Good, better, best- Never let your Taqwa rest

Vol 2-Issue2 Manners of reading QuranTaqwa to the believer is to know that Allah (swt) is watching over you throughout your life. Whatever you speak, whatever you do is all monitored by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) mentions Taqwa in the Quran nearly two hundred times, because He is emphasizing strongly on the concept of His fear.

TAQWA- True And Quality Worship for Allah (swt)

Taqwa makes our acts of worship meaningful. For instance, alone just the physical act of going between the two mountains of Safa and Marwa, while performing Hajj or Umrah, will gain no importance in the eyes of Allah (swt). Similarly, have we ever pondered what will be the actions of Salat, such as bowing and prostration mean without a heart containing Taqwa? What makes our thirst and hunger different from a disbeliever, during Ramadan? The answer to all these questions is Taqwa.

It’s the Taqwa in our hearts that provides these simple physical rituals a special meaning in the eyes of Allah (swt). It is mentioned, “It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus have We made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad (sa)) to the Muhsinun (doers of good). (Al-Hajj 22:37)

Again, as the verse states, “…but it is the Taqwa (piety) from you that reaches Him.” Let us ensure that our acts of worship and our hearts are beautified with feeling of Taqwa.

What is Taqwa?

As per the scholars, the definition of Taqwa is:

Abu Darr said: “From the completion of Taqwa is that the servant fears from His Lord even with regard to things, the weight of an atom.”

Sheikh Muhammad Tantawi says: “The word ‘Muttaqoon’ is the plural of ‘Muttaqi’. ‘Muttaqi’ is the gerund from the verb ‘Ittaqa’ (acquired protection). ‘Ittaqa’ is from the root verb ‘Waqa’ which means he protected himself from that which harms him.”

One of the more complete definitions and explanations was provided by Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah. He states that Taqwa “includes doing everything that Allah has enjoined whether it is Wajib (obligatory) or Mustahab (recommended), and avoiding all that He has forbidden, whether it is Haram (forbidden) or Makrooh (disliked).” (Reference 1)

Abu Darr was once asked, “What is that you love most in this life? He replied, “I love sickness, hunger and death. He was asked the reason and he said, “If I get sick, my sins fall off; And, if I get hungry, my heart becomes closer to Allah (swt), And if I die I meet my Creator”. This is level of Allah’s (swt) fear.

Where do you stand on the graph of  Taqwa and guidance of Allah (swt)?

There are three types of people mentioned in the Quran, in the first few verses of Surah Al-Baqarah.

The first group: In the first few verses 2 – 5, Allah (swt) clearly explains that the Quran is guidance for Al – Muttaqoon- the people who have Taqwa in their hearts, and this guidance causes them to be successful. The people described in these verses are those who:

  1. Believe in the unseen (e.g. Allah (swt), angels, the holy books that Allah (swt) revealed but got changed with time, prophets, day of resurrection, and Al-Qadr)
  2. Perform Salat.
  3. Spend for Allah’s (swt) cause from what Allah (swt) has provided to them.
  4. Believe in what Allah (swt) revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sa).
  1. Believe in what Allah (swt) revealed to the Prophets before Muhammad (sa).
  2. Believe in hereafter.

The second group: The second group falls on the other end of the spectrum- as mentioned in verses 6 and 7- and are the disbelievers. In explaining these verses, Allah (swt) says that these people have a seal on their hearts and ears, as well as, a covering on their eyes that has caused them to disbelieve.

The third group: Finally, the third group is from verse 6 to verse 18.

Regarding these people, the Quran says, Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you (sa ) warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.” (Al-Baqarah 2:6)

Some of the attributes that Allah (swt) points out in those people (in those verses) are the following:

1. They (think to) deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!”

2. “In their hearts is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allah has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.

3. Allah mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrong-doings to wander blindly.

4. When Allah (swt) tells them to believe by modeling themselves according to the Prophet and the true believers, they say, “Shall we believe as the fools have believed?” Allah (swt) then responds by saying that, “Verily, they are the fools but they know not.”

5. And when they meet those who believe, they say: “We believe,” but when they are alone with their Shayatin (devils – polytheists, hypocrites, etc.), they say: “Truly, we are with you; verily, we were but mocking.”

6. Allah (swt) remarks about these people, “These are they who have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless. And they were not guided.”

These groups were reminded in order that we should check our intentions and thoughts. These verses should be enough to create the urgency to associate ourselves with the first group (Al – Muttaqoon: the ones fearful of Allah (swt)). Let’s, therefore, ensure that our actions (not just words) reveal that we are people who have Taqwa (as mentioned in verse 2)

Taqwa can be inculcated in our hearts by taking a few steps.

A believer should realise the fact that Allah (swt) has the biggest right after saying:
“La Ilaha Illa Allah”, Allah (swt) right becomes mandatory.

Ibn Qayyim said: “A benefit of understanding Allah’s (swt) right over the servant is that it opens the door of humbleness in front of Allah (swt) and closes the doors of conceit. It allows one to realize that salvation is only through Allah’s (swt) grace and mercy. It is Allah’s (swt) right that He should be obeyed and not disobeyed: that He should be remembered and not forgotten; and that He should be appreciated and not unappreciated . . . Many people think about their rights over Allah (swt) and do not know about His rights over them. This is how they are detached from Allah (swt) and deprived of the desire to meet Him. This is the epitome of ignorance of their Lord and of themselves.” (Ighathatul Lahfaan)

Time and again we should check the status of our hearts- whether we have the required devotion and fear of Allah (swt)? Or, do we have remnant of hardness and carefree attitude about Allah (swt) and His teachings.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow (tomorrow), and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do” (Al-Hashr 59:18)

Ibn Kathir says that the phrase ‘let each soul see’ or “let every person look” in the above verse means to take an account of one’s own actions before being audited (by Allah (swt)) (Tafseer Ibn Kathir).

Omar bin Khattab wrote to one of his employees: “Audit yourself in prosperity before doing the audit of adversity. Whoever does this will be pleased and envied. Whoever is distracted by his life and fantasies, will face remorse and loss.”

Taqwa reflection in every action

After inculcating Taqwa in the heart, actions should instill the element of piety, Allah’s (swt) consciousness, humbleness, righteousness. We have inspiring examples of Sahaba and Salafs, whose deeds manifested their hearts. Ibn omar used to stay awake the whole night, so that he does not miss a prayer in congregation, since the reward for praying in congregation is more rather than praying alone. Hence, through the Taqwa in the heart every difficult act becomes easy.  As per Imam Ghazali- our Nafs should not deviate, as it is our biggest enemy and is more likely to rebel against our own selves (Ihya’ul ulum al-din).

About ensuring that we bring Taqwa in our actions, Abu Dhar reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people” (Tirmidhi)

Remembering our final resort – death

We should remind ourselves about death and our meeting with Allah (swt), in order to retain Taqwa in our hearts. We should become ardent learners of what Allah (swt) like and dislikes, and mould our lives accordingly. This is because the life of this world has to come to an end, and we should take it seriously. With this thought in our mind, Taqwa can never leave our hearts.

Personality Development: The Jewels of the Household

diamond_1461404cWe are the nucleus of the family- whether a daughter, sister, wife or mother. We keep the bonds strong. The touch of a loving mother is irreplaceable- who wraps her children in a blanket of love, affection and protection, while tending their needs as well as raising them to be good Muslims and Muslimahs. When she hears the call of the prayer, she sits to worship her loving Creator, Allah (swt) and positions her child next to her on the prayer mat facing the Qiblah. A dutiful daughter aids her mother. A devoted wife propels her husband to the summits of success whilst he goes out to earn the daily bread. Indeed, the following saying is true:

‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’.

