The Believer, Futuwwa, & Times of Crisis – Shaykh Salman Younas

A few days ago, I visited the local supermarket to stock up on some basic supplies for the home – some rice, canned food, tissues, cleaning items, and medicine. An announcement from the government was imminent, and anticipating a potential decision to close schools, offices, and other public venues and activities, people were rushing to prepare themselves for the worse of the coronavirus crisis. 

Finding some of the items on my list proved a difficult task. Fever reducing medication, such as paracetamol, was sold-out in most places despite efforts to limit the quantity individuals could purchase. I went from store to store until finally I was able to purchase the maximum two packets of medicine allocated to each customer. This was the fifth store I had visited. Earlier, as I walked in the medicine aisle of one chain pharmacy, I saw an elderly couple looking for the same medicine that I was. There was none, of course, and I informed them that the situation was the same at the local supermarket. 

The coming days will prove to be challenging for many of us: increasingly confined to our homes and uncertain of what to expect in the coming few weeks and months. Some people, however, will be faced with difficulties of an entirely different magnitude. The coronavirus, which has gripped the entire world, is particularly dangerous for those above the age of sixty and those with underlying health conditions. Significant numbers will succumb to the virus, while many others will be hospitalized in critical and intensive care. The empty shelves we are seeing as a result of the paranoia that has gripped various nations also means that many will probably find themselves struggling to find basic supplies and medicine, at least until a system is implemented to ensure demand is met.

Islam teachers us that the believer is someone who maximizes benefit and minimizes harm for all those around him. Often, when we speak about our treatment and dealing with other people, the concept of mercy, love, care, selflessness, etc., come to mind. In Islam, there is another concept that is all encompassing of the adab a believer is meant to display: futuwwa, or chivalry.

Its foundation, as stated by Imam al-Qushayri, is “that the servant of God always exerts himself in the service of others.” (al-Risala al-Qushayriyya) This is in keeping with the statement of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), “Allah is in the aide of his servant as long as the servant is in aide of his brother.” (Sahih Muslim) There are several futuwwa traits that we should uphold in these trying times, among them:

  1. Minimizing harm to others. Imam al-Junayd said, “Chivalry means keeping trouble away from others.” (al-Risala al-Qushayriyya) This is an all-encompassing definition. In the current context, keeping trouble away from others entails ensuring that one is not a cause for the spread of this illness in any way shape or form to an interdiction on hoarding, raising prices, spreading false news, and more. The believer is someone who avoids causing difficulties for others, while bearing the difficulties caused by them.
  2. Making active efforts to assist those around us. Imam al-Qushayri said, “Chivalry is that you do not hide from those who seek your assistance.” (al-Risala al-Qushayriyya) The coming weeks will see individuals in our community struggle: financially, emotionally, and in other ways. They will look to the wider community to lift them up and it is the duty of every Muslim to extend them his hand in support. This should be something we do actively without being asked. As Sufyan al-Thawri said, “It is contrary to proper adab to not serve when you are able to.” (Kitab al-Futuwwa)
  3. Giving to people freely. Imam al-Qushayri said, “Chivalry is that you neither hoard wealth nor seek excuses to avoid giving to those in need.” (al-Risala al-Qushayriyya) The past few days have shown that people are concerned about the future, which has resulted in buying goods in bulk often at the expense of others. This is contrary to trust in Allah (tawakkul). Part of chivalry is to have trust that one’s sustenance is guaranteed and not let concern for it prevent from assisting others.
  4. Giving preference to others. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq said, “Chivalry is that if we are given something, we prefer to give it to someone else.” (al-Risala al-Qushayriyya) This only arises from worldly detachment, being satisfied with little for oneself, and wishing much for others. It is expected of the Muslim in good times and is demanded of him even more when hard times fall on people. As the current crisis unfolds, Muslims will have to freely and generously give of their wealth, time, and resources in order to ensure the well-being of wider society.
  5. Showing compassion to all of creation. This manifests in numerous ways: a cheerful smile, a kind gesture, soothing words, tolerating the actions of others, overlooking faults, empathy, and praying for all. Everything we do in these moments should embody prophetic compassion. In times of uncertainty and anxiety, the believer will encounter unsavoury things, but he must confront them not with negativity, harshness, or complacency, but positivity, patience, and decency.

In Islamic discourse, the fata was essentially the word used to describe the ideal, noble man whose hospitality and generosity was so expansive that he left little for himself. The term futuwwa came to denote a code of honourable conduct that followed the examples of the prophets, saints, and righteous. At its core was the notion of not just generosity, but an almost heroic generosity of time, wealth, and spirit where one went above and beyond for his fellow human beings. If there was any time for Muslims to adopt the ethics and traits associated with futuwwa – loyalty, generosity, humility, courage, etc. -, it is this time we find ourselves in right now.

