Tasawwuf and Human Potentiality

Ustadh Salman Younas discusses the concept of tasawwuf, its place in the Islamic sciences, and its role in growing human potential.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when a Muslim hears the word tasawwuf? Often, a person’s thoughts are directed to the institution of the spiritual path (tariqa) and the figure of a spiritual guide (murshid) to whom allegiance is pledged by an aspiring spiritual novice. Other times, this word evokes exotic and mysterious imagery: saints performing miracles; masses congregated around graves; dervishes engaged in ecstatic sessions of spiritual audition.

In the minds of many, these constitute essential elements and practices in the world of tasawwuf, which some embrace as valid expressions of the Islamic faith, while others view it in less favorable terms. This conflation of tasawwuf with one or another of its institutional or cultural expressions is not particularly surprising, but the reality of tasawwuf is far greater and much more profound than any of this.

Focusing on these aspects tends to distract people from a science whose ultimate aim and vision is not merely something Muslims should recognize and embrace, but one they would readily accept regardless of their particular attitudes towards the institutional, religious, and cultural aspects mentioned above. This vision is one centered around identifying and actualizing human potential in light of the worldview of tawhid, the most fundamental principle of Islamic thought.

Between the Animalistic and Angelic

Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 298/910) defined tasawwuf as “a battle in which there is no peace.” The battle that all humans face stems from their essential nature: dirt and dust combined with a heavenly spirit. The Qur’an describes this basic human composition in the following verse:

Who gave everything its perfect form. He first created man from clay then made his descendants from an extract of insignificant fluid. Then He fashioned him, and He breathed into him of His spirit (ruh). He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts; how seldom you are grateful. (Sura al Sajda 32:7-9)

The human being is a paradox. He is insignificant and lowly when viewed from the perspective of the basic materials from which he is created, such as dirt, dust, and sperm. These materials do not reflect life. They are dark and inanimate. The spirit, on the other hand, is life endowing. It is lofty and angelic as seen in its ascription to God in the Qur’an: “Say, ‘The spirit is of the command of my Lord.’” (Sura al Isra 17:85)

For this reason, Imam al-Ghazali describes the human self (nafs) as a divine matter (min al-umur al-ilahiya) that gathers within itself indescribable mysteries and secrets regarding God. In other words, the human self serves as the vehicle through which one can know the divine on an experiential level, a level above and beyond mere acknowledgment with the lips or abstract ideas in the mind: “We shall show them our signs on the horizons and in their selves.” (Sura al Fussilat 41:53)

Human beings are constantly engaged in this struggle to see if the self assumes the characteristics of the spirit – heavenly, luminescent, and connected to God – or that of dead earth. The spirit pulls man upwards towards light; his earthly body pulls him downwards towards darkness. When the spirit dominates through reflection, submission, and good works, a person ascends to the level of angels; otherwise, he is worse than animals: “They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray.” (Sura al A‘raf 7:179)

The Higher Spiritual Stations

In discussing the positive transformation of the self and its spiritual ascent, the scholars of tasawwuf often refer to ‘stations’ or ‘states of being’. These terms are often incorrectly associated with notions of saintly hierarchies or miraculous gifts, but they actually refer to something more profound: the condition of the heart as a result of righteous action, acquiring praiseworthy character traits, and shunning that which is displeasing to God. The move from actions to states is vividly illustrated in the following hadith qudsi:

My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him. (Bukhari)

The first part of this tradition concerns actions. The obligatory duties mentioned in this tradition are to be understood as including the actions of the mind, limbs, and the heart. These correspond respectively to sound belief, worship, and keeping away from inner diseases of the heart, such as envy, hatred, rancor, and the like. The supererogatory extends beyond this and entails going above and beyond base requirements in order to further nourish and purify the self. Fulfilling that which is obligatory and supererogatory results in the acquisition of a particular state of being where the will of the servant aligns with the will of God in a manner where the servant begins to see and interact with the world around him through the lens of pure tawhid.

The spiritual stations that the great Sufi scholars identify on this transformative journey have little or nothing to with miracles in the popular sense. In al-Risala, Imam al-Qushayri dedicates the final third of his text to detailing these spiritual stations: repentance (tawba), God consciousness (taqwa), renunciation (zuhd), silence (samt), fear (khawf), hope (raja’), contentment (qanaʿa), trust in God (tawakkul), gratitude (shukr), patience (sabr), and sincerity (ikhlas), among several others.

These stations do not merely manifest as the righteous actions of the limbs, though such actions are necessary for their emergence and continued presence, but they pertain to one’s innermost being and the heart’s becoming firmly established with a particular quality. A person who fully actualizes the station of repentance, for example, never fails to manifest it in mind, body, and heart at every moment it is required.

The highest degree of each of these stations returns to beholding God (mushahada) with the heart. In Ihya Ulum al-Din, Imam al-Ghazali routinely explains these praiseworthy traits by listing their various stages and degrees. To give an example, the lowest degree of tawhid is to declare with the tongue and heart that there is only one God. This is the tawhid that is required of anyone to be deemed a Muslim. It is the tawhid that we comprehend with our intellects and whose details we study in creedal texts. Then there is the highest stage of tawhid where only God is witnessed and nothing besides Him.

This level of tawhid escapes description, but the words of Imam al-Junayd indicate its reality: “It is a reality in which all outward traces (rusum) disappear and all knowledge passes away, while God Most High remains as He always has been.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala) Meanwhile, Abu Saʿid al-Kharraz said that tawhid is that “any awareness of mundane things vanishes from the heart and one is left alone with God.” (Ibid.)

Indeed, the reality of mushahada is affirmed in the primary texts and by leading traditional scholarly authorities. This concept finds its basis in the saying of Prophet (blessings upon him), “Ihsan is to worship God as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, know that He sees you.” (Bukhari) Explaining this, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali states:

Some of the Salaf said that whosoever acts for God while witnessing Him (mushahada) is a gnostic (ʿarif), and whosoever does so while being aware that God is witnessing him is a sincere individual (mukhlis).

These are two stations. The first is the station of vigilance (muraqaba). It is for the servant to bring to mind God’s closeness to him and His knowledge of him. So, he imagines himself between the hands of God, and, therefore, is aware of Him in his movements and state of rest, and in private and public. This is the station of the sincere muraqib, and it is the lowest station of ihsan.

The second station is the servant witnessing this with his heart and so he is akin to someone who sees and beholds God. This is the highest station of ihsan, and it is the station of those who possess knowledge of God directly and experientially (ʿarifin). (Fath al-Bari)

It is worth pondering over the words of Ibn Rajab and realizing what he is stating. The absolute lowest station of ihsan is to have a constant awareness that God is witnessing one. Imagine then the highest station of ihsan. One is reminded of the words of Imam al-Junayd regarding those who have arrived at the utmost realization of tawhid: “They have arrived at bewilderment.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

The Path of the Prophet

This station of mushahada, or perpetually beholding the Divine, was the state of the Prophet (blessings upon him) who embodied it in its purest, loftiest, and most perfected form. In a report related by ʿA’isha, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was said to have remembered God in all of his moments. (Bukhari, Muslim) This ‘remembrance’ was not the typical verbal utterances often associated with the term dhikr for the moments of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, covered the spectrum of everyday human action, such as eating, sleeping, worship, spending time with his family, speaking to his companions, and so forth. Rather, his remembrance of God related to his heart and soul being connected to God and constantly beholding Him.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was therefore never engaged in a mundane action. His moments were never disconnected from God. Every moment of his manifested the highest form of repentance, God consciousness, renunciation, contentment, trust in God, gratitude, patience, sincerity, divine oneness, etc. His self and inner nature was pure spirit. Qadi Iyad describes this in al-Shifa’:

Their outward form, bodies, and structure are characterized by the qualities of men as far as non-essential matters are concerned, such as illnesses, death, and passing away, and human traits. However, their spirits and inward parts have the highest possible human qualities, associated with the Highest Assembly, which are similar to angelic attributes, free of any possibility of alteration or evil. Generally speaking, the incapacity and weakness connected with being human cannot be associated with them… Thus, they have the aspect of men as far as their bodies and outward parts are concerned, and that of angels in respect to their spirits and inward parts.

The way of tasawwuf involves following the Prophet (blessings upon him) in all of his outward actions and inward states. Though non-prophetic figures can never attain the rank of a prophet, they do possess the ability to ascend to a higher, more angelic plane where the whisperings of the lower-self abandons one and thoughts about anything else but God never enter the heart: “As for those elect adherents of the Prophet’s sunna, blessings and peace be upon him, who kept every breath they made with God and who protected their hearts from the onslaughts of forgetfulness, they were distinguished by the name ‘Sufism.’” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

The Modern World

If Islam is orienting the mind, body, and soul towards a single center that constitutes the truly real and the cause of all things, the modern world is increasingly characterized by the opposite. It lacks a single center, a single purpose, and a single orientation. This does not mean that there is no goal, orientation, or meaning as people do not exist in a complete vacuum, but that the object of ‘worship’ in modernity is a plethora of mini-‘gods’ that are either impossible to subordinate to a supreme God or they are subordinated to one that is the product of ideologies. William Chittick defines some of these modern objects of worship:

To mention some of the more important ones would be to list the defining myths and ideologies of our times – freedom, equality, evolution, progress, science, medicine, nationalism, socialism, democracy, Marxism. (Science of the Cosmos)

Modern thought is, therefore, antithetical to tawhid, the major pillar of Islamic thought that defines the way things really are. In place of the unity, coherence, balance, and order established by tawhid, the result of the modern world’s stepping away from this transcendent principle is incomprehension, chaos, disorder, and disintegration on an individual, social, and cosmic level. Tawhid demands that humans see the world as interrelated and interconnected, all arising from, subsisting through, and returning to God.