In Islam, women are not considered as maids of the households rather it acknowledges women’s equality with men in many aspects. Allah (swt) stated in the Holy Quran,

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum 30:21)

Exemplary Muslimah in Islamic history

Throughout the Islamic history, women have played a major role in spreading Islam and our beloved Prophet (sa) has praised the following: his youngest daughter, Fatimah (ra), his beloved wife Khadijah (ra), Maryam (as) and Asiya (as), the wife of Pharoah. These diamonds are core role models and legendary beacons of productivity and balance of how we as Muslim women can divide our time fairly between family, work, home and Islam to reach our ultimate goal- Jannat-ul-Firdous. A place free of pain, hardship and sorrow can be replaced with eternal happiness, relief and ease if we learn from the lives of our role models. One of the prime examples is of, Fatimah (ra).

Who was Fatimah (ra)?

A patient and consistent slave of Allah (swt)

She was a passionate worshipper, who put a hard effort in looking after her home and daily chores. She was both- a dutiful wife and daughter, and had a stance in the community for helping the poor and needy, as well as, good Islamic manners. Often, she would give all her food to the poor and stay hungry. She would never complain, no matter how difficult the circumstances were. Aisha (ra) said:

‘I did not see any one resembling the blessed Prophet (sa), regarding all manners, more perfectly than Fatimah (ra), the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (swt).’

She and her husband, who was the Prophet’s (sa) cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) led a simple, but content life and had two sons: Hassan (ra) and Hussain (ra) who were very dear to Prophet Muhammad (sa). They also had two daughters Zainab (ra) and Umm Kulsum (ra). Her relationship with Prophet Muhammad (sa) was very close; and it shone with pure love and affection that he said once:

‘Fatimah is part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry’ (Al-Bukhari)

Immense love and respect for her father

He usually visited her house. Her childhood was a shadow of trials and tribulations as her father underwent hardships spreading Islam in Makkah in the time of ignorance. Thus, she grew up with patience and determination. She courageously protected her father, and wept when she saw him bleed. She comforted her father. Once, the disbelievers sacrificed a camel. At the time, Prophet Muhammad (sa) was praying with his companions. Abu Jahl dared his friends to put the bowels and filth on Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) back. Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’it took up of the offer and piled it on the Prophet’s (sa) back. When Fatimah (ra) heard of this, she ran to her father; she removed the filth with her hands from her beloved father’s back, and scolded the disbelievers due to the brutal treatment they performed towards him. When Prophet (sa) completed his prayer, he lifted his hands to supplicate Allah (swt) to hold Abu Jahl, Uqbah and those involved. The Prophet’s (sa) supplications were answered.

Compassionate servant of Islam

Fatimah (ra) even helped during the battles by nursing the wounded. After her mother’s death, she would devoutly look after her father. When he passed away, she was saddened and lived only a few months after him.

Fatimah was an exemplary Muslimah for every Muslim woman- a woman of courage, piety and righteousness. Her aim in life was to serve Islam. May Allah (swt) allow us all to learn from this jewel of Islam on how to find the right balance between Deen and Dunya. Ameen.

Top three lessons in Surah Al-Fatihah

fatihaSurah Al-Fatihah, also known as the opening of the Quran- is a short Surah, and yet so important that a prayer without it is deemed invalid. Even in this short Surah of seven verses, some important lessons have been highlighted. Below are the top three lessons that can be obtained from this first Surah of the Quran.

Lesson 1: An Introduction to the Rabb

Following are the verses 1-6 of Surah Al-Fatihah

1. In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

2. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). 

3. The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

4. The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)

5. You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).

In the first two verses, Allah (swt) gives an introduction about Himself. When one reads this Surah, he acknowledges Allah’s (swt) infinite mercy; and then, praises Him by recognizing that He, Allah (swt) is the universal Master- the Master of the whole world. He has not just created everything in it, but He continues to provide His creation in order to attain a meaningful life. He has not abandoned His creation without any intervention. Over all His creation, he is an ever- living authority.

In the third verse, two attributes of Allah (swt) are mentioned. These two attributes encompass all the aspects of compassion and mercy between Allah (swt) and His servants. Therefore, a servant must never be hopeless about Allah’s (swt) mercy and should always turn to Allah (swt) for help and repentance.

In the fourth verse, a very fundamental principle is mentioned based on which our lives are significantly influenced i.e. belief in the Hereafter. This gives man the hope that if he is weak on earth and is suppressed by people, he will be given justice and the suppressor too will be punished because of his oppression. Based on this belief, one restrains himself from doing evil acts. He performs righteous acts hoping for its reward from Allah (swt).

In the next verse, man accepts that he has submitted to Allah (swt). He worships Him alone without associating any partner with Him; and when he needs any help, he turns to Allah (swt) for it. Turning to Allah (swt) for help protects the man from facing the abuse, and a feeling of dependency that he could face if he turns to people begging for help. Allah (swt) has the power over everything; hence a man must turn to Him for assistance.

Lesson 2: Asking for the Straight Path

Guide us to the Straight Way.” (Al-Fatihah 1:6)

In this verse, one asks Allah (swt) for His guidance towards the straight path. A person cannot be guided- unless Allah (swt) wills; and no one can be led astray- unless Allah (swt) wills.

Nawwas bin Sam’an Al-Kilabi said:”I heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) say: ‘There is no heart that is not between two of the fingers of the Most Merciful. If He wills, He guides it and if He wills, He sends it astray.’ The Messenger of Allah (swt) used to say: ‘O You Who makes hearts steadfast make our hearts steadfast in adhering to Your religion.’ And he said: ‘The scale is in the Hand of the Most Merciful; He will cause some people to rise and others to fall until the day of Resurrection.'” (Ibn Majah; authentic)

The guided person finds happiness and contentment is this world, as well as, in the Hereafter. He has a broader vision as he believes that his life is not limited to this world, but another life awaits him.

Lesson 3: The path of the righteous people

The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” (Al-Fatihah 1:7)

In the last part of this Surah, one pleads Allah (swt) to help him follow the path which the righteous people followed- the path which led them to ultimate success and salvation, the path with which they attained the pleasure of Allah (swt). Just after that, one also asks Allah (swt) to protect him from following the way of those who attained the wrath of Allah (swt), and those who were misguided.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path and make us among those whom He loves. May Allah (swt) protect us from the evil whispers of Shaytan, and give us the strength and courage to hold n to the principles of Islam firmly. Ameen.

Powerful Tips for Last Ten Nights

How should we spend the last ten nights of Ramadan? What are the ways to make the most of these blessed nights. Following is an infograph based on tips by Sh. Tawfique Chowdhury. Illustrated by Owh So Muslim.

Click on the image to enlarge.

47u 10-Tips

Pearls of Peace: An extract from Surah Kahf

surah_kahhfA journey for Allah (swt) – an inspiring story!

