A Handful of Earth

Imagine you are standing in the middle of a very large train station. Young people, old people and children are all rushing past; they are all in a great hurry. They are all trying to get on the same train, because they will all be setting out on the same journey. Some have carefully packed all they own. They are unaware that they will not need any of it at the end of the journey. Some are bidding farewell to their families. They do not realize there can be no return at the end of the journey. We are just some of the millions of travelers who will board that same train when the time comes. We stand there and wait for the train that will take us off to our eternal lives in the Hereafter – a train that we shall one day have to board.

At the end of the journey lie death and angels to meet us. We all carry ledger books that we cannot see. If we think of that train trip as the brief life we spend in this world, then everything we do on that journey, all our sins and merit, is written down in fine detail in those ledgers. We may not be aware of it, but the angels carefully write down every word we say, every step we take, and all our sins and merit. The opening of those ledgers is the best of tidings for believers, because the believer has filled his brief lifetime with good deeds, worship and prayer. He realizes that death lies at the end of that journey, after which will begin the unending life of the Hereafter. That is why he stands before our Lord in submission and trust:

“Then as for him who will be given his Record in his right hand will say: “Take, read my Record!” “Surely, I did believe that I shall meet my Account!” (Al-Haqqa 69:19-20)

Deniers, on the other hand, embark on that train journey with great joy and delight, since they are deceived by Satan into being caught up by this world. There is no training of the lower self on their journeys, no religious observances and no relying on and trusting in God; just living for the transitory joys of this world. Yet, the ledgers they carry with them all unaware will inevitably be opened at the end of the journey, and everything on that journey will be written down, day by day and hour by hour:

the ledgers they carry with them all unaware will inevitably be opened at the end of the journey, and everything on that journey will be written down, day by day and hour by hour:

“And the Book (one’s Record) will be placed (in the right hand for a believer in the Oneness of Allah, and in the left hand for a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah), and you will see the Mujrimun (criminals, polytheists, sinners, etc.), fearful of that which is (recorded) therein. They will say: “Woe to us! What sort of Book is this that leaves neither a small thing nor a big thing, but has recorded it with numbers!” And they will find all that they did, placed before them, and your Lord treats no one with injustice.” (Al-Kahf 18:49)

In fact, if you look, there is a huge crowd full of false and insincere souls all around at the station that millions of people are passing through. It is such a vast crowd that people become lost in it. They may see one another’s faces but forget to see the face of God. They value one another very much. What their spouses and friends say is of enormous importance to them. They become so caught up by the events of the day that everything they say revolves around this world. They talk about how they make money, how they put their children through the best schools, and how they accumulated wealth and possessions; yet, they do not know that they will have to leave all these behind at the stations they stop at. They do not know that all that awaits them at the end of the journey is God.

“So leave them in their error for a time. Do they think that We enlarge them in wealth and children, We hasten unto them with good things (in this worldly life so that they will have no share of good things in the Hereafter)? Nay, but they perceive not.” (Al-Muminun 23:54-56)

Believers, on the other hand, board that train with deep faith, submission and a sincere heart. They know that the journey is actually quite short. God will test them with difficulties and sickness in the brief life of this world, and they will respond to these tests with fortitude and goodness. Their journeys will be filled with good works, prayer and worship. They will also have to leave behind their wealth, possessions, spouses, friends and children at every stop because all that awaits them at the end of the line is the cold ground and a white shroud. Since they are aware of this, they have no passion for the life of this world; and realize that the life of this world is not a place for greed and desire. At the end of this journey, which they make with a sincere heart and deep faith, stands open the gates to the Gardens of Paradise to meet them.

