Crisis of Islam or Crisis of Humanity? It’s all a cause of concern – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Does the modern condition reflect a crisis of Islam or a crisis of Humanity? “For the Muslim its all a cause of concern,” says ustadh Amjad Tarsin. Allah has placed mankind as representatives of the Cosmos; this noble station calls us to responsibility. These experiences call us back to reflect on our relationship with the Owner and Maker of the Worlds.

In one of the talks given in Melbourne as part of the SeekersHub Australia Winter 2016 Tour, “Give Light: Prophetic Action to Heal Ourselves and Our World”,  Ustadh Amjad conducts a timely discussion surrounding the incessant crises affecting our modern experience.
Violence, turbulence, natural disasters and systematic tension and breakdowns…what is going on? Is this a crisis of Islam or a crisis of Humanity? In reality, through a spiritual perspective the concern is one and the same; the state of the world is a reflection of the state of Humanity. The relationship between corruption and the human condition is a reflection of what we have caused with our own hands. Allah has placed mankind as representatives of the Cosmos; this noble station calls us to responsibility. These experiences  call us back to reflect on our relationship with the Owner and Maker of this world.
What is our relationship with Allah? Our modern perspective calls us to agitation and critique of religion; Why are people almost allergic to Faith? We as people connected to faith, what is our response in trying to contribute to healing and rebuilding of communities?

What are we doing in our own lives to show how relevant and beautiful faith can be especially in a modern and caught off society?

The Prophet ﷺ said that faith itself is 70 odd branches, the statement of ultimate reality is the testimony of faith and the lowest branch of faith is removing  something harmful off of the road. As believers we see the small gestures in life as reflections of faith : whether a smile on the face, or picking something off of the street; these reflect acts of faith.

“Our faith is not just reflected on the prayer rug; but reflected in every aspect of our lives,” proclaims Ustadh Amjad.

Truth in Allah will call us back; either He will guide you with Beauty and inspiration, or you will be confronted with tribulations and difficulty in order to move things around and for human beings to redirect themselves to God. Corruption has been reflected in the land and the sea, really so that we may return back to Allah.

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Cover photo by Dave Lo Sapio.

One Surprising Thing that Will Save Us – Shaykh Faid Said

What will save us? We commit many sins. We make many mistakes. Every day, we think we are increasing in experience and wisdom, but in reality we get closer and closer to death and our own personal Reckoning.

In this inspiring talk, Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said tells us how our connection to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, is the very thing that will be our salvation in the end.

Quite simply, he says, there is no limit to how close we can be to Allah. He relates two inspiring stories of people who seemed simple and nondescript, but in reality were drawn close to Allah out of His limitless mercy.

They were Companions of the Prophet. One of them is extremely well known; his story is told in almost every Muslim household. Another one is less known; few people know the details about his life. Nonetheless, he was one of the ones who drew indescribably close to Allah, and for that reason, achieved a high rank.

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Disciplining the Soul, by Habib Umar bin Hafiz

The Ihya Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences) is considered to be one of the most widely-read, most reliable  books in the Islamic world, covering various topics from practice to spirituality. In this series, Habib Umar bin Hafiz taught the section “On Disciplining the Soul”, during a trip to Denmark.

We are grateful to Muwasala for these recordings

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Etiquette of the Seeker According to the Teachings of Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari

The engaging and eloquent Shaykh Babikr Ahmed Babikr offers this series on the etiquette of the seeker according to the teachings of Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari, a renowned Sudanese scholar – a must listen.

Who Was Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari?

The Etiquette of the Seeker: Sincerity

 

The Etiquette of the Seeker: Truthfulness

The Etiquette of the Seeker: God-wariness

The Etiquette of the Seeker: Obedience

The Etiquette of the Seeker: Reliance on God

Our sincere thanks to The Source, the organisers of the retreat where these lessons were delivered and nuruddinzangi for making them available.