Regarding Sincerity: A Conversation About Truthful Intention and Self Accountability – By Dr. Mahmoud Masri

There’s a story in ‘al-Risala al-Qushayriyya’ of a young man who regularly attended a gathering (majlis), when he heard a shaykh discussing sincerity: how is it, how should it be when performing actions, etc. The young man found this heavy upon himself, and from that day forward he made a firm intention that he would not attend the gathering anymore, and refrained from going until the point he was harmed because of that. The Shaykh noticed his absence and asked regarding him. He eventually met with him and asked him why he was absent; he answered, “I heard from your words and was afraid for myself”. The Shaykh replied to him, “My son, that’s not the solution. We point you to sincerity (ikhlas) in actions, not to abandoning actions!”

Act! Thoughts such, “I’m doing this pious act and I fear the interest of people and their interest in my actions” may come to a person. One must not pay attention to this and should correct their intention. Even if he is actually one of the ostentatious, he should remain upon the action, and continue the deed. Like when they said, “We sought knowledge for other than Allah, and knowledge refused to be for any but Allah.”

Every action is such! Just like prayer may not be perfect because of what comes to the person of thoughts and notions; the solution isn’t to abandon prayer all together. Rather, the solution is in rectification, and this is done with training.

It is upon the person to adhere to actions, even if notions, whispers, or thoughts come to him. Thoughts of the self are like whispers of Devil: their remedy is to disregard them.

Section:

In the issue of the person who doesn’t like notoriety, and in this state, thoughts of people noticing this come to him.  This is from the hidden and intricate matters that are warned against in spiritual training.  As mentioned earlier, the approach here is to disregard these thoughts and to continue the actions he was doing. This is how these thoughts and things which resemble them go away.

One thing that helps the person in this is clarity (as-Safaa) and of the means of obtaining it are:

  • remembrance of Allah (dhikr)
  • good companionship (suhbah)
  • self striving (mujahadah)
  • self training and exercise (tadreeb wa riyadhatu-nafs)

You cannot remove darkness, but you can bring light. When light becomes present, darkness disappears. 

Whoever knows Allah is not the slave of fame nor of obscurity; rather, he will be a slave of Allah. Whatever state Allah places him in he submits to Him, outwardly and inwardly, and he doesn’t pay attention to anything else.  If he places him in one situation he is content, if he places him in another, he is content. He doesn’t look back on these matters.

As for the issue regarding people venerating a person for his work in da’wah while he doesn’t see himself deserving such treatment from them since there are people more knowledgeable than him, deserving something comes from Allah. If we were to look at worthiness then none of us would actually qualify by ourselves. What occurred is that which the divine will selected, so it’s from Allah’s decree and we have no control over the matter.

Furthermore, don’t look at the external and apparent. Rather, look at the fact that Allah is the one who moves them and their hearts; and that you are similar to them in that you are in Allah’s possession. You exchange the same love and respect. See in everything that it is from Allah, and say, “All praise is due to Allah” and this will push you to many things.

It is said, “Whoever has good opinion of you, work towards realizing it.”

Not by saying, “You spoke the truth” or “What you said regarding me and your good opinion of me is true, I am exactly what you say and think of me”.

Rather, the meaning is to act in accordance with their good opinion, make them truthful by actually doing the actions; that you are actually like that!

It has also been said:

When a rumor spread that Abu Hanifah used to pray Fajr with the wudu of ‘Isha he forced that upon himself and took it as a sign for himself from Allah. 

O Allah grant us sincerity.

 

Taken from the words of Shaykh Dr. Mahmoud Masri, click here to read the Arabic original.

Translated by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

The End of a Crucial Decade in Human History – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqan

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan discusses the importance of valuing and utilizing one’s time appropriately and constructively. He reminds the congregation that it is critical to reflect on how time has passed us collectively. With the completion of a decade, Shaykh Sadullah highlights the various local and global issues and events that have affected human beings around the globe. From the Arab spring to the fascist laws being passed in India, the past decade has shown the degradation of morality within human beings. Despite the wonderful technological and scientific advancements, we as human beings have failed in truly making a positive change in our societies. It is critical for us to be aware of what is happening around us so that we as Muslims may be able to engage in actions of virtue and benefit.

Appreciation of Beauty – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

 

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan reminds the congregation about the value of appreciating beauty. By cultivating beautiful character traits we are able to replicate the most beautiful and complete person, the Prophet (peace be upon him). In a time where only the outer is accepted and lauded, it would do us well to remember the importance of the inner dimensions of human existence. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the epitome of inner and outer excellence. As Muslims, we should try our upmost to beautify our inner states so that we may be able to manifest beauty to others in our actions.

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan (Cape Town)

The Scholar Who Worked as a Waiter – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

One of our teachers was Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Attas, a scholar and a true worshipper. He was known as ‘al-Zabidi’ because he spent some years studying with the scholars of Zabid (once a great centre of knowledge in Yemen). During his time there he chose to work as a waiter in a restaurant, not because he needed the money, but in order to refine his lower self (nafs): running round taking people’s orders, bring this, do this..

