Understanding the Qur’anic Verse “Slay them wherever you find them”: Balance, Justice, and Mercy in Islamic Rules of Jihad

Answered by Sidi Faraz Khan

Question: Could you please explain the verse of the Qur’an, “slay the polytheists wherever you find them” [9:5]  What are the implications of this verse and why/when was it revealed?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

InshaAllah  you are well.

The key to understanding the verse in question is to understand its context and the circumstances in which it was revealed.

What the Scholars of Qur’anic Exegesis Said

As mentioned by scholars of Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), these verses were revealed specifically with regards to particular groups of polytheists that breached their peace treaties with the Muslim polity. This is clear in the very first verse, as it mentions that the proclamation is given out specifically to “those polytheists with whom you had made covenants.”

Imam Razi, Imam Jamal, and others clarify in their tafsirs that this proclamation of fighting the polytheists “applies only to those that broke their covenants.” This is also why an exception to the proclamation is made in verse 4 which, as Imam Razi and others clarify, refers to “those who did not break their covenants,” i.e., they were not to be fought.

Hence, the oft-misunderstood fifth verse of “killing the polytheists wherever you find them” refers only to those that previously broke their covenants and, moreover, after they had four months to reflect on the situation and decide if they wanted to continue with their violation or not. If they decided to continue with their violation, then they would effectively be re-declaring war on the Muslim polity, in which case the verse ordered the polity to defend itself against the transgression. Even in that case, the next verse (verse 6) ordered the Muslims to provide safe passage and protection to any opposing soldier that sought asylum during combat.

Perhaps the following verse (verse 7) best summarizes the context of this discussion, as it states (with commentary from Tafsir al-Razi and Tafsir al-Jalalayn in brackets):

“How can polytheists [that were treacherous and violated their treaties] have a covenant with Allah and His Messenger? Except for those with whom you entered covenants [i.e., the polytheists who did not break them and hence were not treacherous] in the Sacred Mosque. So as long as they are true to you [with their covenants and do not breach them] then be true to them [by also fulfilling your covenants]; verily, Allah loves those who fear Him [i.e., He loves those who fulfill covenants, since whoever fears Allah will fulfill his covenants, and the Prophet kept his word and upheld his side of the treaty until his enemies broke theirs].”

[Razi, Tafsir; Jamal, Hashiyat `ala Jalalayn]

Summarizing the Issue

So to summarize, these verses have a clear historical context and cannot be used to justify acts of violence or terrorism committed against innocent civilians.

Furthermore, by Islamic law, a Muslim government must uphold its treaties and covenants with other nations, regardless of the faith of those nations. It is unlawful to break a peace treaty with any other nation. This also applies to any Non-Muslim that is a citizen of a Muslim nation or that peacefully enters one. This is because citizenship and visitor’s visas are legally considered covenants that cannot be violated. They ensure security and protection for the citizen/visitor, and require that the citizen/visitor not break any of the nation’s laws.

The same, of course, applies to a Muslim citizen of a Non-Muslim nation or a Muslim that enters a Non-Muslim nation with a visitor’s visa or the like, which again serve as covenants of mutual peace and protection. It would be unlawful for a Muslim to break such a covenant. This is also in accordance with contemporary international law and is absolutely binding. And Allah knows best. [Marghinani, al-Hidaya; Kuwaiti Fiqh Encyclopedia]

wassalam
Faraz Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Explaining the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Can you please tell me the Islamic point of view on early Muslims attacking caravans? I get this a lot from non-Muslims and I wish to give them a proper response. Unfortunately, militants also use this reasoning as an excuse to do their militant attacks.

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

The question of caravan raids by early Muslim and their justifications is an important question with serious modern implications. This is why sound Islamic knowledge, both the letter and spirit of the law, is so important to attain.

The caravan raids that took place during the early Migration period can never be used [and abused] to justify modern terrorist attacks on civilians, or cowardly assaults on one’s own countrymen Muslim or non-Muslim, or rebellion against one’s own governments whether Muslims or non-Muslims, or to conduct vigilante operations to fulfill one’s ambitions of bloodlust and revenge.

The Reason Why the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims Took Place

The early Believers of Makkah were mercilessly persecuted for their faith, in their own hometown, by their own kinsmen and countrymen who could not tolerate their call to fix the injustices in their society, which spanned from the spiritual to societal. For thirteen years while the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived in Mecca, he was forbidden by God Most High to do so much as lift a finger in self-defense against his persecutors.

The early Muslims were powerless, outnumbered and boycotted. Still, they did not resort to guerrilla tactics, coup d’etats, terrorist methods nor assassinations, when all of that could have easily been attempted. The command on them from God Most High to keep the peace and order within their society and respect its laws, even uphold the trusts and contracts they had, is telling for how Muslims who perceive themselves in similar situations today should behave. Their only response was to increase themselves in devotion to Allah, and pray for ease. This attracted even more people to the message of Islam.

After the order by God to migrate to Madina, the Muslims had their own state, but the Makkans still sought to vanquish them. Thus, the raids were in self-defense, fully conducted within the laws of Islam which forbade the killing of innocent civilians or even the harming of people with whom you have covenants of peace. Even if the early raids were pre-emptive, the trade being conducted by the hostile Makkans was the selling, at times, of the stolen properties of the exiled Muslims, in order to amass materials and weapons to exterminate the nascent Muslim community of Madina in a looming war they were planning.

What took place after the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Madina with regards to the caravan raids were actions between two independent states with rulers and laws, not guerrilla leaders, militias or vigilante terrorists. They did not occur on any one state’s land- rather, on the no-man’s-land of the vast Arabian desert. There were no international laws, no government relations, no treaties of peace and diplomatic ties, nor accepted rules of engagement like there are today in our times. There were no covenants of citizenship, but even then, there was the concept that a visitor from a hostile that entered the city legally was never to be harmed.

