—from God, Most High. The Prophet (SAW), as we know, was blessed with the most concise and precise speech (jawami’ ul kalim). The words of the ahadith might be few, but the meanings behind them are very profound.

           The shirk mentioned in the above hadith refers to riya (showing off), which comes under the category of al-shirk al-khafi (the hidden shirk). As for the major shirk, it is the worst sin that one could commit. Allah (SWT) is willing to pardon any person for any sin except the sin of shirk, which implies associating anything or anyone with Allah (SWT). We find this stated clearly twice in Surat al-Nisa’, once in ayah 48, and the second time in ayah 116. “God will not forgive anyone for associating something with Him, while He will forgive whoever He wishes for anything besides that. Whoever ascribes partners to God is guilty of a monstrous sin” (al-Nisa’, 4:48). “…Surely, God will not forgive the ascribing of partners to Him. He forgives whoever He will for anything other than that. Whoever ascribes partners to God has strayed far indeed” (al-Nisa, 4:116). Any sin other than the sin of shirk is pardonable. Allah's messenger (SAW) said, “A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.”

           We need to be very careful that our intentions at all times are pure and that they are solely for the sake of Allah (SWT). There is a hadith which vividly describes how best of actions may result in worst of consequences, if not accompanied with sincerity and good intention, and if not done solely for the sake of Allah (SWT). Ibn Al-Qayyim explains the hadith of ‘the first three to be thrown into Hell on the Day of Resurrection.’ He says: “From Abu Hurairah, who said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘Verily, the first to be judged on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who had died as a martyr. He will be brought forward. Allah will remind him of the favors He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. Then He will ask him: `What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: `I fought for Your Cause till I was martyred.’ Allah will say: `You have lied. You fought so that people might call you courageous; and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell. Next a man who had acquired and imparted knowledge and read the Qur’an will be brought forward, Allah will remind him of the favors He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. Then He will ask him: `What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: `I acquired knowledge and taught it, and read the Qur’an for Your sake.’ Allah will say to him: `You have lied. You acquired knowledge so that people might call you a learned (man), and you read the Qur’an so that they might call you a reciter, and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him, and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell. Next a man whom Allah had made affluent and to whom Allah had given plenty of wealth, will be brought forward, Allah will remind him of the favors He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. He will ask him: `What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: `I did not neglect any of the ways. You liked wealth to be spent liberally for Your sake’. Allah will say to him: `You have lied. You did it so that people might call you generous, and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell.”

           The ayahs 15 & 16 of Surat Hud also point toward the message about the consequences of one’s intentions. “As for those who desire the life of the dunya and its finery, We will give them full payment in it for their actions. They will not be deprived here of their due. But such people will have nothing in the akhirah but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void” (Hud, 11:15-16). The Qur’an tells us that everyone acts according to his or her shakilah (nature). “Say: Each man acts according to his nature, but your Lord knows best who is best guided on the Path” (al-Isra’, 17:84). The term shakilah includes meanings of attitude, nature, pattern, culture, background, circumstances, and the limits ordained by God within which one has to operate. People will do what they want to do but their actions will be essentially judged on the basis of the intentions behind the actions.

           The benefits of good intentions and about the recording of deeds have been enumerated in a hadith qudsi. Ibn `Abbas (RA) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) related from his Lord (SWT): “Verily Allah has recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds.” Then he clarified that: “Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it with Himself as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, or more than that. But if he intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it down as one single evil deed.” The hadith with this text is a clarification from the part of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) about the way of recording deeds. Another version of the hadith is: “If My servant considers doing a sin, do not record it against him. If he acts upon it, record it as one sin. If he considers doing a good deed and does not do it, record it as one good deed, and if he actually does it, record it as 10 good deeds.”