This Surah begins with the mention of some youth who lived under a tyrant leader. Because of their community’s deviance from the right path, the youth decided to leave them and sought refuge in a cave. Fearing their community and feeling lost, they prayed to Allah (swt), “(Remember) when the young men fled for refuge (from their disbelieving folk) to the Cave, they said: Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and facilitate for us our affair in the right way!” (Al-Kahf 18:10)

And Allah (swt) answered their prayer and protected them by making them sleep for several years. One reason for losing one’s peace is being in the wrong company. We see people around us indulging in such acts that are contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, and we don’t see a way out for ourselves. In such moments, we should remind ourselves the story of these strong young men. They migrated for the sake of Allah (swt). Their migration was not for any worldly need, but to protect their Iman.

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil

This is a powerful statement! Another stirring statement is: garbage in, garbage out. Our brains have the ability to instantly process everything that we come across. If we read or watch filth; that is what is going to come out of our mouth. We will no more be conscious of what words we are uttering or what actions we are doing. Consider for example, you pass by a Masjid and you see people entering in flocks. You have an urge to follow them. You enter the Masjid and you are spiritually uplifted. Now you are with your friends. They offer you a glass of alcohol and you refuse it. They insist you to have a sip. You refuse but they push you. You give in and take a sip. You begin enjoying your drink. What happens next? You are addicted.

A sincere advice

Change your company and reform yourself. Protect your eyes, mouth and ears. Avoid juicy stories and vice. This is why our Prophet (sa) taught us to ask Allah (swt) for beneficial knowledge and protection of our eyes and ears. The youth discussed in Surah Al-Kahf did not just distance themselves from the wrongdoing people but also made Dua. Never leave Dua. It is your connection with Allah (swt) via which you can ask Him for goodness.

It is a mercy of Allah (swt) that He has informed man of both, the truth and the falsehood. Mankind has been given a choice to follow whatever they desire, “And say: The truth is from your Lord. Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve.” (Al-Kahf 18:29) Beware these choices have consequences, “Verily, We have prepared for the Zalimun; a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them (disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah). And if they ask for help (relief, water, etc.) they will be granted water like boiling oil that will scald their faces. Terrible the drink, and an evil Murtafaqa (dwelling, resting place, etc.)!” (Al-Kahf 18:29)

Repentance – a way out!

While one is free to pick his path, he is not free to escape the punishment. Every action of man is being recorded in a book, “And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, ‘Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?’ And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one.” (Al-Kahf 18:49) To save oneself from such an end, one must hasten to seek repentance. Because sincere repentance is the only thing that can wipe out our bad deeds. When you have shed sincere tears of repentance, compete to increase your good deeds. Don’t waste time; because we will be in need of a lot good deeds in the Hereafter. May Allah (swt) bless us with steadfastness in our repentance. Ameen.

How merciful is Allah (swt)?

Not only does Allah (swt) make us aware of the right and the wrong, but He is also willing to forgive our wrongdoings; if we turn to Him. Sadly how ungrateful is man- forever complaining and quarrelling, “And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Quran, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything.” (Al-Kahf 18:54) We argue over Allah’s (swt) commands and Prophet’s (sa) tradition; showing disrespect and ingratitude to both of them. We should immediately surrender to the commands of Allah (swt) as soon as we learn about them.

Are we unintentionally ignoring Allah (swt)?

Allah (swt) tells us to come to the right path. But we turn away. “And who does more wrong than he who is reminded of the Ayat of his Lord, but turns away from them forgetting what (deeds) his hands have sent forth. Truly, We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this (the Quran), and in their ears, deafness. And if you (O Muhammad (sa)) call them to guidance, even then they will never be guided.” (Al-Kahf 18:57)

When a person chooses to ignore Allah (swt), then Allah (swt) too is not interested in guiding such a person. On the contrary, the one who loves Allah (swt); He opens his heart to comprehend the beneficial knowledge. Today, when one learns of a football match in his city or perhaps a lawn launch; we leave every other worldly task and run to be the first ones to stand in queue. But when call for prayer is given from the mosque and we are promised a greater reward for standing in the first row with the angels; we sit back and turn our attention to something else. How ungrateful man really is! May Allah (swt) make us of those who run towards doing good. May He not make us of those whose hearts have been sealed. Ameen.

Who is your child’s superhero?

Another sad reality is that our children, as young as seven and eight years old, know the names of the entire football or cricket team; but they don’t know the names of the Prophets and their Companions. These were the people who strove with their life and wealth to spread and protect Allah’s (swt) religion. These were the people who were given the glad tiding of Paradise, and we are not interested in learning about them.

A scary reminder!

Allah (swt) says, “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds!” (Al-Kahf 18:103-104) What a scary reminder! The efforts of such a person are limited to the worldly life only and he has no concern for the Hereafter. When you invite such people to study Quran, learn one verse or a Dua, they come up with countless unnecessary tasks of this world.

While the game is on, we are at loss!

Whose loss will it be if we turn away from Allah (swt)? How many hours does a man spend at his job to get a salary at the end of the month? On average, we spend at least eight hours at work weekly. Then we get our pay cheque. We work approximately for 208 hours in a month like slaves to get that cheque. Allah (swt) offers us much greater reward; not only in this world, but an eternal life of bliss in the Hereafter. Unfortunately, we are too lethargic when it comes to obligatory prayers. How many times have we woken for Fajr before the call for prayer is even given? And how many times have we woken up at 3 a.m. without hitting the snooze button when a football match is on? Those who do wake up, they wake up to get done with it. Let us commit to fall in love with our prayer because we love Allah (swt), and we seek His love and His mercy.

The way we have messed up our priorities, shows how confused we are about our purpose in life. Not only are we confused about our purpose in life; but our worship too. We have strayed away from the path of Muhammad (sa) and invented our own ways of worship; which were neither taught by the Prophet (sa) nor practiced by his Companions (ra). The proponents of innovations say, “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): I am only a man like you. It has been inspired to me that your Ilah (God) is One AIlah (God i.e. Allah). So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” (Al-Kahf 18:110) Hold on to Quran and Sunnah and let not Shaytan deceive you.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

Pearls of Peace – An Extract from Surah Baqarah 1

pearls1Pearls extracted from Surah Al-Baqarah

Right in the beginning Allah (swt) starts off by saying: Alif-lam-meem. Dhalika alkitabu larayba feehi hudan lilmuttaqeen

“Alif-Lam-Meem.” This is the Book about which there is no doubt, guidance for those conscious of Allah (swt).”

If you are conscious of Allah (swt), you will receive guidance from the Book. If you want to achieve inner comfort, never doubt a word in this Book. If science has proven something otherwise, remember that proof is wrong. There will come a day when science will re-prove until it comes in line with the narration of the Owner of creation. We are the believers. When you read the Book of Allah (swt), you should know for a fact that this is the absolute truth. Even if you don’t understand something temporarily; go and find out, go and ask the scholars and you will learn a lot.

So who are those conscious of Allah (swt)?

Allah (swt) says, “Who believe in the Ghaib and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and spend out of what we have provided for them (i.e. give Zakat , spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, etc., and also give charity to the poor and also in Allah’s Cause – Jihad, etc.)..” (Al-Baqarah 2:3) If we could see the Unseen, we would be seeing the mercy of Allah (swt) and His Sakeena (tranquility) that descends whenever He is mentioned.

Two major qualities of a believer

Two qualities are required to be a believer:

  • establishing of Salah (prayer)
  • spending from the provision

Sometimes people who have been given more are stingy. On the other hand, those who have much less give out a lot in the way of Allah (swt). If Allah (swt) has given you wealth, spend it in His way. Believing in the Unseen, establishing prayer and sharing your Rizq (provision) will take you to a different level. A person who misses his Salah cannot achieve peace. Wealth that is not spent in the right way does not benefit a person.

