Excessive Praise of the Prophet? Understanding the Meaning of Praise

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: My question is in regards to the difference between praise and worship. I understand that there is nothing wrong with praising the Beloved of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) since this praise does not imply worship. My question then is how is this reconciled with “Alhamdulillah”? Is there an implicit assumption that when we say “All praise is for Allah” we mean praise that is commensurate with our worship of Him? These are only my own thoughts, and I worry about holding any opinion on issues like these that diverge from that of Ahl al-Sunna. Any clarification on this would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa baraktuh,

Alhamdulillah, thank you for your question. Many people today confuse what is meant by praising Allah Most High, and praising his Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and the meaning of worship.

The upshot is that there is no contradiction between those two types of praises as long as what is said and believed of each is respectively true and accurate, just as the two parts of the Testimony of Faith do not need “reconciling”; it is clearly divided between the Creator first, and then His Best Creation (peace be upon him).

Praise is a general category, and consists of praises from Allah to Himself, or upon His prophets or the righteous – that is eternal speech -, and praises from the creation to Allah Most High in worship, and praises between people, or for some other created object. Though we are not concerned with this here, created praises also encompass false or wrong praises, such as lies or praises for an idol.

It is obvious how Allah deserves all of the good praises directed to Him as the Lord. But for everything in creation that is truly praiseworthy that we praise, the praise still returns to Allah Most High, who created those things with those praiseworthy qualities in the first place. That is why He, and no one else, is rightfully deserving of all true praises, whether they were intended directly to Him or not.

A Deeper Look at the Meanings of “Praise”

It’s always best to define terms and to look at them in their original language before getting further into a discussion. The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary tells us that “praise” in English can mean either to express favorable judgment of something (synonymous with commending or complimenting), or when more specifically used for God or righteous persons, to glorify, especially with the attributes of perfection (synonymous with extolling or magnifying). Thus, not all praise means worship.

Praise can be a vague term in translation, usually chosen to denote three Arabic words, namely: al-hamd, al-madh, and al-thanaa’.  Of these, al-thanaa’ is the most general and applicable, meaning “an act which gives a sense of praising or recalling the good points of the object of praise.”  [al-Jurjani, al-Ta`rifat]

Al-Hamd, purely linguistically, means “the verbal praising of someone for beautiful traits/acts that they choose to exercise, as a way of lauding them, whether or not they did some favor upon the one praising them.” Al-Hamd can be from Allah Most High upon Himself or His prophets for example, in which case it is eternal speech, or it can be created speech, such as our praise for Allah, or for our fellow human beings.

Al-Hamd, however, does take on a unique meaning and usage when done to Allah, in that it is “any act grounded in magnifying the Giver of Bounties for the fact that He is the Giver of Bounties, whether for His having blessed the one who is praising Him, or on other than the one doing the praising, whether this act is a verbal expression, a believing thought in one’s heart, or an action of one’s limbs.” In this specific usage, it matches the definition of giving thanks and gratitude to Allah (al-shukr). [al-Bayjuri, Sharh Jawhara al-Tawhid]

Al-Madh is also a word for praise, sometimes used interchangeably with al-hamd or more general than it. However, it can be differentiated in that al-madh is used for praising endowed qualities that a person cannot choose to take on through their own choice (such as having beautiful physical features), while al-hamd is for intended praiseworthy actions or then the praiseworthy quality traits from those acts spring from (such as the act of giving charity, and further than that, having a generous heart).

Al-Razi in his Tafsir al-Kabir mentions other differences, namely that al-hamd is more specific than al-madh, and used specifically for living beings that do some act of excellence by deliberate choice, while al-madh also encompasses those not alive, as well as inanimate things, or when praising a person outside of the time frame of their doing an act of excellence.

Praising Allah Most High and His Prophet (peace be upon him)

The way and meaning of our praise for Allah Most High is distinct from our praise of the Prophet (peace be upon him), when we praise each with praises befitting and appropriate to their respective categories and stations. Even saying “Allah is generous” has a totally different reality and meaning than when we say “the Prophet (peace be upon him) is generous”.

Based on the above definitions, for Allah Most High, we use al-hamd, because Allah Ta’ala is present and alive and always completing His favor upon us, and acting by choice, and thus it is more suitable than using al-madh, because no one endowed Allah Ta’ala with any qualities. [al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir]

When we say “Al-Hamdu li-Llah”, what do we mean?  It is Allah who opened His Qur’an with this pre-eternal phrase of praise for Himself.  Usually, it is translated as “all praises are for Allah”, but there’s more to it than that.

The “al-” prefix makes the word “hamd” definite and not general (i.e. not “a praise” but “the praise”), and can either indicate: (a) the essence of the broader category of all praises that exist (al-jinsiyya), or (b) that every single true and deserving praise that any being has and will ever be given is actually to the credit and praise of the One is responsible for creating or holding those praiseworthy acts or qualities Himself (al-istighraqiyya), or (c) that the definitive particle is used to summarily recall “those praises” which Allah Most High praised Himself with in pre-eternity, as a mercy to mankind, because mankind is incapable of encompassing and mentioning Allah’s true praises due to our finite and imperfect natures, so Allah taught us a term that would suffice us.