We visited him in his home in Huraydah at the end of his life with a group of scholars: among them Habib Mashhur bin Hafiz, Habib Umar bin Alawi al-Kaf, Habib Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Shihab and Habib Salim al-Shatiri.

He said:

“Last night someone saw the Prophet ﷺ in this very room.”

May Allah have mercy upon him – a scholar who knew the importance of refining the nafs.

– Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) during his commentary on the Ihya Ulum al-Din, Dar al-Mustafa, 28th Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1440.


 

ADAB 14: The Proprieties of Prioritizing in Religious Practice

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of prioritizing religious practice.

“From the marks of following whimsical desires is rushing to perform supererogatory acts of devotion, and laziness in the fulfilment of religiously obligatory duties.” Profound words from the remarkable Ahmad b. ‘Ata Illah al-Sakandari (may Allah sanctify his secret). You don’t start profiting until you’ve broken even, and a lack of religious priority and guidance can lead to loss in this life before the next. Fortunately, the scholars don’t just leave us in the dark about how to function prophetically, and with true, praiseworthy adab, but they take us by the hand to ensure that we grow, recognise, appreciate and are subsequently grown, even without our own doing.

Our Master ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: “I have come intending to set out in jihad with you, seeking thereby the countenance of Allah and the next abode. I have indeed come, but my parents are weeping.” He said, Allah bless him and give them peace, “Return to them and make them laugh just as you made them weep.” (Ibn Majah) It doesn’t matter about your emotions, how much you want something, how beloved it appears to be to the lawgiver, or anything else. What matters is priority, and this is not it in your life at this time. Priority is what the Lawgiver wants from you and I, and that takes time to realise, absorb, consider and do.

1. Divine Love in Priority

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said in a holy tradition (hadith qudsi), transmitting Allah’s Speech to us: “My servant draws near to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him; and My servant continues drawing nearer to Me with supererogatory works until I love him.” (Bukhari) It is not by jumping to recommended or mere charitable deeds that a believer wins unto the great, good pleasure of the Divine, but by fulfilling that which He has made obligatory upon us. 

In another tradition, our Master Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported that a man came and said to the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Do you think that if I pray the prescribed prayers, fast [the month of] Ramadan, deem the lawful to be lawful and the unlawful to be forbidden, and I do not add anything beyond that, I shall enter Paradise?” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Yes.’ (Muslim) The religion is comprised of different duties, of course, but there is something special about the obligatory acts, a secret by which a person can attain unto ultimate bliss. 

Obligatory, missed duties also need to be made up and should be given precedence over supererogatory works, unless that which requires attention is minimal. So you should focus, for example, on the missed dawn prayers (fajr) rather than praying extra cycles (rak‘as) of the mid-morning prayer (duha). Generally, makeup prayers and fasts should be prioritised, as is the case with missed zakat payments. Mandatory duties such as missed end of Ramadan charity payments (sadaqat al-fitr), missed ritual sacrifices (udhiya/qurbani), expiations for fasting, oaths and the like, should also be given precedence to other monetary acts of devotion

2. Duties: Communal and Personal

Allah Most High says, “However, it is not necessary for the believers to march forth all at once. Only a party from each group should march forth, leaving the rest to gain religious knowledge then enlighten their people when they return to them, so that they too may beware of evil.” (Sura al-Tawba 9:122) In his exegesis, Ibn ‘Ashur explains that seeking knowledge is also a communal obligation, and that the entire community of believers (umma) would have been negligent if they had all left in jihad. Rather, there were multiple obligations to take care of, and a sufficiently large group needed fulfil each duty. Both were prioritised and of equal, communal importance. 

The communal obligation (fard kifaya) is that which is due upon every community of believers in a particular place. It is not limited to seemingly religious roles. An example would be the need to have doctors, lawyers and traders, all of whom are required to run a healthy society. This obligation is only lifted if a sufficiently large number of people fulfil it whereby the need is taken care of. Otherwise, the entire community is sinful. The personal obligation (fard ‘ayn) is that which is due from every single individual without exception. Similarly, there is a communal sunna, such as the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf), and personal sunnas, such as the emphasised cycles (rak‘as) associated with each prescribed prayer. All of these also require fulfilment as such sunnas are duties which cannot be left without a genuine, shari‘a-countenanced excuse. 

The personal obligation is of greatest importance because matters which pertain to the generality are lesser in emphasis. But some individuals have a greater responsibility to take care of duties on behalf of the entire community because of their aptitude and personal circumstances, and their reward will be commensurate with the sincerity of their service and devotion. What this also means is that each person may get the reward of fulfilling an obligatory duty by intending their permissible work as such whenever they set out in the morning or night. Each person has a place, and actions are but by their intentions. When there is a choice, prioritising entails choosing a communal duty that is not yet fully fulfilled.

