Science or Hadith?: A Critical Discussion of Contradictory Hadiths

Understanding and Reconciling Conflicts Between Hadith and Science

Shaykh Farid Dingle discusses how hadiths that may contradict modern science are understood and resolved. The example used is the hadith whereby the gender of a child is determined by whoever reaches climax first.

Summary

Everything the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said was true. That said, not everything that is narrated from him is completely accurate, and not every interpretation of the language used is completely accurate.

If we find a hadith that is at odds with known and established science, we must first ascertain whether the hadith is authentic (sahih) or not; next, we must look at the various interpretive possibilities, taking a particularly hard look at the various wordings of the hadith.

If after this there is still really no way to marry the hadith with known and established science, then we can safely say that the hadith is a mistake, and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) never said it. It is doubtful that such a hadith actually exists.

 

Science vs. Scientism

In an age of great and well-appreciated scientific and technological advancement, it is very easy to put science on a pedestal and give it absolute credence. This emotional and philosophic leap pulls us away from healthy scientific study to trying to solve problems that science simply cannot solve. This is scientism.

To reject everything in religious literature that cannot be proved empirically leads very decidedly to disbelief. There is, of course, no empirical evidence of Paradise, Hell, miracles, or of the scientific possibility of corporeal resurrection. Indeed, Muslim scholars will even define miracles as unscientific (khariq lil ada).

How then has the Islamic tradition dealt with the alleged conflict between science and religion?

 

Fact, Strong Evidence, and Stories

The scholars of Islam very carefully organized Islamic epistemology: the way we know how we can know things, and how we distinguish between knowledge (ilm) and mere confidence (dhann).

When dealing with science, we are told that the five senses can be used to ascertain objective knowledge of scientific facts. We can observe fire burning and state objectively that the fire just burnt something. Our inferences from that, however, may not be objective.

For example, we cannot infer that fire will necessarily burn again. This is where Islamic epistemology would differ from scientism, and thus allow room for miracles.

The inferences and judgments based on empirical fact may then be categorical or probabilistic.

The former would give us further objective knowledge of the world around us (e.g. the process of combustion, and reduced energy levels), while the latter would give us mere confidence about the world around us (e.g. carbon dating, prescribing certain medicines, and other such processes that are based on various reasonable assumptions).

Thus when Muslim scholars refer to scientific fact, they are much more conservative than some of us might be today, and a lot of what we deem scientific fact is most likely probabilistic. Now that doesn’t mean it is irrelevant, it just means it is not fact.

A similar dissection of fact and fiction is made for historical information (akhbar). This is particularly important to Muslim scholars because the final revelation was over a millennium ago so critiquing the historic recording of this revelation was and is of utmost importance.

 

Mass Narration 

Factual information based on the five senses (i.e. not opinions) can either be reported to us through mass narration (khabar mutawatir) or by a limited number of individuals (khabar ahad).

The first is the fact that Muhammad ibn Abdullah existed over 1,400 years ago in Saudi Arabia, claimed prophethood and established a faith, that he told people to pray five times a day, that he recited a book called the Qur’an, and that, for example, the book began with a chapter called al Fatiha, and ended with a chapter called al Nas.

Such information, given that its sources are so varied and independent, cannot possibly be false and gives us objective knowledge (ilm).

Whether or not he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was actually a Prophet cannot be claimed to be proven by mass narration (khabar mutawatir), because it is an inference and not sensory data per se. Its proof is a logical one.

 

Reports Through Hadith

The second is factual information (not opinions and judgments) that reaches us through limited sources, for example, most hadiths.

Such reports give us great confidence and not a certainty.

Now, this great confidence is contingent upon a number of factors, primarily the reliability of the sources, and the subsequent chain of sources (sanad) that conveys the quote or event to us. Hence the science of hadith criticism.

When a hadith passes the test of hadith criticism and is deemed “authentic” (sahih), we have great confidence that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did indeed say these words or did this deed, and we have very little reason to doubt it.

That said, it is not fair or true to say that we know as an objective fact that he said or did whatever has been reported from him. Only a mass narrated report can do that.

For example, the hadith ‘Actions are only by intentions.’ has been narrated with a sound chain of transmission and is therefore “authentic” (sahih). We can say that we believe with great confidence that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did indeed say these words, but can’t say that we know that he said these words.

By contrast, the hadith, ‘Whosoever intentionally lies about me should take his seat in the Hell-Fire.’ has reached us from many, many independent sources, and is as such mass (mutawatir) [al Azhar al Mutanathira, Suyuti]. We can say that we know objectively that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) did indeed say these words.

With an authentic (sahih) hadith, we may reject the report based on stronger information. With a mass narrated hadith, there is no question of rejecting the report because it is a fact. The only room for investigation is what the hadith means, and what may be extrapolated from it.

The Case of Contagion

There is a hadith in Sahih al Bukhari that says that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that there was no such thing as a contagion, that is to say, that diseases are never contagious and do not spread from one carrier to another. This is clearly at odds with well-known and established science.

What is interesting about this hadith is that the Prophetic Companions themselves noticed this apparent conflict between science and religion. When they objected to what seemed blatantly wrong, Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied, ‘Well who made the first one sick?’ (Bukhari)

What this means is that the initially apparent meaning that we all assumed when we first heard the hadith was not what was actually intended. There is no real conflict between science and religion in this hadith. Rather, what was being said was that Allah is the ultimate cause of every effect we see, and so subsequent effects (contagion) are also caused by Allah, and not by the sick person or animal.

The methodological lesson we take from this is that when we read a hadith that seems to go against science, we have to be willing to investigate other possible interpretations of the words we are reading. This is why the scholars of legal theory (usul al fiqh) spend so much time on hermeneutics (mabahith al alfadh).

Critiquing Hadith Based on History

Sometimes we find hadiths that do not make historical sense. In Sahih al Bukhari there is a hadith that quotes the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying, ‘Indeed the righteous slave (mamluk) has two rewards. And I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, were it not for fighting in Allah’s way, performing Hajj, and serving my mother, I would love to die as a slave (mamluk).’

Now when we read this hadith at face value, we understand that there is a two-fold reward for someone who is owned by someone else and is righteous and that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would have loved to die in bondage were it not that being a slave would prevent him from fighting in Jihad and from having the time to serve his mother.