[cwa id=’cta’]

Overwhelmed by Beauty and Truth, by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

“No knowledge without practice, no practice without knowledge.” From China to Portugal to Morocco, past Islamic civilizations were filled with great beauty and truth, soothing and nourishing the souls, recounts Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah.

However, modern catastrophic changes destroyed this beauty, by betrayals of the Prophetic message through violations of the truth. Watch Dr. Umar explain the correlation between beauty and truth, and how we can reconnect with our original purpose.

Photo by Mario Duran

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Inheriting our Legacy from the Prophet of Love ﷺ, by Shaykh Babikir Ahmad Babikir

Many of us display “good Muslim” image in public, while maintaining the “real me” in private. This indicates a lack of connection to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, as Shaykh Babikir Ahmad Babikir says.

In this inspiring talk, Shaykh Babikir reminds us of how we have decentralized the idea of love from religion, turning it leading us to lose out on our inheritance from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. We begin to perform our acts of worship as publicized rituals, fraying the connection between us and our Lord. Listen to him discuss how using our inheritance of love can heal us.

Want to learn more? Click here to enroll in SeekersHub’s Free online course about the life on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

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Our thanks to the Cambridge University Islamic Society for this recording. Cover photo by Amelie Lelarge.

Muslim Scholars: Are They Irrelevant? by Shaykh Salim Moeladawilah

In the increasing accessibility of the digital age, we can connect with many more of our fellow believers from all over the globe. We are exposed to a greater variety of cultures, practices, traditions, and opinions. This begs the question; is it really necessary to take our knowledge from Muslim scholars, if we can access the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ ourselves? Shaykh Salim Moeladawilah looks into it.

Imam Abu Dawud included in his celebrated collection of Hadith, a narration of a group of Companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ who were journeying together. In the course of their trip, one of the party was severely wounded on the head by a rock, exposing part of his cranium. The injured Companion later slept only to awake in a state of major ritual impurity (janāba). Upon consulting his colleagues about his ablution options and whether or not it would be permissible for him to perform dry ablution (tayammum), they replied that no, they didn’t believe that he would be permitted to perform dry ablution as he was physically able to wash with water. The injured Companion bathed and subsequently passed away when water entered into his brain cavity.

The Prophet ﷺ, upon this news reaching him, expressed anger at the Companions who gave their misguided advice saying, “They killed him, may God kill them.” (Shaykh Muhammad Shams-ul-Haq Azimabadi and other Hadith commentators have noted that this was not a prayer by the Prophetﷺ against the Companions, instead it was a very strongly worded warning).

Heﷺ went on to say, “If they didn’t know, why did they not ask? Verily the cure for ignorance is the question.”

 

Islam as Accredited Learning?

The concept of accredited learning and religious opinion is one founded in the very early years of Islam, as this Hadith demonstrates. The Prophetﷺ attributed the death of the Companion directly to those who gave him their invalid religious opinion, stating quite clearly, “They killed him.”

This Hadith has been heavily commented upon and quoted by scholars throughout the generations, and serves as a poignant example for us all about the importance of referring all matters, particularly matters of the religion, to those who possess knowledge in that area. It is a concept also spoken about in the Quran where God says, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know” [21: 7], meaning, as some Quran commentators have stated, to refer religious matters to people who possess knowledge of the religion.

Islam has always had a deep respect for scholarly credentials. This respect does not rely merely on individual intellectual merit, but it is built upon critiquing where and who one took their knowledge from; the authoritative chain of knowledge transmission (Sanad/Isnad). Imam Muslim in his compilation of rigorously authenticated Hadith quotes the Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin as saying, “Isnad was not asked about, but when the tribulations came, they said name for us your (Sanad).”

The imam is again quoted by Imam Muslim imparting the penetrating advice, “Verily this knowledge is the religion, so look at whom you take your religion from.” The imam and follower of the Companions Abdullah ibn Mubarak is also quoted in the introduction to Imam Muslim’s work, counselling, “Isnad is a [necessary] part of the religion, and were it not for Isnad, anyone would say as they please.”