There was also no “khiyana”, or treacherous deception, even though the migrants were Makkans and looked just like their aggressing countrymen [even being from the same families], yet they clearly declared the renunciation of their citizenship, identified themselves openly and separated before they defended themselves, and never harmed civilians or acted as an “enemy from within” in Makkah. They were never a fifth column in their countries, nor attempted assassinations, overthrows, or terrorist attacks to force Makkan to accept their demands when it was possible to do so, even under the worst persecution.

It is clear from this that the terrorists of today do not have a moral [therefore Islamic legal] leg to stand on.

History is Not the Same as Islamic Sacred Law

Historical events in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are not Islamic legal rulings. One cannot pick up a book of Prophetic biography by themselves and come to conclusions on how to deal with complex modern-day issues of international gravity. Rather one returns to the mainstream scholars, both for guidance on how to view past and new incidents in an Islamic light, and for rulings on how to behave in contemporary contexts.

When a Muslim is supposed to return to mainstream scholars on minute issues of personal law rather than go into the primary texts to find their own whimsical solutions, isn’t it more obvious that people should return to them for clarity on major issues which hold innocent life and millions of people’s safety in the balance?

Likewise for those outside of Islam looking in, they should know that any wars and violent resistance in the prophetic biography should be seen in the same light as any mention of war in the holy books of other world religions, such as the Battle of Jericho and those fought by Moses, David and Solomon in the Old Testament, or the wars between the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Hindu Gita, or stories of self-defense which are the cornerstone of Sikh history.

While all of these religions’ stories of struggle have been twisted by extremists to justify expedient political ends and even terrorism, the main purpose of remembering those events should be to teach good values and condemn oppression, not to justify terrorism.

This space is too short to get into the nitty-gritty legal details of how and why senseless violence, terrorism and traitorous vigilante attacks are impermissible and completely against the spirit of Islam. If one is interested, a 600-page fatwa by a scholar named Shaykh Tahir al Qadri can be read which elucidates more or less what the position of the mainstream scholarship is. It is clear from that that the caravan raids of Islamic history can never justify the terrorist attacks that take place today.

Violent Interpretations Must Be Refuted and Marginalized, By All Sides

This seems obvious when it comes to terrorists and extremists justifying their hideous actions through distorting religious teachings.

However, the misconceptions of some people who fanatically criticize and negatively portray prophetic history are the other side to the same coin that bears the warped understandings of modern day terrorists and militants

Both groups actually employ the same misunderstandings of the same past events and push it on one another to fuel each other, except that the terrorists claim to be believers and use these misinterpretations to justify their heinous actions today, and the Islamophobes do not believe, and use their misinterpretations to justify fear-mongering and demonization of the Muslim communities in their countries, which are by-and-large peaceful, moderate, loyal and law-abiding. No doubt, the side of the terrorists is inexcusable however, while the Islamophobes still have a right to their opinions.

Both sides blame the other for their own existence and need to struggle; furthering violent misinterpretations of Islamic history on either side then, only leads to “self-fulfilling prophecies” which convince misguided and uneducated Muslim youth that these Islamophobes represent the majority of the “other” and rather than refute their misinterpretations logically through the religion, they accept them and actually make them their own while being rebelliously proud of it. While the chicken-or-egg blame-game continues (was it terrorism or aggression?), its consequences distract the mainstream good people of both sides from reaching lasting solutions for peace.

Hence, we as those who call ourselves Muslims and claim to follow the highest moral example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) need to speak up first, to break this vicious cycle, and clarify the truth for ourselves and instruct our own people in it before anything else, and trust that good people of all walks of life will notice, listen and thus marginalize those who propagate misinterpretations from their side.

How Muslims Should Deal with These Types of Historical Incidents

Although an event-by-event exercise in apologetics has its place, if you are looking to answer these types of questions it will never end because the heart of the matter is not being discussed – the greater context. It is easier to adopt a general approach unless you, or the questioner, have time to delve deeply into history and fair sources.

One must look at the over-arching teachings through source texts, in this case Qur’an and prophetic narrations, which will clearly show the sacredness of life and the importance of respecting covenants and legal systems. Also, the prophetic biography, taken as a whole with Makkan and Madinan periods considered, will show us this. This should teach us the spirit of the law. Then, for the law itself, we must return to the mainstream scholars, who follow the way of the majority, preferably those from the same land as the questioner so language and mentalities are clearly understood and communicated, all of whom would condemn the types of modern-day militant attacks you are asking about.

One cannot compare between a prophet who is directly instructed by God on what to do, and modern-day followers who claim to draw lessons from that prophet, while completely violating known and set-down principles of the sacredness of life in their religious teachings taught explicitly by that prophet. Today, we have limited knowledge of exactly what took place and how in religious history. Thus, we accept that because God sanctioned these events, they fully took place within the context of the broader moral teachings of respect for life and justice, though we may not understand. This applies in the life stories of Moses, David, Krishna, and Muhammad (peace be upon him), to name a few across various traditions. Then, we return to the greater teachings that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself laid down for our own actions, and emphasize historical events in a positive light that reflects the lessons of those greater teachings.

Patience, being peaceful and just, and taking the higher road has always been hardest to take, but this cannot be explained to those who follow what suits them or their situation, because they did not imbibe the compassionate teachings in their own faith before acting in its name.

In any case, it is obvious that people who violate Islam’s teachings on the sacredness of life will never win their struggle. While they continue with their misguidance however, it is the duty of Muslims before any other people to stop them, through force of arms and education and prayers for guidance, because the way to help your oppressive brother is to stop his hand from committing oppression, regardless of whether he feels oppressed.