But despite the beauty and truth of the message, there is a historical anachronism. We all know very well that his mother passed away when he was very young, so this hadith doesn’t make historical sense.

Commentating on this, Imam al Suyuti said, ‘The words ‘And I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul …’ are obviously the words of [the sub-narrator] Abu Hurayra because it is inconceivable that he (Allah bless him and give him peace) could wish to die in bondage…because his mother wasn’t even alive.’ (Tadrib al Rawi, Suyuti)

So this tells us that the great confidence we have in the content of a sound hadith could be called into question when it conflicts with something that we know as an historical fact.

(Critiquing it based on a mere alternative historical possibility is another kettle of fish. Please see: Re: Hadith – Content: Answers)

This not an issue of religion vs history, rather of weighing up two historical accounts against each other in view of their respective strength.

Critiquing Hadith Based on Archeology

Because a merely authentic hadith (sahih) that is not mass narrated (mutawatir) only gives us great confidence (dhann), and not objective knowledge (ilm), it is also valid to critique a hadith based on factual archeological evidence.

One example of this can be seen by the way that Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, 15th-century traditional hadith scholar, critiqued a hadith referring to Prophet Adam’s gigantic form.

In Sahih al Bukhari there is a hadith that quotes the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying, ‘When Adam was created he was sixty cubits tall… and people (khalq) have continued to shrink until now.’

After confirming the meaning of the hadith, and that words of the hadith did indeed indicate that Prophet Adam (upon whom be peace) was about 90 ft tall, Ibn Hajar adds the following:

‘What is problematic here is what is observable today of the archeological remains of previous nations, such as those of Thamud, since the size of their houses does not give the impression that they were exceptionally tall, as this would imply.

Furthermore, it is obvious that they lived a long, long time ago, and the time between them and Adam was less than the time between them and those at the beginning of this nation. To date, I have not been able to explain this problem.’ (Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar al Asqalani)

So Ibn Hajar is basically saying that archeology of 500 hundred years ago does not seem to add up with a giant human race that is proposed by the hadith. And at the same time, he is not willing to completely write off the hadith as a fabrication.

We learn from this that there is room to critique an authentic (sahih) hadith if there is evidence that is stronger than it. Whether we agree with Ibn Hajar’s conclusion, or whether his use of archeology was valid, is irrelevant.

The point is that in our Islamic heritage, we have the openness and the philosophical apparatus to tackle such problems, and we do not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater as most post-Darwinian Western thinkers did with the Bible.

 

The Gender of the Child Hadith

Let us now turn to the hadith in question, armed as we are now with a methodology with which we can meaningfully tackle the problem.

To my knowledge, there are three separate hadiths on this issue.

The first is in Sahih al Bukhari and mentions that a convert from Judaism asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) about three issues to verify whether or not he was a true prophet. In it mentions that ‘as for which parent the child will resemble, when a man sleeps with a woman and his water/sperm comes before her[s], then the [child] will resemble him, and if her water/sexual fluid comes first, then the [child] will resemble her.’

Another version of the same hadith in Tabarani mentions ‘overcoming (ghalaba)’ in place of ‘coming first [sabaqa].

The second hadith is in Musnad al-Bazzar and is related by Ibn Abbas and states, ‘The resemblance goes to whichever of them overcomes (ghalaba) the other. If they join (ijtama’a), [the resemblance] will be from both.

The third hadith is in Sahih Muslim and mentions that Umm Sulaim asked about women having wet dreams and it mentions the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying, ‘Men’s water/semen is thick and white, and women’s water/sexual fluid is thin and pale/yellow/black. Whichever of them comes over, or precedes the other, that will determine the resemblance.’

 

An Analysis of the Hadith

So we now need to critique these hadiths in the way explained above.

First, we need to ask whether hadiths are mass transmitted (mutawatir), or merely authentic (sahih); then we need to look at the scientific facts that they seem to be at odds with, and see if they are actual facts, or merely likelihoods.

To answer the first question, we see that the hadiths are narrated in Bukhari and Muslim and are therefore authentic, but are definitely not mass narrated. This means that we are very confident that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said these words, but we are not 100% certain.

Regarding the science, I think we can say quite categorically that we know that female sexual fluid/ejaculate has nothing to do with the resultant gene makeup of the child, and women’s sexual fluid/ejaculate is definitely not black. It may, however, be yellow.

Now looking at the words used, the real conflict here is the issue of which of the two reaches climax. When looking at the different wordings of the hadiths (‘overcoming’ and ‘preceding’),

I think it not far-fetched at all that the narrations reflect the general meaning of dominance, and it wouldn’t be wrong to argue that ‘overcome’ was the actual wording while ‘preceding’ was just a paraphrasing by on of the sub-narrators.

The question then remains of the water. What is most apparent when reading the hadith is that water means semen or sexual excretion. That said, although far-fetched in itself, I don’t think it impossible that it has more than a general sense of any sexual contribution to the fertilization process.

 

Outcome of Analysis

So now we can come to one of a number of conclusions:

The first possibility is that we have simply misread the hadith, and there is no conflict whatsoever. This assumes that ‘water’ doesn’t mean semen or sexual excretion, is not impossible, but arguably far-fetched.

The second is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) never said these words to begin and was just misquoted. This assumes the narrators, who were all very accurate and bonafide hadith scholars, made a mistake. This is also not impossible, but also far-fetched.

The third is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said these words, to begin with, and was correctly interpreted and he himself made a mistake.

This would mean that he was not a Prophet. This is an invalid conclusion because we are saying that he definitely said something that is definitely false, and as we have already said we do not know that he definitely said these words because they are not mass narrated (mutawatir).

What remains is to weigh up which of the first two possibilities is most likely, which can be handled by senior scholars.

Conclusion

Any non-mass transmitted hadith (sahih) can be called into question when it contradicts other authentic hadiths, verses of the Qur’an, or clear and unquestionable historical and scientific facts. The scholars of Islam have always recognized that and built a solid methodology with which to critique hadiths.

The hadiths in question elicit things that are not completely irreconcilable with well-known and established science and are not mass-narrated, to begin with.