Even an act as fundamental as the daily prayer involves a connection not simply between God and humans, but between humans and the entire created order who together turn their focus to the One: “Do you not see that all those who are in the heavens and earth praise God, as do the birds with wings outstretched? Each knows its own way of prayer and glorification.” (http://tanzil.net/#24:41) In contrast, the modern world increasingly sees the world around it as disconnected and lacking any unifying principle or source in the Real, which results in universal disharmony.

The importance of tasawwuf in the modern world cannot be understated. Muslims may recognize God through the mind or express their submission through particular actions, but the fundamental reorientation that humans require is one that relates to their hearts and actualizing the spirit that God has bestowed them with through adherence to His commands. The core of tasawwuf returns to tawhid, which is not merely creedal points rationalized in the mind or movements of the limbs, but a state of being that follows emerges from these that fundamentally alters the manner in which one understands and interacts with the divine, oneself, and the cosmic realm. In other words, tawhid is not something one thinks or writes about but a reality that is experienced and lived.

As Abu al-Tayyib al-Maraghi said, “The intellect demonstrates and gnosis witnesses and experiences [God] directly.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala) It is only through attaining the high stations aspired to in the path of tasawwuf that people can harmonize their minds, actions, and being with God and grasp the true nature of things around them by viewing them through the prism of their transcendent source. This brings about good in both the worldly and next-worldly contexts.

While discussions on tasawwuf often revolve around peripheral points in popular discourse, such as particular Sufi practices, Muslims should not lose sight of the essential aims of this science and its grounding in a deeply profound understanding of Islam’s fundamental pillar of God’s oneness that serves to ameliorate and make wholesome the condition of the individual, society, and the entire cosmic order. People should recognize that history and the scholarly tradition attests to individuals having attained these high levels of realization, figures such as Sari al-Saqati, Imam al-Junayd, Abu Sulayman al-Darani, Imam al-Qushayri, Imam al-Ghazali, Ibn Ata’illah, and numerous others who strived to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet blessings and peace be upon him.

Then, at the very least, one may reflect on where one stands in relation to these figures in terms of understanding, recognizing, and submitting to God. Tasawwuf is ultimately about God, but it also lays out a vision of limitless human potential. Every person should be cognizant of this if only to raise their hands to the sky in order to seek forgiveness from God for not truly realizing who He is and for not worshiping Him in the manner He truly deserves.


 

The Hamlet in Ruins: Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an II

Shaykh Jamir Meah discusses the parable of the Hamlet in Ruins – a profound, existential parable in the Qur’an on death and resurrection.

One of the most striking parables in the Qur’an is what is sometimes referred to as the Hamlet in Ruins. This simple yet profound parable touches upon the essential theological and existential questions that man, in every place and time, necessarily reflects upon.

The parable is found in Sura al Baqara 2:259:

Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins. He wondered, ‘How could Allah bring this back to life after its destruction?’ So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years then brought him back to life. Allah asked, ‘How long have you remained [in this state]?’ He replied, ‘Perhaps a day or part of a day.’ Allah said, ‘No! You have remained here for a hundred years! Just look at your food and drink — they have not spoiled. [But now] look at [the remains of] your donkey! And [so] We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones [of the donkey], how We bring them together then clothe them with flesh!’ When this was made clear to him, he declared, ‘[Now] I know that Allah is Able to do all things.’

Commentary

Believer or skeptic, man is never more certain of anything more than the fact that he will one day die, and for man, earthly life and demise are only understood within the framework of time.

Time is a created concept only understood by change, such as change in motion. Because all creation is subject to change, the passing of time reveals the true limited nature of all temporal creation, whose state is in constant fluctuation, waxing and waning, blossoming and withering, living and dying.

Just as the cycles of all things in the created universe are constrained by time and change, all created things are limited in nature and ability.

This is in complete contrast to the Eternal Being, who is free from the notion of time and space, change and limitations. He is the Possessor of absolute perfection, whose Knowledge and Omnipotence are boundless, incomparable, and inconceivable.

Such was the firm belief of the pre-Islamic monotheist (Hanif), Quss bin Sa’idah, when he addressed the people at the fair at Ukadh,

Whoever lives dies,
Whoever dies perishes,
And whatever is bound to happen, will happen …
Everything is mortal,
Immortality lies only with the Almighty,
Who is One, without partners, without a like …
There is many a passage to enter the river of death,
But alas, no way out!

– Al Bayhaqi, Dala’il al Nubuwwa

The Parable

The hamlet in the parable is said to be Jerusalem, which was laid siege to in 589 BC and raised to the ground by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The passerby on his donkey, is said by some exegesis, to be Uzayr, one of the righteous slaves of Allah, associated with the biblical Ezra.

Looking at the absolute destruction of what was once a populated and thriving town, Uzayr ponders, “How will Allah bring this town back to life after such utter ruin and annihilation?”

Little did the passerby expect that the answer to his innocent question would come in extraordinary fashion, that would become a parable for all mankind (“We will make you a sign for the people”), for God caused the man to die for a hundred years!

God then spoke to Uzayr through the intermediary of an angel, who asks him, “How long did you stay in that [death] state?” Uzayr replied, “A day,” and then he looked around and noticed that the sun was still out and had not set, so he added assumingly, “Or part of a day.” It was then made known to him that, “No, rather you remained in such a state for a hundred years!”

Now, if you and I woke up from what we thought was a short nap at noon, and our spouse, husband, or child, walked in and we asked them “What time is it?,” and they told us that it was Maghrib time, we’d get a shock! Assuming we don’t have a clock in the room, what would be the first thing we would do to ascertain if what they are saying is really true, or whether an impish trick was being played on us? We would look around.

The reason why our first reaction would be to look around is to observe any changes that may have taken place since we were last awake (or in Uzayr’s case, since he was last alive).

If we find that the things around us are roughly the same, or slightly changed as we would have expected them to be in a short passage of time, then we confidently assume that not much time has passed. So if we were to see the sun still high in the sky and the sky bright blue, and hear the normal sounds of movement in the street etc. we would assume that very little time had passed and we were only asleep for a short time. This is what Uzayr presumed when he looked at the sun.

The angel then turns his attention to his food, “Look at your food and your drink — they have not spoiled.” Uzayr turns to his food, which he had had with him on his prior travel, which is said to have been grapes, figs, and juice, and he notices they too are unchanged and fresh, confirming his initial assumption that only a short amount of time must have passed.

But then he is told, “Look at your donkey.” Uzayr turns to where his donkey once stood, but unlike his food and his own self, the donkey was nothing but old bones. The 100 earthly years had passed on the donkey as normal.

At this juncture, a most wondrous miracle takes place; “And look at the bones” says the angel, “How We raise them and then We cover them with flesh.” Before Uzayr’s very eyes, the decayed bones of the beast are gathered together and assembled in perfect order, then the skeletal frame is connected and covered with cartilage, tendons, and flesh, organs developed, nerve pathways formed, the raw body clothed with skin, and then hair is grown, the heart pumps, the blood flows, the eyes move, and thus life is bought back to it, just as it was before death!

The closest you and I would get to observing such a miracle is through CGI animation on a computer screen. One can only imagine the sight of this taking place in real life, before one’s very own eyes.

Lessons

1. To Give Life and Cause Death Belongs to Allah Alone

The first lesson to take away from the parable is that the power to give and take life, in its true sense, is in Allah’s hands alone.

This is made clearer by the related verses preceding the parable, which relates the dispute between Sayyidna Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and, according to most Qur’anic exegesis, Nimrod, the Babylonian King.

Contesting the rightful claim to Lordship, Sayyidna Ibrahim says to Nimrod, “My Lord is the One Who has power to give life and cause death.”

According to some commentators, it is said that Nimrod’s response to this was to order two men be bought forth. He then ordered the execution of one of the men and spared the life of the other, and then fallaciously asserted, “I too have the power to give life and cause death,” knowing full well the meaning that Sayyidna Ibrahim had meant by giving life and causing death.

Seeing Nimrod’s folly and rebelliousness, Sayyidna Ibrahim throws down the gauntlet, with a marvelous challenge to silence the king once and for all, “Allah causes the sun to rise from the east. So make it rise from the west.”

There was no response this time from the king, for the Quran tells us, “The disbeliever was dumbstruck.” One can only imagine the embarrassing predicament Nimrod was in at this point, especially in front of his entire court.

Whether it is faith in deities besides Allah, belief in our own intellect and power, faith in science, in nature; none of these possess the power to give life and cause death in its true meaning, in the same way that none of these things have any power over the government of the universe.

2. Believe in the Resurrection

The narrative of Sayyidna Ibrahim and Nimrod establishes that only Allah Most High has the power to give life and cause death. This is then followed by our parable, which takes this understanding and builds up on it, introducing the concept of the Resurrection; giving life again after death.

The resurrection is a central tenant of Islam, as it is in all Abrahamic religions. The idea of a resurrection is a mighty “leap of faith” for those who claim to be atheists, given that they have trouble believing God gives life once, let alone twice!

Naturalists, who believe that only natural laws govern the universe, and the majority of philosophers of both East and West, who maintain that everything in existence is built on a cause and effect relationship, necessarily deny the concept of a Resurrection.

Such theories hold that time is infinite and forever moves on, never to be interrupted. Since resurrection is bringing to life that which is dead and decomposed, this is impossible, for what natural force or law of nature brings rotten remains to life? Or what cause would bring the effect of decaying bones gathering, assembling, bodies forming, and breathing back into existence?

These theories are in direct contradiction to the creed of the believer, who believes not in the power of nature, nor cause and effect, but in the Omnipotent Power of the Sovereign Creator, who wills whatever He wishes, and does whatever He wills.

