Gain awareness – ignorance is not bliss
In Surah An-Nahl, Allah (swt) warns us against jumping to conclusions, “And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad (sa)) any but men, whom We inspired, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allah). So ask of those who know the Scripture (learned men of the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)), if you know not.” (An-Nahl 16:43) Here we learn the significance of being knowledgeable. People who acquire knowledge have a status above the ignorant ones.
Talking about ignorance, one of the practices in the days of ignorance was to bury the female child alive. “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief!” (An-Nahl 16:58) Our Prophet (sa) strove to banish this evil custom from the Arabian Peninsula; sadly however, it has crept into our societies today. Despite all the awareness, people still make faces when a daughter is born. Women are divorced for delivering a baby girl; even though they are not given a choice!
How will we face Allah (swt) in the hereafter?
He decides who gets a son and who gets a daughter. We can’t fight His will. For some people, Allah (swt) has ordained only male children; we don’t know the reason behind it. But Allah (swt) knows. So thank Him. For some people, He has ordained only daughters; they are their Paradise. Thank Allah (swt). Girl is an Amanah; (trust) you only look after her for some time, for someone else. People who don’t have children, perhaps it is destined for them to get closer to Allah (swt) through this test. Having or not having children is not a scale to assess someone’s success. Some people do not benefit from their children at all. Look at the wives of the Prophet (sa). Other than Khadijah (ra) and Mariah (ra); none of them had children from the Prophet (sa). But they were never depressed. All of Prophet’s (sa) children, except Fatimah (ra), passed away before him. The best of creation lost many of his children, but was he depressed? Hence, sit with those who have knowledge and learn from their wisdom.
Justice – order of the day
Allah (swt) commands us to be just, “Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (justice) and Al-Ihsan (i.e. to be patient in performing your duties to Allah, totally for Allah’s sake and in accordance with the Sunnah (legal ways) of the Prophet (sa) in a perfect manner), and giving (help) to kith and kin (i.e. all that Allah has ordered you to give them e.g., wealth, visiting, looking after them, or any other kind of help, etc.): and forbids Al-Fahsha (i.e. all evil deeds, e.g. illegal sexual acts, disobedience of parents, polytheism, to tell lies, to give false witness, to kill a life without right, etc.), and Al-Munkar (i.e. all that is prohibited by Islamic law: polytheism of every kind, disbelief and every kind of evil deeds, etc.), and Al-Baghy (i.e. all kinds of oppression), He admonishes you, that you may take heed.” (An-Nahl 16:90) Notice that justice comes before good conduct. It is because while it is virtuous to forgive people like Yusuf (as) did, no one can expect us to keep forgiving- despite their continuous disrespect and oppression. Seek justice, it’s your right; however, avenge your heart from anger.
Our journey – to this world and back
There are times when one does not have anything. He is low in terms of his worldly status. Then Allah (swt) expands his provision and instead of being grateful, he becomes haughty. “Whatever is with you, will be exhausted, and whatever with Allah (of good deeds) will remain. And those who are patient, We will certainly pay them a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.” (An-Nahl 16:96)
Presently, man misses his prayer for one more phone call, one more email, one more business transaction and one more task of the world. When he will enter Paradise, he will forget everything that he was given in the world. Jannah contains that which no eye has ever seen. It’s precious and free from filth. Man would look at his own wife and feel as if he is looking at her for the first time. No rancour or grudges. Let us not become arrogant for the blessings that Allah (swt) has gifted us. Rather, let us use those blessings for His cause. Give Him your wealth, your skills and your resources for a better return in the Hereafter.
Don’t strive for more – the day is close
Let us not waste our time here because Allah (swt) says, “(Remember) the Day when every person will come up pleading for himself, and everyone will be paid in full for what he did (good or evil, belief or disbelief in the life of this world) and they will not be dealt with unjustly.” (An-Nahl 16:111) The more things we possess, the more answerable we will be on that Day. It will be said, “(It will be said to him): Read your book. You yourself are sufficient as a reckoner against you this Day.” (Al-Isra 17:14) The poor (mentioned as Miskeen in authentic narrations) will be the first ones to enter Paradise, because they had very little rights upon others. Those who have been blessed by Allah (swt) have been informed of their responsibilities towards others. If we fail to honour their responsibilities, there will be people on the Day of Judgement fighting against us. They will take away our good deeds and there will be no help.
Polite invitation towards Deen
As Quran touches our hearts, it is equally important to speak to people in such a way that it has a positive effect on their hearts; especially when one is calling them towards Allah (swt), “Invite (mankind, O Muhammad (sa)) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Inspiration and the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.” (An-Nahl 16:125)
Use kind words and good speech to win hearts. Do not be harsh and condescending. The Prophet (sa) won people over by his beautiful conduct and gentleness. (If you lack confidence, recite the Dua of Prophet Moosa (as) (Ta-Ha 20: 25).)
