Forces of Change

Vol 3- Issue 3 Forces of ChangeA glance at the past would show urban Pakistani women involved in various extra-curricular activities: cooking classes, fitness programs, volunteer work or school-teaching to name a few. Studying the Quran and the Sunnah in a proper educational setup was not common. Today, a noteworthy and heart-warming trend observed among them is that, whether residing in their home-country or abroad, they are turning towards this fruitful endeavor in hordes. Attending Quranic Tafseer and Hadeeth classes as regular students, sitting in part-time as casual attendees, listening to audio tapes or taking Internet classes – most women can be found actively pursuing Islamic education at their own pace. Anyone we meet has a sister, daughter, aunt, mother-in-law, friend or neighbor absorbed in this pastime. The Hijab is randomly sprouting up in even the most ‘modernized’ of clans as an eye-opening reality that change is imminent.

The initial journey towards enlightenment for most of these women is, however, hardly a rosy one. The first challenge they face is the demand their studies make on their time: after coming home, they still have to study for the next day. Tests are routine. For most, learning to balance their time between studies and family is a difficult task.

Another obstacle they face is the mounting friction with family members. Since the Quran teaches them, what Allah (swt) has ordained and what He has forbidden, they get emotionally-charged with wish to change overnight into ideal Muslims, inadvertently feeling intolerance for some un-Islamic activities going on in their homes. Since their family is not being enlightened by the Quran every day, they cannot cope with the sudden criticism of their day-to-day activities.

“My husband has been drinking for years now, and I never used to object,” confides one well-off mother-of-two, “but ever since I have started studying the Quran, I cannot tolerate this habit of his. I keep telling him that alcohol is Haram, which is making things sour between us.”

“None of my teens perform Salah. This is agonizing me with worry, and often I end up shouting at them. They just don’t listen!” laments one mother.

“My daughters are under immense peer pressure – all their friends date boys. I am seriously thinking Nikah at 16 is the only option for my teenagers,” worries a Pardah-observing mother.

“My mother constantly chides me for having started Hijab. She only covers her head in the Bazaars and says I should do no more either; else, I will receive proposals only from Maulvi-type families,” says a young IBA graduate.

What can these well-meaning students of the Quran, desiring to see their family members join them on their path towards pleasing Allah (swt), do in order to maintain the peaceful atmosphere of their homes?

Remember your own past

For being more humble and less judgmental, a Mumin should recall his own past actions, realizing that only Allah (swt) can guide His slaves. Have you yourself become the best model of Islamic conduct that you can start criticizing everybody in sight? It is easy to judge and analyze others. Constant self-criticism and self-accountability will ensure that you approach your relatives with softness and humility.

Focus on giving the rights of others due on you

If an immense positive change will come about in you after studying the Quran, your relatives will also want to study it. Be giving in all relational aspects, returning bad behavior with good – extend good conduct towards the fussy husband, the nosy neighbor, the interfering sister-in-law, the lazy servant, and the rude teenager. Fighting and returning taunts of others with some of your own implies a need for improvement in your own conduct. Your children should have enough trust in you to come to you for advice, instead of maintaining a distance for fear of an onslaught. Be their friend and confidante. Cater to all their emotional needs.

Patience

Try to restrain the urge to lecture your family. You got there before them, but dragging them towards Allah (swt), when they are reluctant, will only make them turn away more diffidently. Control your reaction, when you see them doing something wrong. It’s difficult, yes, but don’t say anything then. Wait for the right time.

Learn Hikmah – the wisdom of Dawah

Educate yourself with the ‘what-when-how-how much’ of Dawah. The mood of the listener, the words you choose, the tone of your voice, and the length of time you speak are of utmost importance. A little imbalance can cause more damage than benefit. You can even convey the message via printed Islamic material, such as pamphlets, books or articles. If your daughter gossips for hours with her friends, give her material about proper use of the tongue; if your son gazes at girls, give him an article about lowering the gaze. Do it tactfully, at the right time. Most importantly, lead by example.

Refrain from negativity

Complains, taunts, sarcasm, insults, scolding and shouting constitute a huge mistake on the part of a Mumin desiring Allah’s (swt) pleasure. In fact, such conduct (Akhlaaq) fairs very poorly in our own scale of deeds. Our closest relatives, no matter what they do, are deserving the best conduct from us.

If you hold on to these golden rules of behavior with your family, time will show you, how they become your greatest friends and supporters. Your husband will clear the table, while you revise your lesson. Your daughter will help with cooking Sunday lunch, while you study for your test. Your son will rush to get your notes photo-copied for your classmates. More than that, as the years pass, they themselves will transform into the practicing Muslims you wish them to be!