He is the Architect of the laws of nature and the causal relationships in His creation. Should He so wish, He could turn these laws and relationships on their heads, or do away with them all together, a fact which will be made terrifyingly clear to those who live to see it, by one of the greatest apocalyptic signs; the rising of the sun from the West (which if we recall, is the very challenge Sayyidna Ibrahim presented to Nimrod).

Uzayr was of course not a disbeliever or skeptic, far from it, he was among the most righteous. However, the utter obliteration of the town he saw caused him to wonder how revivification was possible. Through the event, God made Uzayr “a sign for the people” – a reminder of the coming Resurrection and that Allah Most High is capable of all things.

On a subtler note, one may view the Resurrection as a symbol of hope. Terrifying as the Resurrection will be, it is also the Day when true justice will be served. For those who suffered, for those who were oppressed, for those whose earthly life was full of sadness and forbearance, the Resurrection marks the beginning of one’s real life which after the initial upheaval of the Day, admits no grievance nor sorrow, only sheer comfort and happiness for those who were faithful and patient.

3. Time

Time and space began with the beginning of the universe, as is also attested to by modern physics and cosmology. Time does not apply to Allah Most High, the Creator of the cosmos.

We mentioned that time is a created concept only understood through change. The passing of time affects things only according to God’s Will and He is able to do as He pleases.

Change does not occur due to nature, habit, nor cause and effect. This is pointed out in the parable, for God showed Uzayr that while he, and his food, were preserved after 100 years passed, his donkey had perished with the passing of time. For that which never changes, time cannot be understood, while time is only understood through that which changes.

Ibn Kathir mentions that one of the ways that Allah made Uzayr a sign, was that when Uzayr returned to his people, he was younger than his children!

Just as Uzayr reckoned he was dead for a day or part of a day, on the Day of Judgement, mankind will have only a vague recollection of time or space. People will be asked on the Day of Rising, ‘How many years did you remain on earth?’ They will reply, “We remained [only] a day or part of a day.” (Sura al Mulk 23:114-115)

4. Power and Ability

Despite modern scientific and technological advances, we should not forget that ancient civilizations, particularly Babylonian, were very advanced in the sciences and arts, and the mysteries of life baffled scientists then, as it is does scientists now. However, religion has always provided definitive answers to these mysteries and is always accessible for those who sincerely seek the truth.

Man holds powers, rank, and ability and these are relative only among creation. While he may have advanced a great deal when compared to his basic roots, man must necessarily acknowledge that his intellect, power, abilities, and resources, are nothing compared to the limitless Power and Ability of his Creator. In fact, our powers and abilities are only through Allah, so, therefore, to take pride in them is folly, and to use them to transgress the limits of Allah is both ingratitude and rebelliousness.

But for those who have faith, who seek to rise beyond the limits of the finite, who ponder upon the wonderful and magnificent signs of God in themselves and all around them, surely they will respond with exactly the same conclusion of Uzayr, “[Now] I know that Allah is Able to do all things.”


Our Lady Fatima al Zahra

Sister Nurulain Wolhuter has written a moving, concise, and loving portrait in praise of our Lady Fatima al Zahra, highlighting her flawless and noble character.

She is Fatima al Batul, al Zahra, the radiant Lady of Paradise, the daughter of the Beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace. She is the mother of the prophetic progeny, Allah be pleased with her. She is also called al Siddiqa, the truthful; al Tahira, the pure; and al Zakiyya, the flawless.

She has become my mother, due to the love between her and the followers of her beloved father. Through her I have come to know him more intimately, and to strive to tread his path more faithfully, Allah bless him and give him peace. Encountering her changed my life from one dominated by worldly things to one focused on the hereafter. Her way is a sword of protection and a rope of victory. It is my bastion in times of difficulty and my strength in times of need.

The Essence of the Sunna

She is our role-model as Muslim women. Our beloved Prophet said: “Fatima is part of me. So whoever angers her, angers me.” (Bukhari) Al Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf says this means Fatima is a piece of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, not separate from him. So, if a Muslim woman emulates Fatima, she is emulating “the essence of the Sunnah” of Allah’s Messenger. (Our Liege Lady Fatimah the Resplendent)

Our lady Fatima was known for her utmost modesty. She covered herself completely. Her outer clothes were the abaya, a loose long dress; the khimar, a garment covering the head and upper body; and the niqab, a face veil. She always wore black. On the day of judgment she will receive the highest of commendations for her modesty.

It is narrated that our master Ali, Allah be pleased with him, said he heard the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, say that on the day of judgment an announcer will call upon the people to lower their gazes until Fatima has passed. (Hakim)

Worldly Matters Were Meaningless to Her

However, our lady was also the bearer of other noble attributes, such as asceticism and generosity, to which men, as well as women, should aspire. Fatima is called al Batul because she was devoted to worship, and this to the extent that all worldly matters were meaningless to her. She lived in the simplest of houses, with the barest of essentials.

Her bed was a thin mat and her only covering was a short blanket that, if it covered her feet, left her upper body open and, if it covered her upper body, left her feet exposed. Her beloved father, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged her to abstain from worldly things. Once he refused to enter her house because he saw a colorful decorated curtain on her door, saying “I am not interested in worldly things.” Fatima immediately dispensed with it. (Bukhari)

Our lady Fatima was generous to the point of self-sacrifice. She and her family once fasted for three days, breaking their fast on water, because they gave the only food they had to the needy. Allah Most High praised this nobility of spirit in the holy Qur’an:

They fulfill their vows. They fear a day of widespread woes. They give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of God alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you. We fear the Day of our Lord – a woefully grim Day. (Sura al Insan 76:7-10)

So our lady Fatima is truly a part of her beloved father. She has bequeathed us the best, and most faithful, way of following him, Allah bless him and give him peace. May Allah grant us the grace to emulate even the smallest part of her pure and flawless way.


Podcasts: Minority Fiqh and Aqida with Mufti Taha Karaan

Mufti Taha Karaan lectures on Minority Fiqh and Citizenship, and gives a two-part synoptic presentation of Islamic aqida based on a classic text.

Mufti Taha Karaan is a Shafi‘i scholar born in Cape Town, South Africa, to a family renowned in both its maternal and paternal lineage for Islamic scholarship. His father, the late Mufti Yusuf Karaan, may Allah have mercy on his soul, was one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars in the Cape.

Mufti Taha completed his Qur’anic memorization in one year at the Waterfall Islamic Institute, the oldest Islamic seminary in South Africa. During his stay, he assisted in the editing of the Qur’anic prints that the Institute has become famous for the world over. After finishing four years of the ‘alim course in two years, he journeyed to the Indian sub-continent and Dar al Uloom Deoband, graduating from there in 1991 with the highest of distinctions, as did his father, in a class of over 700 students. He then travelled to the Middle East and completed a two-year graduate diploma at the Higher Institute for Islamic Studies in Cairo, Egypt.

Mufti Taha is the recipient of numerous chains of transmission (ijazaat), from well-respected scholars in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, among others, in numerous fields of the Islamic sciences.

Currently, Mufti Taha is the Mufti of the Muslim Judicial Council. He is a sought-after speaker at Islamic symposia and conferences but attends them sparingly, preferring to spend most of his time at the Islamic seminary, Dar al Uloom al Arabiyyah al Islamiyyah, that he founded in 1996. The educational thrust of the seminary reflects Mufti Taha’s own pioneering vision and commitment to squarely interface with the challenges of the modern age through the twin objectives of preservation and progress.

In his teaching, writing and legal verdicts (fatawa), Mufti Taha regularly addresses contemporary issues such as the challenges of post-modernity, feminism, Islamic economics and finance, the old and new Orientalisms, and fiqh issues affecting Diaspora Muslim communities.

His students describe him as divinely-gifted with encyclopedic knowledge; possessed of a near photographic memory; an insatiable bibliophile within the Islamic sciences and without; a teacher that never ceases to inspire; endowed with an elegant calligraphic hand and a penchant for poetry; thoroughly unassuming, pleasant, brilliant and tender-hearted.

Muslim Minorities and the Fiqh of Citizenship in the Modern World

How do Muslim minority communities in various parts of the world create meaningful spaces and environments to flourish as religious communities, and as beneficial members of their societies? The intersection between religious identity and citizenship is a nuanced and complex topic for many Muslims living in Non Muslims countries.

In this lecture, Mufti Taha Karaan provides an insightful overview of how Muslim minority communities engaged with the geo political realities of their times in order to consolidate their presence and growth in various locations around the world. By analyzing and discussing the critical topics of migration, citizenship and the preservation of faith, in a coherent historical chronology and context, Mufti Taha Karaan proffers a refreshing and inspirational approach of understanding the Fiqh of Citizenship and Minorities in contemporary times.

The Muslim community of South Africa, specifically Cape Town, has a rich and dynamic history which spans more than 300 years. Mufti Taha Karaan proposes that Muslim minority communities around the world should scrupulously analyse how the Muslims of the Cape preserved their faith when confronted with the various challenges of slavery, colonialism and apartheid, and how they succeeded in developing into a vibrant, confident and socially contributing community within South African society.

Link to podcast:
Muslim Minorities and the Fiqh of Citizenship in the Modern World.

A Synopsis of the Science of Aqida based on the text of Al Hawi al Qudsi of Al Qadhi Jamaluddin Ahmed ibn Mahmud Al Qabisi Al Ghaznawi Al Halabi

Since the enlightenment period, belief in God and organized religion has come under significant attack. The unremitting question regarding the compatibility of revelation and reason continues to plague us in current times. Atheism as a “belief” system or worldview is on the rise, and many individuals feel obfuscated and confused amidst the high levels of intellectual skepticism.

How should Muslims face and immunized themselves from these ideological challenges? How did our luminous scholars of the past respond to the various intellectual and doctrinal quagmires of their age so that they were able to preserve sound belief in the integrals of Islam?