Wasalam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Joy at the Birth of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace): The Narration Concerning Abu Lahab

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Can you shed a bit of light on the issue of the hadith that says something to the effect that Abu Lahab will be given an easement from punishment on Mondays because he was so overjoyed by the birth of the Prophet (Allah bless him) that he freed a slave of his. I have heard that it is in Bukhari, yet I have read elsewhere that is isn’t sahih. This has confused me quite a bit. Insha Allah you can share a bit of clarification.

Answer: Wa alaikum salam,

Thank you for your question.

The hadeeth you are speaking about is definitely rigorously-authenticated (saheeh) and it is found in the Saheeh of al-Bukhari.

‘Urwah ibn al-Zubayr narrated a long hadeeth and mentioned Thuwayba, the first wet-nurse of the beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and slavewoman of his cruel uncle, Abu Lahab.  ‘Urwah adds a note at the end of his narration, saying:

“And Thuwayba was the freed slave of Abu Lahab. Abu Lahab freed her, and then she nursed the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).  So when Abu Lahab died [in disbelief], he was shown to someone in his family [in a dream] in the most wretched of conditions, and [that relative – they say it was ‘Abbas] said to him: ‘What did you find [after death]?’ So Abu Lahab replied, ‘I didn’t find [any rest] since I left you all, except that I was given to drink *this little amount* because of my freeing Thuwayba.'” [al-Bukhari, Saheeh]

On the day the Prophet (peace be upon him) was born, Thuwayba rushed to her master Abu Lahab in joy and said, “Have you heard?!  Aminah has just given birth to a son, for your brother Abdullah!” As was the custom of Arabs to show generosity at receiving good news, and since this was the newborn son (peace be upon him) of his recently deceased brother, Abu Lahab gestured with his thumb and forefinger, saying to Thuwayba, “Go, for you are free.”  For this, his punishment in the Hereafter is lessened by a small sip of water equal to what could be held in the small curve of flesh at the base of the thumb till the forefinger [‘Abdur-Razzaq, Mussanaf].

Some say that because this portion of the hadeeth does not name the link in the chain of narration between ‘Urwah and the one who saw the dream, it is therefore automatically inauthentic and disregarded, since scholars postulate that it was ‘Abbas who saw the dream, and ‘Urwah was only 6 years old at the time of his death.  This does not mean however, that ‘Urwah had never heard it with a sound chain, or the incident should be written-off, or not true – in fact, being one of the seven main jurists of Madina in his time, ‘Urwah would not have added this portion unless he was confident and aware of its authenticity.

Ibn Hajr, al-‘Ayni and al-Qastalani, when analyzing this hadeeth in their commentaries on al-Bukhari, never once commented whether the incident happened or not, rather, only whether this narration could be used as proof that a non-believer could be rewarded for their good deeds after death.  They said that if we assume there was an unidentified link missing, then it would not be of the strength to change an established ruling, but they also balanced that by saying the narration could be fully connected and acceptable, but even so, a dream cannot be used as proof to change, or even effect, a legal ruling, especially when conflicting with a Qur’anic verse, as is the case here.  In the end, they all recognized that this lightening of punishment was an exception made for Abu Lahab, the way it was made for Abu Talib.

Ibn Hajr closed his analysis by saying, “I declare: the final point of all this is that the above-mentioned divine grace occurs, due to [Allah’s] pure magnanimity, on those of the non-believers from whom occurs an act of kindness to him [peace be upon him], and the likes of that – and Allah knows best.” [Ibn Hajr, Fath al-Bari]

It is essential to understand that the polemics around this hadeeth today are no longer whether or not non-believers are generally rewarded for their good deeds in the Hereafter, but rather, whether there is a reward for celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and about expressing joy over the occasion.

To disprove this in modern times, people have criticized this hadeeth, though other times they would adhere very strictly to everything narrated in al-Bukhari.  Since al-Bukhari’s collection is the most authentic book in Islam after the Qur’an, would al-Bukhari not have realized if he was including a baseless, disconnected, dream-based report alongside such a strong main narration, and be the only one out of the 6 most authentic compilers to do so?  Obviously, his including it is a testament to his stance on its acceptability, plausibility and ability to edify the ummah on something beneficial – like the rest of his compilation.

Ibn al-Mulaqqin in his commentary states that both al-Bayhaqi and al-Baghawi point out that this narration was “mentioned by al-Bukhari in his Saheeh”, and that “they both meant: in the main portion of the hadeeth itself”- in other words, the narration was understood to take the ruling of the longer rigorously-authenticated hadeeth it was part of.  The incident had been accepted by the ummah thereafter and is cited regularly in seerah works such as those by Ibn Katheer and Zayn al-Deen al-‘Iraqi, and even by Ibn Taymiyya in al-Sarim al-Maslul and Ibn al-Qayyim in Tuhfat al-Mawdud.

Having said this, instead of leading people into polemics, would it not be better for us to remember the upshot of this all?  As Hafiz Nasir al-Deen put it:

“If this was the disbeliever, on whom condemnation came,

And ‘his two hands perished’ in the eternal flame,

And it comes that every Monday, repeated till no end,

His torment is lessened, for the joy he felt in Ahmed.

Then what of the servant who, his whole life did lead

In joy for the birth of Ahmed, then died believing in Divine Oneness? ”

[quoted by al-Zurqani, Sharh Mawahib of al-Qastallani]

Wasallam,
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Making Up Missed Prayers: A Point of Scholarly Consensus

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is making up missed prayers necessary?

Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

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

The position of all four Sunni schools is that it is obligatory (fard) to make up all missed prayers, regardless of why they were missed. Prayer is the first thing we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed us in sound narrations.