Allah (swt) then mentions at another point, “And who believe in what has been revealed to you, (O Muhammad), and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith).” (Al-Baqarah 2:4) We definitely believe in the Quran. And we also believe in the previous scriptures. We acknowledge that they are from Allah (swt), although they have been tampered today. If we are convinced about our meeting with Allah (swt), we will keep away from sins. Therefore, keep a check on yourself.

Signs of a hypocrite

Allah (swt) then mentions the qualities of a hypocrite. Know that a hypocrite cannot have peace. So who are the hypocrites? From their tongues they confess their belief in Allah (swt) and the Hereafter; however, their deeds do not reflect their words. They are in an entirely opposite direction. They think they are deceiving Allah (swt); yet they are deceiving none except themselves. Can anyone deceive Allah (swt)? How can we deceive Him when we will eventually return to Him? Therefore, Allah (swt) says that humans have disease in their hearts. A person with a diseased heart will never have inner peace. The Prophet (sa) said: “Indeed there is a piece of flesh in your body which, if it be sound, then the whole body will be sound and if it be corrupt then the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed it is the heart.” (Bukhari)

If there is a disease within us, we need to diagnose it. Look within yourself and reflect on your qualities. If you have hatred, jealousy, deception and love towards the material world in your heart; you need to fight it and take it out. This will grant you peace in this world and the Hereafter. As Allah (swt) says,

“The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah a clean heart (clean from Shirk (polytheism) and Nifaq (hypocrisy)).” (Ash-Shuara 26:88-89) Thus, your heart has to be cleansed.

Due to this disease in their hearts, the hypocrites cannot differentiate between right and wrong. When they are told not to cause corruption, they say, “We are not corrupters.” This shows us that when our hearts are contaminated, we cannot focus properly. We chase things that can lead us to danger. This Ramadan we should strive to purify our hearts. May Allah (swt) grant us a heart that is always engaged in the remembrance of Allah (swt). Ameen.

Invitation to His Worship

Allah (swt) gives a general invitation to all mankind to worship Him. “O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous.” (A-Baqarah 2:21)

 Want to know who to worship? Worship the One Who sends you rainfall, crops and fruits. When you put your forehead and your nose on the ground, you are prostrating before the One Who created you. Allah (swt) mentions worship here because it is through worship that He will grant us peace.

History of Shaytan and his first victim Adam (as)

We talked about the being that snatches away our peace – the Shaytan. Allah (swt) now talks about his history. “When We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.” (Al-Baqarah 2:34)

Here we learn to be careful of the devil. We lock up our cars and homes because of a few bad people out there waiting to snatch our belongings. Shaytan has enmity for us. Stay alarmed. Distance yourself from him because what you have in the form of Iman is far more valuable than three coins of gold. Make an effort to protect and look after your Iman. Serve Allah (swt). Get up in the early hours of the morning. Stand up for Taraweeh.

Wherever you falter, remember this pearl of peace, “Then Adam received from his Lord Words. And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:37)

Adam (as) learnt to seek repentance

After the sin was committed, Allah (swt) taught Adam (as) how to seek repentance. The devil leads us astray. Allah (swt) teaches us how to achieve His Mercy. He teaches us a few words to wipe out the effects of the devil. Admit your error. Regret your sin. Ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness and promise not to do it again. Allah (swt) doesn’t hold anything against you when you have asked for forgiveness. In the last hours of the night, He is calling out, “Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness so that I can forgive him?” But we are snoring at that time. In Ramadan we are worried about our Sahoor, “How many minutes are left? Why did you wake me up so late?” Allah (swt) is calling out, “Is there anyone seeking forgiveness?” And we are busy with our bowl of porridge. How long does it take to say, “O Allah! Please forgive me”?

Time for Dua

There are so many things we are seeking for. Repeat your Dua list every day before Him. Don’t lose hope. There will come a time when everything that you ever wanted will be marked off your Dua list. That is the Qudrah of Allah (swt). Even if you have to wake up every night for years, do it. Our problem is that we lose hope and do not make an effort. At that moment, we are more worried about the temporal pleasure of our belly. We don’t realize that the more we eat the more hungry we will be. Improve your diet. Eat a quality meal. Add more fiber and foods with low GI (Glycemic Index).

Complain of Allah (swt)

Allah (swt) then talks about the children of Prophet Yaqoob (as), O Children of Israel! Remember My Favour which I bestowed upon you….” (Al-Baqarah 2:40) Let’s pause here for a moment. Has Allah (swt) not favoured us? We are Muslims. We are alive. We can listen to the words of Allah (swt). We have a house, food and families. Has Allah (swt) not given us countless blessings? Associate this verse with the Children of Israel that ‘they’ have forgotten the gift of Allah (swt) upon ‘them’ so Allah (swt) is reminding ‘them’ in the Quran. We don’t realize that there is a lesson in it for ‘us’. What is the point of pointing fingers at others when we have forgotten countless gifts of Allah (swt) ourselves?

Gratitude gives peace

Be thankful for what you have; your parents, your spouse, your children, your house, all are gifts of Allah (swt). Be pleased with what you have. And be patient with your tests. Perfection is only in the Hereafter. Focus more on your own life than what people have and you will achieve peace.

The most repeated instructions in these verses have been: “offer your Salah, give Zakah and be patient.” Allah (swt) says, “And perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, and Irka (i.e. bow down or submit yourselves with obedience to Allah) along with Ar-Rakiun.” (Al-
Baqarah 2:43) If we don’t offer our prayers or go to the Masjid, we will miss out on a number of blessings! The Imam is there. People are offering their prayers. Don’t be absent. Join them. Make it a concerted effort. Don’t disappear after day one.

Peace comes with patience

The same instruction has been given at other places in the same Surah. Allah (swt) says, “And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer) and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashiun (i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His Punishment, and believe in His Promise (Paradise, etc.) and in His Warnings “Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder (Hell, etc.).” (Al-Baqarah 2:45) It was said, “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Al-Baqarah 2:153) Something little goes wrong in our lives and we are willing to break our relationships. Allah (swt) commands us to be patient. Seek His help to handle your matters like a mature person.

Soften with Salah

Allah (swt) then talks about the hardness of the heart, “Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness.” (Al-Baqarah 2:74) Some people, no matter what happens in their life; they won’t offer Salah, turn to Allah (swt) or make peace within themselves and others. “There are stones from which rivers gush forth.” But a man’s heart does not soften to turn to Allah or forgive people. There is no goodness in his heart. Therefore we should ask Allah (swt) to soften our hearts in this blessed month.

Allah (swt) is the All-knower

Allah (swt) knows what’s in our hearts, as He says, “Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal?” (Al-Baqarah 2:77) We can run and hide from a human being but can we run from Allah (swt)? That is not possible. This realization will make us  achieve the peace that we are seeking.

Fulfill the rights of others

Then we learn about the qualities that Allah (swt) has prescribed not only to the Children of Israel but also to us. He says, “And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, (saying): Worship none but Allah (Alone) and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and Al-Masakin(the poor), and speak good to people (i.e. enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, and say the truth about Muhammad (sa) and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat. Then you slid back, except a few of you, while you are backsliders.” (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

How do we treat our parents? What have we done for the orphans? How do we speak to the beggars? Even if you don’t give them anything, at least say a kind word.