           Sincere intention is a shield against Satan, our arch enemy, who had said, “My Lord, because You misled me, I will make things on the earth seem good to them and I will mislead them all, every one of them except Your slaves among them who are sincere.” (al-Hijr, 15:39-40). With the rampant vices that we see everywhere, humanity at large seems to have been misled by Satan. Let us strive to be among those true sincere slaves of Allah (SWT) whom Satan will not be able to mislead in sha’ Allah. We have no choice but to be sincere in our ‘ibadah of Allah (SWT). “They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their deen (Ibadah) sincerely His as people of pure natural belief, and to establish prayer (salat) and pay alms (zakat) — that is the true faith” (al-Baiyinah, 98:5).

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

  • Death (Nov. 23, 2012) Open or Close

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           Death is a subject that people often avoid to talk about, much less remember it. The Qur’an alludes to death at various places. For instance, in Surat Aal ‘Imran, we have, “Every soul will taste death and you will be paid in full only on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is kept away from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have triumphed. The present world is only an illusory pleasure” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:185).

           What is life? Philosophers and thinkers have always been grappling with this question. Rather than discussing their speculative thoughts, it is best to know what Allah (SWT) Himself says about life. “Bear in mind that the present life is just a game, a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children” (al-Hadid, 57:20). This is generally, the reality of man’s perception about this worldly life, whether that person is a Muslim, a follower of another faith tradition, an agnostic, or even an atheist.

           Even though death is something certain and inevitable, yet people tend to live as if they are going to live forever and not die. Death knows no age. Very often people die in the prime of their youth. It happens that sometimes the father has to bury his son. I had to do this a couple of days ago when my son died at the young age of 33. Besides other things that are predetermined for the child, while still in the mother’s womb, the term of its life or appointed time (ajal) is also one of them, and this is known only to Allah (SWT). “If God took people to task for the evil they do, He would not leave one living creature on earth, but He gives them latitude until an appointed time: when their time comes they cannot delay it for a moment nor can they bring it forward” (al-Nahl, 16:61). This mystery of life and death is not without purpose. Life of this world is a test from Allah (SWT). “Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to us you will all return” (al-Anbiya’, 21:35). One’s ultimate fate as regards whether one is forever a dweller of hell or paradise will be known only on the Day of Judgment.

           In this worldly life, people will be constantly put to all types of test. Believers are urged to be patient while facing trials and tribulations. “O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer, for God is with the patient´(al-Baqarah, 2:153).“We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But, give good news to those who are patient” (al-Baqarah, 2:155). Believers do not complain but resign themselves to God’s will, remaining patient in face of adversities, and knowing that they belong to God and to Him they will return. “Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, ´We belong to God and to Him we will return” (al-Baqarah, 2:156). They are the ones who receive blessings and mercy from their Lord, and they are the ones who are guided. “Those are the people who will have blessings and mercy from their Lord; they are the ones who are guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:157).

           We are indeed blessed in as much as Allah (SWT) gave us whatever we need for sustaining ourselves in this worldly life. Everything we see around us has been made subservient to man. Allah’s bounties and blessings are countless; but the multitude of humankind is unjust and unthankful to Allah (SWT). “He has given you everything you have asked Him for. If you tried to number Allah´s blessings, you could never count them. Man is indeed unjust and ungrateful” (Ibrahim, 14:34).

           There is no escape from death. The Qur’an states, “Death will overtake you wherever you be, even in the mightiest of towers” (al-Nisa’, 4:78). This being the case, are we ready and prepared for death which is looming upon each one of us. Generally, people get so enchanted by the glamour of this materialistic world and high standards of living it offers that very often they become oblivious of death and their own declining faith because of over indulgence in gratification of their desires. 

           What is the reality of death? When it occurs, the spirit (ruh) leaves the body. We learn through prophetic traditions that a good soul comes out of the body with ease, while an evil soul, which resists leaving the body is taken out harshly by the angel of death. The two types of souls are accordingly honored and dishonored in their respective journeys to the heavenly dimensions and back, when they are questioned in the graves. “Say: ´The Angel of Death, who has been given charge of you, will take you back and then you will be sent back to your Lord” (al-Sajdah, 32:11).

