The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the sixth in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.
“All praise is Allah’s. We praise Him, seek His help, ask His forgiveness, and we repent unto Him. We seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our selves and our bad actions. Whomever Allah guides none can lead astray, and whomever He leads astray has no one to guide him. I testify that there is no god but Allah alone, without any partner, and I testify that Muhammad is his slave and messenger.”
Lessons from the Opening
In the opening of the sermon, there are several lessons. We start in the name of Allah and by praising Allah, mighty and majestic (this is called the Hamdala).
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) generally did not begin his sermons by saying Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim out loud. They say one of the wisdoms is the Basmala, like in prayer, he said quietly.
It is Sunna to begin things of significance in the name of Allah, with praise of Allah, and seeking protection from the Shaytan (Satan). This is also true in important worldly matters where it may not be appropriate to say this out loud such as a presentation at work. But, say it to yourself.
You are seeking divine assistance. Seeking divine facilitation. And you are doing it reliant upon Allah. Setting your moral compass straight, “I’m doing this seeking the pleasure of Allah in a manner pleasing to Allah.”
Then the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) sought Allah’s guidance out of need. That is how we begin things. We are seeking to be guided in the moral choices we make, and we seek guidance by having Allah’s assistance to pursue what is right.
Then, the testification of faith. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) frequently gave the testification of faith as a renewal of faith. He (Allah bless him and give him peace) told the Companions, “Renew your faith.” You are already a believer but you say the testification of faith as a renewal of the covenant of faith.
Mindfulness of Allah
We see the opening counsel of mindfulness (Taqwa) of Allah. If you seek to attain the highest of ranks, uphold the mindfulness of Allah, the Lord whose mercy is ever sought. They call it, “Allah’s counsel to the first and the last.”
Mindfulness of Allah is a concern to keep away from anything displeasing to Allah, out of a recognition of the preciousness of the gift of Allah. It is to shield oneself from all that harms one in one’s relationship with Allah. One wants to protect the gift of Allah, which is the gift of faith, the gift of guidance, the gift of good.
Mindfulness arises from gratitude. You recognize the preciousness of God’s gift upon you.
Attention and Urgency
“To commence: O people, hear me well: I explain to you. For I do not know; I may well not meet you again in this place where I now stand, after this year of mine.”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave his opening, “To commence.” This is a Sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
In the opening, it is Sunna to make clear what you are talking about or why you are talking. That is from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as an educator, as a builder in the sense that he came to illuminate intellects.
True intelligence is the capacity to act with principle towards what is acceptable, good, or excellent.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) here conveys urgency, “O people, hear, me well.” They are standing listening to him. The believer speaks with purpose, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day let them say good or remain silent.”
The believer speaks when it is worth speaking. If what you are saying is worth speaking, it is worth giving attention to it. The believer should be troubled if one is conveying guidance, but people are not listening. It is not that the person wants for themselves to be raised and paid attention to.
This is the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Even when the people are present, he wants their attention, not for himself but for Allah. This is from pointing to Allah. This is from the Prophetic concern. His concern is, “My community, my community.”
Seek Lasting Benefit
Be avid for what benefits. Place your trust in Allah and do not deem yourself incapable. Anything that you do, any choice that you make, strive to choose that which will be of the greatest, widest and most lasting benefit whether in the worldly life or related to religion, for yourself and others, directly and indirectly.
“For I do not know; I may well not meet you again in this place where I now stand, after this year of mine.” Pay attention to the sense of urgency and time. The urgency that underlies the call of the Prophets (upon them be peace). Allah says:
إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِی خُسۡرٍ
إِلَّا ٱلَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡا۟ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡا۟ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ
“By the End of the Day! Truly Man is ruined in loss! Save those who believe and work righteous deeds, and bid each other to right, and bid each other to patience.” [Quran, 103:1-3; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
The human being is an inherent loss, unless you wake up, have a sense of urgency, and realize that the only way out of the morbidity of the human condition, the depressing state of the human being, the perishing-ness of our fleeting lives (which made so many a thinking person depressed), “Save those who believe and work righteous deeds, and bid each other to right, and bid each other to patience.”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) knew that his final time was coming. It is during this farewell Hajj that there was revelation:
وَٱخْشَوْنِ ۚ ٱلْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِى وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلْإِسْلَـٰمَ دِينًۭا ۚ
“This day have I wholly perfected for you your religion, and completed upon you My blessing: I please that Islam be your religion.” [Quran, 5:3; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
Note the urgency with the completion of religion. Hold fast to it Preserve it. Understand it and then convey it to others. Pay attention to it. Do not develop a lack of concern with conveying that guidance to others.
Our communities are frequently turning away from religious guidance and we kid ourselves by saying we are doing our best. Some lessons are empty where guidance is being conveyed. As some of the early Muslims said, “Love is that you give your entirety to the one you love until nothing of you remains for you.” As for gratitude, Imam Junaid al-Baghdadi said, “Gratitude is to give one’s all.”
None of you believes until they wish for others of the good that they wish for themselves. Love is only true if it manifests in your choices. It has two meanings: Love is an inclination towards another and the choices you make for the other.
Are we making the choices that are beloved to Allah when it comes to the religion?