The “li-” possessive prefix before Allah’s name can indicate either: (a) sole deservingness of those praises (al-istihqaq), or (b) to clarify who is being intended apart from any other being (al-ikhtisas), or (c) to indicate total ownership of the praises (al-milk). Thus, technical exceptions aside, “Alhumdulillah” can mean all of: “The/ All/ Pre-eternally-mentioned praises are directed to, suitably meant for and ultimately belonging solely to Allah.” [al-Bayjuri, Jawhara al-Tawhid]

Perhaps “al-madh” is used primarily to praise the Prophet (peace be upon him) rather than “al-hamd” since he is not with us and acting in the temporal world in the normative sense now, and perhaps because we are looking back after his lifetime has occurred (peace and blessings be upon him), and every good quality and act in his human perfection was divinely bestowed and an endowed part of his blessed nature.

Praise and Its Relationship to Worship

Worship (al-ibadah) is defined by Sayyid al-Jurjani as “the actions of a morally responsible person, going against their lower whims and caprice, out of glorification for their Lord.” Praising the blessings of Allah is also a way of glorifying Him.

Praise only becomes a commendable act of worship, or on the other hand something condemned, when its integrals contain something to indicate that. So to judge any praise, one must look at the status and veracity of five things: (a) who is doing the praising (al-hamid), and (b) who is the one being praised (al-mahmud), (c) upon what quality (al-mahmud bihi), (d) for what reason or favor or motivating factor is this praise being given (al-mahmud `alayhi) , and (e) what is its form and wording (Seeghah al-Hamd)? Intention is of course a paramount determinant in this, as in all acts.

Thus, praising the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with praises he deserves, no matter how often, is not worship to him at all, rather it is recommended.

What the Muslims have always done is “madh” of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) for his divinely endowed qualities, out of love for him and obedience to the Creator. Doing so is a form of worship to the One who chose to create and send him to us, and so, by praising the Prophet (peace be upon him) through “madh”, we are really praising Allah through “hamd” and more specifically, we are being thankful (shukr).

Is There Excessive Praise?

As for those who claim that the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade excessively praising him, they cite the narration in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Do not exaggerate in magnifying me like the Christians exaggerated in magnifying the son of Maryam [`Isa, or Jesus, peace be upon him], for I am only His slave, so say: ‘the slave of Allah and His messenger’.” [al-Bukhari, Sahih]

The word used for the type of bad praise here is not any of the three previous terms, rather specified as “al-itraa”, which Ibn Hajar, in his commentary of this narration, defines as “praise using falsehoods and untruths” and “exaggeration” in extolling. This was because the people who claimed to follow `Isa (peace be upon him) exalted him to the level of divinity (either as “the son” or as God himself), which the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not want any of his community to fall into.

This is what the prohibition was restricted to (and by corollary, all false and polytheistic claims). Yet, for what is true and wholesome, since there was no mention of it or limit set as to the quantity or quality of praise for the Prophet (peace be upon him), it is an implicit permission to praise without restriction.

Some still seem to have a problem with this however, as if to insinuate that repeatedly praising the Prophet (peace be upon him) would somehow slowly lead to polytheism (shirk), diverting attention from the worship of Allah Most High. This is faulty reasoning, to say the least.

How can there be such a thing as praising “too much” or “too often”, when the Lord of the Worlds decided pre-eternally, out of all the names in His infinite knowledge, to name His beloved “Muhammad” (from Ha-m-d), which is not just “the one praised” (mahmud), but intensified as “the one who is praised over and over again without cease”? [al-Zurqani, Sharh al-Muwatta]

We ask Allah Ta’ala to shower His peace and blessings on His Beloved Messenger, his family and Companions, wa al-HamduliLlahi Rabbi l-‘alameen.

Wasallam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Doubts About Islam: I Don’t Find Any Observable Effect or Peace in My Worship

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: How can I convince my self about the truth of Islam and that my ceremonial actions like salat and dua have any effect? I converted when I was a teenager and have been practicing regularly. Yet, for everything else in the universe, or at least for the things I care about, I observe cause and effect.I do an action and an effect is produced. But with invocation, prayer, and dhikr no observable effect is produced. I have not experienced peace in the remembrance of Allah. Shaytan feels closer to me than Allah. Then I keep hearing from Christian coworkers, classmates, etc. how such and such miracle occurred in their lives or how they got a sign from God – and I think they honestly believe what they say. What should I do? Please advise.

Answer: In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

As salaamu alaikum brother,

I want to tell you that what you have done is very brave- trying to get help to clear your doubts about the Truth is something that is necessary for any Muslim to do. Many people live and suffer with the disease of doubt in silence for years while it takes a toll on their mental, spiritual and even their physical health.

It is also very reassuring that despite this issue, you keep up your worship to Allah through the five daily prayers. However, we must not think for a moment that we are doing a favor to Allah; rather it is He who is doing us a great, incalculable favor, a sign of His immense generosity that engulfs us even while we have been unmindful of Him.

First, we will look at why you might feel emptiness in your worship, then your confusions regarding God and His existence and how to solve that, then finally, why these problems might be occurring and the cure for it.

Why Does My Prayer Feel Like an Empty Ritual?

Part of the reason that people feel emptiness in their prayers is because they feel that by praying and fasting and supplicating, they are doing something to benefit Allah, and that He should feel obliged to reimburse them for their efforts. Then, they desire certain outcomes that their limited insight feels is best for them, and that if those do not occur, then Allah has not answered them, so they become despondent.