 

We Are Accountable for Our Misinformation

These narrations and the quoted Quranic verse show us glimpses of the remarkable scholarly evaluation and critique that is present in the Muslim academic tradition. Knowledge, as such, is not merely what one arrives at through the use of their intellect, but the intellect is kept in check by our textual sources, being the Quran and Hadith. These sources are preserved, in form and in meaning, by scholars who spend a lifetime learning and living the message the Prophet Muhammadﷺ brought us in the 23 years of his prophethood, each generation adding to the vast ocean of scholarly work present before it. It is a remarkable testimony to the authenticity of Islam that we can trace a judicial opinion, understanding, or contention back through the generations to find its origin, often fourteen centuries ago in the time of the honoured Companions. 

In front of such an incredible academic tradition, carelessness in where we take our religious knowledge from would be foolish and irresponsible. The Prophetﷺ held the Companions in the Hadith narrated by Abu Dawud accountable for the misinformation they gave their colleague, leading to his death. This in extreme example of the worldly consequences of acting upon questionable knowledge, or no knowledge at all.

Today we find countless Muslims carrying on with their lives seemingly throwing caution to the wind with many matters of the religion. Doing so they are putting themselves and others in dangerous and precarious positions in both their worldly and religious affairs, either out of a lack of knowledge or due to misunderstanding something they do know. There are examples of people combining prayers to get an early nights sleep and others incorrectly calculating and distributing their zakat. Others still enter unlawful financial transactions due to not learning about the rules of trade in Islam, and there are even some who in Ramadan continue to eat until the end of the Fajr (dawn prayer) call to prayer, when the time for fasting enters at the beginning of the time for Fajr, ostensibly having developed their own judicial ruling in the matter. The theme throughout these cases is the ignorance and carelessness we see therein, an ignorance which could easily be remedied by simply posing a question to the right person. As the Prophetﷺ said in the aforementioned Hadith, “Verily the cure for ignorance is the question,” and in another Hadith he states, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every male and female Muslim.”

Guidance is Getting Easier and Easier to Find…

For the Muslim who sincerely wants to know, guidance and answers are getting easier and easier to find. The excuses for ignorance in a time where verifiable scholarship can be accessed are few indeed, and when we prioritize seeking worldly knowledge with our resources over seeking religious knowledge, we are putting ourselves in a compromising situation at best in matters of our religion and consequently our eternal abode. It would be quite telling of our priorities if, when it came to matters of our bodily health, we wouldn’t settle for anything but qualified medical practitioners graduated from recognized, reputable institutes and functioning under scrutinizing federal bodies, but when it came to matters of our religion we lent an ear to and accepted the words of those who may have no credentials to their name at all. It would be even more telling and showing of our disconnect with and disrespect for authentic scholarship if we ourselves were prone to dispense these answers when we weren’t fully knowing of them.

The discerning Muslim should value matters of their religion over their worldly matters. Death may be the worst one may expect with the ruin of their bodily health, however ruin in matters of the faith can lead to everlasting ruin in the hereafter. It is pertinent that we maintain a God-fearing attitude when we take religious opinions or listen to counsel. God says in chapter al-Fatir in the Quran, It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear God [35:28], being that true knowledge imparts God-fearing and where such fear is absent, so is knowledge. This then is our metre by which we can judge both which opinions to take and what answers to give, and god-fearing would entail that should we not know, we not speak. As Imam Abu Hanifa stated, Who speaks about knowledge and thinks God won’t ask him, ‘How did you give religious opinion in God’s religion?’ has verily been lax with his self and his religion,” and as Imam Shafi’i is quoted, “Those have spoken about [religious] knowledge that, would they have kept their silence about some of which they spoke, silence would have been better and safer for them.”

Neither wanton opining nor unfounded criticism fit into Islam’s understanding of knowledge, nor does careless following. It is an understanding which lead to the famous line of poetry by Shaykh Abu Hasan al-Hussar, “Not every difference of opinion counts, only differences which are worthy of consideration.” In a Hadith the Prophet Muhammad  ﷺ states, “The believer is intelligent, discerning, and careful.”