Who deserves our kindness the most?
Our parents! If your parents are alive, exert yourselves in serving them. If they have passed away, make Dua for their forgiveness and an elevation of their status in the Hereafter. May Allah (swt) make us and our children a source of continuous charity for parents. Ameen. Our parents and household was chosen by Allah (swt). No child picks his own parents. Therefore, families are one of the tests decreed. Children are a test for their parents, and parents are a test for their children. Remember the phrase: As you do so shall be done unto you. Be kind to your parents; give them your love and respect, and above all give them your time.
Allah (swt) says, “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy…” (Al-Isra 17:23-24)
“Uff”- the prohibited word!
“Uff” is a word uttered in rebuke. We should remember they are our parents. They fed us, looked after our needs, raised us, made arrangements for our education and upbringing, and did whatever they thought was right for us. If we feel they have failed in some aspects, then we should let it go and forgive them. Look at how the instruction of good treatment is followed by a Dua. Allah (swt) instructs us to say, “and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.” (Al-Isra 17:24) When we feel cold towards our parents, we should go back and check our Islamic history. Read up stories of the Companions (ra) and learn how they were with their parents. Some of them had non-Muslim parents; yet they never dishonoured them. Some of them were oppressive; yet the Companions (ra) never lost their good conduct.
We come across incidences of parental abuse even in Muslim societies. Today, being a parent is not enough. One must beseech Allah (swt) for his own uprightness. If we are not upright ourselves, what would we be teaching our children? Parents complain of their children not respecting them, have you reflected upon your own behaviour? How do you speak to them? How do you carry yourself around them? May Allah (swt) make us responsible and upright parents; and enable us to fulfil the rights of people around us. Ameen.
Look at what He says further, “And give to the kindred his due and to the Miskin (poor) and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift .” (Al-Isra 17:26) After spending on one’s own family, a person must look at the needs of his relatives, who might not be wealthy, and travellers who are strangers in a new land. Even though begging is despised; but never rebuke a beggar. Utter a kind word and turn away.
Next, Allah (swt) commands us not to be wasteful. Extravagance is one reason why people are unable to give in charity. We spend so much on ourselves in superfluous things that we have little left to give in Allah’s (swt) way. Wastefulness is ingratitude. We should not indulge in the worldly life so much that we lose our focus – the Paradise.
Not being wasteful does not mean living like a miser, “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty.” (Al-Isra 17:29) Islam recommends choosing the middle path. Neither be extravagant nor stingy. Keep a balance. Spend on your needs and occasional indulgences. We learn in Hadeeth that the best Dinar that a man spends is a Dinar that he spends on his family. (Muslim)
Why are we stopped from extravagance?
Extravagance instils haughtiness. “And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can neither rend nor penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.All the bad aspects of these (the above mentioned things) are hateful to your Lord.” (Al-Isra 17: 37-38) So why be haughty and demean others by means of our wealth when everything is from Allah (swt)?
Peace – the order of Jannah
“And say to My slaves (i.e. the true believers of Islamic Monotheism) that they should (only) say those words that are the best.” (Al-Isra 17:53) Allah (swt) commands us to be careful with our words; which is why we see that one of the treasures of Jannah would be “no foul speech”.
Shaytan – the open enemy
“(Because) Shaytan (Satan) verily sows disagreements among them. Surely, Shaytan (Satan) is to man a plain enemy” (Al-Isra 17:53) Shaytan, the known enemy to mankind, provokes us to gossip, back bite, slander, and hurt others. Let us not use the resources that Allah (swt) blessed us with, in evil deeds. Let us indulge our tongues in reciting the Quran, praising Allah (swt) and calling people towards His path. Let us consider another person’s reaction before we open our mouths. Let us remember that the angels near us are recording every word that we speak and every deed that we perform. Let us be people of Shukr and not those of Kufr.
How can one become a Kafir?
By turning away from Allah (swt) despite enjoying all His favours, “And when We bestow Our Grace on man (the disbeliever), he turns away and becomes arrogant, far away from the Right Path.” (Al-Isra 17:83) What are the repercussions of distancing from Allah (swt)? He loses hope, “And when evil touches him he is in great despair.” (Al-Isra 17:83)
Hope vs. fear
A believer should live his life between hope and fear. Hope that Allah (swt) will forgive him and fear for what if He doesn’t. Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) would say, “If it were announced from the heaven: ‘O people! You are all entering Paradise except one,’ I would fear to be him; and if it were announced: ‘O people! You are all entering the Fire except one,’ I would hope to be him.”
(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)