“For such, the reward is Forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds according to Allah’s Orders).” (Al-Imran 3:136)

“And this life of the world is only amusement and play! Verily, the home of the Hereafter, that is the life indeed (i.e. the eternal life that will never end), if they but knew.” (Al-Ankabut 29:64)

It is a fact that not a single person will be able to avoid waiting at that station and boarding that train. All the people we value so much in the life of the world will board that train, and at the end of the journey, those millions of much-valued bodies will turn into a mere handful of earth. As those bodies all enter the ground at the end of the journey, the bones will fall apart and not a trace will remain of all those millions of people; all that will remain is the souls bowing in awe before our Lord and hoping for forgiveness.

“Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Furqan 25:70)

“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), to Him is the final return.” (Ghafir 40:3)

If People Could See Hell for Only a Few Minutes

Photo credit: Aztlek / iWoman / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Aztlek / iWoman / CC BY-SA

Imagine for a moment that life in this world had stopped. What if all the billions of people in the world could stand still and look at life in Hell for a few minutes? All the people in the U.S. stock exchanges; those shedding the blood of the innocent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Syria; those cramming money into safe deposit boxes in European banks; people holding meetings in huge centers of business; those striving to perfect their bodies in gyms; those betraying the people closest to them for a tiny advantage in this world; those refusing to look their own brothers in the face because of disputes over their inheritance; those who become caught up in the life of this world and forget the hereafter, and those who dedicate themselves to having a good time…

Have you ever wondered how these people looking at the life of Hell for just a few minutes would react? At that moment, those people would realize that there is an absolute end to the life of this world and that real life will in fact begin after death. The screen of heedlessness between the life of this world and the Hereafter will be lifted. And with death, people will see how hollow the life of this world is and how everything they so desired, all their money, possessions, husbands and wives, friends and careers will be left behind; everyone will suddenly fall silent, their hearts in their mouths. People eating will be unable to swallow, people speaking will be unable to finish what they are saying, people standing will have to sit down, people walking on the streets will fall down and people lying down will leap to their feet in excitement. Everyone, without exception, will see that there is no place in Hell for all the wealth, delights, luxury homes, yachts and everything else that people yearn for in this world.

“Whoever wishes for the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein disgraced and rejected ( far away from Allah’s (swt) Mercy).” (Al-Isra 17:18)

What about those people who turn their backs on their brothers for the sake of money, who strive throughout their lives to pile one fortune on top of another, and refuse to spend that money for God’s approval? And what about those who do not feed the hungry, who do not protect the orphaned, and who spend their wealth on foul things instead? Will they not realize when they see Hell that all their money is of no value at all?

Money is only valid in the life of this world; it is of no use in Hell, even if one was the richest person in the world. Position is of no use either, even if one was once the most important person in the world. Even the most powerful friends and relatives in this world are of no use there. God reveals in the Quran that when people see the torments of Hell, they would want to pay a ransom to avoid it.

Money is only valid in the life of this world; it is of no use in Hell, even if one was the richest person in the world.

“For those who answered their Lord’s Call is Al-Husna (i.e. Paradise). But those who answered not His Call (disbelieved in the Oneness of Allah and followed not His Messenger Muhammad (sa)), if they had all that is in the earth together with its like, they would offer it in order to save themselves (from the torment, it will be in vain). For them there will be the terrible reckoning. Their dwelling place will be Hell; – and worst indeed is that place for rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:18)

What about people fighting all across the world, those raining bombs down on the innocent, those ruthlessly driving wretched women and children from their homes, those spreading evil for the sake of land or oil or gold or diamonds, those who fall out because of self-interest and those who incite civil strife and then watch from a distance? When these people see that there is an end to this world and look at Hell for just a few minutes, will they still continue fighting and slaughtering? Of course not!

At the moment, as required by the test, there is an invisible screen between us and Paradise and Hell. It is such a heavy screen that nobody without faith, who does not know that this world ends in the Hereafter and who imagines that life consists solely of the life of this world can lift it for even a moment- that is why everything seems so important in this world for these people. Such people strive to claim their little share of this world at the expense of the eternal life of the Hereafter.