Save each other’s blood

Two more things that Allah (swt) took in His covenant with the Children of Israel were, He said, “And (remember) when We took your covenant (saying): Shed not the blood of your people, nor turn out your own people from their dwellings. Then, (this) you ratified and (to this) you bear witness.”  (Al-Baqarah 2:84) Take a look at where the Ummah is today. It’s Muslims against Muslims. Why are we allowing others to do the dirty job?

Magic is Haram

Allah (swt) then talks about magic. A person who uses magic has lost his Iman. Whoever has casted a spell has engaged in Shirk. “They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaiman (Solomon). Sulaiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic…” (Al-Baqarah 2:102) Let us learn one important lesson from this. When something goes wrong in our life, we cannot blame others that someone must have casted a spell. Evil Jinn inspires people to say evil things which may destruct families. So don’t be deceived by evil Jinn.

May Allah (swt) allow us to look through His Book of peace to attain peace in our lives. Ameen.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s Peace of Pearl Series, Cape town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

Pearls of Peace – An Extract from Surah Al-Fatiha

Pearl-in-a-shell1We praise Allah (swt) Who has blessed us and granted us this beautiful month of Ramadan and such a beautiful opportunity to earn His countless Blessings. May He grant us with the blessings and forgiveness in this month. May He increase the love and bond in our hearts that we have for one another and alleviate the suffering of humankind all across the globe; relief the ones who are going through difficulties and turmoil including ourselves.

Imagine if Prophet Muhammad (sa) was among us and recited the Quran. Imagine if the companions of Muhammad (sa) were to recite the Quran; what type of recitation do you think it would be? It would be miraculously beautiful as it would come from the depths of the heart and true love for the Quran. Hence, that is the kind of recitation one should aspire for.

The theme we have chosen to speak about this year is Pearls of Peace from the Noble Quran. It is the Book of peace and indeed full of the ingredients of peace. Many of us are searching for peace, contentment and happiness so that we can alleviate whatever suffering we are going through, but we have not searched through the pages of the Book of peace; coming from the Owner of peace, AsSalam.

The theme we have chosen to speak about this year is Pearls of Peace from the Noble Quran. It is the Book of peace and indeed full of the ingredients of peace.

Types of peace

There are two types of peace:

  • The inner peace – the peace within one’s heart and mind
  • The outer peace – is amongst one another; within our family, our community, with the Ummah at large, with humanity, and with all the creatures of Allah (swt) and this is the peace we are searching for.

As we search for this peace and we open the Book of Allah (swt), do you know what is the first word of peace that we find? Amazingly: Audhu billahi minash shaytanir rajeem. Analyze the statement. This is the statement of peace. Before you commence with the Quran and its recitation, you need to utter these words because Allah (swt) has declared,

So when you want to recite the Quran, seek refuge with Allah from Shaitan (Satan), the outcast (the cursed one).” (An- Nisa 16:98)

The ways to acquire peace

Without seeking protection of Allah (swt) from the devil, how will we be able to acquire peace? Many of us, when we read the Quran we have no concentration. That’s because the devil has contaminated our heart and our mind. He makes us fight and argue; splits and disunites us. This is why we start off with Tawuz. Let’s remember this powerful supplication and use it.

Now the next most powerful statement: Bismillah hir-Rahman nir-Raheem “In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Most Forgiving Most Merciful.”

This is Allah (swt), this is peace! Peace is connected to the mercy of Allah (swt). Look at the manner He starts. He has told us to start off by saying His Name, acknowledging that He is full of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. If He wanted He could have said, “Say: In the Name of Allah, the Owner of the severe torment and punishment.” He could have said that; but the heart requires that flicker wherein we all have hope in the mercy of Allah (swt).

Pearls extracted from Surah Al-Fatiha

Allah (swt) has chosen to open the Quran with what is known as Surah Al-Fatiha – the Opening Surah.

“(All) praise is (due) to Allah, the Rabb of the worlds.”

What is the meaning of Rabb? The One Who created, nourishes, provides, and protects, the One Who is in absolute control of every single aspect of the entire existence. All praise is due to Him, Who created you and me and everything in existence. Praise Him regularly and you will achieve peace.

Immediately after this powerful opening statement He says: Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. A loser he/she will be the one who does not receive the mercy of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) make us from the winners. Imagine, if He had said, “I am never going to forgive certain people even if they seek forgiveness.” Did He ever say that? Never! Even a person who has committed Shirk, if he seeks forgiveness, Allah (swt) says, “My doors are open for him, I will forgive him.”

Maliki yawmi addeen – “He is the Owner of the Day of Judgment.”

From this we learn that we are answerable to Allah (swt). Let us learn not to become judgemental when it comes to deal with one another. Sometimes a person who might not appear religious outwardly is perhaps much more religious within. They may be struggling to adopt the commands of Allah (swt) one by one just like we are. None of us is perfect. We are all trying. Eradicate your bad habits. Seek the assistance of Allah (swt).

Iyyaka nabudu wa-iyyaka nastaeen – “You (alone) we worship and You (alone) we ask for help.”

A powerful statement that we utter almost five times a day.

Do you want peace? If yes, then worship Allah (swt) alone. Ask Allah’s (swt) help and assistance. Remember, He is Rabb-al-Alameen, the Owner of every single aspect of existence.

Ihdina assirata almustaqeem – “Guide us to the straight path.”

This is the Dua that we make for ourselves. The path of peace, the path to attain the pleasure of Allah (swt). If Allah (swt) has given us Hidayah (guidance), what more do we want? We will be the happiest people in the Dunya.

“Amazing are the affairs of a believer! They are all for his benefit; If he is granted ease of living he is thankful; and this is best for him. And if he is afflicted with a hardship, he perseveres; and this is best for him.” (Muslim)

Allah (swt) has always blessed us in every single way; yet sometimes we do not realize and recognize. We only pick on certain things that our soul desires and we keep on saying, “Ya Allah (swt)! You did not give me this. You did not give me that.” But when you look at the favours of Allah (swt), they are plenty.

These were some of the blessed pearls that we extract from Surah Al-Fatiha.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s Peace of Pearl Series, Cape town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

 

 

[Hadeeth Commentary] Prescription of Ihsan (Excellence)

Adapted for Hiba Magazine by Tasneem Vali

hadith2

On the authority of Abu Yala Shaddad bin Aws (ra), the Messenger of Allah (sa) said:

“Verily Allah (swt) has prescribed Ihsan (proficiency and perfection) in all things. So, if you kill, then kill well; if you slaughter, then slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Muslim)

Ihsan is an Arabic word and is a derivative of Ahsana, which means, ‘doing things better’. The literal meaning of Ihsan is achieving the best. Ihsan is normally translated as excellence but because it has a broader concept, it cannot be translated into English accurately. There is no word in the English language that portrays its meaning fully. Ihsan has four aspects.

As with any Islamic injunction, this Hadeeth contains a principle and provides an example in compliance with that principle. The Prophet (sa) used this method extensively to train Muslims to use logic and apply one principle to other similar situations. Due to our commitments, we understand the example, but fail to implement the principle. Sometimes, we do not give a 100% to the tasks we perform for Allah (swt). Ihsan means that we must not be satisfied unless we do something to the best of our ability. We should be motivated by the sole reason that Allah (swt) has prescribed this for us. The Hadeeth mentioned above can be applied in any situation. It may help reform the society if practiced correctly. Whoever tries to be proficient (practice Ihsan), can do so in two situations:

  • To benefit others.
  • To complete and refine worship.