“…Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e., Allah orders the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly) and verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

The Call Towards Allah (swt)

Vol 3-Issue 2 Dawah The call towards Allah swt“The Bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be in ignorance of the limits (Allah’s (swt) Commandments and His Legal Laws), which Allah (swt) has revealed to His Messenger. And Allah (swt) is the All-Knower, the All-Wise… And of the Bedouins there are some who believe in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, and look upon what they spend in Allah (swt)’s Cause as means of nearness to Allah (swt).” (At-Tauba 9:97 & 99)

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir Allah (swt) states that there are disbelievers, hypocrites, and believers among the Bedouins (nomadic tribes / villagers in Arabia). He also states that the disbelief and hypocrisy of the Bedouins is worse and deeper. They are more likely to be ignorant of the commandments that Allah (swt) revealed to His Messenger (sa).

Ibn Abbas (rta) reported that the Messenger (sa) said: “He who lives in the desert becomes hard-hearted, he who follows the game becomes heedless, and he who associates with the rulers falls into Fitnah.” (Ahmad)

Similarly, once a Bedouin man gave the Prophet (sa) a gift. In return, Allah’s Messenger (sa) had to return the gift with many to satisfy the Bedouin. The Prophet (sa) said: “I almost decided not to accept a gift, except from someone from Quraish, Thaqafi, the Ansar or Daws.” (An-Nisai) This is because these people lived in cities: Makkah, Taif, Madinah, and Yemen, and therefore their conduct and manners were nicer than the hard-hearted Bedouins.

Even today, human psychology remains the same. The merciless circumstances of life turn some of the villagers into callous humans. They teach their pupils harshly and mould them into stern and heartless individuals with questionable ideologies that have no roots in Islam. Secondly, they also lack exposure to the scientific advancements and cannot portray themselves as role models for the Ummah, because of the wide gap that lies between them and the educated masses. Our children want to explore Allah’s (swt) galaxies, while some Imams from the village can talk only about cattle and rice fields.

Unfortunately, the educated urbanized society does not feel the necessity to learn and understand the Quran, to address their spiritual needs, and develop spiritual leaders with a well rounded perspective of life. Since the Quran contains pre-figured phenomenon, it cannot be understood without staying abreast with modern advancements. Allah (swt) continually invites us to read and reflect, so we can draw closer to the Creator by unveiling the hidden meanings in the Quran. It is about building relationships and not just harping on a few do’s and don’ts in Islam, like unfitting clerics with limited comprehension.

The Prophet (sa) and his companions were men of extraordinary intelligence and mannerisms. They were the crème of the society who advocated Islam. If Allah (swt) had assigned the job to the illiterate and ignorant, would Islam ever had attained its glory?

Ali Bin Abu Talib (rta) said: “The hearts of the people have desires and aptitudes; sometimes they are ready to listen and at other times they are not. Enter into people’s hearts through their aptitudes. Talk to them, when they are ready to listen, for the condition of the heart is such that if you force it to do something, it becomes blind” (Al-Kitab al-Kharaj by Abu Yusuf).

I doubt if any of the religious clerics from the rural areas are imparting Quranic knowledge with this level of wisdom and sensitivity.

If we wish to develop a balanced and self-motivated Ummah as was prevalent in the Prophet’s (sa) time, we will have to integrate our worldly contemporary education with Quranic studies. This will lead to a more capable and dynamic breed of Imams and religious scholars, who will be able to guide their people in the future, while retaining identities and roots. We can’t simply leave’s Allah (swt) message in the hands of those, who are incompetent for conveying it with sublime purity.

The Call towards Allah (swt)

Vol 3-Issue 1 The Call towards Allah swtAllah (swt) states: “Has there come to you the story of Musa? When His Lord called him in the sacred valley of Tuwa, ‘Go to Firaun; verily, he has transgressed all bounds (in crimes, sins, polytheism, disbelief). And say to him: ‘Would you purify yourself (from the sin of disbelief by becoming a believer)?'” (An-Naziat 79:15-18)

The above verse introduces an intriguing aspect of Dawah (invitation to Islam). Allah (swt) commands His messengers to convey the message of truth to the leaders of nations, regardless of how evil they are. They were not instructed to organize a gathering for them to attend, but diligently initiate a dialogue. This strategy teaches us to present Islamic material, including the Quran and Seerah of the Prophet (sa), whenever we find the chance. Weddings, childbirth, job promotion or house warming parties are opportunities to present others with Dawah based gifts.

Truth is nurtured in the open with no fears or double standards and has a pure life of its own. More significantly, Allah (swt) the Dispenser of all affairs supports it.  Thus, a Daa’ee does not need to use clandestine or hushed up policies to convey His message. Secondly, a Daa’ee’s message remains constant. He does not condition it to the external environment to impress a few for short-term profits, while concealing facts that may otherwise anger those in power. A beautiful example remains with Jafar Ibn Abi Talib (rta) when Negus, the Christian King of Abyssiniah, granted Muslims political asylum during the first migration in the history of Islam. This enraged the disbelievers of Makkah who decided to send the leading politicians of the Arab world Amr Ibn Al-Aas and Abdullah Ibn Abi Rabeeah with expensive gifts for the king. The two attempted to poison the kind-hearted king’s mind with tales about the Muslims. Being a far-sighted and just ruler, Negus allowed the Muslims to present their case, before he made his decision.