Rather, do we ask ourselves how Allah can possibly owe us anything, when, long before we were even created, in His infinite knowledge, He willed that we would be guided as Muslims today? Did He not choose you and I out of billions of people to believe in Him?

What did we do in pre-eternity, what great act of piety, what service, what obedience, for which our creation and guidance was recompense? Nothing whatsoever.

What was there before this entire world of cause and effect and ups and downs and desires and actions? Allah alone, and His pure largess and mercy.

So is it not fitting that we worship Him out of a profound sense of gratitude, solely because He alone deserves to be worshiped, rather than for outcomes, as if He has to pay us back for acts of worship that He guided us to in the first place?

When we choose freely to worship Him (even after He makes us inclined to do so), He creates the act and enables us, then we acquire that prayer in our account of good deeds, then He Himself appreciates it and rewards us for something He created. That is the reality for our devotions. They are in fact a gift from Him to us, not the other way around. Knowing this should change the state of our worship, insha Allah.

The Wordly Returns of Sincere Worship

The scholars of Islamic spirituality say that the one guaranteed (though not obligatory) worldly effect of sincere obedience (such as prayer) is the tawfiq, or divine facilitation, to do more good deeds. This is much more beneficial than any worldly thing to ask for, and of course, the rewards in the Hereafter are permanent.

Still, none of a believer’s prayers are unheard: they are either answered, or something harmful is averted in its stead, or delayed till the Hereafter where the result is better.

Perhaps the reward for your steadfast prayers and devotions for all these years since you became Muslim is that, even through your difficult times of doubting the very One who gave you all of these blessings, He still enables you to worship Him and keeps you connected to Him, out of His love and divine concern for you.

He, Most Gracious and Merciful, is what is keeping us from falling into disbelief at all times, not our practice, though He can make that a means to attach ourselves to Him.  Seeing Allah’s gentle hand behind the blessings in our life can uplift us so much, and seeing how He has saved us from so much potential harm as well can make us appreciate what we have now and feel content.

Know Your Lord – Study the Science of Beliefs

Sometimes, we as Muslims confuse our priorities in this religion. One might think that having small doubts about the existence of the Creator whilst continuing outward practice is the relatively better position to be in, rather than having firm faith while slipping in and out of practice due to laziness.

Both are bad and undesirable, but the preference of the former over the latter is putting worship (‘ibadah) before the One who is worshiped (al-ma`bud), which doesn’t make sense. The first obligatory duty upon us as Muslims – rather, as human beings – is to know Our Lord. Everything else follows after firmly confirming that knowledge in our hearts [al-Dardir, Sharh Kharida al Bahiyya].

That’s why it is highly recommended for us all to study at least one basic primer in Islamic Beliefs with a qualified teacher. This primer can be one that lists the general beliefs that a Muslim needs to have without explanation if it is readily followed.

However, in an age where doubt and confusion are widespread, a work should be studied which allows the beginner to logically understand how it is necessary that this world have a Creator who is unlike His creation, and why Islam’s teachings on the nature and qualities of the Creator make it the indisputable religion of truth. In the case of someone who has doubts, it becomes an obligation to seek that knowledge. Seeker’s Guidance offers a course on Islamic Beliefs that I would personally recommend everyone to take.

Then, once one sees how Islam’s view of God is the necessary truth that accurately reflects and applies to what actually exists, the message from God which carried the proofs for this knowledge and obligated us to believe (al-Qur’an) can be verified as true, after which the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) can be verified as true, after which one can be convinced, as you asked, of the truth of Islam as a religion in all its various aspects.

It is also worth reminding you that, years ago, you made a conscious decision to accept Islam, Alhamdulillah. You came as a result of seeing the truth in it; of being sure and knowing that Allah is One and that Islam is His religion. What has changed? Don’t sell yourself short in thinking you don’t have faith – you might actually have all you need to discern truth from falsehood, but the problem is lying in your outlook.

After all, you are seeking this help and trying to convince yourself because you know deep down inside this is the truth- not because some other non-truth has convinced you and is dawning on you, and you are afraid to admit that. The issues you bring up are not well-formulated lines of reasoning, but scattered doubts mixed with emotions.   If you had been led totally astray by disbelieving in the truth of Islam, you might not have felt disturbed about this; if there wasn’t some good in your heart, you would never be concerned about this. Then what is the problem?

This is where it is important to understand the role of baseless misgivings (wasawasa) and the effect that they can have on the Muslim’s heart and mind, tempting even firm believers into thinking that they don’t really have faith, or to doubt something they know exists as rationally and necessarily true, but can’t see.

Baseless Misgivings in One’s Faith – Shaytan’s Weapon of Choice

The Devil (shaytan) is mankind’s sworn enemy, as Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an. After his own straying from Allah Most High’s pleasure and subsequently being cast out of divine favour, he vowed that he would lead all of mankind astray, out of envy for the close relationship that Adam (peace be upon him) and his progeny (us) shared with their Lord.

His main influence is by the fact that he whispers evil thoughts into our hearts. Then, we take these suggestions, and begin to repeatedly think about the evil (or less good) action, until it becomes our own thought, which then leads to determination, then to action.