Is it not then upon us, as followers of our Prophet, to embody these traits and exercise the utmost caution with matters of the religion? The noble Companion and second caliph in Islam, Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khatab is famously quoted describing himself, “I am not one who cheats, nor do I let myself be cheated.”

Caution in matters of the religion is of this wariness mentioned by Umar. Caution and wisdom dictate we refer matters to those who know better than us. To take advice directly from the Quran, “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.”

Tired of being confused by the unqualified and misinformed? SeekersHub Answers Service provides qualified and relevant answers on a wide variety of topics.

 

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Photos by Dennis Jarvis.

On What Ultimately Matters: Muhammad Ali, My Grandfather and Ramadan

Nearly a month ago, my grandfather passed away in a tragic car accident aged 93 along with my father. Today, we lost the great Muslim sports icon and activist, Muhammad Ali, whose charisma, skill, and attitude mesmerized the world for decades. Each of these deaths and the reactions they generated have taught me an important lesson on what ultimately matters, writes Ustadh Salman Younus.

My grandfather was in a number of ways my polar opposite. He was a leading member of the Jamaate Islami being one of the main heads (rukn) of the group in Faisalabad. As a child, I saw letters that Mawlana Mawdudi had written to him hanging on the walls of our home. I heard stories about how he went into hiding during the 1970’s, how committed he was to the vision of the party, and how he sacrificed much of his time in service of it. Indeed, many of the obituaries I read of him in the newspapers identified him as an “elder of the JI.”
My grandfather was not a madhhab-following, Ash’ari abiding, tasawwuf-oriented individual. In contrast, the entirety of my scholarly training made me precisely this. But none of this actually mattered in the end. Absolutely none of it. As I knelt next to him pouring water over his body, the only thing my heart recalled was his constant tahajjud, his teaching me prayer and basic religious practices, and people’s description of him as someone who would go out with his pockets full and return with them empty (due to his charitable nature).
God continued to give him the tawfiq to worship till his last day. With severe memory loss that rendered him unable to even recognize some of his children, my grandfather did not forget tarawih, nor Ramadan, nor going to the mosque. He continued doing this till his final hour. This is what I remember about him and this is what ultimately matters.
Muhammad Ali
The way we remember Muhammad Ali is the same. None of the reactions care about what school he followed. None of them bother with whether he was a Sufi or a Salafi or belonged to this group or that. None of them care how knowledgable he was of the subtleties of Islamic law, how complex his understanding was of theology, whether he celebrated the mawlid, or accepted tawassul, or was slightly progressive or conservative.
All we remember him for are the few monumental acts of good that he did. His speaking truth openly, his charity, the way he represented Islam, his activism during the civil rights era, his courage, and his faith.
Death has a way of reorienting us to what ultimately is of consequence. The nuances of Islamic law did not help me when my father and grandfather died, nor did my Ash’arism, nor did the debates I have had on a hundred and one issues regarding Sufism. My heart only found solace in reciting the Quran, remembering God (dhikr), prayer, charity, and a few other basic acts of worship. My faith at that moment became like that of the old woman in the village.
Ramadan is a time when we reorient ourselves to this perspective and worldview. When teachers cease their classes, when people step away from social media debates and argumentation, when nothing matters but the few prostrations we perform at night, the few dollars we give in charity, and the few words we utter in need of God. This is all that we wish to present to our Lord after our death. This is ultimately what matters. Reflect on that.
Ustadh Salman Younas

Is Islam More About Peace Or Mercy? Ustadh Ibrahim J. Long

If you had to summarize Islam with one word, what word would that be, asks Ustadh Ibrahim J. Long. What word can express for you the beauty of Islam and the comfort it brings to your heart?