The issue at hand then is the proper criticism and understanding of the hadiths, and there is absolutely no reason to question one’s faith when reading hadiths of this nature.

 

[Ustadh] Farid Dingle

 

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On the Passing of Shaykh Amin Saraj – Istanbul, 2021

If I see today, it’s only because I stand on the shoulder of giants.

Today we lay to rest another giant, one of the last remaining links to a great generation of scholars, who all feel but a distant memory in the hearts of the Muslims. The great Hadith scholar Shaykh Muhammad Amin Saraj departed from this world on Friday at the age of 90/91 years old in Istanbul. He was one of the last remaining inheritors who took directly from the rich scholarly tradition of the Ottomans.

Surely to Allah we belong and to Him we all shall return. There is no might nor power except by Allah.

Shaykh Amin Saraj was born in the year 1929/30 in Tokat in central Turkey, a city known for its deep scholarship and knowledge. He began memorizing the Quran from a young age with his father who was prisoned for six-months for teaching the Quran in Arabic.

Journeying Through Darkness to Find Light

Shaykh Amin once said, “In my childhood, it was forbidden for us to read the Quran. My father and my grandfather were imprisoned for this reason. We’ve passed those tests. Now Allah has brought us to light. Now there is a President in our country who reads the Quran.” It was only befitting that when they laid Shaykh Amin to rest today, that same president would recite the Fatiha over him in front of the thousands in attendance.

After committing the Quran to memory, he travelled to Istanbul to study at the feet of some of the most important scholars of his time such as Shaykh Muhammad Khusrou Efendi, Shaykh Ali Haydhar Efendi, and others.

Carrying the Torch of the Great Ottoman Scholars

After his time in Istanbul, Shaykh Amin travelled to Egypt at the age of 20 years old. It is in Egypt that he studied under his main teacher, the erudite scholar Shaykh Mohammed Zahid Al Kawthari and the final Shaykh Al-Islam of the Ottoman empire Mustafa Sabri Efendi. After approximately eight years of intense study, Shaykh Amin returned to Istanbul in 1958.

Upon his return, Shaykh Amin followed in the footsteps of many great scholars that came before him and began to teach at one of the intellectual hearts of the Ottoman empire: The Fatih Mosque. He taught over 2000 students and raised a generation of scholars that have been vital to the revival of the Islamic sciences in modern Turkey.

Great Openings Through Consistency and High Aspirations

His students today are responsible for leading dozens of projects that are reviving the Islamic sciences in Turkey, once again and reestablishing itself as a beacon of Prophetic light for the Muslim around the world.

After nearly 60 years of service at the Fatih Mosque, he stopped teaching in 2018 due to his old age and deteriorating health.

He was known for his vast knowledge, beautiful smile, and the gentle manner in which he received all. Not only did students of knowledge and scholars love him, but individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds had a deep rooted love for the Shaykh.

For years, he sat in the Imam’s room at Fatih Mosque after Jumua prayer smiling and spending time with all those who visited him. Everyone that visited the Shaykh would depart in a state of great happiness and tranquility.

Whenever someone addressed him as hocam (a Turkish word that means my teacher), he would respond saying, “You only address us as hocam because you have not seen the scholars that we saw.”

As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him has been reported to have said, “Allah does not take away knowledge by removing it from men, but takes it away by taking away the learned.”

Our Final Condolences

We have lost a giant of our tradition. Shaykh Amin Saraj was an ocean of knowledge and wisdom  that stood as firm as a mountain in the face of those that sought to harm Islam. We offer our condolences to Shaykh Saraj’s family, friends, and to all those who studied and benefited from him.

May Allah have mercy on our beloved Shaykh Muhammad Amin Saraj and allow him to be of the neighbors of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him,  in the highest levels of paradise.

The Path to Piety: The Virtues of Taqwa in the Qur’an

Tariqa Muhammadiyya (One): The Virtues of Taqwa in the Qur’an

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart.

This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained—provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa. This article will focus on the verses of the Qur’an which relate to the virtues of taqwa. 

There are over one hundred fifty verses of the Qur’an that relate to taqwa and over forty verses that have explicit commands that call to taqwa. This article will cover ten of these verses, arranged thematically by Imam Birgivi. Some of these verses are accompanied with a brief commentary and advice for you to follow.

 

One.

Allah Most High says in the Holy Qur’an: 

“The most noble of you in the sight of Allah [in station, closeness, reward, and virtue] are the most mindful.” (Qur’an 49:13)

“And Allah is the Guarding Friend [and Patron, and Supporter, and Carer] of the mindful.” (Qur’an 45:19)

“Do not [falsely] deem yourself good, for it is Allah alone Who truly knows who is mindful [of Him].” (Qur’an 53:32)

Look inward, for taqwa can only be found in your heart! Always question the sincerity of your actions and ask yourself, “Am I truly mindful of Allah when I do good acts?” Perhaps it is a facade you put up when other people are around, and once they leave, your good action goes with them.

Two.

“And the mindful people will certainly have a good return.” (Qur’an 38:49)

Remind yourself that there is something after the insanity of this world—something to yearn for and look forward to.

Three.

“And rush towards forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden vaster than the heavens and the earth, prepared for those mindful [of Allah].” (Qur’an 3:133)

Allah has invited you, so come! If you miss this opportunity—despite constant spiritual and existential reminders—you are the one who declined the invitation. You’d have nobody to blame but yourself, for paradise is already prepared and waiting for you.

Four.

“And those who were mindful of their caring Lord will be taken to paradise in groups until they arrive at its [already] open gates. And the guardians of the gate greet them with “Peace be upon you! You have done so well, so come in, to stay forever.” (Qur’an 39:73) 

True taqwa is not merely doing ritual action because you’re “supposed to”, because this would entail being mindful of a worldly thing (your action), but not to Whom it’s for.

True taqwa is recognizing the Omnipotence, Mercy, Care, Beauty, and Awesomeness of your Lord! It is having careful restraint in this world because you’re perpetually aware of your Creator and Sustainer. 

The reason it is mentioned that we enter Paradise “in groups” is because this is an emphasis on the importance of keeping good company. Cultivate taqwa by spending time with, emulating, and serving righteous people. 

Five.