Ibadah or worship includes the prescribed acts of worship, as well as the routine habits. Everyday actions and mundane chores can become worship if performed with the correct intention. Hence, they must be completed to perfection. A believer must practice Ihsan in everything. The best people are those whose actions and dealings are the best. For example the companions of the Prophet (sa).

“If you do good, you do good for your own selves, and if you do evil (you do it) against yourselves.” (Al-Isra 17:7)

The golden rule of behaviour as told by the Messenger of Allah (sa) is: “Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and enter the garden should die with faith in Allah (swt) and the Last Day. And should treat the people as he wishes to be treated by them.” (Bukhari)

What are some of the things we should aim for perfection in?

ihsan

The principles of Ihsan should be our lodestone, the test we do to determine the amount of effort we exert to live up according to its suggestions. Our appearance, the way we eat or sleep, the way we conduct our professional lives, our Dawah – Ihsan should be observed in all these actions, which are Ibadah. Some other principles to implement in life are:

  • To respect the scholars and not to compare them with each other;
  • To obey your rulers. Follow the rules that they have set as long as they do not contradict the rules of Allah (swt);
  • To be kind to animals, and not to torture them. Feed them regularly and not to abuse them by overloading them etc.

Even in killing, Muslims must apply Ihsan. Rules of combat/war are:

  • Not to kill old people, children, women, and those who are not fighting.
  • When killing the aggressive enemy/criminal, Ihsan must be applied and observed. They must be killed without torture. We should not cause any harm or suffering to anyone we kill.
  • Captives should be treated with Ihsan as well.
  • Harmful animals such as snakes, scorpions etc. must be killed quickly, no torture is permitted. Animals must be slaughtered with a sharp knife, causing minimum pain. Their necks must be cut with a single, clean stroke and must not be slaughtered in view of other animals.

Thus, if you think logically, using weapons of mass destruction contradicts the concept of Ihsan.

Living in accordance with the concept of Ihsan and applying it to all that you do, entitles you to acquire Allah’s (swt) Mercy and Forgiveness. Insha’Allah you will be amongst the Muhsineen.

Reward for the Muhsineen- in the light of Quran

“Truly, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Al-Baqarah 2:195)

“And verily Allah is with the good doers.” (Al- Ankabut 29:69)

“For those who have done good is the best (reward, i.e. Paradise) and even more (i.e. having the honour of glancing at the Countenance of Allah (swt).” ( Yunus 10:26)

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” (Ar-Rahman 55:60)

Be Amongst Those Shaded On Judgement Day

shadeSinful and erroneous as we are, how can we obtain Allah’s (swt) shade on the Day of Judgement? Only those who are elite and closer to Allah (swt) can be shaded along with those whom Allah (swt) wills. So where do we stand? Do we stop performing deeds? Or do we leave the daily life and seclude ourselves for the Ibadah to gain His proximity and thus, acquire Allah’s (swt) shade on the Day of Judgement?

The severity of the Day of Judgement in the Quran

“That Day shall a man flee from his brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children.” (Abasa 80:34-36)

“Verily, those who disbelieved, and died while they were disbelievers, the (whole) earth full of gold will not be accepted from anyone of them even if they offered it as a ransom. For them is a painful torment and they will have no helpers.” (Al-Imran 3:91)

“Friends on that Day will be foes to one another except Al-Muttaqun.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:67)

Imagine being re-united with your wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends, after thousands of years and running away from each other. There will be a degree of enmity such that the friends, who were trusted and relied upon, will turn into foes.

The severity in the Ahadeeth

“On the Day of Resurrection, the sun would draw so close to the people that there would be left a distance of only one mile. The people will be submerged in perspiration according to their deeds: some up to their ankles, some up to their knees, some up to the waist and some would have the bridle of perspiration (and, while saying this, the Messenger of Allah [sa] put his hand towards his mouth).” (Muslim)

Imagine being re-united with your wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends, after thousands of years and running away from each other. There will be a degree of enmity such that the friends, who were trusted and relied upon, will turn into foes.

This shows the severity of the Day of Judgement. Imagine the hunger, the thirst, the pain, and the chaos; how helpless each one of us will be. Aisha bint Abu Bakr (rta)
heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) say: “Mankind will be gathered on the Day of Resurrection, barefoot, naked and uncircumcised.” She said: “O Messenger of Allah, men and women together, looking at one another?” He said: “O Aisha, it will be too distressing for them to be looking at one another.” (Mishkat Al-Masabeeh)

A Solace: Seven will be Shaded

Allah (swt) will shade seven types of people on the Day of Judgement.

According to a Hadeeth, Abu Hurairah (rta) reported that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Seven are (the persons) whom Allah (swt) will shade under His Throne on the Day, when there would be no shade other than His Throne’s Shade: A just ruler; a youth who grew up worshipping Allah; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two persons who love and meet each other and depart from each other for the sake of Allah (swt); a man whom an extremely beautiful woman seduces for illicit relation, but he rejects this offer by saying: ‘I fear Allah’; a man who gives in charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the left hand does not know what the right has given; and a person who remembers Allah in solitude and his eyes well up.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Everything in Islam has practical and logical answers to its teachings; so these should be applicable in some way to our lives too. Let’s analyze whether we can be among them and save ourselves from the scorching heat, perspiration and thirst of the Day of Reckoning.

  1. A just ruler: These are rulers who rule over nations, cities, villages, tribes or even communities or families. Every family has a head and mostly, it is the father. However, the ruling is divided amongst both the parents. Each person who gets to be a ruler even over a family and he deals justly would be amongst those in the Shade of Allah’s (swt) Throne.
  2. A youth who grew up worshipping Allah (swt): Those of us, who are still young, can start worshipping Allah (swt); those who have crossed the age of youth can guide some youth towards guidance or repentance. Insha’Allah all his deeds would reach Allah (swt) and hopefully, he will achieve the Shade on the Last Day
  3. A man whose heart is attached to the Masjid: This means his heart is attached either in offering Salah or waiting for the Salah to begin, and also in Dhikr and reading the Quran. Also, this includes women who offer Salah as soon as the Adhan is called and spend their time in Dhikr and reading Quran. Each one of us can strive to enjoy these acts of worship, which most of us do unwillingly or just to shed off a burden. If we do these acts willingly, with our hearts attached to them, they would help us get shaded on the Day of Judgement.
  4. Two persons, who love and meet each other and depart from each other for the sake of Allah (swt): Our purpose of meeting sometimes is for the sake of the Dunya. For example, Nikah or any other gathering. But we must intend that we are going to meet only for the sake of Allah (swt) and will invite towards good and righteousness whomsoever we meet. And we will forbid people from wrong, so that we fulfill the commandment of Allah (swt) from Surah Al-Asr, and not be in loss. It is the Sunnah of Prophet (sa) to say: “I love you for the sake of Allah (swt)” (Inni Uhibbuka Fillah) when he loved someone. So, we can revive this Sunnah amongst our family members and spouses. We are, first of all, slaves of Allah (swt), then the Ummah of Prophet (sa) and then family or relatives or colleagues.                             

     Those of us, who are still young, can start worshipping Allah (swt); those who have crossed the age of youth can guide some youth towards guidance or repentance. 