In this lecture, Mufti Taha Karaan succinctly articulates a systematic overview of the various components that contribute to the Islamic science of belief (Aqida) and dialectical theology (Kalam). By contextualizing the various challenges that historically confronted Islamic doctrine, he provides a lucid methodology in comprehending the integral epistemic avenues that contribute to correct belief in Islam.

Link to podcasts:
A Synopsis of the Science of Aqeedah, part 1.
A Synopsis of the Science of Aqeedah, part 2.


What Is Aqida and Why Study It? – Shaykh Hassan al Hindi

Shaykh Hassan al Hindi gives an overview of the science of ʿaqida, clarifies points of contention and agreement, and explains why it is a necessary science.

Though each of the Islamic sciences has its specific topics of inquiry and detailed investigations, a student may find himself losing sight of the purpose, importance, and distinctive features of a science when engaged in studying its details and minutiae.

For example, a student may study legal theory (usul al fiqh) under a teacher, covering such topics as linguistic signification, analogy, and consensus, but this student may still not know what legal theory actually is, the benefits that are gained through its study, its ultimate aim, the manner it is to be studied, and the way it distinguishes itself from other sciences.

For the science of ʿaqida, such a comprehensive and universal understanding is necessary before diving into its detailed investigations. He proceeds to provide such an overview by answering a series of questions.

What Is ʿAqida?

The term ʿaqida has two meanings. The first refers to aspects of belief that are obligatory upon a person to establish in his heart and have faith in. These are the concepts and ideas that a person adopts regarding the Creator, this universe, the purpose of creation, this world, the next world, and so forth. This is the ʿaqida that is obligatory upon all Muslims to know.

The second meaning refers to the subject matter that is taught in seminaries, namely the actual science of ʿaqida, which incorporates the first definition mentioned above but extends beyond it. In this context, the term ʿaqida is defined as the knowledge through which religious beliefs are established by means of evidence that is decisive and certain.

I would like to draw attention to the use of the word yuqtadar in classical definitions of the science of ʿaqida. It signifies a strong ability or disposition. Consequently, ʿaqida as a science is a natural disposition or aptitude of the self that is characterized by strength in knowledge, expertise in evidence, and the ability to engage in a dialectic where truth can be distinguished from falsehood. This ability is something that God grants to some of His servants.

The evidence used to establish points of ʿaqida are both rational and textual, and there is no contradiction between these two sources. There are some points of ʿaqida that are evidenced mainly on the basis of rational proofs, others on the basis of textual proof, and yet some others that are based on both these sources.

The Relationship between ʿAqida and Knowledge in General

The relationship between ʿaqida and knowledge in general is one of a general-specific distinction, i.e. all ʿaqida is knowledge but not all knowledge is ʿaqida. A matter is considered a point of knowledge if it is established on the basis of evidence that is knowledge-based and scholarly.

A specific point of knowledge is then termed ʿaqida if in addition to this God attaches a particular significance to it that necessitates belief in it. The ʿaqida of Islam can be divided into two types.

Firstly, those aspects known in their details, such as God being omnipotent, omniscient, all-hearing, and all-seeing, or the specific names of prophets sent to mankind mentioned in the Qur’an, or the names of angels, etc.

Secondly, a general belief in everything that has been authentically conveyed from God and His Prophet, blessings upon him. Thus, there are issues that a Muslim is required to affirm on a general basis and others that he is required to affirm and be taught on a more specific and detailed basis.

Sometimes we are required to express general points of belief in a more detailed fashion. For example, the books of ʿaqida do not detail the creation of Adam, peace be upon him. Muslims suffice with the Qur’an and other texts to affirm as a general point of belief that he was created from clay and was the first human being.

Today, however, it is necessary to discuss this matter in more detail due to the various doubts that have arisen regarding the Islamic creation narrative.

An Intellectual Science vs. Experiential Reality

Another manner in which ʿaqida is divided is between its being a scholarly and intellectual activity and between its being an experiential reality. The former refers to ʿaqida as an engagement with texts, detailing and interpreting various points of creed, expounding their proofs, defending the faith, and so forth. On the other hand, ʿaqida as an experiential reality entails transforming and transferring these points of creed into one’s consciousness and being.

Both of these dimensions are separate but intimately connected. Separate because they engage the subject-matter from two distinct perspectives – one intellectual and the other practical. And intimately connected because they complete one another.

ʿAqida as a Living Science

In order for anything to maintain its state of living, it requires two things: nourishment that allows it to grow and sustain its existence and a medicine/protection that prevents it from being harmed.

The nourishment for faith is found in acts of worship, such as supplication, remembrance of God, prayer, the company of the righteous, and so forth. This type of nourishment is required for everyone.

As for medicine, this is only required by those who suffer from a disease or someone who is prone/exposed to it. What is this medicine? It is of two types:

  1. It may be a cure to treat an actual disease that is present, or
  2. It may be a cure to treat a disease that may occur, i.e. preventive medicine.

In the case of the second of the aforementioned points, it is necessary for anyone who feels they are prone to the disease of doubt to learn the general proofs and evidences of ʿaqida. However, if someone is afflicted with doubt regarding a specific issue, it is obligatory upon that person to learn the appropriate evidences for that ʿaqida issue in specific and seek an answer for their doubt.

The Subject-Matter of ʿAqida

There are three primary subjects that ʿaqida deals with:

  1. Godhead (ilahiyat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for God.
  2. Prophethood (nabuwwat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for prophets.
  3. Unseen matters (sam’iyat): topics relating to such issues as the Day of Judgment, heaven, hell, angels, devils, the signs of the last day, and so forth. Each of these issues is subsumed under one core principle: things that the intellect deems possible that the revelatory texts affirm and attest to.

Scholars mention other topics that are included in texts of ʿaqida. Some of these topics are introductory discussions, such as moral responsibility (taklif) or the faith of a blind-adherent (muqallid). Other topics are viewed as accessory discussions, such as detailed expositions of the proofs for the existence of God.

Opinions on Why It Is Called Kalam

The science of ʿaqida is also termed the science of kalam. There are different opinions regarding why the latter term was utilized to describe this science. Some opined that it returned to questions concerning the nature of the Qur’an and God’s speech (i.e. kalam) being among the earliest and most oft-debated theological topics. Another opinion stated that the science of ʿaqida involved a sustained engagement between different parties, which often involved verbal debates (i.e. kalam).

Here is an important piece of advice for teachers. Someone who is instructing others in ʿaqida should be completely open to his students and their questions. This is because the teacher is tasked with teaching them knowledge upon which faith and disbelief rests, and he should instruct students in a way that ensures that they have fully understood the material and are convinced by it. Therefore, it is necessary for a teacher to engage the questions of students, their doubts, and endure with them patiently. This is not to be viewed as a flaw in the student nor disrespect towards a teacher.

The Ruling on Studying the Science of ʿAqida or Kalam

In regard to ruling of studying this science, there is no disagreement that it is necessary to know God, His angels, messengers, books, the Last Day, and so forth. The disagreement arises regarding the formal science of kalam, which some have deemed an innovation. This latter opinion is incorrect due to the fact that the emergence of the science of kalam mirrors the development of all other sciences, such as grammar or hadith.

The particular terminology utilized in kalam, such as “privative attributes” or “entailed attributes” is not ʿaqida in itself and nor of a specifically religious character, but labels and categories that explain certain discussion in ʿaqida and present it as a codified and systematic science. This is simply an organic development that all sciences experience.

Another point linked to this is the manner in which Islam spread and interacted with other systems of thought, such as Greek philosophy. Scholars undertook the task of evaluating and critiquing these systems, such as Imam al Ghazali in three of his famous works: Maqasid al Falasifa, Mahak al Nazar, Tahafut al Falasifa.

The scholars of kalam formulated principles, detailed proofs and arguments, etc. in order to eradicate erroneous and misguided ideas and return creed to its pristine state. Therefore, this science not only explained ʿaqida, but acted a barrier preventing corrupt ideas from infiltrating it.

How Does Islamic ʿAqida Distinguish Itself from other Creeds?

The ways in which the ʿaqida of Islam sets itself apart from other creeds and belief systems are as follows:

  1. The ʿaqida of Islam is from God and His messenger.
  2. The ʿaqida of Islam is tawfiqi, i.e. it does not accept abrogation, change, alteration, and so forth. Rather, the ʿaqida taught by the Prophet, blessings upon him, is the same one that the Salaf believed in and the one that Muslims continue to accept up until today.
  3. The ʿaqida of Islam accords with the primordial nature (fitra) of people. For this reason, when a Muslim speaks about the ʿaqida of Islam, it is done with two sources of influence and authority: one external and one internal. The external relates to strength of proof and rational/textual evidence, while the internal relates to the primordial nature of human beings.
  4. The ʿaqida of Islam does not contradict sound reason or intellect. The oft-repeated statement that the Muʿtazila were misguided because they arbitrated on the basis of reason and the intellect is not correct. Rather, if they had utilized these sources in a sound manner, they would not have been misguided.
  5. The ʿaqida of Islam is simple and clear.
  6. The ʿaqida of Islam connects a person to His creator without intermediary.
  7. The ʿaqida of Islam contains no contradictions. Perceived contradictions are the result of a lack of understanding. Sometimes, a point of ʿaqida may bewilder the mind, but it is never something the intellect deems rationally impossible. Thus, the intellect deems the throne of God and angels as rationally possible even though it is not able to fully comprehend their reality.
  8. The ʿaqida of Islam is a comprehensive creed for all times, peoples, and places.
  9. The ʿaqida of Islam is suitable for all times, peoples, and places.
  10. The ʿaqida of Islam is a moderate creed occupying a middle ground between extremes. It is neither a dry rational creed nor one grounded in emotional sentimentality. Rather, it appeals to both the heart and mind.
  11. The ʿaqida of Islam is the foundation of personal and communal well-being, righteous action, and rectification. This is why many prophetic traditions begin with, “Whosoever believes in God and the Last Day…” These good deeds and traits are the fruit of sound belief.