One thing I have learned is to constantly remind yourself that not every thought you have is from your own mind- especially the gross ones and ones we wouldn’t repeat.  When the Devil whispers doubts into people’s minds, sometimes they mistaken them for our own, and feel disgust and shock for thinking such a gross thought, then they blame themselves over and over, allowing themselves to re-expose their mind to the thought repeatedly, till it actually does start confusing them, until it finally settles and becomes an internal struggle.

To have these fleeting doubtful thoughts, at the initial stage, is something normal, and to seek refuge in Allah Ta’ala from the Devil immediately is the remedy. Do not let those thoughts grow, rather, say “a`udhu billahi min ash-shaytan nir-rajeem” and if you pondered on the thought, seek forgiveness (istighfar).

It is narrated from Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him), who ascribed it back to the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) that he said, “Truly, Allah has overlooked for my Ummah that which is whispered, or the which is thought about in the lower self, as long as they do not act upon it, or speak about it.”  [al-Bukhari, Sahih]

He also narrates that people from amongst the Companions came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and consulted him: “We surely find within ourselves things that one of us would consider an enormity to even speak about.”  So he [peace and blessings be upon him] asked, “And you have really found that [within yourselves?]”  “Yes,” they replied.  “That,” he replied (peace and blessings be upon him), “is clear faith.” [Muslim, Sahih]

You mentioned that you felt the Devil was closer to you than Allah Most High. It is true that the Devil “runs in the children of Adam like the circulation of blood.” [Bukhari, Muslim]. You feel so sure of this, yet, the Devil can make you doubt even his existence as well, because if he admits his existence to one with doubts, isn’t it plainly obvious that the One who created him must exist?

Perhaps the feeling of the Devil being closer is actually about how you spend your time- do you, from your side, make yourself closer to your vain desires and ego, or to Allah? What are the hidden departments in your life which you need to address? Often, it is our connection to sinful or vain things that we overlook that causes us to feel emptiness.

We may feel far from Allah at those times, but is Allah far from us? No, never! Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then [tell them] surely, I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright.” [al-Quran, 2:186]

So knowing that Allah Ta’ala is closer to us than the Devil or anything else, if we act on the second part of the verse, namely to call on Allah sincerely and to rely and trust in Him to fulfill our every need, we get the result, which is being led aright, which is the means to attaining success in both this world and the Hereafter.

Someone might look at people of other faiths and think that they experience peace. Most of feeling tranquil is a mental thing; anyone can do that if they put their mind to it, even if they do the worst of things at other times, or worship false gods or have corrupt practices. That false sense of “peace” can mislead them into self-satisfaction and contentment with misguidance; it also doesn’t guarantee anything beyond this-worldly feelings.

But true peace is from Allah, al-Salam, when the believer combines truth with his/her love for the Divine, because He says: “Indeed!  It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.” [al-Quran, 13:28].

If a person chooses their religion based on what makes them feel good, and not based on whether they are worshipping the one true God the way He wants and deserves to be worshiped, who, or what exactly are they worshiping then? Their Lord, or simply their own base desires and fancies? In conclusion, these issues are simply things in our mind that we have to deal with by taking positive steps to developing a meaningful relationship with Allah Ta’ala.

May Allah Ta’ala make it easy for you and us to stay on the Truth of Islam and may He shower His love and mercy upon us and the entire ummah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

I tell myself all of this first and foremost, and then remind others.  And Allah knows best.

Wasallam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Does the Shari`ah Permit Reading Non-Islamic Literature?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: I was interested in understanding how non-Islamic literature (fiction novels) is viewed according to the Shariah. I understand certain things are undoubtedly impermissible, such as pornographic literature, but what about novels such as 1984, Harry Potter, Kite Runner, etc. ?

Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

The general ruling of literature is that it is in itself permitted, and praiseworthy insofar as it improves one’s language, communication, thinking skills, and ability to concentrate (as opposed to things like digital media). Children should be encouraged to read. Parents should, however, nudge them towards wholesome literature–and keep a good mix of Islamic literature for balance and grounding.

There would be a distinction made between literature that is generally wholesome and that is read for good purposes, and that which is to the contrary.

As for fantasy literature, there is fantasy literature that is deeply moral and wholesome (e.g. Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia), and others of rather twisted themes.

And Allah knows best.

wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Good Deeds & Salvation: Putting Our Works Into Perspective

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: What role do actions play in salvation?  There are, of course, Muslims out there who have adopted ideas similar to the Christians that belief is all that you need to be saved. What would you advise that I tell them.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

All that one needs to be saved is Allah. Neither actions nor beliefs alone guarantee one’s salvation.

`A’isha (Allah be well pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Perform your deeds properly and in moderation, and know that one’s deeds will not cause anyone of you to enter Heaven, and that the most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones even if little in amount.” [Bukhari]

Abu Hurayra (Allah be well-pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause him to enter Heaven. It was said, ‘Not even you, Messenger of Allah?’ He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Not even me unless my Lord envelops me with His mercy.'” [Muslim]

In another narration the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause his salvation. It was said, ‘Not even you Messenger of Allah? He (Allah bless him and grant him peace), ‘Not even me unless my Lord takes hold of me with mercy.'” [Muslim]

Understanding Allah’s Greatness:

In order to understand  the narrations properly, as well as the relation of one’s deeds to salvation, some key points of belief need to be outlined. The most essential is knowledge that Allah is not obligated to do anything.