“And truly the [eternal] abode is far better for those who are mindful [of Allah]. Will you not then understand?” (Qur’an 12:102)

Which do you prefer: a fleeting, whimsical pleasure or an eternal abode of ease? Pause and reflect that your desires are fleeting and refraining from them has eternal consequences. Be clear about the reality of this world.

The honored servant of Allah is one who considered the consequences of matters. If a person doesn’t pause to reflect, they’re no different than an animal.

Six.

“…And Allah shielded them (the people of taqwa) from the punishment of Hellfire—As a complete bounty from your lord. That is [truly] the ultimate triumph.” (Qur’an 44:51–57)

The word shield has the same Arabic root as the word taqwa. You are shielded from Hell in the afterlife because you shielded yourself from the displeasure of Allah in this world.

Seven.

…And be mindful of me, O people of reason!” (Qur’an 2:197)

Reflect and reason with yourself: Allah is telling us that He is the One Who created everything from nothingness. You didn’t have to exist! The fact that He took you out of absolute nothingness into existence is a gift.

Someone remaining in Hell is better than non-existence in the first place (in an existential sense)! The One Who took you out from nothing and then sustained you, is calling and warning you. So reflect O you who have a reason! 

Eight.

“The best garment is mindfulness.” (Qur’an 7:26) 

In a time when many are worried about their appearances and outfits, we forget that we’re meant to be cloaked with the garment of taqwa. The garment of taqwa is the best and there is no goodness outside of its protection. If you beautify yourself with the garment of something outside the standard of taqwa, you won’t find any good in it. 

Nine.

“Whoever venerates the distinguishing signs of Allah, that is indeed from mindfulness that is in hearts.” (Qur’an 22:32)

Respect for any symbol of our religion is respect for Allah due to its relationship with Him. Scholars have the guidance of Allah. The Prophet is the emissary of Allah. The Qur’an is the book of Allah. The Ka’ba is the house of Allah. Increase and cultivate your mindfulness of Allah through the veneration of these symbols.

Ten.

“My Mercy encompasses all things… 

All of creation is an expression of Divine Mercy. Our mere existence is mercy, life is mercy, being human is mercy, and every moment we live in is a mercy. And there’s the potential for attaining even more mercy. How do we get it? The remainder of the verse tells us.

…And I shall write it for those who remain mindful.” (Qur’an 7:156)

Make mindful choices, even in the seemingly trivial things. And even if you mess up, Allah’s mercy encompasses it if you respond with mindfulness. From sin, repent. From temptation, turn away. From heedlessness, return to consciousness. From whims, refrain. From folly, desist.

The Path to Piety: Birgivi’s Tariqa Muhammadiya

 

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Our Character: Signs and Importance – Habib Umar Bin Hafiz

The Importance of Good Character

This article series is based on the course delivered by Ustadh Amr Hashim – Our Character.

Refining the self, improving one’s character, and beautifying one’s practice of Islam are quite daunting tasks for the average person. However, there is no need to strive on this path alone, when one can benefit from a great work that will explain all of this and more.

Our Character is a text by Habib Umar bin Hafiz. In this class, Ustadh Amr Hashim will explain and summarize this text and the practical implementation of it in one’s day to day life.

This class is an ideal weekly check-in as to one’s state of the heart, and the state of one’s progress in becoming a better believer from week to week. You can access all lessons here. 

The Author – Habib Umar bin Hafiz 

The author of the book being covered is Habib Umar bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz.

He grew up during the period of the communist government in Southern Yemen, which meant it was very difficult to seek knowledge. Many scholars were kidnapped and tortured, the students would have to seek knowledge secretly. 

This did not deter Habib Umar from seeking knowledge, even after his father was kidnapped when he was just nine years old.

Many people thought that he would not be able to study and be like his father or the scholars of his family.

His upbringing revolved around him growing up as a scholar, his parents and forefathers were all scholars. But none of this prevented him from his study of religion. 

Habib Umar traveled to Bayda’ around age 19 to study under Habib Muhammad al-Haddar and this is when the author wrote this book.

The Goal of This Book

This book sparks our interest and desire in seeking out good character. The author wrote this work at his young age during difficult times; politically and personally as an orphan. 

This work reminds us to live with good character, in the good times and the bad times, in the times of ease and in the times of difficulty; in all states. 

We see this through the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), even when people tried to inflict distress and hurt on him; he did not let their actions impact how he treated them in return.

The Signs of Good Character

Of the most manifest and clear signs in following the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is having excellent character traits and qualities. 

This is because character is of our inward garments.

Our inward garments are unlike our outward garments such that when we pass from this world we take our inward garments with us and leave our outward garments in this world.

If the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has come for our next worldly salvation, then he is preparing us inwardly to be in high stations, and this is done by being inwardly sound.

Thus having good character traits; those are our inward garments that last forever and go with us into our graves. 

And so their consequences is that if our inward garments are beautiful and pure, then our next worldly result will be beautiful and pure.

If our inward garments are filthy and dirty, then what can one expect in their next worldly result?

The Importance of Good Character

Imam Haddad would nurture and teach his students one character trait at a time over several years. He would wait patiently, why? Because instilling good character traits in oneself is worth the work and struggle; it brings change to one’s actions and lifestyle.

Why is instilling character traits important? We possess positive traits that are easy to implement and negative traits that we cannot easily implement.. 

We selectively implement traits when it is simple, convenient, or easy.

For example, a person may only give charity when life is going well but may forget when they enter financial strain.

Or a person may give some time to worship when they feel “spiritual” or when they feel bored, but they forget when they have something entertaining to do.

Would anyone consider the person who gave charity when it was easy to be “generous” in of themselves? Is that the reality of generosity? 

Instilling good character traits means we go above and beyond what is merely convenient and go towards what is more pleasing to our Lord most high. As we learn from the author’s own example; he forgave the people who killed his father just as our noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forgave those who killed members of his family and followers.

When one has a character trait instilled in them, it has become their nature. It is not a periodical or occasional trait.

One of Imam Malik’s students sat at his feet for twenty years. He spent eighteen of those twenty years learning good character traits from Imam Malik, and the last two years learning law (fiqh) after which Imam Malik passed from this world.

After his passing, the student said “I wished I spent all twenty years learning good character from Imam Malik.”