3. Knowledge of Your Current Circumstances (‘ilm al-hal)

It is obligatory, of course, to know enough that you can worship Allah Most High in the situations you normally find yourself in. In this context, worship relates to three things: (a) that which relates to the mind, ‘aqida; (b) that which relates to the limbs, fiqh; and that which relates to the heart, tasawwuf. All of this is required, albeit to the extent of the need, in order to fulfil your duty to worship. 

The Ottoman scholar, and the Shaykh of the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-haram) of his time, Yusuf al-Amasi (d. 1000 AH), writes in his brilliant treatise, Tabyin al-Maharim: “It is obligatory to know the [basic] rulings of (1) the five prescribed duties [assuming that they are due]; (2) the details of sincerity, because the soundness of actions depends upon it; (3) [basic] rulings of the lawful and the unlawful; (4) the details of showing off, because the worshipper is deprived of reward otherwise; (5) the details of envy and conceitedness, because they consume a person’s good deeds just as fire consumes wood; the details of (6) buying, selling, (7) marriage and divorce, for somebody who intends to do these things; and the (8) [basic] rulings related to foul and impermissible language.” A fair deal to work on! Note that this is just a list with respect to the obligatory. There are also mandatory (wajib) acts which require performance and severely offensive (makruh tahriman) acts which need to be avoided. 

What this means is that knowing the details of logical arguments, debates of ancient philosophers, when particular penal punishments are applicable, what Razi said about a particular verse, the names of the Companions who fought at Badr, in what situations the predicate is hidden in classical Arabic, and other non-essential issues from the various Islamic sciences may wait for another time. The sincere person is focused and clear about what he needs and he takes the requisite steps in order to attain unto it. Otherwise, one should look to their heart as to why they are studying whatever it is they are studying, and if it is at the expense of the above or not, because the scholars would state that this is following one’s desires and not acting in accordance with prophetic guidance. “Consult your heart,” said the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, even if the scholars answer you time and again.

A related issue is that a man would also need to know a sufficient amount of worldly knowledge such that he can earn a living and support his family, and accordingly, he is fulfilling an obligatory duty by learning a trade or preparing himself for that.

4. Different Priorities at Different Times

The scholars of the science of Islamic Spirituality (tasawwuf) mention that the true aspirant is a “son of his moment.” This is characterised in the words of Imam Junayd who said, “The believer’s state changes forty times daily,” pointing to the idea of prioritising whatever is required at any given time. It is clearly preferable to do certain things at certain times, and other things at other times. The key to all of this is knowledge, wisdom and sincerity. A brief example would be choosing between extensive night worship and being fresh and ready for work in the subsequent morning, even if in the month of Ramadan. Negligence in fulfilling one’s responsibilities with due care, a matter related to the rights of others, is far more serious than any reward earned for extra rak‘as or recitation of the Qur’an.
The jurists expressed this idea of priorities in the legal maxims (qawa‘id fiqhiyya) they developed to help those in the judiciary and elsewhere to understand the underlying principles which are shared between particular groups of rulings, but to also forward universals, something that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also encouraged. An example of this is the statement: “Warding off harms is given precedence over the attainment of benefits.” Similarly, “Severe harm is warded off by undertaking lesser harm.” It may well be that the circumstance calls you to behave in a manner which is contrary to that which is normally expected because there is some kind of grave harm entailed in doing otherwise.

The cases of this are too numerous to mention, but, as an example, consider the following list of scenarios which the jurists deemed to take precedence over the ritual prayer, even if it meant that the prayer time would exit: (1) a midwife who fears for the life of a baby; (2) anybody able to help a drowning or burning person, or anybody else in need of urgent, life-saving assistance; (3) a traveller who genuinely fears for his life or wealth from armed criminals. Please note that this is a technical discussion and if you face any of these scenarios regularly, it’s best to consult with a learned scholar first to ensure you fully understand the details of when such a choice is religiously acceptable and when it is not.

5. Avoiding the Unlawful versus Fulfilling the Obligatory

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “That which I have prohibited you from, shun it, and that which I have commanded you with, do it to the best of your ability.” (Bukhari) Not doing something is far easier than doing something, and this is partly the reason for the prophetic dispensation provided for the obligatory, contrary to the prohibited. One’s dedication in leaving the unlawful should be more intense than one’s performance of the obligatory, given that all it entails is not doing something, but the omission of both is obviously inexcusable. 

It is important to progress in learning with gradualness and wisdom. One should start with the obligatory (fard) and the prohibited (haram) and work to establish and remove those matters, respectively, and then move on to the mandatory (wajib) and the severely offensive (makruh tahriman) and so on. If you are jumping ahead to undertake commendable or praiseworthy (mustahab/mandub) actions, and you haven’t taken care of that which comes before, you are only kidding yourself. Fulfilling such matters is fine in moderation, even whilst you haven’t mastered the other things, but not at the expense of those which are hallmarks of sincere believers. The early righteous would say, “Works of piety are done by both the righteous and the corrupt, but nobody has the strength to leave sin except the sincerely faithful.” 

6. Public and Personal Benefit

The general principle is that benefit which accrues to other than oneself is better and more beloved to Allah Most High than personal benefit, except in some situations. An example of this latter case would be, according to Sultan al-‘Ulama al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam, the remembrances (adhkar) after the prayer wherein one recites subhana Llah, alhamdu li Llah, Allahu akbar, thirty-three, thirty-three and thirty-four times respectively.

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Every person’s joints have [an associated] charity due each day in which the sun rises: to reconcile between two [disputing] people is a charity; to assist another by helping him onto his mount, or lifting his merchandise onto it for him, is a charity. A good word is a charity. Each step one takes to the prayer is a charity. And removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari)

Our religion is service at its very heart; the scholar is a servant, the doctor is a servant, everybody with a profession serves, even if only their dependents. “Whoever doesn’t serve, shall regret it,” as one of the righteous once remarked. 

Priority, then, is in recognising that some matters are more urgent than others, and for the believer, that the next life is far more important than this life. May Allah Most High grant us the vision to be farsighted enough to recognise where our eternal benefit lies, to facilitate the attainment of such goals, remove obstacles and hardships from our lives and the lives of all believers, and allow out hearts to thrive with His Pure Love. 

 

And Allah alone gives success.

 

Adab 11: The Proprieties of Speech

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or proprieties of speech according to the Sunna.

One day, a man was sitting with Qadi Abu Yusuf, a senior companion of Imam Abu Hanifa. After a period of extended silence, which was strange given that Qadi Abu Yusuf was the chief justice and an imam in Sacred Law (fiqh), and people wouldn’t usually remain silent around him for too long, the Qadi said to him, “Do you have a question?” The man, fearing a missed opportunity, mustered up enough courage to remark, “Of course! When does a person stop fasting?” Qadi Abu Yusuf replied, “When the sun sets,” The man paused for a moment, then said, “But what if the sun doesn’t set until half the night has passed?”

Sometimes, silence is just better. The Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, gave us a central principle with respect to speech when he said, “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him say the good or remain silent.” (Muslim) In fact, there are so many traditions (ahadith) which point out the risks of speaking without due thought, and more importantly, need, that anybody who reads them regularly would begin to fear for his hereafter. In an age of social media where everybody has a voice, it’s imperative that we take a moment to step back, recall what our Lord wants from us, and recognise that we have two ears and one tongue, namely, that our listening should be twice as much as our speech.

1. The Rulings of Speech

The first thing to remember is that speech, like all other actions, has rulings. When the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told our Master Mu‘adh to “Restrain this,” namely, the tongue, he replied, “Will we be taken to task for what we say?” The striking, vivid, prophetic answer should suffice all of us as a reminder of the danger and harm we can reap with our tongues: “Is there anything that topples people on their faces – or he said their noses – into the Hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues?” (Tirmidhi)

Thus, speech may be divided into that which is (1) obligatory, (2) recommended, (3) permissible, (4) disliked, and (5) unlawful. 

Obligatory speech is speaking up to command the good, or to correct the wrong by forbidding some vice, when the conditions have been met. Remaining silent in such cases would be impermissible, just as actually engaging in wrongful speech is impermissible. Examples of the latter include engaging in slander, talebearing, lying, and the like of which we’ll see more of shortly.  Similarly, fulfilling many of the rights of your fellow believers is mandatory, such as responding to their greeting of salam, or praying for them after they’ve sneezed, for instance. 

It is recommended to speak when the speech will be recitation of the Qur’an, other remembrances (adhkar), or supplication for oneself or another. Another praiseworthy action is bringing joy to the heart of a fellow believer, or simply saying something pleasant to him because this is a form of “charity.” (Bukhari) On the other hand, it is disliked to speak whilst (a) using the bathroom, (b) undressed, or (c) engaged in intimate relations and the like. Likewise, it is unbecoming to speak when the benefit in doing so isn’t clear, or to speak during discouraged times such as after the nightfall prayer (‘isha). 

As for permitted speech, it is that which is devoid of any resultant reward or sin. An example would be to ask somebody to bring you some tea, or to tell your child to avoid something harmful. Of course, whenever the permissible is conjoined with an intention for Allah Most High, it transitions from the merely permissible to the recommended. 

2. The Golden Rule of Silence

Some of the scholars explained that speech is of four types: (a) harmful, (b) beneficial, (c) harmful and beneficial, and (d) not harmful nor beneficial. Eternal consequences matter, and whenever something harmful and beneficial conjoins, the harm is considered to preponderate over any potential good. Accordingly, this rules out two types of speech. As for that which is not harmful nor beneficial, it is unnecessary and a waste of one’s effort and energy as one finds oneself in the loss of Sura al-‘Asr. The only thing left is beneficial speech and even that has otherworldly danger, namely, because it may lead to showing-off or pride or other blameworthy traits. 

It behooves anybody, then, to recognize that speech should only be used when there is some good in it. If you don’t have anything good to say, you should remain silent as this is the sunna. Interestingly, the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed us to say the good, not the truth. Now, this isn’t permission to lie, obviously, but it gives us something of prophetic wisdom to work with. The prescriptions of the Sacred Law are always beneficial to us, whether we can see the good in them or not. Many of the early Muslims had much to offer in terms of directing believers towards silence. So twenty years from now, and when your husband asks how he looks in what used to be his wedding suit, be kind!

Imam Qushayri writes in his Risala that silence is the basis. But speaking when there is a manifest need is the manner of real men (namely, in the spiritual sense, so it applies equally to women.) He continues by stating that Abu ‘Ali al-Daqqaq, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Whosoever remains silent when truth is required is a blind devil.” Therefore, when speech is required, you must speak.

3. Excellence in Speech

We were directed to observe excellence in all of our dealings. Consequently, excellence, or ihsan, towards ourselves and others entails that we speak normally with others, without trying to put on heirs. Moderation, too, is generally the emblem of piety. When speaking, avoid being too loud or too quiet, or speaking too quickly or slowly, or speaking sternly when encouraging towards the good and with gentleness when warning against evil. However, this latter point must be contextualized and stated in the correct manner lest that it be a means of pushing people away from religion. Moreover, and as an aside, the sunna is to be attentive to the speaker whilst he is speaking as this nurtures respect and minimizes unbecoming outcomes from “hearing” things that weren’t said or other misunderstandings.

Equally, it is important to train oneself to see the good in things and speak accordingly, turning a blind eye to the ugly. Allah Most High says, “When they come across falsehood, they pass it by with dignity.” (Sura al-Furqan 25:72) It is reported that some of the disciples were walking with the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, and they came across the carcass of a dog. One of the disciples then remarked, “What an awful stench!” The Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, said, “It would have been better if you had said: ‘How white its teeth are!’” Regardless of the soundness of the report, we can learn something about dignity from it. 

In the same vein, one of the righteous used to say “good morning” to wild pigs and stray dogs that he passed, and when asked about it, he commented that he was getting himself accustomed to saying the good! It is also reported that a group of the corrupt were paddling by in a stream besides Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi and his companions. The companions asked Ma‘ruf to pray against them as they were drinking wine and playing unlawful instruments. So they raised their hands, and Ma‘ruf said, “O Lord, make them glee with joy in the hereafter as you have made them joyful in this life.” Astonished, they asked him how he could make such a supplication given the impermissible they were engaged in. He replied, “Their rejoicing in the hereafter will come about because of their repentance in this life.” May Allah be pleased with him!

The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If a person says, ‘People have gone to ruin,’ he is the most ruined of them all.” (Muslim) How so? Because of his conceitedness with respect to his state and actions, and his causing believers to despair from Allah Most High’s mercy. 

Another sunna is to be brief with one’s words so as to speak only to the extent of the need. Going beyond that can lead to situations which may comprise one’s religious comportment, or worse, make one say something which will be a source of later regret. Note, as previously explained by Imam Qushayri, speaking is the dispensation, or rukhsa, so the basis is in using it sparingly or at least with wisdom. There is nothing like safety, as Imam Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, noted. 

4. Self-Control in Speech

When clear benefit has been ascertained, the sunna is to engage others with excellence, holding oneself to standards of decency that befit a believer who is striving to emulate his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and especially if he claims love. As such, foul language needs to be completely shunned, not only because it is impermissible and interdicted, but because it is at odds with the manner, or adab, a strong, faithful believer is trying to uphold. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The believer is not given to reviling, cursing, obscenity, or vulgarity.” (Tirmidhi) If you are habituated to using such language, ask Allah Most High to free you from its shackles and grant you the ability to express joy or disappointment in a manner that is pleasing to Him. 

Modesty is from faith,” (Bukhari) said the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. The way of the Qur’an and the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is to avoid explicit references to matters that are unbecoming, such as when referring to the nakedness (‘awra). This is why the Qur’an alludes to the publicly undignified, specifically in the context of ablution (wudu) and cleanliness, and also intimate relations, by saying, “But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or have been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth.” (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:6) The scholars explain that a proper islamic education brings about a sense of refined decorum and modesty which prevents a person from mentioning certain things inappropriately and without express need. 

When it comes to self-control, a number of matters require attention. Unsurprisingly, these are the matters whose implications are religiously quite serious, namely, oaths, vows, promises and divorce. If you find yourself making too many oaths or promises, or threatening your spouse with divorce, you need to work on your self-restraint. Neglecting promises is one of the signs of hypocrisy, and failing to uphold the contents of oaths has expiatory consequences. But neither is encouraged unless you have the full conviction to carry out what you say, and the details of both may be sought elsewhere. The Companions (sahaba) were people of their word, and this is one of the traits of true believers. 