For many, perhaps, that word is peace (salam). This is due, in part, to the peace in our heart that we are seeking as Muslims, but also to the fact that both islam and salam share the same Arabic tri-literal root (S-L-M).
For those who don’t know, most classical Arabic words are composed of three root letters from which we derive the primary meaning of the word. Because the words Islam and Salam are composed of a seen (S), lam (L) and meem (M), many draw a linguistic connection and say: “Islam is peace,” or “Islam means peace.” For this reason, peace (salam) may have been your chosen word. But, despite these reasons, peace is not the quality I find most striking about our faith.
When I read the ayat of the Glorious Qur’an something else stands out to me. It is something I also see when I read about the life of our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions. It is something I also think about when I hear stories about the righteous women and men of Islam and when I interact with pious men and women within our community. This quality is mercy (rahma).
Consider when a student of hadith first sits with his or her teacher. It is customary that the first hadith they hear from the lips of their teacher, the first hadith that connects him or her through their teacher to an unbroken chain of narrators going back to the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) is:

The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said:
“The merciful are shown mercy by the Most Merciful (al-Rahman). Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from He that is above the heavens.”
[al-Tirmidhi]

My brother or sister, our Lord is the Most Merciful (al-Rahman) and His Messenger is the Messenger of Mercy (al-Rasul al-Rahma) and he has not been sent except as a mercy to all of the worlds.

But, how merciful are you and I?

If someone were to ask a friend about you, would they describe you as a merciful, understanding, or compassionate person?
What if someone were to ask your parents, your spouse, your children, your family, your neighbors, your class-mates, or your co-workers? Would they each describe you as a merciful person?
One of the miracles of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that we do not speak enough about is his constant state of mercy even when he experienced difficulty. Whereas many among us may attribute our poor behavior, lack of patience, or lack of mercy with each other to our “having a bad day,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) was always merciful even under the most dire of circumstances.

Even when mocked and stoned

After having been kicked out of Ta’if, the incident he later described as having been the most difficult experience he ever faced, and after having been mocked and had stones thrown at him so much that he bled, he was given permission by God to ask His angels to destroy the city. But, this was not the way of our Messenger (peace be upon him); he always had hope and mercy in his heart for others. Instead of being vengeful, he maintained hope that a generation of believers would arise from the very city that rejected him. And, his hope was not in vain; there has been a generation after generation of believers since.
Consider, as well, that during the Battle of Uhud a group of archers disobeyed the direct orders of the Prophet (peace be upon him); a mistake that contributed to the death of several Companions and the physical injury of the Prophet himself.

What would you have done?

How you would you feel in this situation if you had been in the Prophet’s place? How would you feel if you were risking your life along with your closest companions and family members and, just when it appears that you are victorious and that the battle is nearly over, the tables are quickly turned due to the actions of a few who disobeyed your instructions? How would you feel?  What would you do?
Consider my brother or sister that Allah choose to reveal to our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) at this difficult time the following ayah:
“Out of mercy from God, you were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you—so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him.” (Q3:159)
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was gentle with them and was commanded by the Most Merciful to pardon them and even ask forgiveness for them. And, on top on this, Allah commanded the Prophet to even consult them regarding their advice on matters. This is an amazing request that only a true Messenger of the Most Merciful could have fulfilled. Not only did he forgive them, but he still requested and took into consideration their opinion and expertise in matters despite their past mistakes!

A greater degree of mercy

Now, let us be honest with ourselves. Forgiving others can be very difficult; especially if we have experienced personal, emotional, or physical injury. Though, I am sure there are those of us who have a greater potential to forgive, or to at least try. But, to even go beyond that and to seek advice from someone who might have caused us pain; that takes an even greater degree of mercy.
The Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) always kept in mind the bigger picture: that he was guiding a people who had not been guided before. They were going to make mistakes, but through mercy they could be guided to that which is best for them and the Ummah.