           Man takes nothing with him in his grave. We learn through a hadith which says, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: perpetual charity (Sadaqah Jariyah), knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” Such admonitions remind us that we should hasten in doing good deeds lest our time is up and our book of deeds gets closed forever. We should not be among those hypocrites who will lament to Allah (SWT) to give them more time to spend in His way and to be one of the righteous. “Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, ´My Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give sadaqah and be one of the righteous!” (al-Munafiqun, 63:10). We should strive to be among those about whom Allah (SWT) says, “We shall lodge forever those who believe and do good works in the mansions of Paradise beside which rivers flow. How excellent is the reward of those who labor; and who are steadfast and put their trust in their Lord.” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:58-59).

           Deeds are very important, but the intentions behind those deeds are still more important. A good deed with ill intention (niyyah) carries no reward with Allah (SWT). An example of this is to do an act with the intention of riya or showing off. We have to be very clear about our niyyah and take extra care to see that nothing is done with an intent to cheat, deceive or show off; rather any act should be done to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). Man gets the reward of what he intends. This is very clearly explained through hadith that says, “Actions are according to intentions, and every one will get what they intended. So whoever migrates for the sake of Allah and His messenger, the migration will be counted truly for Allah and His messenger. And whoever migrates for the sake of worldly increase or to marry someone, then the migration will count for whatever it was for.” This hadith also makes it clear that our migration (hijrah) should be for the sake of Allah and toward His path. This involves struggling in His path and doing everything that makes Him and His laws supreme, here in this world.

           Pursuing lawful (halal) means of livelihood is fine but we should not get entangled and enmeshed in duniya to the extent that we cannot extricate ourselves from it to expend some of our time, energy, money and capabilities in the way of Allah (SWT). There is good news for those who make hijrah for the sake of Allah (SWT). “And if anyone leaves home as a migrant towards God and His Messenger and is then overtaken by death, his reward from God is sure. God is most forgiving and most merciful” (al-Nisa’, 4:100). Purity of intention also attracts the mercy of Allah (SWT). After all, it is Allah’s mercy alone through which one can enter paradise. This is confirmed through a hadith that says, “Be moderate in worship, draw near to Allah, and give glad tidings, for indeed, none of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me unless Allah grants me mercy from Himself; and know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly even if it is small.”

           The condition of the heart is also to be kept in mind. Hearts get rusted. We learn from a hadith which says, “The hearts get rusted as does iron with water. When someone asked, ‘What could cleanse hearts again?’ The Prophet (SAW) replied, ‘Frequent remembrance of death and recitation of the Qur'an.’” In another hadith, we are told, “When a person commits a sin, a black dot is dotted on his heart. Then if that person gives up that sin, begs Allah to forgive him, and repents, then his heart is cleared; but if he repeats the evil deed, then that covering is increased till his heart is completely covered with it. And this is al-Ran that Allah mentioned in the Qur’an.” “No! but that which they used to commit has covered their hearts with rust” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:14). The Qur’an shows the way and hence helps one to stay away from sinful activities.

           We also learn through a hadith that there is goodness in every matter of a true believer (mu’min). The Prophet (SAW) said, “Wondrous is the affair of the mu’min for there is good in every matter of his and this is not the case with anyone except the mu’min; if he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him; and if he is inflicted with a calamity, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.”

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque
    IONA Research & Publications

     

  • Sincere Tawbah (Nov 16, 2012) Open or Close

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           The reality of tawbah (repentance) can be understood from a hadith, which says, “Every son of Adam is a sinner, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” While tawbah generally means seeking forgiveness from Allah (SWT), it literally means “to return” implying returning back to Allah (SWT) by seeking His forgiveness for our sins; by pledging to Him that we would refrain from all sins, and that we would take to the straight path. 