However, there is no such screen of heedlessness for the believer who turns to God with a sincere heart between the life of this world and the Hereafter. The believer has filled his heart with love and awe of God. He has dedicated his life to God.

The believer lives with deep faith during the life of this world, he knows that he is on the very shores of Paradise and Hell. That knowledge shapes his entire life.

“He says, “Say (O Muhammad (sa): Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” (Al-Anam 6:162) and continues on that same straight path.

There is no need for him to see Hell with his own eyes to believe in it. He sees it with his heart, since he already believes in it. In living with a deep faith during the life of this world, he knows that he is on the very shores of Paradise and Hell. That knowledge shapes his entire life.

“Nay! You shall come to know! Again, Nay! You shall come to know!

Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge (the end result of piling up, you would not have occupied yourselves in worldly things) Verily, You shall see the blazing Fire (Hell)!

And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight! Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!” (At-Takathur 102:3-8)

Hell happily swallows up the unbelievers, while the gates of Paradise will open wide for believers. Believers will then have an absolute and certain faith in the Hereafter without yet seeing it and they will receive the reward for their sincerity for all time. There is no greater reward for a servant, of course, than God’s approval and love. A life spent with awareness and faith and reason will be fixed for all time in Paradise.

“Their reward with their Lord is ‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (Gardens of Eternity), underneath which rivers flow, they will abide therein forever, Allah Well-Pleased with them, and they with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.” (Al-Bayyinah 98:8)

The Mountain Peak

jannah-paradiseHow honorable is dwelling with mates,

In Paradise and that’s indeed the best company,

How great is neighborhood to persons of repute,

They will have the pleasure of seeing the Lord,

And listen with delight to His Sublime Word,

With silk brocade being their main garment,

They have their heads crowned with finest crowns,

Inlaid with ornate pearls and rare moonstones,

Or silver that is made of only pure gold

And golden rings and bracelets molded,

Of silver and prettily adorned forearms

Their served food is soft bird meat

The finest of camel that feed on all sorts

And bowls of precious pearls and gold,

Strewn, as seventy thousand, on a thousand tables,

If you feel a thirst and desirous for these,

As much as an exile who yearns for home,

Be as charitable as you can and then you will

Be rewarded for good with that which is best

Prepare for the Gardens of Eden and all

The blessings of it that surely never cease,

Observe fast always and rise in prayer,

For both are indeed acceptable deeds,

Wake in the night and recite Qur’an,

And have little sleep as an anxious one,

Perhaps, your death knell once suddenly tolls,

Your coffin then, not bed, will be the place to rest, How great to shed tears at night,

Due to the fear of the Lord, the Ever Compassionate,

So, lower your gaze and always avoid,

Any forbidden looks and strain to be modest,

Strive and beware of all women’s temptations,

You get them as mates as many hours in Paradise,

Blessed is life there and all its pleasures,

With all kinds of fruit as served in pairs,

Belittle you never any venial sin,

As fire begins with little sparks

Once you sin, be quick to repent,

For fear of sudden death, with no delay,

Sate not your whims and never be excessive,

Allah surely hates greedy persons,

The one who gives in to lust and appetite,

Will suffer forever their two-forked yoke,

So, fast by day to drink your fill

On the day people will be parched with thirst,

There is no good at all in musical instruments,

Or dancing or similar forms of merry-making,

The devout are always afraid of their Lord,

Avoiding listening to music and singing,

They rather recite the Glorious Qur’an,

Especially with melodious and tuneful to ears,

At night, than all those flutes and fifes,

If you just perceive the Doomsday’s horrors,

You would surely flee from kinfolk and home,

Due to its horrors, the skies would crack,

The infant’s hair will turn grey,

Austere and distressful that day will be,

And highly burdensome for humans at all,

that day the devout are driven to their Lord,

With finest of mounts carrying them all,

The wretched, however, are driven to Hell,

Where they will suffer the parching thirst,

So, Heaven and Hellfire respectively will be

For the devout and wicked an eternal abode.