The special nature of learning good character at the feet of our teachers, we observe and learn from their example. The goal is to have these traits embedded and imprinted into our hearts.

One of the objectives of sending the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to us was for his purifying us and to teach us how to act. 

Allah says in the Qur’an: “Our Lord! Raise from among them a messenger who will recite to them Your revelations, teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them.” (Quran, 2:129)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “I have only been sent to complete the virtues of character.” [Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad and Bayhaqi, Shu’b al-Iman]

If we are the followers of the Prophet, and he calls us to follow his character; should we not follow him?

The sign of true love for one’s beloved is to do whatever they say and to try to be like them. 

Points of Self-Reflection

Where is our character in regards to who he was (peace and blessings be upon him)? Did we try to embody his traits? Did we try to carry ourselves like him? Did we try to be patient, kind, and generous as he was? Where should we be? 

When was the last time we gave in the way of God when it was hard to? When did we control our anger when we wanted to explode? 

And this is one of the greater areas of inheritance from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and one that is open to all of us!

May Allah grant us the strength to seek his character (peace and blessings be upon him) and act upon it.

 

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Lord of the Flies: The Benefits of Reading Fiction

Fiction: Is it Shirk? 

A questioner asked if reading Lord of the Flies was considered shirk. Shaykh Farid Dingle gave the following answer.

The Spectrum of English Literature

Literature is a subject we learn in school in order to understand how language works. It is also a very important means of learning about human life, human emotions, and experiences.

Sometimes we have to read about things that are bad. Sometimes even we have to read about issues that are actually disbelief.

We do need to be selective about what we read. Once we decide that what we are reading or studying is genuinely important, we have to make sure we leave with the benefit that we were searching for in the get-go.

Literary Skills Gained From a Range of Literature

So, looking at a book like Lord of the Flies, when studying it we are exposed to immoral behavior. However, we should not be looking at it from that angle alone.

Rather, we should be looking at it as a literary work: how does the author use language to convey his ideas, how does he develop the plot, how do the characters develop, what are the deeper messages that he is conveying and how does he do this? This is what we look for when studying literature.

Similarly, we can greatly broaden our understanding of man as a social being by reading the book.

What happens when you leave people without strong leadership? What happens to their morals? How do people try to govern themselves? The book sheds a lot of light on these issues, and there is a lot we can benefit from it.

Educational Benefits From a Range of Films

To give another example, one film that I studied at school was La Haine. We studied it in my French course.

Left to my own devices, as a practicing Muslim, I wouldn’t normally sit down and watch a film about violence, drugs, and riots in some European country.

There would be no particular benefit in it.

However, given that it was a mandatory part of the course, we watched it and it greatly helps us as students understand the social and economic stress that marginalized sections of French society were going through.

The film captured with great dexterity the meaninglessness, the hopelessness, the misery, and the pain of 24 hours in the life of subalterns in the slums of France. There was a clear educational benefit in watching the film, and it wasn’t just an hour or so of watching people sin.

Seeing the Greater Benefit

So, we as Muslims do hate sin, we do hate disbelief, and we do not enjoy reading about sin and disbelief.

But sometimes, there is more benefit than harm in reading certain books because the literary skill and indeed the message carried by the book is of greater benefit.

 

About the Author

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to crafts lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language which can be found here. 

 

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The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Part One: The Definition of Taqwa

Introduction

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart.

This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained—provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa.

It will focus on the third section of Imam Birgivi’s book The Path of Muhammad, where he focuses on attaining piety and mindfulness of Allah Most High.

Taqwa and Our Purpose

We live in a time where people claim to be religious but are unconcerned about the sunna of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and about cultivating taqwa.

Religion has been stripped down to a set of ritual actions, empty in form, and devoid of life. Almost as if our devotional acts are just a chore that we have to check off in order for us to claim to be “religious”. 

As Muslims, we have all heard about the term “taqwa” and how we must be mindful, aware, and conscious of Allah at all times. Yet what is taqwa precisely? And when you know what it is, how can you go about cultivating it?

Religion has two distinguishing fruits:

  • The realization of faith (having iman)
  • The active actualization of taqwa (mindfulness of Allah)

It is the second that will be focused on in this article series. Taqwa is the foundational theme of the Qur’an and is the key to unlocking its highest aim: realizing and attaining closeness to Allah Most High. The actualization of taqwa will fill our otherwise meaningless ritual acts with life and essence. 

Definition of Taqwa

Taqwa linguistically means to shield or carefully guard something. But it is not a passive sort of watchfulness, but rather a full, complete, careful, and comprehensive guarding of a thing.

Attaining taqwa requires onself to carefully guard themselves —in action and speech— and to avoid everything that harms one in the hereafter.

The bare minimum of which is to avoid committing major sins, while the maximum is to avoid coming even remotely close to the “grey area” in matters of religion.

Devotion to Allah Most High

The highest level of taqwa is when one guards their innermost against being distracted by other than Allah.

It is to be devoted to Allah with your absolute entirety. It is to be utterly in love with Allah Most High, for love is to give your entirety to something such that nothing of it remains for you.

It is a love that renders the lover thoroughly heedless of the world around them, focused wholly upon their Lord, Creator, and Sustainer. This is the type of mindfulness that Allah means when He commands us to have mindfulness of Him as He deserves. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear. And between them are unclear matters that most people are unaware of. Whoever is wary of these unclear matters has safeguarded their religion and honor. And whoever indulges in them has indulged in haram.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Ideal taqwa is to heed these words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Being wary and avoiding acts that may not necessarily be haram, yet can potentially lead you to haram.

A person of taqwa will seek clarity when facing these unclear matters. And only the light of knowledge can overcome the darkness of ignorance—so continue seeking knowledge and expanding your insight. 

 

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Heart Melting Traditions: The Reality of Your Wealth

Part Three: The Reality of Your Wealth

Based on the course by Shaykh Abdullah Misra

This is the third article based on the series, The Heart Softeners from Kitab al-Riqaq from the Mishkat al Masabih, presented by Shaykh Abdullah Misra. In the previous article, we learned about the temptations of this world.

Our world can be viewed from the lens of a trial; in both good times and bad, the potential to develop cynicism and callousness exists. It is our duty as Muslims to always remain vigilant such that we do not forget Allah Most High’s blessings and mercy.

