Surah Maryam talks about the birth of Prophet Isa (as). But there is another story that is equally meaningful. It is the incident of a few young strong men; who distanced themselves from the community, because of their deviant beliefs and self-invented forms of worship. In the exegesis, we read they were involved in idolatry and grave worshipping.
Prophet Ibrahim (as) and the idolatry
In Surah Maryam, we learn about Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) people who were engaged in idolatry, including his father. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was not pleased by what he saw in his community. Unconvinced by their need to bow before clay idols, carved by themselves; Ibrahim (as) asked his father, “When he said to his father: O my father! Why do you worship that which hears not, sees not and cannot avail you in anything?” (Maryam 19:42) He invited his father to follow a path that is straight, “O my father! Verily! There has come to me of knowledge that which came not unto you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Straight Path.” (Maryam 19:43)
Kind speech – the best way to preach!
It might come to some as a surprise that a son was correcting his father. Sometimes people younger than us are more knowledgeable or have a better understanding of a subject. We should be open to listening to the words of goodness; irrespective of speaker’s age, skin colour or worldly status. We also learn a Dawah tip from this story. Kind speech has been a repetitive reminder in the Quran. We should be mindful of our tone and words when we call people to Allah’s (swt) Deen. We need to soften their hearts, so that they may actually listen; and not repel them with our harshness or disrespect. Moreover, we should be prepared to expect a repulsive or rude behaviour from the other person. When that happens, we should not lose our temper. Recall the times Prophet (sa) endured abuse and hostility for Allah’s (swt) sake. If we are truly concerned about someone’s guidance, we should let go of their uncouth behaviour.
Do not stray away for the evil end awaits!
This is not a small matter that can be pushed aside by arguments and justifications. Allah (swt) says, “Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salat (the prayers) (i.e. made their Salat (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times, etc.) and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell.” (Maryam 19:59)
They have an evil end waiting for them because of their pursuing their desires. A person who is worried about his prayer will be protected from immoral behaviour. A person who is not worried about his prayer, how will he have a link with Allah (swt)? Let’s commit to being regular in our prayers. The outcome will be attaining closeness to Allah (swt), increased provision and peace. It will not happen all at once; but it will happen one day Insha’Allah. Allah (swt) says, “Verily, those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, the Most Beneficent (Allah) will bestow love for them (in the hearts of the believers)” (Maryam 19:96)
We learn through Hadeeth, when Allah (swt) loves a person; he calls out to Jibrael (as) and commands him to love the person as well. Thus, all the inhabitants of the heaven would love him, and then he will be granted the pleasures of the people on the earth (Bukhari, Muslim)
Make Dua to excel in religion
Sometimes we look at people who are better than us in religion and we feel a kind of anger in our heart. The anger is there due to our weak connection with Allah (swt). How can we get rid of it? It is possible by asking Allah (swt) to allow us to excel in religion just like them or even better. Make Dua for the people who inspire and remind you of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) open up our hearts to goodness. Ameen.
How often has it happened that our best friend calls and we catch up with them, as if we have been separated for twenty years? In reality, it could be that we spoke to them only yesterday or a few hours ago. For how long does this phone call continue? It would be hard to find a person who hangs up in ten minutes. If that happens, then we are certainly not close enough. Now, let’s look at our prayer. For how long do we remain seated at our prayer mat after the prayer is over? Most people jump off the moment they do Tasleem. What does this tell us about our relationship with Allah (swt)? It requires no further explanation.
Moosa (as) honoured by his Lord!
When Moosa (as) was called in the valley of Tuwa by Allah (swt) and informed that he had been chosen as the Prophet of Allah (swt) and there went on a brief interview. Allah (swt) asks Moosa (as) about his staff, in reply Moosa (as) did not give a one word answer. Then he went on describing his staff and stated the different purposes he used it for. He said: “He said: This is my stick, whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses.” (Ta-Ha 20:18)
Did he not know the Lord who is addressing him from up above can see and know more about his staff than himself? But he cherished this meeting so much that he could not contain his excitement. He wanted to extend this meeting, so he went on talking. This Ramadan, let us commit to correct ourselves and give our utmost attention and respect to Allah (swt). Let’s take out time to speak with Him in Sujood, in Dua, at Suhoor and Iftar times; and whenever and wherever we can steal a moment of privacy.
A gentle approach to Dawah
When it comes to correcting people, we often admonish them in such a way that they would not want to see our face again. Allah (swt) picks up His best man to invite the worst man towards the right path.
With what instruction did Allah (swt) send Moosa (as)? He said, “And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear Allah.” (Ta-Ha 20:44) This was Pharaoh he was being sent to and the instruction was “speak gently”. Let us reflect on our interpersonal skills and be kind to one another for the sake of Allah (swt). Use encouraging words to bring them closer to Allah (swt). Do not rebuke them; lest we widen the gap. Our job is only to take the message to them. We are not Hakim (ruler) over them, for Allah (swt) says, “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Quran nor acts on its orders etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship.” (Ta-Ha 20:124)
Is turning away from Allah (swt) the right decision?