(Published with permission from “On the Mountain Peak” by Dr. Muhammad Al-‘Areefi. Publisher: “Darussalam”)

[Hadeeth Commentary] Reliance on Allah (swt) for guidance and Forbiddance of Oppression

Adapted for Hiba by Tasneem Vali

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It was related on the authority of Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari that the Prophet (sa) said, of what he related from his Lord, the Magnified and the Exalted be He, Who said:

“O My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you. So do not commit oppression against one another. O My servants, all of you are liable to err except for those, whom I guide on the right path, therefore seek guidance from Me so that I should direct you to the right path. O My servants, all of you are hungry (needy) except for those whom I feed; therefore seek food from Me so that I may feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked (need clothes) except for those whom I provide garments, therefore seek clothing from Me so that I should clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day and I am there to pardon your sins, therefore seek forgiveness from Me so that I should grant you pardon. O My servants, you can neither do Me any harm nor can you do Me any good. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as pious as the most pious heart of any one amongst you, it will not add anything to My Power or Kingdom. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as wicked as the most wicked heart of anyone amongst you, it will not decrease anything from My Power or Kingdom. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns gather together on a sector of land and all ask of Me and if I were to give every one of them what they asked for, that will not in any way decrease what I have any more than a needle decreases what is in the ocean when it is put into it. O My servants, these deeds of yours which I am recording for you I shall reward you for them, so he who finds good should praise Allah and he who finds other than that should not blame anyone but himself.” (Muslim)

This Hadeeth is a ‘Hadeeth Qudsee’, meaning a Hadeeth where the Prophet (sa) relates what Allah (swt) has said, His actual words. This Hadeeth demonstrates our relationship with Allah (swt) and teaches us to rely exclusively on Him for all our needs. Allah (swt) informs us of His attributes; Merciful, Forgiving, Powerful and Compassionate, compared to human beings, who are needy and weak. We need Allah’s (swt) Guidance and His help in all aspects of our lives. We are told categorically that no form of oppression or injustice will be tolerated in Islam.

Unlawful Oppression

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Allah (swt) – the Light of Guidance

Allah (swt) is the originator of all guidance, be it from a book, a lecture, a person or an article. We as individuals are incapable of providing guidance unless Allah (swt) wills. We may attempt to show people the right path, but the true guidance comes from Allah (swt) alone. Guidance is a great mercy and blessing from Allah (swt). This guidance, in the form of the Quran, was revealed to us by Allah (swt) through His Messenger, Muhammad (sa). Allah (swt) showed us the right path to follow and warned us against Shaitan, who is our greatest enemy. Reciting Surah Al-Fatiha in every Rakah reminds us of our extreme need for our Lord’s Guidance and Support. (An-Nawawi)

Types of guidance:

  • Hidayat Al-Bayan – guidance related to the knowledge. Allah (swt) never forsakes us; He will bring us some means to guide us, guidance to know Allah (swt) and His attributes. Allah (swt) will never forsake us or leave us without showing us Who we need to worship. When Allah (swt) provides people guidance, not all will accept it. Allah (swt) offers guidance through different means but it will be your choice and free will to accept, reject or think about it. Some people know this is guidance from Allah (swt) and they accept it and Allah (swt) increases their level of guidance. If we accept, appreciate and act upon it; Allah (swt) gives us more and makes it easy for us to follow.
  • Hidayat Al-Tawfeeq – the guidance to do. The guidance will not just be in your heart. For example, someone is always angry and she needs guidance to become a calm person. She will listen to a lecture about patience and see examples of people who are angry and how they deal with it. She will realize and then change. Hence Allah (swt) will change her heart. Allah (swt) will give her the Hidayat Al-Tawfeeq so that in the most stressful situations she will not get angry.