Mercy toward our young and old

My brother or sister, these are not the actions of a normal man. His merciful character is a miracle and example for us to strive to follow. But how are you and I in our dealings with others? And, in particular, how merciful are we with our youth who are also in need of guidance and who are also going to make mistakes? If our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) was gentle with his Companions “who would have dispersed and left” Islam if the Prophet had been “harsh, or hard-hearted” (Q3:159), how can we expect anything more from our youth?
My brother or sister, you and I are undoubtedly familiar with the hadith of our Messenger (peace be upon him) stating that, “He is not one of us who does not show respect to our elders” [Ahmad; al-Tirmidhi]. And, of course, our elders are deserving of our respect. But I would like to draw attention to a lesser quoted statement of our Beloved Messenger (peace be upon him), “He is not one of us who does not have mercy upon our young” [Ahmad; al-Tirmidhi].
As our elders have a right to our respect, especially given their age, wisdom and life-experiences, our youth also have a right to our mercy given their young age, still developing understanding of the world, and their limited life-experiences.

“Speak to people in a way they will understand”

With this in mind, we need to also consider the advice of ‘Ali (May God be well-pleased with him) who said, “Speak to people in a way they will understand.” To which we may further add: Speak to people in a way that brings about that which is good for them. My brother or sister, take into consideration your words, the way you say it, and even your body language when you are seeking to guide our youth. Are you expressing mercy and concern?
If we truly want to help our youth we need to show wisdom and mercy. And, this means that when we ask them to listen to us, we, too, need to listen to better understand them. For, how can we speak in a way they understand if we do not first understand where they are coming from?
My brother or sister, what if no one is there to listen to our youth? What if our young men and women never felt like they could confide in their parents the trouble and pressures that they were facing in life? Who is it that could help them?

The wrong tools, for the wrong time

Some of you may be thinking that perhaps the only way to care for our youth and our children is to be tough on them. I don’t deny that sometimes our youth need clearer guidance and boundaries. But, we cannot be like poor carpenters who only carry a hammer; using it to fix all the problems we see.
Every problem is not a nail and every solution is not a hammer. Sometimes it is, but the default in our religion is mercy and so even when the hammer is wielded, it is used in a way that brings stability to a structure, not in a way that causes it to weaken and crumble.
Take a moment, my brother or sister, and reflect upon the mercy you have been the recipients of in your own life. Perhaps you have been forgiven by someone you love who you hurt. Or, perhaps you have received assistance from others when you really needed it. Or, perhaps you have had someone in your life who you could always call on. Haven’t these events made you want to be a better person like those who have helped you? Doesn’t the mercy of others push you and I to want to be better people?

He was not sent to curse and neither were we

One day one of the Prophet’s companions was going through an immense difficulty and asked our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) to curse those who were making things difficult for him. In response the beloved Messenger of God said, “I have not been sent to curse people; I have been sent as mercy to mankind’” [Muslim; al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad].
As followers of the Beloved (peace be upon him), how can we be a mercy to the world? As followers of the Messenger of Mercy (peace be upon him), how can we show mercy to our youth?
Ibrahim J. Long is a Muslim chaplain and educator. You can follow his blog at ibrahimlong.org

Photos by Michał Huniewicz and Dynamosquito

Why Your Soul Craves The Love Of Allah – Habib Hussein al-Saqqaf

Habib Hussein al-Saqqaf was invited to the SeekersRetreat 2016 but was unable to come. Instead, he prepared this beautiful video for the participants and now, we are releasing his gift to the public. Even if you weren’t able to come to the retreat, inshaAllah you will gain much benefit from his talk.

Our Origins and Love

Habib Hussein begins by talking about the various components of human beings; the high elements and the low elements. The high element is from the spirit, and yearns for permanent, lasting things. However, the lower element is the body, which runs after temporary things.

He goes on to say that we need to reconsider our idea of love. We may love people, groups, or things that give us a sort of happiness, even though they give us little or no benefit. On the other hand, Allah is our maker and Sustainer, and He gives us everything we need.

What Allah wants from us is not for us to pray with a sense of obligation, but a sense of true love and intimacy with Him.

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Photo by Ken Tsang.