For this purpose SeekersGuidance scholar Shaykh Abdullah Misra chose the documented work of Imam Khatib al-Tabrizi; Mishkat al-Masabih (The Niche Of Lamps) to deeply explore the topic of a soft heart. Imam al-Tabrizi gathered sayings and practices of the Prophet (hadiths) found in the six canonical books such as Bukhari, Muslim, and others on a multitude of topics. Throughout this nineteen article series, each hadith is put forward with an explanation.

Article One: Reality of This Word 

Article Two: Temptations of This World

Hadith Eleven – Successful People

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Successful is the one who embraced Islam, was blessed with just enough provision for every day and who was made content with that by Allah.” (Muslim)

Shaykh Abdullah informs us that the ultimate success is in attaining the goal of reaching Allah Most High in His good pleasure and attains paradise (Janna). Achieving this goal lies in the three components outlined in this Hadith.

One. To embrace Islam is to direct one’s life towards Allah Most High, to submit to His commands, and to take Allah as their Lord. This path is not automatic by virtue of being born into a Muslim home, practicing Islam from birth. Instead, one makes this conscious decision having lived for some time, understanding the world to some degree.  

Two. Everything we have: be it food, clothing, shelter, or financial wealth was given to us by Allah Most High. A successful person receives sustenance (rizq) is a measure of neither more nor less than what is required and Allah Almighty causes them to be satisfied and fulfilled.  

Three. Contentment is not within a human being’s control. Rather, it is a gift created in the heart and bestowed upon them by Allah Most High. A contented person is more thankful and his breast blessings increase. Examples of such blessings include striving harder without feeling tired, deriving greater output from efforts made, and being filled with internal happiness and peace.

Hadith Twelve – True Wealth

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The servant says, “My wealth! My wealth! Yet the only things that he truly owns from his wealth are three: That which he consumed and finished, that which he dressed in and wore it out and that which he gave away [for the sake of Allah] and saved up [for the Hereafter]. Other than that, he is soon departing and leaving it behind for other people. (Muslim)

Shaykh Abdullah explains that true wealth is what we personally consumed, wore, and enjoyed, followed by that which we gave in the path of Allah Most High for purposes such as charity, education, and philanthropy. Spending for the sake of Allah Almighty is considered the wealth of the Hereafter.

Consequently, any remaining resources not consumed or spent at the time of death will no longer be ours because they will be utilized by our inheritors.

Hadith Thirteen – Our Actions Remain With Us

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Three things follow a dead person [up to the grave], and two [of them] return and only one remains. His family, wealth and actions follow him, but his family and wealth turn back, while his actions remain.” (Muslim)

Shaykh Abdullah reminds us of the reality that when we die, our family, friends and well-wishers may attend our funerals and supplicate but after we are buried, they leave the graveyard.

Our wealth might have been used to purchase our shrouding and perhaps the funeral prayer is said at our home, but yet again, as soon as we are buried our wealth switches ownership into the hands of spouses and children. Our actions or deeds are the only things that stay with us and can be a source of comfort in this next phase of existence.

Hadith Fourteen – Inheritor’s Wealth

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) once asked, “Which of you loves the wealth of his inheritor more than his own wealth?” They answered, ‘O Messenger of Allah! There isn’t any one of us but that his own wealth is more beloved to him than the wealth of his inheritor!’ The Prophet replied, “Then certainly, his own wealth is only what he sent forward and the wealth of his inheritor is what he kept back.” (Bukhari)

As was mentioned in Hadith #12, the largest component of true wealth is what was spent in the path of Allah Most High. Shaykh Abdullah clarifies the wealth not sent forward to the Hereafter is left for the inheritors and will be of no benefit to the deceased. Therefore no one would choose the wealth of his inheritor (wealth left behind) over his own wealth (wealth saved).

Hadith Fifteen – Forwarded Wealth

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) related that, “When someone dies, the angels ask: what did they send forward?” And the people ask, ‘what did they leave behind?’ (Baihaqi)

Shaykh Abdullah encourages us to adopt the attitude of the angels and concentrate our efforts on the wealth sent forth.

Hadith Sixteen – Richness of The Soul

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Being rich is not having a lot of things, but rather being rich is the richness of the soul.”  (Bukhari and Muslim)

Shaykh Abdullah expounds on the concept of riches and affluence which means to be free of need from what others possess. When one examines their life, a rich person feels contentment in his soul and is not disturbed or envious concerning what he doesn’t have. 

Episode three of the Heart Softeners urges us to break our attachment to our wealth in our hearts and instead redirects us to spend it in doing good and on the things pleasing to Allah Most High. 

Utilizing wealth in this way will be forwarded to the Hereafter in our account and any unused wealth will be allocated to our inheritors, without us deriving any benefit. 

 

Watch the full episode:

 

 

About the Author

Shaykh Abdullah Misra was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, into a Hindu family of North Indian heritage. He became Muslim at the age of 18, graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Business Administration and worked briefly in marketing. He then went abroad with his wife to seek religious knowledge full-time, first in Tarim, then in the West Indies and finally in Amman, Jordan, where he focussed his traditional studies on the sciences of Sacred Law (fiqh), hadith, Islamic belief, tajwid, and sira.

 

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Raising a Believing Generation: Good Qualities are Inherited

Part Three: Inheriting Good Qualities

By Shaykh Amin Buxton

Children are a trust (amanah) that Allah most High has gifted us with. Raising believing children is a huge challenge that parents pray for. We are blessed to have such guidance from one of the most illuminated scholars of our time; Habib Umar bin Hafiz. These articles explore insights from Habib Umar bin Hafiz on how to raise the next generation of believers.

Habib Umar bin Hafiz is a master of the science of tarbiyah – nurturing of the human soul in the pursuit of perfection. Here, he turns his attention to tarbiyah as it applies to raising the next generation of strong believers.

Exploring Abdullah Nasih Ulwan’s work “Child Education in Islam”, he gives important insights and principles that any parent, carer or educator can make good use of. The journey starts with considerations to be taken before embarking on the journey of parenthood and even marriage itself. This is the third article of the series, by Shaykh Amin Buxton.