Don’t be unjust towards Allah (swt) by seeking guidance from a slave just like us. Maybe that way of guidance will turn you away from the truth. With Allah (swt) it is always different than what you expect. You think something, and Allah (swt) does it differently; contrary to what you thought. Guidance resembles light and misguidance resembles darkness.

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Allah (swt) is Ever-Forgiving

Repentance is a tool Allah (swt) has provided us with, in case we slip. Islam recognizes that humans have weaknesses and will occasionally do wrong. We may neglect/postpone our obligations or indulge in sins, but Allah (swt) reminds us He is Forgiving.

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Allah (swt) is the Provider

Allah (swt) provides us with all our material needs: food, clothing, shelter etc… You need Allah (swt) to clothe you even if your wardrobe is full. Allah (swt) loves that His creation has a connection with Him all the time; we must ask with humility and Allah (swt) will increase our sustenance for us.

Allah’s (swt) Treasures and Bounties are Endless

Allah’s (swt) resources will not be reduced by the least in giving us what we ask for. The Hadeeth shows Allah’s (swt) generosity. Allah (swt) gives His servants a lot of bounties and favours. The more they ask Him, the more He gives. He wants us to ask Him more and seek His help and support. This is different from human beings because humans do not like to be asked frequently. The more you ask a human, the more he hates you and eventually turns away from you. He wants us to come closer to Him and show Him our needs and humbleness. (An-Nawawi) Allah (swt) protects you from harm and Allah (swt) benefits you. So you rely on Allah (swt) exclusively. If you make rules and everyone follows your rules; you will benefit. If people do not follow your rules; you will despair. Allah (swt) created us not because He needs us, but because of (wisdom) Hikmah. Allah (swt) created us and we benefit from having been created. Allah (swt) does not need His creation to worship Him.

Allah (swt) is the Most Rich (Al-Ghani)

If you don’t worship Allah (swt), He can create a billion other people to worship Him. Life does not stop because of one person. Everyone being pious will not add anything to Allah (swt). If you do good, it is good for you and nobody else.

  • Allah (swt) does not need anybody.
  • Allah (swt) does not need anybody to worship Him.
  • We need Taqwa; Allah (swt) does not need our Taqwa, we need to become Muttaqeen.
  • We need to obey Allah (swt); Allah (swt) does not need our obedience.
  • We need to be close to Allah (swt); Allah (swt) does not need us to be close to Him.
  • We need to be humble; Allah (swt) does not need our submission.
  • Nobody can harm Allah (swt); nobody can benefit Allah (swt).
  • Nothing can increase Allah (swt) in His dominion, nothing can decrease His dominion.

Do not worship or follow Allah’s (swt) commands as if you are doing Allah (swt) a favour. Allah (swt) enriches all creation. An example of a parable is given – except what is decreased from the ocean when a needle is dipped into it. Imagine you put a needle in the sea, it would have no effect, and it would not decrease anything in Allah’s (swt) dominion or treasure. Whatever Allah (swt) gives, it does not affect Allah (swt); our actions do not affect Allah (swt), He is our Rabb, and nobody is like Him.

Accountability on the Day of Judgment

At the end of the Hadeeth, it is mentioned and stressed that everyone will be accountable for their deeds. Whoever finds a good record; should be thankful to Allah (swt) and praise Him for that. Those who find other than that should not blame anyone except themselves. This is a clear statement that shows the personal responsibility we have for our actions (An-Nawawi). When your time in this world comes to an end, then the accountability starts. At the time of death, you can see the result. What you see at the time of death is preparation of what is to come. If you did well, you will be among the successful ones. And if you did not do well, you will be in trouble. Your actions are your responsibility.

Conclusion

The lesson we take is that when we express our needs to Allah (swt), it must be with humility for Allah (swt) is the only One who can guide us and forgive us. We must repent when we err. Thus gaining the pleasure of Allah (swt) should be our major goal in this world.