People tend to turn away from Allah (swt) because they are distracted by the material things around them. Therefore, Allah (swt) warns us, “And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them (polytheists and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah), the splendour of the life of this world that We may test them thereby. But the provision (good reward in the Hereafter) of your Lord is better and more lasting.” (Ta-Ha 20:131) Material wealth of this world will remain in this world. Let us not make it a source of our ingratitude towards Allah (swt). Let us apply the wise principle that our Prophet (sa) taught us. In terms of material wealth look at those below you; and when it comes to good deeds and religious status, look at those who are way ahead of you. May Allah (swt) allow us to keep our perspective right. Ameen.
It is ironical that the place where we do not have to live forever, we are concerned about it as if it is the only life we have. And the Hereafter, which is eternal and lasting, is to our least concern. Allah (swt) reminds us, “Draws near for mankind their reckoning, while they turn away in heedlessness. Comes not unto them an admonition (a chapter of the Quran) from their Lord as a recent revelation but they listen to it while they play.” (Al-Anbiya 21:1-2)
Are we living in oblivion?
Our death and resurrection should keep us worried; especially when engaging in something that we shouldn’t be doing. When the soul urges us to do wrong, we must ask ourselves: what if I die right now? How will I face Allah (swt)? In what condition will I be resurrected?
Strive for an honourable life and death
Some years ago, there was news of college girls dying in a stampede in a concert. I was haunted by the thought that in what condition their souls would be recollected? May Allah (swt) bless us all with an honourable life and death. May we die in the state of prostration. Ameen. To be honoured with such a death, we need to become the kind of people who say, “We heard and we obey,” and not of those who say, “We have heard but we are not going to obey.” Because we will be questioned about our time spent on this earth, as Allah (swt) says, “He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.” (Al-Anbiya 21:23)
Life here vs. life in the hereafter
Let us prepare for the questioning of the Hereafter as we prepare for our worldly exams. Let us strive to be among the high achievers as we do for worldly positions. Allah (swt) tells us that our deeds will be weighed, and when that happens where would we stand? “And We shall set up balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We as Reckoners.” (Al-Anbiya 21:47)
There is glad tiding for him whose good deeds outnumber the bad ones. An easy way to raise our scales is to get busy in glorifying and praising Allah (swt) with words such as SubhanAllahi wabihamdihi SubhanAllahil Adheem.
Remember Allah (swt) and He will remember you!
We have learnt in Surah Al-Baqarah that when we remember Allah (swt) with our Dhikr, He too remembers us. Allah (swt) takes care of His righteous servants, no matter what people plot against them. When Prophet Ibrahim (as) spoke against the idols, the community advised his father to burn him. They said, “They said: Burn him and help your gods, if you will be doing.” (Al-Anbiya 21:68)
Little did they know that Allah (swt) is the Creator of fire. Allah (swt) said, “We (Allah) said: O fire! Be you coolness and safety for Ibrahim (Abraham)! And they wanted to harm him, but We made them the worst losers.” (Al-Anbiya 21:69-70) When man surrenders to Allah (swt), Allah (swt) helps him miraculously. We see this in the example of other messengers as well. They surrendered before Allah (swt), cried out only before Him, and sought help from Him alone. Allah (swt) helped them all and took them out of distress, at His decided time. Let us not be hasty with our prayers and have strong hope in Allah (swt) alone.
Learn to make an eloquent Dua
Sometimes when we want something, we are unable to articulate our words properly. It is a mercy of Allah (swt) that through His prophets He taught us the words to make Dua to Him. In Surah Al-Anbiya, we learn the Dua of Prophet Yunus (as), “But he cried through the darkness (saying): La ilaha illa Anta (none has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allah)), Glorified (and Exalted) are You (above all that (evil) they associate with You.) Truly, I have been of the wrong-doers.” (Al-Anbiya 21:87)
Look at how he makes the Dua, he first praises Allah (swt) and then acknowledges his mistake. In the narrations it has been said, when the angels heard this Dua, they pleaded his case in the court of Allah (swt) because they would often hear him being engaged in Dhikr. Such is the power of Dhikr. What chances do we have that if a whale swallows us up, we will come out alive? Have we attained that special status with Allah (swt) where He will save us miraculously?
Talking about miracles, Prophet Zakariya (as) was blessed with an offspring despite his old age and his wife’s barrenness. Indeed, for Allah (swt) nothing is impossible.
Prostrate – be the closest to Allah (swt)!
It is said that one can get closest to Allah (swt) when in prostration. The entire creation in the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and believers prostrate to Allah (swt), as we learn in Surah Al-Hajj. When we choose to neglect our prayers, it is not that Allah (swt) is in need of our prostration. There are billion other creatures that prostrate to Him and win a special status near Him. At the end it is our loss. Allah (swt) says, “Every time they seek to get away therefrom, from anguish, they will be driven back therein, and (it will be) said to them: Taste the torment of burning!” (Al-Hajj 22:74)
(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)