Jafar (rta) was chosen as the Muslim ambassador. When his delegation reached the court, they greeted the king and sat down. Amr Ibn Al-Aas quickly observed, how they arrogantly refused to prostrate before Negus as was protocol. Upon inquiring, Jafar (rta) explained that Muslims were only to bow before Allah (swt), and prostrating before any of His creations would amount to its worship. Then, he eloquently explained the tenets of Islam and how, they transformed them into a humane and caring community.

Negus asked him about the revelations their Prophet received from Allah (swt). Jafar (rta) took advantage of the opportunity and recited Surat Maryam in such a heartrending manner that it left Negus in tears and his courtiers speechless. The king confirmed that it seemed that these verses and those in the Bible were of the same Divine origin. Negus then turned to the emissaries of Quraish and declared that the refugees were people of sound character and could continue to live in Abyssinia for as long as they pleased.

As Amr saw his plot becoming futile, he made one last malicious attempt by requesting the king to demand Islam’s point of view about Isa (as). Jafar (rta) stated the truth only. Prophet Muhammad (sa) had told them that Isa (as) was the servant and messenger of Allah (swt), and he was also the spirit and Word of Allah (swt). Negus was so delighted to hear this complete answer that he beat his palm on the floor and returned all of Amr’s gifts and refused to hand over the Muslims. Jafar (rta) believed in the truth and hence uttered it with conviction, in spite of a potential threatening situation. Such is the miracle of truth.

The Call towards Allah (swt)

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Dawah The call towards Allah swt“So the earthquake seized them and they lay [dead], prostrate in their homes. Those who belied Shoaib, became as if they had never dwelt there [in their homes]. Those who belied Shoaib, they were the losers. Then he [Shoaib] turned from them and said: ‘O my people! I have indeed conveyed my Lord’s Messages unto you and I have given you good advice…” (Al-Araf 7:91-93)

This Ramadan, Allah the most Merciful, destined for me to attend Daur-e-Quran (Quran’s commentary and understanding) conducted by Sheikh Abu Khalid. When our discussion led us to the above Ayah, the Sheikh explained a critical requisite for every Da’ee (the one who invites towards Allah’s (swt) Deen): a sense of selflessness and sincerity towards everyone he invites. Vital for Dawah is the presence of an untainted feeling of empathy that is free from ridicule, ulterior motives, accusations, and selfish designs.

As human beings, we all judge a book by its cover, as only Allah (swt) knows what a man’s heart reveals and conceals. Our body language, tools of communication and mannerisms convey to others our purpose of action. If we are successful in translating our sincerity to others, they will realize that our Dawah is only for the sake and pleasure of Allah (swt) rather than material benefit. A selfless Da’ee does it out of care and concern for the well-being of the approximately 4.75 billion non-Muslim of today.

As Da’ees it is mandatory for us to constantly check our intentions: Do we want salvation for those who have not yet experienced the beauty of Quran and Sunnah? Or are we one of those who constantly speaks ill of other faiths and wants to see them doomed? If that is the motive, then it is in grave contradiction to what our Prophet Muhammad (sa) felt for people out of the fold of Islam. Allah (swt) has repeatedly referred to the Apostle’s (sa) love and sincerity towards the whole of humankind, although it distressed him when people refuted the word of Allah (swt). In one of the verses Allah (swt) states: “Perhaps, you, would kill yourself [O Muhammad saw] in grief, over their footsteps [for their turning away from you], because they believe not in this narration (the Quran).” (Al-Kahf 18:6)

Once a Jewish boy was seriously ill and the Messenger of Allah (sa) visited him to inquire about his health. As the boy lay in bed, the Prophet (sa) asked him to repeat: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.” The boy turned his face towards his father asking for permission. His father was silent, expecting Muhammad (sa) to leave upon this cold treatment. So the boy remained silent too. Allah’s Messenger (sa) did not give up; he repeated the request and the boy looked towards his father once again. His father still remained silent. The Prophet (sa) repeated his request a third time. When the boy looked towards his father for approval, his father’s heart melted and he said, “Do as Abu Qasim tells you to.” The boy recited the Kalima and died. The Prophet’s (sa) joy knew no bounds. His face radiated with delight and as he stepped out he glorified Allah for saving this boy from the Hell fire. (Bukhari)

This must be the level of every Da’ee’s earnestness and genuineness. The Quran is full of such examples of our Messenger’s (sa) sincerity, which enabled him to become Allah’s (swt) beloved. As Da’ees, if our motive is just that we will learn to love humanity in general and be concerned about their welfare.