           A slave (‘abd) of Allah repents from all sins—minor as well as major. Alhamdulillah, it is by the Grace of Allah (SWT) that Muslims are exempted from the major sin of ‘the manifest shirk’ (al-shirk al-jali ), an example of which is ascribing sons or daughters to Allah (SWT). However, Muslims do fall into the trap of ‘the hidden shirk’ (al-shirk al-khafi ), which may be done without even being aware of it. An example of this is “Riya,” which means to perform acts or to show off in order to gain praise or fame. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “The one who prays and wants people to see him has committed shirk. The one who fasts and wants people to know about his fasting has committed shirk. The one who gives charity (sadaqah) and wants people to know about his charity has committed shirk.” Indeed one has to be aware of all types of shirk, refrain from them and repent to Allah (SWT) for committing any type of shirk, knowingly or unknowingly.

           Tawbah is not a lip-service or merely uttering words on the tongue for seeking Allah’s forgiveness (istighfar). It has to do with changing one’s attitude so that one is sincerely remorseful of one’s sinful activities, whether they are toward violation of the rights of Allah (SWT) or toward any wrongful action infringing upon the rights of other fellow humans. Allah (SWT) is eager to pardon those of his servants (‘ibad) who understand that they are imperfect and that they are not immune from sinning; yet their attitude is that they will do their best to be guided by the divine guidance. We have in Surat al-Nisa’, “Allah desires to make things clear to you and to guide you to the correct practices of those before you and to turn towards you. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise” (al-Nisa’, 4:26). And we have in Surat al-Baqarah, “O people, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be mindful [of Him]” (al-Baqarah, 2:21). Allah (SWT) knows our attitude whether we are sincere in returning back to Him or not. If we are truly sincere in returning back to Him, He (SWT) will guide us and protect us.

           We are stuck between two forces—one that is compelling us to return to Allah (SWT) and to repent to Him, and the other that is goading us toward all that is evil and forbidden. In other words, we are in a tug of war between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Allah (SWT) warns us of this situation when He says, “Allah wishes to turn towards you, but those who follow their lusts want you to go far astray” (al-Nisa’, 4:27). The followers of Satan among the humans and jinns take us far away from the straight path so that we are driven far away from the truth. We learn from a hadith that “Satan flows inside man like blood.” This is why people continue to become prey to the whisperings of Satan within them and begin to slavishly follow their base desires. This is why people continue to sin by day and by night.

           It is Allah's mercy upon His slaves that He has left the door of repentance open. It is narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah (SWT) holds out His Hand during the night to receive the repentance of the one who has committed wrong during the day and holds out His Hand during the day to receive the repentance of the one who has committed wrong during the night.” This saying of the Prophet should impel believers to repent to Allah (SWT) and to seek His forgiveness for sins committed by them by day or by night. Despite the magnitude of our sins, we must never lose hope in Allah’s mercy, because Allah tells us in Surat al-Zumar, “Say: O My servants who transgressed against themselves, do not despair of God's mercy. For God forgives all sins. He is the Forgiver, the Merciful."(al-Zumar, 39:53).

           Repentance in itself is not sufficient unless one revives and renews one’s faith with Allah (SWT), and begins to act in that direction. About such people Allah (SWT) says, “But those who repent, who believe, who do righteous deeds, will enter Paradise” (Maryam, 19:60). Hence, repentance has to be accompanied with revitalization of faith, and renewal of contract with Allah (SWT) that one will act to the best of one’s ability. Such are the people about whom Allah (SWT) says, “Allah will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful” (al-Furqan, 25:70).

           There is a hadith qudsi through which we learn that we should never despair from the mercy of Allah (SWT). The meaning of the hadith is: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” We can now understand how eager Allah (SWT) is to forgive His servants.