5. Unlawful Speech 

Something that was touched upon earlier was the impermissibility of certain types of speech. Practically, this means that it is not permitted to engage in any of it without a genuine, shari‘a-countenanced reason. The honour of your fellow believer is sacred and inviolable, as our Beloved Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us. (Muslim

Generally, there are two types of impermissible speech: that which relates to another, and that which relates to yourself. The former is more dangerous because it affects the rights of others, and its harm may reach you in the hereafter. The Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The bankrupt from amongst my community is the one who will come on Judgement Day with his prayers, fasts and alms, yet he swore at so and so, wrongfully accused so and so…” (Tirmidhi) The remainder of this lengthy tradition (hadith) apprises us that those wronged will come to receive their rights by taking this person’s good deeds. For anybody who believes in the reality of the hereafter and divine justice, this should make us all at least think twice or three times before reeling off a word or two by which one falls into the divine wrath. (Bukhari)

The types of speech which fall into this category are numerous, but some of the most important to keep in mind are as follows: (1) slander (ghiba), namely, to mention a fellow believer in their absence with words that they would dislike; (2) talebearing (namima), namely, saying words which worsen relations between people, or that which entails the divulging of something private; and (3) lying (kadhib), namely, to deliberately say something false. Finally, one of the cancers affecting the community of believers (umma) is anathema (takfir). This is something that must be left for the Muslim judge (qadi), or at the very least, senior jurisconsults (muftis), because ordinary people do not understand subtleties and intricate rulings. Condemning people to the Hellfire is extremely dangerous, the peril of which is palpable for everybody to see, both in our times and in recent history. 

6. Dignified Joking and Jest 

The condition for the permissibility of joking is that it is free of lying. Thereafter, it should be in moderation, like with all things, and it should certainly not turn into mockery or ridicule. Insulting one’s fellow believers is not permissible as many verses and traditions attest to. When free from the undignified, making believers laugh, bringing joy to their hearts and putting a smile on their face is a tremendous action worthy of a huge reward, particularly when coupled with an intention for Allah Most High. There are a number of traditions (ahadith) which record the humour and joking of the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. 

We pray that the All-Merciful overlooks our many shortcomings, increases us in presence and sincere following, and grants us the clarity and capacity to make speech-judgements that are in line with our next-worldly goals and hopes. All blessing and facilitation is from Him, Most High.

And Allah alone gives success.


 

 

The Trodden Path (Episode 7): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century – Umar Mukhtar

In this series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this seventh episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Umar Mukhtar.

 Umar Mukhtar 1277-1350=1861-1931 (Libya)

Umar Mukhtar, the man who opposed the Italians when they tried to colonize Libya, was born in 1861 (1277) in the valley of Batnaan in Barqah. He was from one of the famous Arab tribes in the area. His father had taken an oath that if Allah granted him a son, he would ensure that he acquired knowledge and serves Islam.

When he was five years old, he joined a primary school to learn the basics in reading and writing. Thereafter he joined the Jaghbub Mosque corner (zawiyah) where he studied the Islamic sciences. Shaykh Muhammad Ali Al-Sanusi started the zawiyah.

Every zawiyah comprised of three rooms. The first was used to conduct lessons to the Bedouin children, the second was used to entertain the travelers and the third served as a residence for the teachers. The zawiyah was always situated next to a well and it had a small piece of land that was cultivated and farmed by the students. The students consumed that which they planted. It also included a small workshop where they produced some goods that were sold to some tribes. It was situated in a place where the students could practically learn about Jihad.

It was in this atmosphere and environment that Umar Mukhtar grew up. Sanusi teachings encouraged its students to abstain from smoking or amassing gold and jewels. They were not to mix with strangers, because of the fear that they would corrupt their beliefs. In addition they were very aware that Islam was not restricted to the five pillars. Instead, it included brotherhood, tolerance, sacrifice and jihad.

These aspects were visible particularly when Umar Mukhtar raised the banner of Jihad against the Italians when they tried to colonize the region.

After completing his studies he was appointed a teacher at the Qusoor zawiyah near the Green Mountain. Initially he faced a rebellious tribe of highway robbers who had no regard for the law. Because of the manner in which he dealt with them, he was able to repress their defiance and he returned them to life of compassion and tenderness. He was able to instill in them pure Islamic characteristics.

When Italy tried to colonize Libya, many Muslims stood up opposing it. One of them was Umar Mukhtar. He appealed to the Muslims to have a conference to prepare the people mentally and physically to fight the colonialists. His vast knowledge assisted him in motivating the people, with the result the people of Libya were changed overnight into an army fighting in the path of Allah under the leadership of Ahmad Al-Sanusi.