Choosing a Spouse with Good Qualities

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) likened people to minerals or base metals deposited in the earth which have different God-given properties and values. Some are like gold and some are like silver and some resemble other metals. This applies even if someone is not Muslim.

If they then become Muslim, the good qualities they possessed are enhanced on the condition that they gain knowledge (narrated by Bukhari and Muslim and others). This is something that should be kept in mind when choosing a spouse.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also pointed to a fact which has only recently been confirmed by genetics, namely that children inherit their parents’ moral, physical and intellectual characteristics. So when the selection of a spouse is based on noble birth, honour, and uprightness, children grow up with those same qualities.

When those qualities are combined with the best upbringing the child can attain the highest levels of good character and taqwa.

In the past, the choice of spouse was made after consulting elders and people of knowledge and wisdom while also seeking Allah’s guidance through istikharah. It wasn’t a case of “I met someone at work or at university”. The only guidance and direction they then seek is from their own desires.

Wisdom on Marriage and Second Marriages

Generally speaking, it is preferred to marry someone who has not been married before as this is more conducive to making the marriage last.

A person tends to form a strong and intimate bond with their first partner whereas if they have been married before they will always make comparisons between the first and second partner.  The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed to this in a number of narrations.

This is not, however, a hard and fast rule. There have been many fruitful marriages between couples who had been previously married. The greatest proof of this is in the marriages of the Messenger.

Sayyidah Aishah was the only one of his wives who had not been previously married and although she claimed superiority over her co-wives due to this fact, her high station did not stem from this.

Her station as the best of the Prophet’s wives after Sayyidah Khadijah was partly due to her intelligence and her understanding of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in all his different states (but especially in private) which she then conveyed and reported to those around her.

A sign of her honesty and integrity is that she narrates her own jealousy towards Khadijah (who she never met) and the Prophet’s undying love and loyalty to his first wife and supporter.

The Status of the Prophet’s Wives

The Prophet’s wives did not attain their lofty status as Mothers of the Believers through the qualities which they possessed or the deeds which they performed. There were great women from among the Muhajirun and the Ansar who rushed to accept Islam who were similar in that regard.

The Prophet’s wives attained their status through their closeness to the Prophet himself. As soon as he married them, they were crowned as mothers of every single believer and this is God’s selection: “God chooses whoever He pleases for Himself and guides towards Himself those who turn to Him” (Qur’an, 42:14).

The Prophet’s wives were partly chosen in order that they could convey affairs relating to women and family. Some of them had their own children from previous husbands and had no one to care for them: Umm Habibah’s husband had left Islam and Umm Salamah’s husband had been martyred. Other marriages were contracted in order to unite tribes and to spread Islam and to show its universality.

Jabir bin Abdillah – Choosing a Previously Married Spouse

The story of Jabir bin Abdillah is another example of choosing to marry a woman who has already been married. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was returning from an expedition and he asked Jabir if he had married a woman who had previously been married or not. Jabir told the Prophet that he had married the former.

The Prophet asked him why he didn’t marry a young fun-loving woman who had not previously been married. Jabir replied that his father had been martyred at the Battle of Uhud, leaving behind seven young daughters, so he chose a mature woman who could help to raise them.

Jabir very nobly gave the welfare and upbringing of his sisters’ priority over his own desire for a younger woman, and the Prophet confirmed that he had done the right thing.

 

About the Author

Shaykh Amin Buxton was born in London. He converted to Islam in 1999 and read Arabic and Islamic Studies at SOAS, University of London. He also studied the Islamic sciences in a traditional setting in both Syria and Yemen. He has edited and translated a number of books which include Imam al-Haddad’s ‘Beneficial Counsels’ and Umar al-Khatib’s ‘Prophetic Guidance’. Since 2017 he has resided with his family in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is involved in several educational and social initiatives including New to Islam Edinburgh and Rafah International. Shaykh Amin Buxton is producing a podcast for SeekersGuidance and is one of our esteemed internal scholars.

 

Introducing the House of Manuscripts in Istanbul (Dar al Makhtutat)

SeekersGuidance Launches Global Project to Build a Digital Library of 500,000 Islamic Manuscripts 

If our historical manuscripts were a kingdom, without a doubt, Istanbul would be its capital. Between the city’s two most famous historical sites, lies a small building, which will house the Dar al Makhtutat (House of Manuscripts) project.

From its inception, The House of Manuscripts will have seven important projects the two most important being (1) An Encyclopedia of Arabic Manuscripts and (2) The building of a digital library with over half a million manuscripts.

This spectacular effort will be led by manuscript experts Dr Faisal al-Hafian, Dr Idham Hanash and Dr Hasan Osman under the guidance and assistance of Dr Mahmud Masri.

Sultan Ahmet and a Promising Space

In the early 1600s, after a somber defeat, Sultan Ahmet I commissioned the building of the Sultan Ahmet complex in hopes to reassert the power of the Ottomans. Four-hundred years later, as we gaze upon its magnificence, one cannot help but reflect on the sources of strength of the Muslims of the past.

Was it a fleeting militaristic or economic might – or a spiritual strength that transcended buildings, borders, and even centuries?

Nestled between two of Istanbul’s jewels, the Sultan Ahmet mosque, and the Aya Sofia, lies a quaint madrasa building. A place that was commissioned to be the Dar al-Hadith. It was shut down in 1924 only to be reopened years later, under the guardianship of the Sultan Ahmet Vakf.

The Birth of the Project: Dar al Makhtutat (House of Manuscripts)

While restoring the beautiful spiritual structure of the madrasa, the leaders of the endowment (waqf) recognized the need to breathe life into it by hosting programs and projects that restore our rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. 

It came as no surprise when the president of the waqf welcomed, with open arms, the idea of hosting SeekersGuidance, Dar al Makhtutat and the Dar al Fuqaha projects at the madrasa. A partnership that transcends borders and the effects of which, we pray will transcend centuries.

SeekersGuidance and Dar al Makhtutat

The manuscript is the main pillar that supports the civilizational existence and cultural identity of a nation.

This ambitious project will work towards spreading the culture of Islamic manuscripts and teach its various sciences related to cataloging, classification, investigation, publishing, restoration, digitization, and aesthetic preservation.