           Allah (SWT) loves those of His servants who repent and who purify themselves. “Allah loves those who turn back from wrongdoing and He loves those who purify themselves”(al-Baqarah, 2:222).The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, “Allah the Mighty and Majestic accepts the repentance of His servant as long as long as his death-rattle (gharghara) has not begun.” We learn from the Qur’an that Firaun’s repentance was not accepted as he believed in Allah (SWT) and repented to Him only when he was on the verge of death. Referring to this incident, the Qur’an says, “But as he was drowning he cried, ‘I believe there is no God except the one the Children of Israel believe in. I submit to Him. ‘Now? When you had always been a rebel, and a wrongdoer” (Yunus, 10:90-91).

           There are two types of tawbah—the individual tawbah and the collective tawbah. Every individual is accountable for his or her actions before Allah (SWT). A true believer (mu’min) will hasten to seek forgiveness from the sins he or she committed against Allah (SWT). If the ‘abd is sincere, Allah (SWT) will accept his repentance and forgive his or her sins. However, a sincere ‘abd must also see to it that whatever injustice he or she may have done against other people must be settled with them by returning their rights to them or seeking their forgiveness; otherwise they will have a claim against that ‘abd over those rights on the Day of Judgment.

           We also need to return back to Allah (SWT) collectively. Indeed, we have neglected our collective duties toward the deen of Allah (SWT). First of all, the Muslim ummah does not have a caliph (khalifa), whose voice would be representative of the voice of the ummah. At best, we are a multitude of scattered Muslims, disunited and disbanded, and an easy prey that is ready to be devoured by hungry wolves. We have neglected our collective duty of enjoining virtues and forbidding evil (al-Amr bi al-Ma’ruf and al-Nahy ‘an al-Munkar). It is our duty to collectively struggle for the establishment of a just social order based on divine injunctions. “Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104).

           It is not suggested that there should be only one jama’ah working for establishment of justice, and for promoting good, and forbidding evil. This is not feasible till such time that the ummah is guided on the basis of khilafah. Muslims should work with any jama’ah which is working to fulfill the collective obligations of the Muslim ummah. In doing so, the Qur’an advises the believers not to fear the censure of others, whosoever they may be. “Strive in the Way of Allah and do not fear the blame of anyone’s reproach” (al-Ma’idah, 5:54).

           A sincere repentance according to the scholars has certain conditions: (1) to acknowledge the sin; (2) to seek Allah’s forgiveness frequently; (3) to regret for the sin committed (4) to stop doing the sinful act immediately; (5) to be determined to never go back to that sin again; and (6) to give back the right to whom it is due if the sin involves infringing upon the rights of a person. If any of these conditions are not met, then the repentance will not be perfect. It is only the pure sincere repentance that is acceptable by Allah (SWT). “O you who believe; turn to God in sincere repentance” (al-Tahrim, 66:8).

           We can appreciate the merits of tawbah when we realize that the angels closest to Allah (SWT) calling on Him to forgive the believers who turn to Him in sincere repentance. “Those [angels] who carry the Throne and those who surround it celebrate the praise of their Lord and have faith in Him. They beg forgiveness for the believers: ‘Our Lord, You embrace all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who turn to You (in repentance) and follow Your path. Save them from the pains of Hell” (Ghafir, 40:7).

           Let us sincerely repent to Allah (SWT) for our sins—major and minor, intentional or unintentional, open or secret. Indeed He accepts sincere repentance. He is the most forgiving; the most merciful.

    Edited by Dr. Munawar Haque

    IONA Reseach & Publications

  • The Ten Commandments (Part 10) (Oct 12, 2012) Open or Close

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           Today’s khutba is the conclusion of a series of khutbas delivered earlier on the Qur’anic version of the Ten Commandments are contained in the Qur’an in Surat Surat al-Isra’ (Bani Israel). Nine of the Ten Commandments have been discussed so far. The topic of today’s khutba will focus on the tenth commandment, which has to do with maintaining modesty, humility, and humbleness. “And do not walk on the earth arrogantly; you cannot break it open, nor reach the mountains in height”(al-Isra’, 17:37). This ayah indicates that our gait or manner of walking should not reflect arrogance or pride in anyway. The way one walks speaks a lot about one’s personality.