Imam Nawawi stated:

“There is consensus (ijma`) of the scholars whose opinion counts that whoever leaves a prayer intentionally must make it up. Abu Muhammad Ali Ibn Hazm differed with them on this, saying that such an individual cannot ever make them up and it is not at all valid to make them up. Rather, he said, one must do much good works and voluntary prayer in order that one s scales be heavied on the day of judgement and one must seek Allah s forgiveness and repent. This position of his, along with being in opposition to scholarly consensus (ijma`), is invalid in terms of the proof.

Among the proofs for the obligation to makeup is: that if makeup prayers are obligatory for the one who left the prayer forgetfully, then doing so for the one who left the prayer deliberately is more obviously incumbent.” [Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab (3.86)]

Imam Nawawi is referring here to the hadith related by Anas that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“Whoever forgets a prayer must perform it when they remember it.”  [Bukhari (597); Muslim (684)]

After Imam Nawawi’s time, the aberrant position of Ibn Hazm was embraced by certain individuals and soundly rejected by the scholars in their time and after.

Wassalam.
Faraz Rabbani.

قال الإمام النووي في المجموع شرح المهذَّب:  (3/76)     ( فَرْعٌ ) أَجْمَعَ الْعُلَمَاءُ الَّذِينَ يُعْتَدُّ بِهِمْ عَلَى أَنَّ مَنْ تَرَكَ صَلَاةً عَمْدًا لَزِمَهُ قَضَاؤُهَا وَخَالَفَهُمْ أَبُو مُحَمَّدٍ عَلِيٌّ بْنُ حَزْمٍ فَقَالَ : لَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَى قَضَائِهَا أَبَدًا وَلَا يَصِحُّ فِعْلُهَا أَبَدًا قَالَ : بَلْ يُكْثِرُ مِنْ فِعْلِ الْخَيْرِ , وَصَلَاةِ التَّطَوُّعِ لِيَثْقُلَ مِيزَانُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى وَيَتُوبُ , وَهَذَا الَّذِي قَالَهُ مَعَ أَنَّهُ مُخَالِفٌ لِلْإِجْمَاعِ بَاطِلٌ مِنْ جِهَةِ الدَّلِيلِ , وَبَسَطَ هُوَ الْكَلَامَ فِي الِاسْتِدْلَالِ لَهُ , وَلَيْسَ فِيمَا ذَكَرَ دَلَالَةٌ أَصْلًا . وَمِمَّا يَدُلُّ عَلَى وُجُوبِ الْقَضَاءِ حَدِيثُ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه { أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَمَرَ الْمُجَامِعَ فِي نَهَارِ رَمَضَانَ أَنْ يَصُومَ يَوْمًا مَعَ الْكَفَّارَةِ } أَيْ بَدَلَ الْيَوْمِ الَّذِي أَفْسَدَهُ بِالْجِمَاعِ عَمْدًا . رَوَاهُ الْبَيْهَقِيُّ بِإِسْنَادٍ جَيِّدٍ وَرَوَى أَبُو دَاوُد نَحْوَهُ , وَلِأَنَّهُ إذَا وَجَبَ الْقَضَاءُ عَلَى التَّارِكِ نَاسِيًا فَالْعَامِدُ أَوْلَى

Supplicating in Prostration

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: I am aware that one is closest to Allah during prostration within prayer. I believe it is strongly recommended to supplicate to Allah at this time and though it is preferred to make supplication in Arabic, supplicating in English is permitted as well. Can you confirm this?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

In general, there is no harm in supplicating while one is in a state of prostration, though there are some details pertaining to this that will be clarified below.

The merits of prostration can fill pages, and there are also a number of narrations where the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) told people to supplicate in their prostrations.

Thawban (Allah be well pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no slave [of Allah] who performs a single prostration to Allah except that Allah raises him a degree due to it and lifts from him a mistake.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ahmad]

Abu Huraryah (Allah be well pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The closest a slave is to his Lord is while he is in a state of prostration, so increase you supplications [therein].” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa`i, Ahmad]

Supplicating in Prostration

From the above, it is clear that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) advised his followers to supplicate while in a state of prostration, as it is a moment where one is closest to his Lord. It is established that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself supplicated while in a state of prostration. [Bukhari, Muslims, Nasa`i, and others]

Among the supplications that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) recited while in a state of prostration are:

اللَّهُمَّ لَك سَجَدْت وَبِك آمَنْت وَلَك أَسْلَمْت ، سَجَدَ وَجْهِي لِلَّذِي . خَلَقَهُ وَصَوَّرَهُ وَشَقَّ سَمْعَهُ وَبَصَرَهُ تَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِين

and:

سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّنَا وَبِحَمْدِكَ ، اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي

and

سُبُّوحٌ قُدُّوسٌ رَبُّ الْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالرُّوحِ

However, there are some minor legal details that need to be clarified regarding such supplications.

The Position of the Hanafis & Shafi`is:

The basis within the Hanafi school is that the above narrations are specific to night-vigil prayers, or to any supererogatory prayer, not obligatory prayers. According to the Hanafi school, the obligatory prayers are to be prayed as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) prayed them, with all the sunna actions, but to not increase anything beyond that. However, since in supererogatory prayers one aims to make his prayer as long as possible these additions would be recommended therein. [Sarakhsi, Mabsut; Zayla`i, Tabyin al-Haqa’iq; Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar]

However, Ibn `Abidin indicates that one can also recite these additional supplications in an obligatory prayer, as long as one is not leading others who may be burdened by such additions. Therefore, if one is praying an obligatory prayer alone, or leading people who will not be burdened by such additions, or praying a supererogatory prayer, these supplications would be permitted for one to recite. [Ibn `Abidin, Hashiyah; Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

These was also the position of the Shafi`i school, as confirmed by Nawawi in his Majmu` and the commentaries on it stating that adding to the three tasbihs [s: subhana rabbi al-`azim/subhana rabbi al-a`la] is recommended for the one praying alone. As for the one leading others in prayer, he should not add anything to the three tasbihs except if those following him are satisfied with elongating the prayer. [Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj; Haytami, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj]

Therefore, if one is a follower of the Hanafi school, it is best to restrict oneself to the three tasbihs and not to increase anything beyond that. If one does, however, there would be no harm per se in doing so as their is leeway within the school itself, as well as explicit recommendations in other schools to do so. In times of religious decadence, individuals should not be turned away from such righteous actions, which may become a cause for their guidance and salvation in the next life.

Supplicating in English

Within the ritual prayer itself, one should supplicate in Arabic. It is best to supplicate with the words conveyed in the Qur’an and the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). It would also be permitted to recite a supplication not found in the Qur’an or sunna, as long as it is not something normally possible to ask for from human beings, such as “Oh Allah, give me a car.” [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

And Allah knows best
Wassalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Supplicating for Death in Madina & Burial in Baqi

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Is it praiseworthy to ask to die in Madina and to be buried in Jannatul-Baqi? What is the significance of being buried in a place like Jannatul Baqi?

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

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa baraktuh,

This is an excellent question, and one that has more to do with living than with dying, as we will see later in this answer inshaAllah.

The short answer is, yes, it is praiseworthy to ask Allah Ta’ala for a death in the city of His Final Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), the illuminated Madinah. There is also a great significance in being buried in the al-Baqi’ graveyard.

Affectionately called “Jannatul-Baqi'” by some, Baqi’ al-Gharqad is the proper name of the graveyard of Madinah, which is the sole resting place for the city’s Muslim inhabitants since the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Imam Malik is reported to have held that 10,000 Companions are buried in al-Baqi’, including most of the wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), his son Ibrahim, and many senior Companions such as ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, Ibn Masud and others, may Allah be pleased with them all.

Along with this best generation, descendants of the Ahl al-Bait, pious scholars and saints, and countless devoted pilgrims have been buried there over the centuries till this day. As the graves of each true believer are “gardens from the gardens of Paradise”, this blessed company alone, of course after the fact that one is a neighbor of the Best of Creation Allah bless him and grant him peace) who rests not far away, immediately tells us there is good reason to ask to be buried there. Still, we can explore further why Madinah has been singled out for this distinction.

The Status of Madinah

In order to understand the significance of dying and being buried in Madinah, one must understand the city’s status. Although the virtues of Madinah cannot be done justice to in such a short space, it would do us well to recount some of its distinctions to give us a sense of its importance.

Madinah is the city (formerly known as Yathrib) that is said to have been “conquered by the Qur’an”, as most of its inhabitants accepted the message of Islam through the beauty and truth of the Qur’an before the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) even set foot there. As a safe haven for the Muslims from persecution in Makkah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the Makkan believers were ordered to migrate to Madinah to preserve their religion. The migration (hijrah) to Madinah was so significant as a turning point in the survival of the nascent Muslim community, that the Islamic dating system begins in that year rather than the year in which revelation began or when Makkah was re-opened to the Muslims

Madinah is where the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) built his own mosque, in which one prayer is worth one thousand times more than a prayer in other than it, except for the Noble Sanctuary in Makkah and the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Imam Ghazali said that this implies the multiplying of rewards for any good deed, not just prayer, in all of the Sanctuary that is Madinah, not just the mosque. [al-Ghazali, Ihyaa’] The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“Indeed, I make inviolable and sacred [the land] which is between the two lava plains [on either end of] of Madinah…” and he said [regarding those people who leave the city to live elsewhere], “Madinah was better for them, if they only knew; no one leaves it [Madinah] desiring some other place except that Allah replaces in it someone better than them, and no one bears the hardships and strain [of living there], except that I would be a intercessor, or a witness, for them on the Day of Judgment.” [Muslim, Sahih]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) prayed for Madinah to be blessed in every way, as well as for his new home to be more beloved to him than Makkah, when he said “Oh Allah, make Madinah beloved to us, like our love for Makkah or even stronger, and make [Madinah] healthy, and bless us in its weights and measures [for trade and food], and transfer away its fever and send it into al-Juhfa.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]

Also, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Oh Allah, put in Madinah double what you have put in Makkah in terms of blessings and increase.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]

Of course, the biggest means of blessings for Madinah was not the prayers for its increase, or the inviolability of its earth, but rather the presence of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself. That state of overflowing blessings was “when he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was on the surface of Madinah, so what about after he was laid to rest in its earth?…thus it is impossible to encompass the virtue of that, and measure its worth.” [Ibn al-Haaj, al-Madkhal]

There are many more things that can be mentioned to emphasize that Madinah is one of the two most blessed cities in the world, but we will proceed to examining why a death in Madinah specifically is more desirable than a death even in Makkah, regardless of the differences of opinion that the scholars (and even Companions) had over which of the two cities was the holier one overall.

To Die in Madinah

A clear, authentic and decisive narration that establishes the virtue of wanting to die in Madinah states that the son of `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“Whosoever is able to die in Madinah, then let him die there, for indeed, I will intercede for the one who dies there.”  (Ahmad, Musnad; Tirmidhi, Sunan)

Another narration which supports this, though not as strong in authentication, narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said,

“One who intentionally visits me [in his life] will be beside me on the Day of Judgment, and one who settles in Madinah and bears with its trials, I will be a witness, or intercede, for him on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies in one of the two Holy Sanctuaries (Makkah or Madina), Allah will resurrect him amongst those granted safety on the Day of Judgment.” [al-Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman]

Not only did the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) tell others to try to achieve their last moments of life in Madinah, but he had the same desire for himself..  Imam Malik, in his Muwatta, narrates on the authority of the successor (tabi`i) Yahya ibn Sa’eed that:

“The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was sitting by a grave as it was being dug in Madinah [in al-Baqi’], when a man looked inside the grave and remarked, ‘What a wretched final resting place for a believer!’ So the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied, ‘What a wretched thing you’ve said [because a believer’s grave is a garden from the gardens of Paradise]!’ So the man said, ‘I didn’t mean that [about the grave itself]… I only meant a death in the way of God [far away from home, is better].’ So the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘There is nothing like dying in the way of God, but there is not, on the face of this earth, a piece of land more beloved to me that my grave should be in, than this [Madinah].’ [He repeated that] three times.” [Malik, al-Muwatta]

Repeating the desire to be buried in Madinah three times, and to use the words “beloved to me”, is to convey its unimaginable significance to the listener, since, as Ibn al-Haaj says, “he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to prefer things commensurate to how much Allah Most High preferred them, and that itself is enough of an exhortation.” [Ibn al-Haaj, al-Madkhal]

It is also a clear refutation to the one who tries to downplay a Muslim’s desire to be buried in Madinah. In the early days of Islam when the critical battles like Badr, Uhud and al-Ahzab were occurring, many Companions considered it shameful or un-manly to die in the comfort of one’s home rather than outside in battle. This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) acknowledged the reward of their sacrifice, but then through demonstrating his own love, showed his preference and corrected any misconception that people may have had.

This is also why the second Caliph of Islam, `Umar ibn Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), is reported by al-Bukhari to have made a supplication (du`a) that encompassed both of those virtues when he said: “Oh Allah, make me a martyr in your path, and grant me a death in the city of your Prophet.” [al-Bukhari, Sahih]

It is among his divinely-granted miracles (karamat) that both of these seemingly contradictory prayers were answered, as he was assassinated by a Magian slave in Madinah, giving him the status of one wrongfully killed, which is martyrdom, and then buried in Madinah beside the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him).

Ibn al-Haaj says, “…By his interment (Allah bless him and grant him peace) into the land, his blessings (baraka) diffused to all of those buried in it, and those who were not buried in it, and so his blessings (baraka) upon the living is well known, and likewise, upon the dead.” [al-Haaj, al-Madkhal]

Since anyone who dies in Madinah aside from those three is buried in al-Baqi’, except for ‘Isa (peace be upon him) when he returns to the world and dies, we will next examine some of the narrations concerning the significance of al-Baqi’.

Baqi’ al-Gharqad: Resting Place of the Believers

Before Islam, the residents of Yathrib used to bury their dead in various places around Madinah. After the 5th year of Hijrah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) buried the first companions in al-Baqi’: Uthman ibn Ma’dhun (may Allah be pleased with him). The area, which was known for its many boxthorn trees, was cleared and thereafter the area became the graveyard of Madinah.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would often rise in the last part of the night, and slip out in the darkness, leaving his wife and home, to go visit the people of al-Baqi’ and make supplication specifically for them.

‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that whenever it was her turn for Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) to spend the night with her, he would go out towards the end of the night to al-Baqi’ and say: “Peace be upon you, abode of a people who are believers! What you were promised will come to pass tomorrow at a fixed time; and God willing we shall join you. Oh Allah, grant forgiveness to the inhabitants of Baqi’ al-Gharqad!” (Muslim, Saheeh)

In fact, we learn from another narration that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was actually ordered by Allah to go to visit them, and make supplication for them:

A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “…I did not say anything to him until morning, and then I mentioned it to him and he explained, ‘I was sent out to the people of al-Baqi to pray for them.'” [Malik, al-Muwatta]

Aisha also narrated: “… So he [Gabriel] said in the middle of the night to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), ‘Indeed, your Lord orders you to go to the people of al-Baqi’ to seek forgiveness for them.’  She said, ‘I asked, ‘What should I say to them, Oh Messenger of Allah?’, so he said, ‘Say: Peace be upon the people of these abodes from amongst the Believers and Muslims, may Allah have mercy on the ones who have gone ahead of us, and those who will go after us, and we are, inshaAllah, following right behind you.'” [Muslim, Sahih]

This last narration establishes that the prayers for the deceased apply to all of the believers buried in the graveyard, whether before or after the lifetime of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

The significance of being buried in al-Baqi’ is not only that the deceased is included in the Prophet’s Allah bless him and grant him peace) special supplication. In a narration in Tirmidhi, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“I am the first for whom the Earth will burst open [on the Day of Judgment], then Abu Bakr, and then ‘Umar. I shall then come to those who are buried in al-Baqi’ and they will be gathered along with me. After that I shall wait for the people of Makkah so as to be gathered among the inhabitants of the two sacred cities.” [al-Tirmidh, Sunan]

What an enormous blessing, to be gathered with the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and so many of the pious believers on that day. However, the significance does not end at that.

It is narrated from Umm Qays bint Mihsan, an early female companion (may Allah be well pleased with her), that she said: “If you had only seen me and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) [as he led me] through some of the side-streets of Madinah and the dwellings therein, until we reached up to Baqi’ al-Gharqad. Then he said, ‘Oh Umm Qays!’ I answered, “At your service and good pleasure, Oh Messenger of Allah!’  ‘Do you see this graveyard?’ he asked.  ‘Yes, Oh Messenger of Allah,’ I replied.

So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Seventy thousand people will be resurrected from it, their faces [shining] like the full moon at night- they will enter Paradise without any reckoning.’  So a man [‘Ukasha, Umm Qays’s brother] got up and said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, and me too?’  He said, ‘And you.’  Then another man got up and said, ‘And me, Oh Messenger of Allah?’ He answered (Allah bless him and grant him peace), ”Ukasha beat you to it.'” [Tabarani, Mu’jam al Kabir; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak]

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani mentions this narration as evidence while commenting on similar but stronger narrations that mention the 70,000 without indicating where they will come from, and he states that, “the seventy thousand are from those who will be assembled from the graveyard of al-Baqi’ in Madinah, and that is another special distinction…. and it is a great privilege for the people of Madinah.”  Also, Ibn Hajar mentions that the second man in the narration was a hypocrite and as such was denied this honor. [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

It’s About Living, Not Dying

After all of these virtues and exhortations about dying in Madinah and being buried in al-Baqi’, one may be wondering how difficult it must be for those who live elsewhere to time their death to coincide with their presence in Madinah to achieve these merits.

The answer is that these narrations are not just telling us to die in Madinah, but to live there and experience its blessings- to frequently visit it, to spend time in it, and to move to it if one can.

In commenting on the aforementioned narration “whoever of you is able to die in Madinah”, al-Zabidi interprets the Prophetic encouragement “to die” in Madinah to actually mean “to take up residence there till death overtakes one”, and that the narration rhetorically mentions the resulting effect, namely eventual death there, while actually intending the means that one must take to reasonably ensure the desired result. His proof is that, “Allah Ta’ala says, ‘And do not die except that you are Muslims'”, meaning one should live their whole life as a Muslim, and it does not mean to simply accept Islam at the time of death, because no one knows when death will come. [al-Zabidi, Sharh Ihyaa ‘Ulum al-Din]

Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari, commenting on the same narration which mentions intercession for those who achieve a death in Madinah, says that, “the intercession here is for the wiping out of bad deeds for the sinful, and the raising of degrees for the obedient, and the meaning of ‘intercession’ here is specific to its people [separate from the general intercession for all Muslims], and is not meant for those who do not die in [Madinah]…

…and because of that, it is said that the best thing for the one who reaches old age, or one whose end becomes apparent through spiritual unveilings and the like regarding the nearing of his appointed time, that he settles in Madinah so that he can die in it.  Evidence for this is the supplication of ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) [for a death in Madinah]… and that is because of the superiority of the land of al-Baqi’ over al-Hajun (the graveyard of Makkah), either for its being the grave of most of the noble Companions, or due to its nearness to one who is lying there (Allah bless him and grant him peace).”  [‘Ali al-Qari, Mirqat ‘ala al-Miskhat]

Look at the Neighbor before the House

Although we have read about the many blessings and rewards for those who make Madinah their home in life and after death, the primary motivating factor that makes Madinah so special to be in is not the land itself, or even the blessings of increase or the benefits promised after death.

Rather, it is the fact that it is the home and resting place of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), the best of creation, one glance of whom is worth more than one’s wealth and family and all the universe contains. Our love for him should make us want to be near him; indeed the scholars say that the actual earth that contains his blessed body is the holiest place in the heavens and the earth simply because of his presence.

However, even to get to the point where one desires and strives for a death in Madinah for this purpose, we must first develop our love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), through things such as learning his life, following his sunnah, and sending blessings upon him. We ask Allah Most High to increase us in love for His Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and to grant us his company in this world and in the Hereafter.

Wasallam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

The Evil Eye: A Reality?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is the evil eye real? How does one avoid it?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

The evil eye is a reality. It can be powerful. Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi al-Maliki and others explain that it is from Allah s Will that sometimes He creates harmful effects from the evil or jealous glances and looks of others.

However, one can ward off normal problems if one protects oneself with the medicines of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

1. One should always recite the 3 Quls (Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad, Falaq, and Naas) every morning and every night, ideally 3 times. It is also ideal to say them once after every prayer. This should be done with presence of heart and mind.

2. One should do likewise with Ayat al-Kursi: recite it every morning and night, and ideally after every prayer. With that, one should reflect on the tremendous meanings of this verse.

3. Both of the above should be done before sleep, as well.

4. One should constantly supplicate (dua) to Allah to protect one from the evil eye. There have been prophetic supplications transmitted by Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and others, such as:

أَعُوذُ بِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّهِ التَّامَّةِ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ وَهَامَّةٍ وَمِنْ كُلِّ عَيْنٍ لَامَّةٍ

a`udhu bi kalimaatillahi ttaammati min kulli shaytaanin wa haamma wa min kulli `aynin laamma

(I seek refuge in Allah most perfect words from every devil, harmful thing, and accusing eye. )

5. One should try to supplicate before all major acts, asking Allah to give one success (tawfiq), sincerity (ikhlas), and make the action a means of attaining unto the love and good pleasure (rida) of Allah Most High.

Sayyidi Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi said:

كُنْ مَعَ الله *** تَرَ اللهَ مَعَك

Be with Allah
You will find Allah with you.

Be with Allah by turning to Him in all your affairs, by obeying His commands out of love, thankfulness and true servanthood, You will find Allah with you, for He is “closer to you than your jugular vein,” and He does not let the efforts of those who seek Him go to waste.

Wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: There was a recent post stating that women who are pregnant must make up their fast. This differs greatly from something that I’d read in another book. I am confused and would greatly appreciate your feedback.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

The position of the four schools, based on clear primary texts, is that a pregnant woman must make up the obligatory fasts that she has missed. However, one does not have to do so immediately but gradually when one is able to do so without burdening oneself excessively.

The Qur’an & Making-Up Missed Fasts

Allah Most High states, “Oh believers, prescribed for you is the Fast, even as it was prescribed for those that were before you — haply you will be godfearing — for days numbered, and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then [fast] a number of other days.” [2: 184]  He Most High says elsewhere, “So let those of you, who are present at the month, fast it; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days.” [2: 185]

These Qur’anic verses indicate that the basis for a morally responsible individual who witnesses the month of Ramadan is the obligation to fast.

However, due to the weak nature of human beings, Allah, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has allowed certain individuals to fast on alternative days due to certain excuses that would render fasting difficult. These excuses include (a) undertaking a legal journey and (b) sickness.

Thus, fasting these “alternative days” is obligatory. In addition to the Qur’anic verses, there is scholarly consensus that anyone who misses any obligatory fast is required to make it up, if they are capable of doing so. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Zayla`i, Tabiyin al-Haqa’iq; al-Haytami, Tuhfat al-Minhaj; ibn Qudama, al-Mughni]

Pregnancy, Sickness, & Missed Fasts

The obligation to make-up one’s missed fasts on alternative days also applies to the pregnant woman, a point upon which there is also scholarly consensus of the four schools based on the principle that any obligatory fast missed that one is capable of making up must be made up on an alternative day.

More specifically, the pregnant woman must make up her fast because the Qur’anic verse that commands fasting “a number of other days” for the “sick” person also applies to the “pregnant woman”. This is because the term “sickness” refers to any genuine hardship or harm that is feared from the act of fasting, which includes hardship from pregnancy.

Therefore, not fasting due to a genuine hardship while pregnant is akin to a “sickness”, and the ruling related to fasting during such a state is subsumed under the category of the ruling related to the fasting of the sick person. This includes being (a) allowed to break the fast when genuinely required and (b) making up such missed fasts at a later date. Thus, pregnancy is one of many subcategories of the general category of “sickness”. [Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Ibn `Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Illyish, Minah al-Khalil; Mubarakpuri, Tuhfa al-Ahwadhi]

Thus, Ibn Qudama, citing agreement on this point, states, “The upshot of this is that if the nursing and pregnant woman fear for themselves, they break the fast and make it up in accordance [with the amount they missed]. We do not know any difference of opinion relating to this between the people of knowledge, because they [s: the pregnant and nursing woman] are akin to the sick person who fears for himself.” [al-Mughni]

The Prophetic Narrative on the Issue

In addition to the explicit Qur’anic verse and scholarly consensus, there is also a Prophet narrative indicative of the pregnant woman’s obligation to make up missed fasts.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Indeed, Allah has unburdened the traveler from half of the prayer and fasting, and unburdened the pregnant and nursing woman from fasting.” [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas states, “Dont you see that removing the burden of fasting that He stipulated as a rule for the traveling person, He made it [s: this ruling] precisely the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman as well… So, it is established from this that the ruling of removing the burden of fasting from the pregnant and nursing woman is akin to the ruling of removing it for the traveler, without any difference. What is known is that removing the burden of fasting from the traveler is from the perspective of being obligated to make it up due to [validly] breaking the fast, without paying compensation (fidya), and so it is necessary that this also be the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman.” [Jassas; Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Therefore, in addition to the Qur’anic verses, this narration indicates that the pregnant woman must make-up such missed fasts as well.

The Position of the Four Schools

It has already been mentioned that there is consensus of the Sunni schools on the obligation to make-up missed obligatory fasts generally, for anyone who has missed them and is able to make them up, and that this consensus also includes the pregnant woman. This is what one will find when going through the relied-upon texts of the four schools, all of whom clearly stipulate that the pregnant woman who has missed obligatory fasts must make them up.

Among the Hanafis, this was clearly stated by Abu Bakr al-Jassas in his Ahkam al-Qur’an, Sarakhsi in his Mabsut, Quduri in his Mukhtasar, Ibn Nujaym in his Bahr al-Ra’iq, Shurunbulali in his Imdad al-Fattah, Haskafi in his Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn `Abidin in his Hashiyah, and others. Some of these texts explicitly quote consensus on this point.

Among the Shafi`is, this was stated by Nawawi in his Minhaj, al-Khatib in his Iqna`, Ibn Hajar al-Hayatami in Tuhfat al-Minhaj, Ramli in Nihyat al-Muhtaj, and others.

Among the Hanbalis this was stated by Ibn Qudama in his al-Mughni, Ibn Muflih in al-Furu`, Mardawi in al-Insaf, and others.

Among the Malikis this was stated by Imam al-Abdari in Taj al-Iklil, Nafrawi in Fawakih al-Dawani, Shadhili’s Kifayat al-Talib, `Adawi’s Hashiya, and others.

Being Gradual & Appreciating the Blessings of Allah

If an individual has a number of missed fasts, then he or she should take gradual steps to make them up. In the Hanafi school, an individual who has not made up his fasts until next Ramadan enters is not required to pay an expiation or compensation. [ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

At the same time, one must appreciate the blessing of Allah in allowing one to make up these missed fasts, performing thereby an action of immense reward and merit.

In a narration, Allah Most High said, “Every good action is rewarded by ten times its kind, up to seven hundred times, except fasting, which is for Me, and I reward it.” [Tirmidhi, Muwatta]

One of the explanations given for this narration is that that the amount of reward earned by the one fasting is known only to Allah, and likewise only Allah is aware of the fasting person and his righteous act. Fasting is an act of sincerity, lacking the aspect of showing off, since it is hidden without any discernibly clear outward form. It allows one to imitate an angelic trait of freeing oneself from the needs of food, water, sexual intercourse, and the like. All of this is why Allah singled it out and gave it a noble status in the religion. [ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

So one should realize this, even with make up fasts. An intention can take a meager “form” or ritual and transform it into something eternal. This, coupled with genuine thankfulness towards Allah for allowing us to recognize our obligations and fulfill them opens the doors of mercy and blessings for one. We should never look at these actions as “burdens” but as opportunities that Allah thrusts at the feet of his servants indicating to them His desire to grant them good in this life and the next.

Always keep in mind what Allah has given us, among them these blessed opportunities to worship Him and make things right, and then observe what we “give” Him in return. When one contemplates on this, there is nothing one can do but say “Alhamdulilah”.

What He brings you,
What you bring Him
What a difference there is between them! [Ibn `Ata’illah, Hikam]

Wasalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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