In addition to these important objectives, the House of Manuscripts will also hold monthly seminars and annual conferences and produce a yearly publication in the science of manuscripts. The program will contribute to the revival of Islamic scholarship, by training scholars and academics to properly edit and publicize our great heritage of manuscripts.

A New Year Begins at the Dar Al Fuqaha Seminary

The Dar al Fuqaha Seminary program continues to build on the Specialization in Islamic Law program launched last year at the Fatih Sultan Mehmet University at the Mevlavihane in Istanbul.

A partnership which gave fruit to 660 lessons in various Islamic sciences in 2020.

The program, now housed at the Sultan Ahmet Madrasa connects leading mainstream, traditionally-trained senior scholars with students of Islamic knowledge from around the world, completely free.

The program is meant to revive the classical system of scholarly authorization (ijaza) in a meaningful way: students who complete a text, or level of study, or program with understanding and mastery will receive specific scholarly authorization (ijaza) in what they have completed.

New Beginnings – The Revival

Distinct and harmonious calls to prayer from the Aya Sofia and Sultan Ahmet reverberate through the madrasa building five times a day.

A spiritual energy emanates from the hearts and minds of a dedicated group of people, working together with one goal – to revive the Islamic Sciences. 

We pray this endeavor serves a noble purpose – to connect the creation to its Creator.

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Living Simply: The Slings and Arrows of Not-So-Outrageous Fortune

Part Ten: The Slings and Arrows of Not-So-Outrageous Fortune by Shaykh Farid Dingle

 

In order to get through life with ease, the early Muslims (salaf) focused on certain key ways of living that would make it spiritually and practically easier and more fruitful. They coined a term for the variegated rules that they lived by, a term that summarized the system of living for the Hereafter. They called it zuhd: detachment from this world. For the purpose of this article series, we have found the best match in terms of meaning to be asceticism. Other terms to describe zuhd are indifference towards worldly matters or simple or minimal living. This is the tenth article from a series of articles by SeekersGuidance scholar, Shaykh Farid Dingle. The course is due for release soon. 

Introduction to Asceticism (Part One)

Listening More, Talking Less (Part Two)

Entertaining Ourselves to Death (Part Three)

Being Extremely Moderate (Part Four)

Evaluation of the Self (Part Five)

Wronging Others in Word and Deed (Part Six)

Spreading Muck (Part Seven)

Active Minimalism (Part Eight)

The Joy of the Believer (Part Nine)

As a corollary of not hankering after the pleasure of this life, being patient with its “slings and arrows” is central to the theme of asceticism (zuhd). In this chapter, Imam Waki documents some of the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the early Muslims regarding the need, proper use, and benefit of patience.

Our Master Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Patience is to faith (iman) what the head is to the body.” 

This paramount role of patience in Islam cannot be overemphasized. Patience means having the humility to accept what Allah sends one, the perseverance to fulfill one’s religious obligations, and the grit to avoid the forbidden and sinful. Practically applying faith without patience would be hard to imagine indeed. For this reason, Imam Waki dedicated a whole chapter of his work on asceticism to patience.

The idea that faith shared a fraternal relationship with patience was ambient among the early Muslims. Abdullah ibn Masud said, “Patience is half of faith. Certainty is the whole of faith.” In keeping with this theme, Mujahid said, “We used to deem patience the best part of our life.”

Waki tells us that they used to say that patience only counted when the calamity first hit, and that it was needed in every kind of affliction and every battle. They used to say, 

“Whoever is content will have contentment [from Allah], and whoever is bitter will have bitterness.” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by a woman who was crying and gave her some words of admonition to which she paid no heed. Later she was told who it was that had spoken to her, so she came to him. He told her, “Patience only counts when the calamity first hits.” Mujahid also said the same thing.

This means that the test of feeling and expressing contentment with Allah’s destiny is judged at the very moment that it happens.

To react in a negative way that demonstrates rejection of the decree is sinful. One may of course be sad, shocked or worried, but one may not oppose Allah’s just rule. Obviously if one fails that test but then learns to accept what happened later on, there is still a reward for patience in general. But nevertheless, one has still missed the mark when the trial first befell one.

This doesn’t mean that people weren’t sad. Rather, they were sad for the loss, for example, of their loved ones, and they felt emotional and physical pain. Sadness, in fact, was very visible in them when someone would die—but not in a negative or depressing way. Their sadness was a product of the deep remorse they felt when looking at their own lives through the lens of death. Al-Amash said that people were so shaken by the remembrance of death that they used to attend a funeral and people would be so sad that they didn’t even know whom to give condolences to.

Without patience, life is unbearable. Without patience, one cannot keep on the straight and narrow path. Hasan al-Basri said, “By Allah, you’d better have a lot of patience, otherwise you’ll be destroyed!”

Patience is even more important than outward works of the limbs. Allah Most High says, “And seek support in patience and prayer!” (Qur’an, 2:45) and tells the believers to say, “Our Lord, pour on us patience and make our feet firm.” (Qur’an, 2:250).

In both cases, He mentions patience before other outward deeds, such as prayer or fighting in jihad. Patience is also given this superlative status in a hadith wherein the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Prayer is light (nur), charity is proof, and patience is a brilliant light (diya).”

That said, it should not be imagined that one should hope for difficulties in order to prove one’s patience. Rather, the example given to us by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is to ask for well-being: Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) visited one of the Muslims in order to inquire about his health because he had become very weak.

He asked him, “Did you supplicate for anything or ask Allah for anything in particular?” “Yes,” the man said, “I used to say, ‘O Allah, whatever you are going to punish me with in the next life, then hasten it for me in this life.’” Thereafter he said, 

“Glory be to Allah! You couldn’t possibly take it [the burden of His Punishment] upon yourself! Why did you not say, ‘O Allah, grant us good in this life and good in the next life, and save us from the torment of the Fire?’” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made this supplication for him and he became well. 

In view of the example set for us by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), one of the early Muslims used to say, “I’d prefer to be well and thank Allah than be tried and have to be patient.” So we ask Allah for all the good and ease in this life, while knowing that Allah will send us whatever is best for us. 

“Say: ‘Nothing will afflict us except that which Allah has prescribed for our benefit. He is our guardian.’ And upon Him alone let the believers rely.” (Qur’an, 9:51)

 

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