           We learn from the Qur’an that the wise sage Luqman while counseling his son gave him instructions similar to the divine commandments under discussion. For example, he said, "My son, do not attribute any partners to God: attributing partners to Him is a great injustice’” (Luqman, 31:13); and compare this with the Qur’anic injunction, “Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him…” (al-Isra’, 17:23). In Surat Luqman we have “We have enjoined upon the people to be good to their parents”(Luqman, 31:14), and in Surat al-Isra’ we have, “You should show ihsan (kindness) to your parents”(al-Isra’, 17:23). Towards the end of his counseling, Luqman advises his young son: “Do not turn your face from people in scornful pride, nor walk on earth haughtily. Surely God does not like the proud and boastful” (Luqman, 31:18). These are the same words that resonate in the divine injunction given to us in ayah 37 of Surat al-Isra’, “And do not walk on the earth arrogantly…”(al-Isra’, 17:37). An important lesson we can derive is that parents should start guiding and training their young children in their most formative years, before they attain adulthood and maturity with Islamic injunctions, morals and manners.

           Surat al-Isra’ does not specify or suggest the manner in which one should walk. Surat Luqman, however, does so. “Walk modestly and lower your voice, for the ugliest of all voices is the braying of the ass” (Luqman, 31:19). One’s gait should be modest and moderate, neither having one’s face down looking at the ground nor up looking at the sky. Neither should one walk too fast nor too slow. The Arabic root word qasd in the ayah is suggestive of balance and moderation. Also, the tone of one’s voice should not be too loud, high-pitched or harsh; rather it should be somewhat low and measured.

           It is worth mentioning that the first and foremost quality of the slaves of the All-Merciful (‘ibad al-Rahman) as described in Surat al-Furqan has to do with their manner of walking. "The slaves of the All-Merciful are those who walk humbly on the earth and, who, when the ignorant speak to them, say, ´Peace´” (al-Furqan, 25:63). Because of the humbleness of their character, they do not fall into unnecessary disputes with ignorant people; rather they gracefully avoid them and wish them peace. Humbleness and humility are among the noblest virtues a believer could be blessed with. This is because true believers keep an eye on their insignificance and imperfection. They know and understand Allah’s perfection and His favors upon His creatures. Therefore, it does not behoove a person to be arrogant and haughty. Some people when using the word ‘I’ in their speech are quick to add words that mean, “I seek refuge in You (Allah) from the word ana (‘I’). It is Shaytan who is arrogant because he openly declared to Allah (SWT) his own superiority over Adam (AS) by saying, “I am better than him: You created me from fire and him from clay” (al-A’raf, 7:12).

           The best of humanity—Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was himself the most humble of persons. Rather than strutting and acting proudly as conquerors normally do, he entered Mecca after its conquest in the most humble manner. We learn from the Sirah that in gratefulness to Allah (SWT) for the peaceful victory over Mecca, and in praise and deference to Him, he lowered his head so much while riding his mount that his beard touched the back of his mount. Indeed, the Prophet (SAW)’s humility is unmatched.

           It is Allah (SWT) alone who possesses the attributes of praise, greatness and pride. "All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earth, Lord of all the worlds. All greatness (Kibriya, proper Pride) belongs to Him in the heavens and earth He is the Almighty, the All-Wise” (al-Jathiyah, 45:36-37). In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah (SWT) said: “Pride is My cloak and greatness My robe, and he who competes with Me in respect of either of them, I shall cast him into Hell-fire.” The words rida and izar in this hadith signify respectively the dress put around the waist and around the shoulders. Naturally, Allah (SWT) is not to be conceived as having mass or body that would need a dress. Such metaphoric expressions are attributes of divine glory. So, whoever competes to become associated with Allah (SWT) in these attributes belongs to Hell. One of Allah’s names is Al-Mutakabbir (The Supremel