  5. A man whom an extremely beautiful woman seduces (for illicit relation) but he (rejects this offer by saying): “I fear Allah (swt)”: This means that a practicing Muslim, even if his gaze falls on the feet of a woman, should turn his face and say to himself: “Fear Allah (swt)!” Similarly, in offices or in the neighborhood, if any men or women try to talk more than necessary, immediately withdraw from such conversations reminding yourself to: “Fear Allah (swt)!” Also fear Allah (swt) on social media websites; keep pure and save the Shade for yourself, Insha’Allah.
  6. A man who gives in charity and conceals it to such an extent that the left hand does not know what the right has given: These days, charity is given to be known and shown. We should conceal the deeds so much that no one knows where our charity money is sent. Many pious predecessors would go to remote villages at night and give charity. Only after their death would it be known that these pious people hid their charity. Hence, we should conceal our charity also and thus, gain the Shade.
  7. A person who remembers Allah (swt) in solitude and his eyes well up: This is to be practiced by all of us. When in solitude, what do we remember the most? Do we indulge in sin or do we call our friends or do we sleep away? We should wake up and turn to our Lord, Allah (swt), the Most Merciful, Who loves us more than seventy mothers; He gave us this solitude to connect with Him, to gain proximity towards Him, and ultimately be Shaded. He surely does want each one of us to be shaded; He made this writer write and made each one of us read it so that we are shaded on the Day of Judgement.

May Allah (swt) enable us to remain shaded on the Day of Judgement! Ameen!

Let’s Talk Taharah

clean-water“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” (George Bernard Shaw)

While people generally consider cleanliness desirable, Islam insists upon it. Let’s talk Taharah.

We jump into the shower, soap up and clean the dirt off – then get on with our days’ activities. We mull over the brand of our toothpaste, soap and shampoo more than the actual “act” of cleaning.

Islam deals with hygiene as part of an overall scheme of ritual, spiritual and physical cleanliness called Taharah. The nearest meaning of Taharah in the English language is “purity.” But it also includes essence of cleanliness, ablution as well as sanctity.

We do not know “Taharah.” We generally associate Taharah with cleaning and hygiene only.

Hygiene is a complex Pandora’s box of a topic, full of doubtful stuff we’d rather not confront. It contains filth and disease, bugs, germs and grubby private habits. On the other hand, it also contains images of sparkling kitchens and bathrooms; scrubbed, perfumed and well-groomed people; and an endless array of cleaning products. It sits uneasily between filth and cleanliness; between the private and the public; and between the scientific and the religious domains of society. While we all agree that hygiene is important, improving it becomes difficult if we cannot agree on what it means or understand where it comes from.

Islam deals with hygiene as part of an overall scheme of ritual, spiritual and physical cleanliness called Taharah. The nearest meaning of Taharah in the English language is “purity.” But it also includes essence of cleanliness, ablution as well as sanctity.

So, do we humans have hygiene instincts? After a series of research projects looking into hygiene motivation around the world (example, India, Africa, Netherlands and the United Kingdom), a scientific study found evidence for this idea. When interviewed about the ‘why’ of their hygiene habits, the study found that people found it hard to explain their reactions to certain stimuli. Faced with feces, bodily fluids, rotten food and creepy-crawlies, people would say, “I can’t explain it – they are just yuck!” It seemed that there was a powerful sense of disgust involved, which compelled people to avoid nasty, sticky, oozing and teeming stuff. (‘A Natural History of Hygiene’, Valerie A Curtis, PhD, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

So, do we humans have hygiene instincts? After a series of research projects looking into hygiene motivation around the world (example, India, Africa, Netherlands and the United Kingdom), a scientific study found evidence for this idea.

It is in our nature (Fitrah) to want to be pure or Tahir. Taharah is an instinct ingrained in us by Allah (swt). It is no wonder then that Taharah is the first lesson of Islam. Allah (swt) says in one of His first revelations: “And purify your garments….”  (Al-Muddaththir, 74: 4 – 5)

There is a link between physical and ritual purity. Physical purity is ridding one-self of dirt and physical impurities (Najasah). Being physically clean is conducive to ritual purity. Just like having a clean container is essential for keeping water free of impurities. No matter how pure the water is, if the container is contaminated with filth, it will certainly contaminate the water.

In many cases, Taharah encompasses both physical and ritual purity simultaneously.  For example bathing (Ghusl) after sexual intercourse, and for women – at the end of menstruation and after post partum bleeding is a deliberate cleansing act of purifying the body by following a Sunnah prescribed ritual.

The Islamic prayer (Salah), has a uniqueness unlike the prayer in other religions, in which physical purification is a necessary condition. If prayer is the key to Paradise then, likewise purification is the key to prayer. 

A distinctive characteristic of Taharah is that it is a means to an end as well as an end in itself.  It is a form of worship (Ibadah) as well as preparation for other forms of Ibadah. Since worship is direct communication with Allah (swt), Taharah can also be viewed as a protocol preparation for an important event.

Taharah embraces cleanliness. A clean environment and a clean body are part of aesthetic beauty and are also necessary for sanitation and health. However, we must not equate it with fancy stuff only. There are some cases like Tayammum (dry ablution) where Taharah is achieved without cleanliness as we usually understand.  The spectrum of Taharah then goes beyond our acceptable perception of hygiene here.

Do not think for a minute that Taharah is merely a hypothetical concept.  Islam is pragmatic in all matters and Islamic concepts have practical implications. Taharah is an essential part of the rites and worship to such extent that it is an inseparable part of a Muslim’s life.  The Prophet (sa) said: “Purification is half of faith.” (Muslim, Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

A distinctive characteristic of Taharah is that it is a means to an end as well as an end in itself.  It is a form of worship (Ibadah) as well as preparation for other forms of Ibadah.

The Islamic prayer (Salah), has a uniqueness unlike the prayer in other religions, in which physical purification is a necessary condition. If prayer is the key to Paradise then, likewise purification is the key to prayer. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah does not accept prayers without purification.” (Muslim and Ibn Majah)

Taharah then becomes essential knowledge for every Muslim, it is not simply “staying clean” or “being hygienic” – but preparing for standing before Allah (swt).  It is a ruling of Islamic law. Every Muslim is obliged to turn to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) and take instructions from there.

“O you who believe! Approach not As-Salah when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter, nor when you are in a state of Janabah, (i.e. in a state of sexual impurity and have not yet taken a bath) except when travelling on the road (without enough water, or just passing through a mosque), till you wash your whole body. And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands Truly, Allah is Ever Oft Pardoning, Oft Forgiving.” (An-Nisa, 4:43)

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The Companions of the Prophet (sa) declared with confidence, that yes, our Prophet (sa) has even taught us how to clean ourselves after going to the toilet – Alhumdulillah.

Why is there such stress on Taharah in Islam? Firstly, it is one of the qualities beloved to Allah (swt). He says: “Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222).  Secondly, it is the path to health and strength. The Muslim is entrusted with his body, thus, he must not neglect it. The Prophet (sa) said: “Your body has a right on you.” (Agreed upon)

Thirdly, it is a prerequisite to appearing in the way most loved by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa). Allah (swt) says: “O children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes) while praying.” (Al-Araf, 7:31)

And lastly, cleanliness and pleasant appearance are conducive for cultivating healthy human relationships. A man came to the Prophet (sa) with unkempt hair and untidy beard. The Prophet (sa) pointed to him, as if ordering him to straighten his hair and beard. He did so and returned. Thereupon the Prophet (sa) observed, ‘Is that not better than one of you coming with his hair unkempt, as if he were a devil?’ (Malik)

Science continues to zero in on, to make more precise, what we ‘feel’ to be right: dirt causes disease. But as a species, we are naturally hygienic – in fact, we ‘knew’ that all along. Islam endorses and institutionalizes the whole hygiene thing for us in the most user-friendly package – so go soap up!

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The Purpose of Life

purposeThese four words probably come to every human being’s mind regardless of religion, creed or caste. They are the motivating factors for the conversion of many non-Muslims. These words are what make us the best of creation. They make us ponder over the creation and the Creator. Furthermore, they make us realize that we were not created for mere play. The purpose of our life is not to get a job, marry, have children, grandchildren and then retire. Our purpose, our goal, our destiny is something higher. It is to gain the pleasure of our Creator and to return to our home, Jannah.

These words are what make us the best of creation. They make us ponder over the creation and the Creator. Furthermore, they make us realize that we were not created for mere play.

There comes a point in our life when we realize we are tired, tired of doing the exact same things every day. Things that are utterly useless, things that do not take us anywhere. We realize that life has lost its joy and contentment. If you haven’t felt it till now, you will feel it someday because Allah has put it in our Fitrah. You will lie on your bed, look at the ceiling and wonder why you were created, how you were created, how you will die, where you will end up and so on. Yes, we have all heard about heaven and hell but have we ever thought about it, about our real and eternal home? Have we ever desired going there? The answer for most of us is no. This is not surprising as the pleasure of life has so encompassed us that we do not desire anything higher. We have lost our vision, our belief.

However the people who have thought about the purpose of life, know that your Creator did not just create you. He is not just a Khaaliq. He is also a Rabb, the one who maintains, the one who holds you together, the one who loves you. He has sent you with an instruction manual and a role model, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah clearly says in the Quran in Surah Al-Mulk, Ayah 2 “Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.”

He again says in another place “And I (Allah) created not the Jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).”(Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

The idea of a life without purpose sounds crazy. Allah expresses this in the Quran by saying,

“Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (Al Muminun 23:115)

Our work starts here. We have to go on a Holy Quest. We have to search for the purpose. It is not hard, just one sincere prayer for guidance can lead you to the truth if He wills. Our Lord wants us to find him, to know him. Your desire to know the right path is enough for him to bring you to it, know that you just have to take the first step, He will cover the rest.

Ramadan – A Time to Improve and Sustain Yourself

RamadanAbdul Azeez Qari invites all Muslims to make the most of the blessings of Ramadan

The Prophet (sa) used to give glad tidings to his companions, upon the arrival of this month. Allah made it a time of action, when believers should strive for four things: fasting, Quran, worship, and righteous deeds. These are the most obvious gifts of Ramadan.

Why does evil diminish in Ramadan?

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Heaven (in another narration – the gates of Paradise) are opened, the gates of the Hellfire are sealed, and the Shayateen (devils) are chained” (Bukhari and Muslim)

He (sa) also said: “On the first night of Ramadan, the Shayateen and the leaders of the Jinn are chained.” (Ibn Majah)

This means that during Ramadan, their ability to tempt people diminishes. Evil and disobedience decrease, because, although the causes of disobedience are many, the greatest factor of all is the whispers of Satan. However, narrations prove that during this month only the leaders of the Shayateen are chained. This is why the evil does not come to a complete halt.

There also are many other sources for evil, one of them being the human soul, which is naturally inclined towards evil. Human devils are another reason for immorality in addition to man’s own lusts and desires. Yet another reason is that the remaining devils, which do not get chained, continue to misguide people. Nevertheless, all of these sources of evil have a lesser effect on the fasting people, because fasting bestows upon them a certain blessing.

What are the mercies of Allah during Ramadan?

Allah ordained fasting during this month, whereby people refrain from food, drink, and conjugal relations from dawn until sunset. When the sun sets, a fasting person can eat, drink, and have marital relations. The nations that came before us were not allowed to touch their spouses even at night. Likewise, if a person from them fell asleep before he had the chance to eat or drink, he was restricted from food and drink until the end of the next day.

However, Allah has made it easy for this nation. He says: “…Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to magnify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful” (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

One of such signs of ease is that an ill person and a traveller can break their fasts and make them up at a later time after Ramadan. Also, the elderly who cannot bear fasting, as well as the people, who have no hope for a cure (i.e., the chronically ill), instead of fasting, can feed the needy – they do not have to make up their missed fasts. In these mentioned cases, the believers should make use of the permission Allah has furnished for them, because He likes, when people take heed of the mercy He has endowed.

O, Muslims! Know that fasting is a protection from wrongdoing. This month is an opportunity for you to purify yourselves. During Ramadan, a Muslim has fewer burdens, as his desires are diminished and he acquires more goodness from being involved in fasting. One can rid himself of bad habits, such as overdoing matters, which are lawful – overeating, talking too much, and being over indulgent in sexual relations with ones spouse. We must stop the awful habit of going to extremes in fulfilling these desires.

What about hypocrites during Ramadan?

Some people fail to understand the reality of fasting. They spend their mornings hungry, while their evenings are full of sin. They spend the whole night watching television with their families, eating all night long to make up for the food they have missed while fasting. Therefore, fasting means no more to such people, but a change in the times of eating.

A Hadeeth states: “A man by the name of Abu Ghazwan came to visit the Prophet (sa). This was before Abu Ghazwan had become Muslim. The Prophet (sa) was the most generous of all people. He milked seven sheep for him, so the man drank all of the milk. Then the Prophet (sa) said to him: ‘Is it not time for you to become a Muslim?’ He replied, ‘Yes’ and became a Muslim. The Prophet (sa) then stroked his chest (while supplicating for him). The next day, the Prophet (sa) milked only one sheep for him, but Abu Ghazwan, was not able to drink all of the milk. So, the Prophet (sa) asked: ‘What is the matter, Abu Ghazwan?’ He, responded: ‘I swear by the One Who sent you as a Prophet, I have had enough.’ So the Prophet (sa) said: ‘Last night you had seven stomachs, while you were a disbeliever, and today you have only one stomach’ (At-Tabarani)

A believer can eat less and control his desires more, since he does not eat to enjoy nor to fulfil a desire, but rather to stop hunger and become stronger, so that he can worship Allah. The disbeliever, however, who does not believe in the Day-to-come, eats with a strong desire and the lust of animals, as Allah describes him in the Qur’an, saying that which means:

“…But those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as grazing livestock eat, and the Fire will be a residence for them.” (Muhammad 47:12)

What about the marketing strategy for MORE?

One type of cooked food is enough; let us not be like the Children of Israel, who would not settle for only one kind of food. O, people, who observe fasting! When you put these different types of foods on the table in front of you, before you begin to eat, remember that the Prophet (sa) would remain without lighting a fire in his house (i.e., without cooking) for one or even two months: “He and his family only ate dates and drank water” (Bukhari)

This was not because he could not have obtained it. It was merely because he stayed away from worldly pleasures, living a simple life and aiming to draw ever closer to Allah. Even though Allah offered him control of the treasures of the earth, the Prophet (sa) chose to live in poor conditions, eating as a slave eats, sitting as a slave sits. He used to say: “O Allah! Let me live as a Miskeen (humble servant) and resurrect me with the Masakeen (humble)” (Tirmidhi & Baihaqi)

How does Allah reward fasting?

Allah says as reported in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “He left eating and drinking and his desires for My sake. Fasting is for Me and I give reward for it – one blessing (for fasting) is multiplied ten times.” (Bukhari)