Why Study the Science of ʿAqida?

Not understanding the reasons underpinning the need to study a particular science often entails devaluing that science and not engaging it properly. There are a number of reasons why we should engage in the study of the science of ʿaqida.

  1. To present ʿaqida in a clear, scholarly, and systematic manner. This safeguards people from erroneous beliefs that may be unknowingly adopted in a context where ʿaqida is learnt organically in a general fashion. Such a presentation of ʿaqida also establishes it as a science with defined beginning, middle, and end stages that students can gradually progress through.
  2. To support points of ʿaqida with proofs and arguments that helps prevent doubts from affecting our faith.
  3. To strengthen and make firm our ʿaqida against refutations that are mounted against it. This is especially true in an age where even the most fundamental axioms that ʿaqida is premised upon are subjected to doubt, such as the impossibility of infinite regress. Here, it is a communal obligation to produce scholars who possess the knowledge and ability to fend off such doubts from the community at large and safeguard the faith of people.
  4. The science of ʿaqida allows us to possess belief that is sound, which is a prerequisite for felicity in the next-life. Through sound belief, one is able to properly conceptualize the world and the purpose of existence.
  5. The science of ʿaqida places an individual in a state of tranquility and peace with the condition that one possess a real connection to God.

How Does One Study ʿAqida?

The default is that every individual is responsible for studying ʿaqida. However, ʿaqida is presented to people based on their respective abilities and preparedness. Therefore, there is no one way of teaching ʿaqida to people. In terms of teaching people ʿaqida, learners fall into the following categories:

Young Children. ʿAqida is taught to them by constantly repeating basic creedal points, such as God is one, God is powerful, God gives us everything, etc., so that these ideas become embedded in their minds. When a child asks a question, he or she should be provided with a clear, simple, and sound answer. Children may not fully comprehend a particular idea, but they do retain it, and many of the ideas they retain at a young age are treated as axiomatic by them when they grow older.

The general laity. They are taught ʿaqida as a general expression of creedal doctrine without detailed and technical discussions. This should be taught to them not on the basis of creedal texts or the terminology of kalam, which the laity are not obliged to know, but rather through tafsir, sira, Qur’anic verses, and hadith using clear but non-technical language.

Well-educated people who are not ʿaqida specialists. They are taught ʿaqida in a general sense and also gradually exposed to some of the more detailed discussions relating to creed. However, these discussions are not presented to them in the manner that it would be to a person seeking specialization. Further, such people are provided answers to doubts – actual and potential – raised against Islamic ʿaqida. In this context, they are taught what is relevant to them in their own time and place, i.e. discussions on atheism, for example, as opposed to the Muʿtazila.

Students who are specialists. Those who are specializing in ʿaqida are required to study everything related to the science. This includes a comprehensive syllabus of classical texts – both early and later –, as well as past and modern ideologies and sects.

A Note to Students of ‘Aqida

Students who are specializing in this science must raise the bar. They should not suffice with intermediary works but eventually dive into the more advanced and principal works of the science after mastering the tools needed to access and understand them.

We must strengthen our aptitude and grasp of the evidence underpinning ʿaqida so that it may be furnished to people appropriately on the basis of their respective abilities and preparedness.

We must understand the period we are living in to present a more contemporary ʿaqida discourse that is suitable and appropriate to today’s culture and environment.

We must be aware of modern ideologies and sects, as well as the doubts raised against Islam, and formulate sound responses to them.

And God knows best.

Hassan al Hindi


This post is based on notes from a lecture in Arabic by Shaykh Hassan al Hindi. The notes were made and translated into English by Ustadh Salman Younas.


Transcend This World – Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir expounds on the crises of despair in society, its impact on the Muslim community, and Islam as the cure for this disease.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Our praises due to Allah who has revealed the scripture unto his servant and has made no crookedness therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)

Allah Most High has blessed us to live in interesting times, as they say. One of the characteristics of our time, speaking specifically of this land that we reside in, is the despair that we see. That despair can be measured by what collectively are referred to as the diseases of despair: drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, depression.

In terms of drug addiction, just discarding other forms of drugs, every day in this country, there are 170 fatal overdoses from opioids alone – heroin, morphine, percocet, oxycontin – the whole family of opioids. One hundred and seventy.

Were it not for Narcan which revives overdose victims, maybe it would be eight hundred a day, because for every one who fatally overdoses seven or eight are revived who would otherwise fatally overdose.

The Ravages of Despair

There are 241 alcohol consumption related deaths every day in this country. Just consumption. Excluding alcohol-related deaths, most fatal fatalities from auto accidents, the majority are alcohol-related. Most killings in domestic violence are alcohol-related. Maybe not most. A large percentage. But excluding all of that, 241 who die from overconsumption of alcohol every day.

There are 123 suicides every day. Almost 4,000 suicide attempts every day, which means that there are far more, because a lot of suicide attempts aren’t reported to the authorities. Increasingly large numbers of our children who should be the most hopeful find themselves dead as a result of suicide. Diseases of despair.

You see Muslims increasingly falling into many of these categories which indicates two things. One is a ignorance of our religion, because one who has knowledge of this religion understands that this is the antidote to despair: the anti-despair medicine.

The other is weakness of faith, which means there might be knowledge of the religion, but that knowledge hasn’t penetrated to the depths of the heart, so that it affects the hearts in ways that insulate the individual from the ravages of despair.

Understanding of Religion

We should understand. Understanding is very important. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: “The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion.” We can mention a balance of the hadith because it has benefit in it.

It was related from Mu‘awiya, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: ‘The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion. I dispense the Revelation, it is Allah who gives understanding.’”

So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gives it freely to everyone but Allah causes those seeds that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, spreads out to take root in some hearts. “And there will always remain from this community of believers a party, a group, who will establish their affair on the basis of the commandment of Allah.” (Bukhari)

What the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is telling us is that understanding translates into action. The foundation of our action is establishing our affair on the commandment of Allah. People are rejecting their traditional religious teachings. As people increasingly turn to atheism and that’s part and parcel of the crisis of despair.

Atheism and Meaninglessness

There’s no coincidence that as atheism goes up suicide goes up, because atheism is telling a human being that you’re no different from this […] this minbar I’m standing on. You are no different than these walls. You’re no different than a fly. You’re no different then feces or urine. You’re just physical stuff.

If a human being comes to believe that he or she is just physical stuff, there’s no relationship to a higher power, there’s nothing to hope for beyond the demise of this physical body, why not commit suicide? Why not end it all? There’s nothing beyond this to hope for. That’s one of the reasons you see this upward trajectory.

The believers must hold on to the commandment of Allah. The believers must hold as lawful that which our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has declared to be lawful. And the believer must maintain and hold on to what our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directly from Revelation, which came through the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or through his Sunna, have declared to be unlawful.

The lawful is unambiguously clear. The unlawful is unambiguously clear. Between those two are doubtful matters. Most people don’t know their rulings. There are people who want to make that which is unambiguously clear from the mutashabihat in terms of its lawfulness, and that which is unambiguously clear in terms of its unlawfulness, amongst the doubtful matters.

Adhere to The Book and The Sunna

Well, we need to reassess this. 1,400 years of Islam and scholarship from some of the most brilliant minds to ever walk this planet couldn’t figure out how Muslims are supposed to dress? 1,400 years of scholarship with clear unambiguous evidence, scriptural evidence, couldn’t figure out who Muslims should go to bed with?

We need to reassess? No, we need to adhere to the Book of Allah and the Sunna of his Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and die upon that and pass it on to our descendants. If we do that, we’ve done our job. If we fail to do that, there’s going to be more suicides. There’s going to be more alcoholism. There’s going to be more drug overdoses, because people will be lost.

The prophets were sent to guide people. And this Umma, the scholars of this Umma are the heirs of the prophets. And their communities are the community of believers in this world. They will establish their affair on the commandment of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the command of Allah.

Some scholars say [the command] is the emergence of the dajjal. Some scholars say it is the wind that will blow at the end of time and take the souls of the believers. Most scholars say it is Doomsday. They won’t be harmed.

Hold on to Your Inheritance

Our task, brothers and sisters, if you want to be safe and you want to be sound, make sure you’re in that group. Ibn Hajar al Askalani says it could be one group in one place, but most likely it is many groups. There’s some here, there’s some there. Some in America. Some in Africa. There’s some in Asia. There’s some in Europe.

This is a source of mercy, not just for us but for the world. As we said, the world, this country and the world in general, is being besieged by despair and hopelessness. We are the people of hope. Not foolish optimism, but the people of Hope.

We are the people of prophetic guidance and prophetic guidance brings clarity. We are the people of mercy. One of the reasons a lot of Muslims are so downcast and gloom-struck in our day and times is because they believe the lives of people who profit from their being no source of hope for people.

There are people that profit from that and say, “Oh, you Muslims, you have no mercy and compassion in your heart.” And Muslims start believing that. You want to know no compassion? No compassion are people who would sell nine million narcotic pills in a small town in Appalachia.

The Invention of Falsehoods

Prescribe nine million knowing this is going to addicting entire population. Where is the mercy in that? Then the people are dropping like flies from overdoses. Where is the mercy in that? Where is the mercy in fabricating enemies for the sole purpose of feeding a war machine that’s financed by 700 billion dollars of our tax money to keep the factories making bombs?

Inventing enemies in this country to keep this a machine of Islamic hate going. They’re stealth jihad. They’re taking over. Taking over what? “The Muslim Brotherhood’s taking over Congress and the Senate and our institutions.” Well, they’re doing a terrible job. there are 535 congressmen and 100 senators; 435 representatives.

There are zero Muslim senators and one Muslim congressman. Zero out of 100 and one out of 435 and that’s stealth jihad. That’s a merciless scheme to demoralize the community, to villainize and demonize the community, for the sole purpose of making money. They’re financed by tens hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an industry.

Where is the mercy? Right now, this hurricane, the winds died down, but the rain is coming. And they have open lagoons of pig manure and pig fetuses and pig blood from these hog farms next to African-American communities. Poor people who can’t go anywhere. They’re going to flood over. Even without flooding the spraying in the air coats their houses. They can’t breathe the air. People have respiratory problems. They have to breathe that garbage.

And the North Carolina legislature banned a bill that would even declare this a harmful practice. Where’s the mercy in that? You go up and down the ledger, there’s no mercy. There’s total exploitation of people.

Industrialized Despair

They won’t even give you a meal. You can fly on Ethiopian Airlines – one of the poorest countries in the world – you can fly from Addis Ababa to […]; they give you a hot meal, a hot towel to clean your hands with, for a two-hour flight. You fly from New York City to Los Angeles, five and a half hours, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels.

When you got on the plane, the sky cab, the company is going to take their tips. Where is the mercy in all that? And they’ll tell you, “Muslim, you’re not merciful.” And then you believe it and get all demoralized. Stand up! Be proud to be a Muslim. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give those people the satisfaction of demoralizing you. Thieves and killers.

A lady, Beth Macy, wrote a book about this whole opioid epidemic recently [Dopesick] and the subtitle: “[…] the [drug] company that addicted America.” Purdue Pharma, responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans and no one went to jail. Tens of thousands of dead people, millions of addicts, and to misdemeanor charges for false advertisement, because they said this stuff isn’t abusive.

Pure morphine repackaged is not abusive. So when the abuse rate was almost a hundred percent, “Oh, we’re guilty.” Misdemeanor on two of their executives. No one goes to jail. But all these little people, not selling heroin, selling marijuana on the street corner, are going to jail feeding this prison industrial complex. Where is the mercy in that?

Never Despair of Allah’s Mercy

And you, demoralized, believe your religion has no mercy. “Oh, my servants who are going to excess in terms of abusing the rights of their soul.” This is addressed of people who are idolaters. What does Allah say about the idolator? Allah doesn’t forgive that partners are joined with him, but he forgives any sin other than that to whomsoever he pleases. But if that idolator repents, then Allah says, even if you are an idolater, “do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.” (Sura al Zamar 39:53)

Allah forgives the idolater. Allah forgave the man who killed 100 people. Allah forgives people. One man came, long story short, and mention his sin and he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that to atone. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he started laughing and said, “Just scram. Get out of here.” Allah bless him and give him peace.

Your sin is one against you. You do a good deed and it’s immediately multiplied ten times. Seven thousand. Seventy thousand. Seven million. Allah is Rahim and Karim. How hard do you have to work to go to hell, if that’s how things are reckoned? One sin is one against you.

The Reason for Hope

Even if you conspire to sin and then you leave it, then it’s credited as a good deed. Leaving a bad deed is a good deed. You know, I’m gonna do this and that, masha Allah. I get home, get dressed, go call up someone. I’m gonna go visit and we’re gonna go out and … “astaghfir Allah, that’s totally haram.” That’s the good.

You left the bad deed, it’s a good deed. Don’t you say you’re a sinner. Leaving the bad deed is a good deed and so the cycle kicks in. How hard does one have to work to go to hell? This is the mercy of Allah Most High. Allah forgives all sins. What did you do? Just repent to Allah and Allah will forgive you.

Why do you have no hope? Why are you despairing of Allah’s mercy. If those are the odds and if this is the mercy of Allah, then it’s rightfully said, “It is only a disbelieving people that despair of Allah’s mercy.” (Sura Yusuf 12:87)

So believers, never despair of Allah’s mercy. Don’t walk around here in a state of doom and gloom. Lift up your head, smile in the face of your your fellow believer. Smile in the face of everybody: the ordinary people. Spread peace, spread greetings of peace to people. Feed people.

“Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is the best manifestation of Islam, the most virtuous manifestation of Islam?” “That you feed people and greet people, those you know and those you don’t know.” Our sister, in the Rainbow Rec Center, just feeding people for 20-something years. Every Saturday. It’s one of the best manifestations of Islam.

And greet people those you know and those you know not. You should be a greeting machine. Everyone you pass:

– Assalam alaykum, how you doing? Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban.
– What does that mean?
– That means, Hey, you’re welcome. You’re like my family.
– Really? No one ever said that to me.
– We Muslims. That’s how we roll.

Islam Is The Beautiful Religion

Pick your head up. This is a beautiful religion. Don’t despair. It’s not a believing characteristic. It’s a characteristic, as we said, of people who have no faith. Those are the people, unfortunately, falling into drugs, falling into despair, falling into suicide, falling into alcoholism. We’re the antidote. We should be going to people.

That’s why they want to demoralize the Muslims, so we don’t believe we have anything to offer anybody. “Who wants to listen to us? They all think we‘re a bunch of terrorists.” I’ll tell you who wants to listen to you, those hundreds of people every day who are taking their Shahada, all over this country. They don’t want to see that.

We have to organize ourselves to serve them. And to serve those people who aren’t Muslim. The sister feeding the people at the Rainbow Rec in East Oakland, most of those people aren’t Muslim, but they’re human beings and they have human needs.

We should be rising up and organizing ourselves to meet their needs and don’t let them politicize our religion. They’re willing to politicize it so they can frame the discussion and frame the way that they present Islam to people. No, we have to we have to spiritualize it. It’s not a political struggle.

This Is Not a Game

We. as Muslims, we do a disservice when we frame it like that, because we’re playing into their hands. It’s a spiritual struggle. It’s a struggle between truth and falsehood. It’s a struggle between people who want to victimize and exploit and destroy people, and people who want to give them life, and to give them hope, and to give them direction.

That’s the struggle and we have to keep it at that level, because that’s our strength. Everything else will take care of itself. The politics, the economics, will take care of themselves.

But if we become wrapped up into this political struggle the parameters of which have been defined by the enemies of Islam, we’ll never get to the spiritual and the people will never get the hope, because in their mind they’re looking at Islam through a frame that we as Muslims sometimes help to reinforce.

We have to frame the issue along the lines that play into our strengths. When you have one congressman and zero senators, politics is not our strength. I hope you understand that. You can hoop and holler all you want. But when those are the odds, I’m not saying there’s no politics in Islam, I’m saying that our struggle is a grassroots struggle.

Our struggle as a struggle to save people. Our struggle as a struggle to give people hope. Our struggle is a struggle to inspire people. Our struggle is a struggle to put people back in touch with their humanity. And when that happens to tens and hundreds of thousands of people, to millions of people, everything else will take care of itself. May Allah give us tawfiq.

We Are a Joyous People

Let me leave you with this verse, brothers and sisters. Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say, [O Muhammad]: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy let them rejoice. It is better than anything they can gather [from this world.] (Sura Yunus 10:58)

We should be a joyous people. All this stuff has happened out there. Islamophobia and all this other stuff is happening. Depression, suicide, we went through the whole gamut and the first khutba. We still should be a joyous people, because we have faith in our heart, because we have belief in the Hereafter, because we know no matter how bad things get in this world, if we patiently persevere, if we struggle and we forge on, then we’re opening the gates for unimaginable bliss for the rest of eternity.

Eternal bliss. When we understand what eternity means, and we understand that everyone’s life in this world will end, young or old, rich or poor, black or white.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Sura Aal Imran 3:185)

Life Begins in The Hereafter

Everyone is going to die. Everybody’s going to die and so our life really begins when we die – in the big scheme of things, in the greater scheme of things – and once we die the gate is opened to eternity. This world is finite. Paradise and Hell are eternal.

خالدين فيها
dwelling therein forever

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
dwelling therein forever and ever

Either Hellfire. Not forever and ever for believers, but who wants to experience a second of that? Or Janna [The Garden]. That’s what it’s all about. And Allah Most High, in giving us faith, has blessed us and placed us on a path to Janna.

We have to nurture our faith, and cultivate our faith, and rejoice in our faith. “Let them rejoice in this. I is better than anything anyone could gather from the world.” What does it mean that someone gets all the cars? They have the whole collection. They have the 1965 Mustang all the way up to their 2018 Tesla. They have them and everything in between. They got the Rolls Royce, they got the Lamborghini, you name it. They even got the Bugatti.

They got the whole lineup. They have the whole residential lineup. They have the condo at Lake Merritt. They have their chateau in the Rocky Mountains, in Aspen. They have their home in the Hamptons that they never get to. They have the whole line up from the condo to the chateau to the the house in the Hamptons. Check everything on the list. They got it.

Wardrobe. They have it all. From the alligator shoes to whatever you’re supposed, if you have money. They got it. In the house in the Hamptons they have horses they never ride. Because they never get over there. But they got the horses, too. They got the house and they got the horse.

Faith Is Proof of Allah’s Love

What does it mean if they don’t have faith? What does it mean that as soon as they get the house with the horses and they’ve checked the final check the final box on the list, they die? People are deceived into thinking all this means something.

“If this world meant to Allah as much as a gnat’s wing,” do you know how small a gnat is? If it meant a gnat’s wing “He wouldn’t have given an arrogant rejecter a single drop of water to drink.” (Tirmidhi) Allah gives it freely to whomsoever He pleases.

He gives it to the Muslim. He gives it to the person who’s not a Muslim. He gives it to the rich. He gives it to the black. He gives it to the white. He gives it to those who come who inherit it and those who get it because they can throw a ball in a basket. He gives it freely to whomever He pleases.

But He only gives faith to those He loves. That’s why the believer rejoices. May Allah give us faith that leads us to rejoice no matter what is happening in the world, because we can look beyond the world. We can look at something that transcends the world. We can look at something more valuable than the world and everything in it.


Sura al Waqi‘a Explained, Part 2 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the coherence, the themes, the aims of Sura al Waqi‘a, and its relationship to other suras of the Qur’an.

To understand the key themes of Sura al Waqi‘a we have to appreciate where it is in the Qur’an. The Qur’an is not just our Holy Book, as in every religion has its Holy Book and this is ours. We have a very particular truth claim about the Qur’an.

We affirm with certitude that the Qur’an is revelation from God. All of it is revelation from God. There is nothing in it but revelation from God. And it is preserved to our day as revealed. So there’s two parts to the truth claim about the Qur’an.

The first is that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah. The second is that it is fully preserved in word and meaning to our times. It being revelation from Allah. Some of the proofs for that are mentioned in Sura al Waqi‘a.

The Challenge of the Qur’an

What is the main proof for the preservation of the Qur’an and for the Qur’an being revelation from Allah? That it’s inimitable. What is called the i‘jaz of the Qur’an. The Qur’an comes with a challenge, which is “produce the like of it.” You won’t be able to produce even some suras the like of it. Or even a little of the like of it.

The in the central proof of the Qur’an being revelation is its inimitability in its message, in its language, in its style, and rhetorical power, and in many other aspects. It cannot be matched. Allah has said, “you won’t be able to and you shall not be able to.”

The inimitability of the Qur’an has many, many aspects. Among them is the complete coherence of the Qur’an in its structure, at the level of words, verses, and suras. There is this inimitable order. You cannot take a word out of the Qur’an anywhere and replace it with another word that does the same job, let alone, one that is more suitable.

If you like reading, there are some authors who like using particular words. And you wish, if could only take that one out and replace with something, it might be more suitable here. There is no not one word you can take out from the Qur’an and replace it with another.

Likewise, coherence of the Qur’an between suras: the thematic coherence. Much has been written, even in English, on the subject of the coherence of the Qur’an. This thematic coherence is something to reflect on. When you read or recite the Qur’an and you finish one sura, ask yourself: What is the relationship between this sura and the one that comes before or after it?

Al Waqi‘a and What Precedes It

The sura that comes before Sura al Waqi‘a is Sura al Rahman; another of those most beloved suras of the Qur’an. Imam Fakhr al Din al Razi – one of the great Giants of Islamic scholarship – was a great theologian and brilliant jurist. He also gave me a terrible stomach ache because I once decided to cover Sura al Fatiha and the short suras.

I had prepared for Sura al Kawthar. I’d prepare from the mid-sized suras first, and then dip into some of the larger suras to see what were the points of benefit. I was pretty much ready for the class. I was running late. I was having lunch at about five p.m. But I needed to finish my preparation and I got a double whammy.

There’s a linguistic tafsir of Sura al Kawthar by a scholar called Al Samina al Halabi. He had twenty-two points of rhetoric (balagha) that bring out meanings of Sura al Kawthar. That started my stomach groaning. Twenty-two points! The sura is three verses!

Then I opened the tafsir of Razi and he brought forth forty meanings that are understood from “inna ataynaka al Kawthar.” (Sura al Kawthar 108:1) He goes through them and they’re all very pertinent. They’re all right there from the verse, and his tafsir is one of the greatest foundational tafsirs of Islamic scholarship.

Gratitude and Ingratitude

Imam Razi asked, what is the relationship between Sura al Rahman and Sura al Waqi‘a? Sura al Rahman, he says, mentions Allah’s blessings and is a call to gratitude. Then don’t be ungrateful. Therefore, be grateful. “So which of the blessings of your Lord would you deny?” (Sura al Rahman 55:77) Meaning, be grateful for those blessings. Surat al Waqi‘a talks about the consequences of gratitude and ingratitude. So,

Sura al Rahman highlights Allah blessings and calls to gratitude. Sura al Waqi‘a talks about the consequences for the people of gratitude, and the consequences for the ungrateful. Ingratitude is related, in our religious understanding, to disbelief, because ingratitude is a rejection of blessings, or a refusal to accept and acknowledge blessings. That is what disbelief is. Disbelief itself is a rejection, a refusal.

The second is that Sura al Rahman reminds us of blessings and of consequences. The third is that the Sura al Rahman manifests and highlights Divine Mercy, whereas Sura al Waqi‘a manifests Divine Majesty and awe. Of course, both have mercy and majesty , but there is a sense of awe and urgency in this Sura al Waqi‘a.

The Aims of Sura al Waqi‘a

What are the aims of Sura al Waqi‘a? One of the other great imams of tafsir is Imam Burhan al Din al Biqa‘i, whose tafsir, Nadhm al Durar (The Perfect Arrangement of Pearls) argues that the central aim of Sura al Waqi‘a is to remind us of the manifest power and the tremendousness of Allah Exalted and Most High, and that it is Allah who possesses all perfection, all beauty, and all majesty.

How does it do this? It begins by telling us what will happen to this world: this whole universe. This great event will befall it, which is an event external to it. This thing that seems so real will completely end. How? By the pure power of Allah exalted and Most High.

It highlights what happens in the Hereafter, and how Allah has complete dominion over the fates of His creation. Then it tells us about the reality of death and the closeness of Allah. The Sura then ends with the words: “So glorify the Name of your Lord, Most Tremendous.” (Sura al Waqi‘a 56:96) So the central theme of it is the the absolute Power and Glory of Allah, Exalted and Most High.

This is one of the reasons why many of the scholars found great benefit in helping their students develop a relationship with the Qur’an by having them recite daily and reflect on Sura al Waqi‘a.

Al Waqi‘a Among the Early Muslims

This is one of the neglected practices from many of the early Muslims, including the Sahaba. They used to focus on some verses of the Qur’an or on a particular sura until they made it a routine and a habit to reflect upon it. To really bring out the meanings of it and strive to live those meanings before moving to other verses. The ones from the earliest generations found particularly benefit in this, as we see from the example of our master And Allah ibn Mas‘ud.

Our master Uthman, the Emir of the Believers, came and says:

“What about your stipend?”
“I don’t need it. I’m dying.”
“What about your daughters?”
“They don’t need it either.”
“Why?”
“Because I told them to recite Sura al Waqi‘a.”

It’s not just a spiritual thing: that there’s a spiritual benefit in it. If you realize the meanings in the sura you will know how to direct yourself in life.

Categories of People on the Day of Judgment

One of the great Imams of tafsir in the history of Islamic scholarship was a great twentieth century Muslim scholar from modern-day Tunisia, Imam Tahir ibn Ashur. He died, I think, in the early 1970s. His thirty volume work, Al Tahrir wa al Tanwir, is one of the greatest works of tafsir ever written.

He says of the central themes of Sura al Waqi‘a, firstly, is a reminder of the reality of resurrection. You will be resurrected. That day is a day of judgment where you will be taken to account. And you are in one of three categories. There are levels of people and they have promised reward and punishment. So be aware of that be aware of that.

There there are only three sets of people. You could be in some grade amongst those three categories, but there are three spectrums in which people are. You are somewhere there and where you end up will be according to the choices that you make in this life. The underlying theme of the sura is the power of Allah the power, might, and majesty of Allah in all things.

Hereafter or Here and Now

One of the remarkable 20th century scholars, Shaykh Sa‘id Hawa, a Syrian scholar who was then exiled in Jordan, wrote a wonderful tafsir – Al Asas fi al Tafsir (The Foundation of Tafsir) – and he also talked a lot about the coherence of the Qur’an.

Many of the early Muslims said, and this is also related from Abd Allah ibn Abbas, that all of the meanings of the Qur’an are summarized in Sura al Baqara; and all of the meanings of Sura al Baqara are to be found in Sura al Fatiha. So he does this sort of mapping of the key themes of the Qur’an.

He makes a beautiful point in his tafsir. He says that the central aim of Sura al Waqi‘a is not about they Hereafter. It is about the here and now. Because you can’t do anything about the Hereafter itself. No, what you can do is act in this life in a manner that will get you to the right eternal destination.

The Stations of Success

For every call, every mention of the Hereafter in the Qur’an, the underlying message of it is to live in this life in a manner that will get you to those stations of the people of success, and that will keep you from the stations of the people of loss.

The central theme of Sura al Waqi‘a, then, is a call to worship of Allah Exalted and Most High. A call to be mindful of Allah. A call to righteous action: to feel a deep sense of urgency with respect to the need to turn to Allah, to worship Allah, to be mindful of Allah, and to embrace righteous deeds that will get you to the Hereafter.


Resources for Seekers

Sura al Waqi‘a Explained, Part 1 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this first part of Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s explanation, we learn about the effect of Sura al Waqi‘a on the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and his Companions.

Sura al Waqi‘a is one of the most beloved suras of the Qur’an. It has a comprehensive summary of key themes. It is also one of the most dramatic suras in its message that conveys a great sense of urgency from beginning till end.

This is why the scholars and the righteous from the earliest times till our times have placed great emphasis and found tremendous benefit in this sura. So much so that some of the scholars of the spiritual path would tell students to recite it daily, sometimes even twice a day, because of what it it contains of meanings that remind us of the urgency of this life.

Some of those who are reductionist in their religious outlook say nothing has been related about the virtues of Sura al Waqi‘a. That is a type of religious blindness, because much has been related about Sura al Waqi‘a, both from the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, as well as from the Companions and the early generations.

It Makes the Hair Gray

One of the great early Muslims, Imam Masruq, said that whoever seeks to have all knowledge possessed by all peoples of the first communities and the last, and the knowledge of this life and the next, should recite Sura al Waqi‘a, because it contains all the knowledge that truly matters.