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the above narrations, states, “Know that the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that reward, punishment, obligatoriness, impermissibility, and other than them two from the categories of moral responsibility, are not established by the rational intellect (`aql). All of this and other than it is not established except by recourse to divine revelation. The position of the Ahl al-Sunna is also that there is absolutely nothing obligatory on Allah Most High. Rather, the cosmos is His possession, and this world and the next are subject to His mastery; He does in them whatever He wills. So, if He punished every obedient and righteous slave and caused them to enter the Fire this would be considered equitable justice from Him, and if He honored them, blessed them, and entered them into Heaven then it is a gracious favor from Him. If He graciously favored the disbelievers and entered them into Heaven it would also be akin to this. However, He Most High has informed us – and His message is true – that He will not do so…” [Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Similarly, Imam Bajuri states, “So, the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that His rewarding us is due to pure gracious favor that is not admixed with compulsion or obligation [to do so].” [Tuhfat al-Murid]

Imam Haramayn al-Juwayni, the teacher of Imam Ghazali, states, “Similarly, with a person who is highly respected within his family, if he is generous with his son and provides all his needs, and the son honors him, respects him and seeks his approval and strives to earn it, therefore, that person is not owed in regard for his assistance anymore then he has already obtained from the beneficence that has accrued to his credit. If then this is the situation with a person who provides services to another like himself, a servant who tried to compare his own acts of service with God’s bounteous generosity to him in any single instance would find the beneficence of God completely acquitted and fulfilled in regard to any of his own good deeds.” [Kitab al-Irshad]

What Are Your Deeds? Allah’s Creation

The above becomes clearer when one realizes what one’s deeds really are: a creation of Allah. Unlike certain groups that believed that humans create their own choiceful acts, the Ahl al-Sunna unanimously agree that all of one’s actions are created by Allah. This is clear from the verse, “Allah created you and that which you do.” [37: 96] The commentators of the Qur’an agree that the vast majority constituted this as a proof of Allah’s being the creator of all actions. [Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil; Qurtubi, Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Similarly, the scholars defined “divinely given success” (tawfiq) as “Allah’s creating the ability to perform acts of obedience within the slave.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara]

As such, since our actions are a creaton of Allah and only came into being due to His will and omnipotent power, the servant has no right to claim that his deeds will cause his salvation, or that he deserves salvation due to them, since his deeds properly belong to Allah who created them, not the servant himself. Deeds not only include outward rituals, but also inward belief and convictions, all of which are blessings bestowed upon us by Allah. As the Qur’an states, “Whatever blessing you have, it is from Allah.” [16:53]

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the verse “enter heaven enveloped in what you did [of good acts]” [16: 32], states that “entering heaven is due to actions, yet divinely give success (tawfiq) to perform those acts, being guided in having sincerity in them, and their acceptance is due to Allah’s mercy and gracious favor.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim] Ibn Hajar `Asqalani stated that some scholars, such as Ibn Battal and Qadi `Iyyad, stated that one’s entry into heaven is purely out of Allah’s mercy whereas the degree where one will be in heaven is commensurate with one’s deeds. This was also mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi, who added that since actions are only for a limited earthly time-span, the eternal reward of heaven is not, strictly speaking, due to them but due to Allah’s blessing upon the servant. [Fath al-Bari]

The Goal is Allah: Putting Deeds Into Perspective

At the same time, this does not mean that one can leave performing the deeds that one has been commanded to perform. It remains an obligation on every morally responsible individual to fulfill the command of Allah Most High and strive to do so with excellence. This is not only decisively conveyed in the Qur’an but the narratives in question also state this unequivocally, such as the statement “perform your deeds properly and in moderation”. When closely looked at, it becomes clear that the purpose of these narratives is not to completely deemphasize the place of works, but to put them into correct perspective. The lessons that the narratives convey include:

[1] Being moderate and not excessive in one’s worship: The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “This religion is ease and none makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So, perform your deeds properly and in moderation…” [Bukhari] The wording of this narration is akin to the wording of the narratives related to our discussion here.

Imam Sakhawi quotes `A’isha (Allah be well-pleased with her) as stating that the ploy of the devil in relation to the servants duty to perform certain acts revolves around making him go to excess or making him lax in fulfilling these duties. [Maqasid al-Husna] The best way is to take the middle path and do a moderate amount of work with presence and purity of heart. Bakr al-Muzani said, “Abu Bakr did not surpass the Companions of the Prophet with [abundant] fasts and prayers but due to something in his heart.” [Saffarini, Ghida al-Albab; Ghazali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

[2] Being consistent in one’s deeds (mudawama): Some of the narrations, after mentioning that deeds are not a guarantee of one’s entry into heaven, clearly state that the most beloved of works to Allah is the good deed that is done consistently.

[3] Reflecting on the mercy and generosity of Allah (tafkir): Qadi `Iyyad says that the purpose of stating that none will enter heaven except he whom Allah shows mercy and generosity towards is not to demean the status of righteous acts. Rather, it is to allow the servant to contemplate on the fact that actions are only carried out and completed by the favor and generosity of Allah. Good deeds are in fact a sign to the slave of Allah’s mercy pouring down upon him. [Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

[4] Thanking Allah for all of the blessings He has given one (shukr): The Qur’an states, “If you are thankful, I shall certainly increase you.” [14: 8] The scholars have defined “thankfulness” as “the slaves directing all that which he has been blessed with towards that which it was created for.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid] This should be expressed with one’s heart, tongue, and all of one’s limbs. This should not only be for the continual bestowal of these blessings, which include acts of worship, but also out of realization that Allah is truly deserving of all thanks. Even the mere existence of a person is enough of a reason to thank Allah.