Umar Mukhtar and those with him in spite of being few in number with limited resources resisted the Italians with their might. The number of Muslim martyrs in the first ten years, (1911-1921) were more than 70 000. The Italians used to throw some Muslims to their death from airplanes. They also gathered many Muslims and tied them to boats and dragged them in the sea. In addition they slaughtered and butchered hundreds of Muslims.

Umar Mukhtar led the Jihad against the Italians for twenty years until he was captured and imprisoned and sentenced to death in 1931 when he was seventy years old. 

General Istiyani said that he fought 263 battles against Umar Mukhtar in a period of twenty months. Even magazines like the ‘Time’ regarded the killing of Umar Mukhtar as an indication of the Italian’s victory.

When the Italians took over the city of Kafra, Umar Mukhtar took refuge on the ‘Green Mountain’ which he also used as his base.

One night, he went out on an operation along with fifty mujahids. They were taken by surprise when they found themselves surrounded by Italian soldiers. They exchanged gunfire, during which his horse was shot and wounded. When his horse fell, the Italians were then able to capture him. The Italian Governor in Marj arrived by plane, and ordered that Umar Mukhtar be taken to the port and from there he was taken to Benghazi. He remained in prison for four days. When his sentence was passed and he heard all the allegations against him, he did not deny it, instead he said, “You have transgressed and acted in hostility on our land. Islam has made Jihad compulsory on us against the usurpers of our land. I did not do anything except carry out the teachings of Islam, because Islam refuses and does not allow its followers to be disgraced.”

The Italian judge pronounced the sentence. The next day he was taken to the area where he was to be hanged. He continued to recite the Shahadah until he passed away. This was in 1931.


Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


 

Hajj, Haajar and Kashmir – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page

In this Pre – Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan discusses the historical meanings and lessons that we can derive from the sacred days of Hajj, including the great status that Haajar (may Allah be pleased with her) holds in Islam. Furthermore, Shaykh Sadullah reminds us about the legacies of illustrious Muslim female personalities that played significant roles in Islamic history. Additionally he reflects on the overt bigotry and discrimination that has become common on the global political stage, particularly in Kashmir. Shaykh Sadullah emphasizes the fact that our duties towards refugees and the oppressed need to move beyond lip service. We as Muslims need to be aware of the current wave of hatred and bigotry that has engulfed the world. It is critical that we look at Hajj as a symbol of unity, and an opportunity for each and everyone of us to sacrifice our self interests.

Channeling Anger for the Doing of Good – Nurulain Wolhuter

Anger is one of the more serious diseases of the heart. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, emphasised its severity in numerous ahadith. For example, Abu Huraira, Allah be pleased with him, narrates that a man said to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Advise me”. He said: “Do not become angry”. So he (the man) reiterated (the question) over and over. He (the Prophet) said: “Do not become angry” [al-Bukhari]. And Anas, Allah be pleased with him, asked the Prophet about that which distances him from the anger of Allah, and he said: “Do not become angry” [Ahmad].

But does this mean that one should never feel anger? How should we feel, for instance, when experiencing or witnessing oppression, cruelty or injustice? Or when someone reviles our religion or our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace? Imam al-Ghazali takes the view that excessive anger, as well as the inability to become angry at all, are reprehensible. However, being angry in moderation is permissible, as long as it is controlled by the intellect. This is in accordance with our Prophet’s instruction to always follow the middle way in everything.

By way of illustration, let us consider the case of Islamophobia. As Muslims living in the West, we have become all too familiar with its subtleties – veiled comments about bomb-carriers, descriptions of women in niqab as letter-boxes – as well as with its more overt forms – women’s headscarves being ripped off, pigs’ blood being spattered on mosques. But how should we deal with the anger that these experiences evoke?

Imam al-Ghazali’s cures for anger are as insightful in this respect as they are in regard to anger more generally. He exhorts us to humility and patience, and to view ourselves as no better than others. Rather than step forward to take on the perpetrators, to insist on our rights above all else, or to retreat to a siege of separatism, we should think of how our response can demonstrate the truth and beauty of Islam. And how better to do this than to emulate the example of Allah’s Beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace. In this way, our moderate anger will be kept under the control of our intellect. For he, when people reviled and hurt him, responded with the best of character. Instead of seeking the destruction of the people of Ta’if who had hurt him so badly, he expressed the hope that believers would come forth from among their descendants. And instead of being harsh to Abu Jahl, he asked Allah to honour Islam with the one whom He loves more: Abu Jahl or Umar ibn al-Khattab [Tirmidhi].

So the anger we feel when we experience or witness things that hurt or offend us in our religion is justified, provided that it is moderate and controlled. But if we go beyond that, and try our best to transform the anger into forgiveness, gentleness and kindness to those who have hurt or offended us, we will be calling them to the truth and reality of Islam. Let us try to emulate our Beloved in this, as we try to emulate him in everything else.