This is not a light saying. If we look at the Sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, we see that the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, did not develop gray hair till very late in his life. But then suddenly his hair started going gray.

The Companions noticed that some of his hair started growing gray so they asked him about it. The Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, explained that it was there was a number of suras that made his hair grow gray. He said, blessings and peace upon him, that his hair was made gray by Sura Hud 11, al Waqi‘a, al Mursalat, al Naba’a, and al Takwir.

These are from the mid-sized suras whose central theme is the reality and urgency of the hereafter. Of course it is not the sura that made the hair go gray, but its message. This message was so profound that it it had a physical effect on the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him.

It Shields Against Poverty

It is related from Uthman ibn Affan that he entered upon Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud in his final illness. Uthman asked, “What ails you?” He said, “My sins.” Uthman asked, “What do you long for?” He said, “The mercy of my Lord.” Uthman asked, “Should we not call the doctor?” He said, “The doctor made me sick.”

Uthman asked, “So should we arrange your stipend?” He said, “I don’t need it.” Uthman asked, “Should we not apportion it for your daughters?” He said, “My daughters have no need for the state stipend.” Uthman was surprised because everyone is concerned about their children.

Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, noting his wonderment, then said, “My daughter’s don’t have any need for that stipend. I have ordered them to recite Sura al Waqi‘a for I have heard the Messenger of Allah, Blessings and peace be upon him, say, “Whoever recites Sura al Waqi‘a every day will not be affected by poverty or neediness.”

The Narrations and Its Acceptance

The hadith as ascribed to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, has weakness in it. But this hadith has been related from many of the Companions, with many different narrations. Some of them ascribing it to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. Some of them from their own words.

Many of the Imams both early and late generally held that there is a sunna basis to affirming

    1. 1) a special virtue for Sura al Waqi‘a and

 

    2) that Sura al Waqi‘a is a protection from neediness.

From that is what is related by Imam al Bayhaqi and also from Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Whoever recites Sura al Waqi‘a every night will not be affected by neediness, ever.” It is similarly related from Ibn Abbas and others.

Anas relates that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Sura al Waqi‘a is the enriching [the one that frees of need] so recite it, and teach it to your children.”

This too has some weakness in it: in its ascription to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. But you see that it is widespread amongst the early Muslims, particularly the Companions and the Followers (Tabi‘in).

If you look in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba and other such compendiums which have a lot of the narrations from the early Muslims, you see many, many narrations on the virtue and importance of Sura al Waqi‘a and it being a freeing of need.

The wisdom of these virtues that were narrated and accepted goes back to the themes of Sura al Waqi‘a.


Resources for Seekers

The Great Event: Sura al Waqi’a Explained – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a thematic study of this Sura, its explanation (tafsir), key lessons, and how to grow one’s relationship with Allah through deepening one’s understanding and relationship with this great Sura.

Sura al Waqi’ah is one of the most beloved and most recited Suras of the Qur’an. This is because of the sense of urgency and opportunity it conveys.

This Sura has three main themes:

The Resurrection

The first theme, found in verses 1-56, described the amazing awe-inspiring power of the Resurrection, as well as the various stations which all people will be in.

The resurrection is a reality. It has been said, “If the light of faith were in your heart, the hereafter would be so real that you wouldn’t feel the need to travel to it.” There are two types of disbelief in the Hereafter; the explicit denial, and lesser denial. The latter involves a lifestyle that does not act as if the Hereafter exists. We should nurture a sense of reality of the hereafter, to give us the sense of urgency that we need to ensure that we take this life seriously.

Proofs of the Resurrection

The second theme, found in verses 57-80, speak about the rational proofs of the Resurrection.

Modern science usually argues that there is no Creator, However, we believe that things cannot create themselves, and we have many proofs in the Qur’an and in other places. The human being is like a plant, nurtured by reflection and watered by remembrance. If bereft of these, the faith could shrivel and die. Therefore, we have a duty to learn more about our beliefs. If a society isn’t firmly rooted in their faith, the faith can leave when in testing times.

During and After Death

The third theme, from verses 81-96, speaks about the state of a person during and after death.

After death, there are many types of people. The ones brought near, will have joy and ease in Paradise. There will also be those of the right hand, who will be greeted with good. As for the one who denied, they will be in Hellfire.

All  blessings are from Allah, even life itself. We must respond to these blessings while we still have time. However, Allah asks us why we only look at these blessings when we are close to dying, or when we see someone else die, even though Allah is closer to us than anyone else.  Closeness to Allah is not an issue of distance, but in the sense that He sustains everything, at all times.


Resources for Seekers

What is Death? – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

In this new series, Remembering Death and the Afterlife, Shaykh Hamza Karamali addresses a topic that does not appeal to our western sensibilities, yet is of great significance to the life of faith.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:

Every soul will, without doubt, fully experience death. (3:185, 21:35, and 29:57)

We will all die. You will die, I will die, and everyone that we know – all will die. But what exactly does it mean to die? What is death?

When we die, we stop breathing, our heart stops beating, our brain’s electrical impulses stop, our joints become stiff, our body grows cold, stops moving, and starts to decay. When our body changes like this, we die. But even though these bodily changes always accompany death, none of them is the “full experience of death” that Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an.

Death and the Experience of It

The ending of breathing accompanies death, but it is not the experience of death itself. The ending of our heartbeat accompanies our deaths, but it is not our experience of death itself. The ending of our brain activity, the stiffening of our joints, and our bodies growing cold all accompany our deaths, but they are not our experience of death.

Bodily changes such as these always accompany our conscious experiences. But when we observe ourselves, we know — clearly, immediately, and without any inference — that these bodily changes are not identical to our conscious experiences.

Our experience of happiness is accompanied by increasing levels of the hormones dopamine and serotonin, but the increased levels of those hormones is not what our happiness is. Our experience of stress is accompanied by increasing levels of the hormone cortisol, but those increased levels of cortisol are not what our stress is.

We are not our bodily changes. We are not our bodies. We are our souls.

Strange Thing, This Soul

Our soul is a strange thing — we cannot see it, touch it, or measure it, but we clearly know that it is there. We know that our happiness, our stress, our hope, our fear, our gratitude, our love, are not our bodily changes, but experiences that take place in our souls, apart from, different from, distinct from the changes in our bodies.

Let’s return now to the question of this post: “What is death?” The answer to this question depends on what happens to our souls — our selves, in other words — when we die. We know that when someone dies, their lungs stop breathing, their hearts stop beating, their brains stop pulsing, their joints become stiff, their bodies grow cold and start decaying.

But we don’t know what happens to their souls because their souls are apart from, different from, distinct from their bodies, and the ones who die are their souls, not their bodies. We don’t know what happens to their souls. We don’t know what happens to them.

Two Logical Possibilities

There are two possibilities. Either they — their souls, in other words — stop existing when their bodily functions stop and they die, or they — their souls, in other words — continue to exist, persisting beyond their bodies into another kind of life.

There is no scientific evidence for or against either possibility. This not a question that science can answer because no scientist can conduct any repeatable experiment to tell us what someone experiences when they die. A repeatable experiment to find out what really happens when someone dies would look something like this.

Take a hundred people. Let them die. Then ask them what happened. The problem, as you can see, is that once they die, they no longer speak to us. They cannot tell us what happened. When a scientist or a doctor or anyone else claims that death is the end of our existence, they are making a claim in haste and without any evidence to support it.

Death Is A Transition

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us that our deaths are a movement from this life into another life, into a life that will last forever, a life in which we will be called to account for our belief and deeds in this life, and that our purpose in this life is to prepare ourselves for that everlasting life.

Those who disbelieved in him turned away, and claimed (in the words of Allah Most High in the Holy Qur’an) that, “It [i.e., life] is nothing more than this life of ours in this world, living and dying, nothing destroying us except the passage of time.” (Sura al Jathiya 45:24) Allah Most High explained also in the words of the Holy Qur’an that those who make such a claim “have no genuine knowledge of that at all: they are merely surmising.” (Sura al Jathiya 45:24) The claim that our deaths are the end of our existence is an empty claim, unsupported by any evidence at all.

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, on the other hand, told us that our deaths are a movement from this life into another life, he had evidence for what he said. Allah Most High confirmed his genuine messengerhood with dozens of physical miracles during his lifetime. With the miracle of the Qur’an — its linguistic miracle, its scientific miracle, and its accurate prediction of future events.

The Prophet’s knowledge, Allah bless him and give him peace, of the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, his vast knowledge of how to organize societies, how to trade, how to judge, and how to govern, all in spite of his being unlettered, his sublime character, selflessness, is all abundant evidence that the revelations that he conveyed could only have been from Allah Most High.

The Door to Everlasting Life

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, tells us about death, he is telling us what Allah Most High, the one who makes us live and makes us die, told him. Allah Most High told us through him that death is something that we “fully experience” and a “full experience” is only possible if we continue to exist as we die. In subsequent episodes of this series, I will relate and explain many other Qur’anic verses and prophetic hadiths that describe what happens after we die.

The upshot of those verses and hadiths, in the words of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz, Allah Most High have mercy on him, is that: “You were created forever [and when you die you don’t stop existing] but are moved from one abode into another abode.”

Death is not nonexistence. Death is not annihilation. Death is the interruption of your soul’s connection with your body. Death is a change of your soul’s state. Death is a movement of your soul from one abode into another abode.

The purpose of your living a life that ends with death is for you to lift your gaze beyond this transient life into the next everlasting one, for you to avoid the foolish mistake of living for a world that you will leave behind you when we pass through the door of your death into your everlasting life.

If Allah Most High gives me life until the next post, I will, if He wills, explain that further.


This post is taken from the first episode of the podcast series: Remembering Death and the Afterlife with Shaykh Hamza Karamali.