[5] Realizing one’s complete neediness towards Allah (faqr): This is the very definition of “God”, namely He whom all others are in utter need of and who Himself is in need of nothing. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara] Abu Bakr al-Shibli said, “Neediness is that a slave not be in need of anything other than Allah.” [Qushayri, Risala]

[6] Relying on Allah alone, not one’s works (tawakkul): The Qur’an repeatedly mentions reliance on Allah stating, “Place your reliance in the Living God, the Undying” [25: 58] and “Whoever places his reliance on Allah then He is his sufficiency.” [65: 3]

Reliance on Allah entails recognizing His oneness, which is a oneness in essence, attributes, as well as acts. When one realizes that the acts one performs are in reality not from oneself but from Allah then one ceases to rely solely on works. Rather, the servant then turns to the Creator of those works. Imam Ghazali states, “When this was unveiled to you, you did not cast a glance towards anything other than Him. Rather, your fear was now from Him, and your hope towards Him… If the doors of unveiling were opened to you this reality would be made patently clear to you with a clarity more complete than witnessing with actual sight.” [Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

Abu `Abdullah al-Qurshi was asked about reliance and he stated, “It is being attached to Allah in every moment.” Ibn Masruq stated, “It is submitting to the blows of fate and sacred rulings.” Abu Usman al-Hiri said, “It is sufficing with Allah while being dependent upon Him.” [Qushayri, Risala]

It was in this context that Ibn Ata’illah said, “One of the signs of relying on deeds is loss of hope when a misstep occurs.” [Hikam] Those who rely on Allah never lose hope, whereas those who rely on themselves eventually slip and plummet. The prophetic narratives regarding the insufficiency of deeds is a reminder of this point.

[7] Being sincere in servitude (ikhlas): All of the above indicates a higher reality, a reality seldom understood or consciously realized, which is that the reason why Allah is worshipped and should be worshiped is because He is Allah, the Master of everything. There is a difference, as scholars have stated, between an individual who carries out the command of a king because he wants to spend the night at his castle, or have some gift bestowed upon him, and between someone who does so because the king truly deserves such service, regardless of any benefits that may accrue from it.

Among the definitions of sincerity given are: “It is singularizing the Real in one’s obedience through resolve, and this is that one desires to seek closeness to Allah through his obedience and nothing else”; “It is forgetting that deeds exact reward in the next life”; “Lowering one’s gaze from catching sight of [one’s] actions”; “It is a secret between Allah and the slave”; “It is that its possessor not desire repayment for it in the two abodes [this world and the next]”; “That you not see in your acts other than Allah”. [Qushayri, Risala]

Conclusion: Opening the Doors to Allah’s Bounty

The conclusion to all of this is that neither faith alone nor deeds suffice in guaranteeing salvation for one. Rather, it is only though Allah’s mercy and favor that any individual will enter heaven. This is indicated by numerous prophetic narratives.

Yet, at the same time, this does not absolve anyone of the duty to believe and perform righteous deeds, as commanded by Allah. Doing so is a sign of Allah enveloping the slave in His mercy and blessing him with divine success. The narrations of the Prophet (Allah bless him) seek to make people understand the role and place of deeds in our Islamic tradition, and to turn hearts towards the one favoring one with those acts, towards the one who is sought through those acts.. When this is done and the heart attaches itself to Allah through purity, complete reliance, thankfulness, need, sincerity, and faithful following of the sunna, one will be blessed with righteous works and divine favors, both in this world and the next.

In essence, the prophetic words and teachings are a means for us to find increase in our worship, to optimize it, and to allow us to be submerged in the immense bounties of Allah Most High. It is a key to the door that leads to divine bestowals, if followed and understood correctly.

May Allah grant us success in this life and the next.

And Allah Knows Best
Wasalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Placing the Qur’an on the Floor: Not Permissible

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: Regarding the Quran, are there any explicit sayings from the Quran itself, hadith, or scholars regarding placing it on the floor or low places?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

There are many general proofs for the impermissibility of placing the Qur’an on the floor, or treating it in any way indicative of debasement or lack of respect.

Allah Most High stated, “Whoever exalts the signs of Allah, that is indeed from the piety of hearts.” [22.32] There is no doubt that the Qur’an is from among the greatest “signs” of Allah, rather His Speech to creation that serves as a guidance for all.

Tamim al-Dari narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The religion is sincere counsel. We said, ‘To whom, Oh Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘To Allah, His book, His Messengers, the Muslim leaders, and the laity.'” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi] The scholars mention that sincere counsel as it relates to the Qur’an includes having immense respect for it, to believe it is the Word of Allah, to recite ir properly, to reflect on it and its lessons, to implement its guidance, and so forth. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Imam Nawawi states that there is consensus between the scholars on the obligation of respecting the Qur’an. [Ibn Muflih, Adab al-Shari`ah] Imam Qurtubi states explicitly that one should not place the Qur’an on the ground, nor should one place other books on top of it. For more, please see Etiquette of Reading and Handling the Qur’an.

Wasalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Etiquette of Reading and Handling the Qur’an

Answered by Imam Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurtubi

Question: What is the etiquette of reading and handling the Qur’an?

Answer: Imam Muhammad ibn Ahmad Qurtubi says in al-Jami’ li ahkam al-Qur’an [Taken from Reliance of the Traveler]

It is the inviolability of the Qur’an:

1. not to touch the Qur’an except in the state of ritual purity in wudu, and to recite it when in a state of ritual purity;

2. to brush one’s teeth with a toothstick (siwak), remove food particles from between the them, and to freshen one’s mouth before reciting, since it is the way through which the Qur’an passes;

3. to sit up straight if not in prayer, and not lean back;

4. to dress for reciting as if intending to visit a prince, for the reciter is engaged in an intimate discourse;

5. to face the direction of prayer (qiblah) to recite;

6. to rinse the mouth out with water if one coughs up mucus or phlegm;

7. to stop reciting when one yawns, for when reciting , one is addressing one’s Lord in intimate conversation, while yawning is from the Devil;

8. when begining to recite, to take refuge from in Allah from the accursed Devil and say the Basmala, whether one has begun at the first surah or some other part one has reached;

9. once one has begun, not to interrupt one’s recital from moment to moment with human words, unless absolutely necessary;

10. to be alone when reciting it, so that no one interrupts one, forcing one to mix the words of the Qur’an with replying, for this nullifies the effectivness of having taken refuge in Allah from the Devil at the beginning;

11. to recite it leisurely and without haste, distinctly pronouncing each letter;

12. to use one’s mind and understanding in order to comprehend what is being said to one;

13. to pause at verses that promise Allah’s favour, to long for Allah Most High and ask of His bounty; and at verses that warn of His punishment to ask Him to save one from it;

14. to pause at the accounts of bygone peoples and individuals to heed and benefit from their example;

15. to find out the meanings of the Qur’an’s unusual lexical usages;

16. to give each letter its due so as to clearly and fully pronounce every word, for each letter counts as ten good deeds;

17. whenever one finishes reciting, to attest to the veracity of ones’s Lord, and that His messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has delivered his message, and to testify to this, saying: “Our Lord, You have spoken the truth, Your messengers have delivered their tidings, and bear witness to this. O Allah, make us of those who bear witness to the truth and who act with justice”: after which one supplicates Allah with prayers.

18. not to select certain verses from each surah to recite, but rather the recite the whole surah;

19. if one puts down the Qur’an, not to leave it open;

20. not to place other books upon the Qur’an, which should always be higher than all other books, whether they are books of Sacred Knowledge or something else;

21. to place the Qur’an on one’s lap when reading; or on something in front of one, not on the floor;

22. not to wipe it from a slate with spittle, but rather wash it off with water; and if one washes it off with water, to avoid putting the water where there are unclean substances (najasa) or where people walk. Such water has its own inviolability, and there were those of the early Muslims before us who used water that washed away Qur’an to effect cures.

23. not to use sheets upon which it has been written as bookcovers, which is extremely rude, but rather to erase the Qur’an from them with water;

24. not to let a day go by without looking at least once at the pages of the Qur’an;

25. to give one’s eyes their share of looking at it, for the eyes lead to the soul (nafs), whereas there is a veil between the breast and the soul, and the Qur’an is in the breast.

26. not to trivially quote the Qur’an at the occurrence of everyday events, as by saying, for example, when someone comes, “You have come hither according to a decree, O Moses” [Qur’an 69:24],

or,  “Eat and drink heartily for what you have done aforetimes, in days gone by” [Qur’an 69:24], when food is brought out, and so forth;

27. not to recite it to songs tunes like those of the corrupt, or with the tremulous tones of Christians or the plaintiveness of monkery, all of which is misguidance;

28. when writing the Qur’an to do so in a clear, elegant hand;

29. not to recite it out aloud over another’s reciting of it, so as to spoil it for him or make him resent what he hears, making it as if it were some kind of competition;

30. not to recite it in marketplaces, places of clamour and frivolity, or where fools gather;

31. not to use the Qur’an as pillow, or lean upon it;

32. not to toss it when one wants to hand it to another;

33. not to miniaturize the Qur’an, mix into it what is not of it, or mingle this worldly adornment with it by embellishing or writing it with gold;

34. not to write it on the ground or on walls, as is done in some new mosques;

35. not to write an amulet with it and enter the lavatory, unless it is encased in leather, silver, or other, for then it is as if kept in the heart;

36. if one writes it and then drinks it (for cure or other purpose), one should say the Basmala at every breath and make a noble and worthy intention, for Allah only gives to one according to one’s intention;

37. and if one finishes reciting the entire Qur’an, to begin it anew, that it may not resemble something that has been abandoned.

(Taken from www.masud.co.uk an excellent resource for traditional Islam)

Are My Half-Brothers Unmarriageable Kin (mahram)?

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: I have three half brothers (we share the same father) but they are very much like my own brothers. I don’t distinguish them as being any different. At present they are very young but I was wondering whether they are considered my mahrams once they hit puberty?

Answer: I hope this finds you in the best of states.

Half brothers, those that share a parent with you, are your maharim (unmarriageable kin, pl. of mahram). This being the case, you would not need to observe with them the full hijab that you wear in front of non-mahram.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an,

“Forbidden unto you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your father’s sisters, and your mother’s sisters, and your brother’s daughters and your sister’s daughters, and your foster-mothers, and your foster-sisters, and your mothers-in-law, and your step-daughters who are under your protection (born) of your women unto whom ye have gone in – but if ye have not gone in unto them, then it is no sin for you (to marry their daughters) – and the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins. And (it is forbidden unto you) that ye should have two sisters together, except what hath already happened (of that nature) in the past. Lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. [4:23]”

This verse is the basis for the rulings on who are one’s mahram. Unmarriageable kin can be divided into three categories: (1) those related by blood [s: half siblings would fall here], (2) those related by marriage, (3) and those related by breastfeeding. [al-Imam al-Kasani, Bada’i` al-Sana’i`]

Please see this answer for further detail.

wassalam,
Sulma Badrudduja

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Proper Prayer Attire for Women: What is the Proof?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: I would appreciate it if someone could answer my question in regards to proper prayer attire at home and in public. I was wondering where in the Quran or Sunna where we might find this information?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

I pray you are in good health and spirits. I apologize for the delay in writing back.

The Qur’anic evidence for covering oneself in public, or in the company of marriageable men, comes from Surat al-Nur, verse 31 and Surat al-Ahzab, verse 59. The hadith evidence is considerable, one example being the authenticated report in Sunan Abu Dawud that Aisha, Mother of the Believers, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that Asma, [her sister] and daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, wearing thin clothes, and he turned his attention from her, saying “O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.”

As far as covering oneself in prayer is concerned, this is a matter of consensus according to the fuqaha’ (legal scholars). In order for one’s prayer to be valid, certain conditions have to be met. One of these is covering the ‘awra, or nakedness. The fuqaha’ have defined a woman’s ‘awra, generally speaking, to be her whole body, with the exception of her face, hands, and, sometimes, feet. It is also clear that the established practice, or sunna, of the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and the female companions, may Allah be pleased with them, was to cover themselves for prayer.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

February 24, 2010
Rabi’ al-Awwal 11, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Convert Muslim: Is My Prayer Valid?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: I converted two weeks ago and am learning how to properly pray. While learning the obligatory actions, I always prayed in congregation to see step by step what actions were required. Later, I started adding wajib and sunna actions. Until I learnt them, I sometimes recited the general meaning of the invocation in English (for example, making shahada in tashahhud). Not having memorized du’as yet, I still supplicate in English. I both use the meaning of sunnah or Quranic supplications and personal supplication for which I don’t know du’as. Also, sometimes I cut my recitation of the tashahhud short behind an Imam to follow him because I recite slow. Considering this all, is my worship correct, so far, or there is something wrong in what I did (or do)?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

I pray you are in good health and spirits.

I apologize for the delay in writing back.

May Allah reward you for your concern about your prayers.

None of the information you provided suggests that your prayer was invalid. If you omitted a necessary “wajib” action, but the prayer time expired, then you do not need to make up that prayer.

In future, give yourself some time to practice before actually starting the prayer. And take your time. One does not learn all the elements of the prayer in one day.

May I suggest enrolling in a SeekersGuidance course, such as the Absolute Essentials of Islam? You can learn more at SeekersGuidance.org.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

February 24, 2010
Rabi’ al-Awwal 11, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Marriage & Obedience to Parents

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: [1] If one’s parents have two children. They have allowed the son to marry and migrate and the girl receive offer to marriage inclusive with migration. Is the girl allowed to accept this offer, in view that if she does leave, no one will be able to be around to take care of the parents? [2] I am really caught in trying to retain my responsibilities towards my parents. I have always tried to be obedient; I have given up my right to marriage due to racial and economic reasons for them. I have, allowed marriage proposals to pass by so that they would not be angry. Simultaneously, I have initially rejected their attempt to marry someone I did not like; however, when I realized that my choices were also a cause for conflicts, I attempted to compromise on two occasions. The results were rather emotionally devastating. With regards to my offers of marriage in another country, my parents insist that if something bad was to occur that no one would be there to assist me. The truth is I prefer to risk it. Now, I have an offer in front of me (with a suggestion of support to study Islam). I really don’t want to reject this offer but I am also concerned that I might be punished for neglecting the rights of my parents over me.

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

I pray you are in good health and spirits. I apologize for the delay in writing back.

Obedience to one’s parents is not unconditional. Just as your parents are entitled to obedience, respect, and good treatment, you are entitled to marry a righteous spouse. By prolonging your single status and compelling you to reject good suitors, your parents are going against the Prophetic directive, “When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied, asks to marry your daughter, comply with his request. If you do not do so, there will be corruption and great evil on earth.” (Tirmidhi)

There is a solution to this situation. You can consider the following:

* Asking your potential spouse to consider relocating to your country

* Asking your parents to relocate to your new home

* Spending half of your time in one place, and the other half in the other

* Visiting as often as you can

* Making sure your parents receive financial support, if needed

Finally, please confer, as a family, with a counselor, or a balanced, knowledgeable Imam or community elder.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

February 24, 2010

Rabi’ al-Awwal 11, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani