* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqan
* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqan
* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan (Cape Town)
* 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.
“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.
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.
* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page
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.
I was driving down White Abbey Road in Bradford in the direction of a famous old restaurant, probably with samosas – it’s speciality – on my mind. The car in front of me slowed down and eventually stopped to allow some pedestrians – no doubt on their way to invade the local clothes shops – to cross the road. I too stopped.
When the traffic started moving, I noticed that there was a crowd gathered on the left. It was some young men who had been playing football in an all-weather pitch by the side of the road. They were loosely following an older man, probably in his fifties. Clean shaven, and raggedly dressed in western clothing, he walked clumsily away from them. He was clearly drunk, and probably holding a bottle of alcohol in his hand at that moment too.
The youths were jeering and hurling abusive comments at him. He simply walked away and left them. Perhaps he had said something foolish, or inflammatory to them. Maybe he was a someone who was always treated that way by local miscreants because of his ‘sinful’ lifestyle. I don’t know. What I do know is that there was a look on his face which betrayed feelings of extreme anguish, pain, turmoil, sadness, and rejection.
As I started to move along with the rest of the traffic I felt a deep sadness for the plight of this man. Was he committing a haram act by drinking? Undoubtedly! That is something we wish that he didn’t do – as it is harmful for him on many levels.
Why the sadness, then? Well, I began to wonder ‘What got him to this stage?’ Nothing happens in a vacuum. Allah told us, ‘God brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers not knowing anything…’ (16:78). Sins, addictions, destructive habits and actions are not pre-programmed into us. What led him to this lifestyle, then? It’s not something most Pakistani men of a comparable age would do.
So I prayed for him. Perhaps he’s lived through circumstances which have pushed him into this corner. Allah will judge him and the rest of us; and that judgement will be based on Allah’s knowledge of this man’s collective life experiences – not just a solitary incident. Our role is to advise according to the standards of the Shariʿa: to enjoin the good and forbid the evil – but with wisdom.
Wisdom entails doing this properly, appropriately, and with the appropriate level of firmness or gentleness. Look at the Qurʾanic Firʿawn, who was most likely the historical figure Ramses II. A tyrant; a slave-monger; a child-killer; a genocidal maniac who convinced himself and the Egyptian populace that He was their god most high. When Allah sent Musa and Harun to him, what instructions did they recieve? ‘Go and beat him over the head with your admonishment!’? No.
Allah said, ‘Go [you two] to Pharaoh for indeed he has crossed all limits, and speak to him ever so gently!’ (20:44). Gently? To him? Yes. Going in guns blazing would have been contrary to wisdom.
Only after his repeated, stubborn refusals was he addressed with sternness in the hope that he would be shaken into realising his mistakes. All the prophets do this. In many places in the Qurʾan they are described as givers of good news (mubash-shirun) first and then as warners (mundhirun).
Sometimes, when seeing someone openly committing sins, or is in a destructive cycle, or in a drug or alcohol addiction, many people forget the above. Yes, hating the sin is part of faith – but not hating the sinner. How many of the companions went from being idolaters to the elite of the saints of Islam? What happened? They left the disbelief and the sins – but they remained the same individuals.
Seeing a sinner – someone who is wronging himself – should bring out the gentle, merciful nature in a believer. Did Allah not say to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, ‘Is it the case that you will kill yourself over them out of pure sadness if they don’t believe in this great discourse?’ (18:7).
Many people are broken internally and this may not show outwardly. Perhaps the guilt they feel for their sin is pain enough to expiate that sin. Maybe they are in a situation beyond their control, which they cannot escape try as they might.
Was Adam not forbidden to eat from the tree? Of course he was – but he ended up doing it because he was meant to leave Paradise and come to Earth for the real test. In the afterlife, Musa had some firm words to say to him about that, to which Adam responded with a justification based on what had been decreed for him. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said Adam won that argument (Bukhari).
Does this mean that people can commit any sin and say ‘I can’t help it. It’s decreed for me’? No, and that’s not the point of the hadith.
When someone in this unfortunate situation approaches a religious person, be he a scholar or a layman, he usually does so with a degree of reverence for this individual. A cruel or harsh approach to this person can have disastrous consequences. You could chase him away from the din, or worse – out of it!
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, has many beautiful and important saying on this matter: ‘Truly, whenever gentleness is in a matter it beautifies it; and whenever it is purged from something that thing becomes flawed.’ (Muslim). ‘O Allah, whoever governs any affair of the believers and then makes things hard for them, make things hard for him; and whoever is gentle to them, be gentle to him.’ (Muslim).
He also said, ‘Whoever is made bereft of gentleness he is made bereft of good itself.’ (Muslim) and ‘O ʿAʾisha, be gentle; because, when Allah wants great good for a family, He points them to the door of gentleness.’ (Muslim).
This is the approach which needs to be taken.
Abu al ʿAbbas al Mursi, the famous Egyptian saint, was said to be kinder and gentler to the morally corrupt than he was to his righteous students – not to mean that he wasn’t kind to them. He saw who was more in need of the kind treatment. We see that this has its roots in the sunna of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace.
ʿAmr b. al ʿAs – after fighting the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, for years – accepted Islam just before the conquest of Mecca. He later noted that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would give special attention to the ‘worst’ of the people with him, and go out of his way to make conversation with them. Why? To aid them in their development in Islam. So much so, that ʿAmr ended up convincing himself that he was better than Abu Bakr and ʿUmar, until he realised what was going on.
But wasn’t the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, firm with people at times? Didn’t he get angry at times? Yes, but this was always a drop in the oceans of his loving and kind dealings with people. Never did he repeatedly, and persistently, be harsh to anyone. How could he, when he prayed for those who had tried to assassinate him at the battle of Uhud? This does not mean that he was meek, or that he could not stand up for himself. On the contrary – he was the bravest of men!
What it means is that the gentle side greatly outweighed the occasions where he had to be firm. Even with Kaʿb b. Malik, who, along with two other companions, didn’t take part in the military campaign against the Romans to Tubuk – despite the great need for every available man to go. Out of laziness they didn’t end up going, so, the sin was expiated by a period of them not being actively included in the community. The companions were told not to communicate with them for what eventually ended up as fifty days.
Even during this intense period Kaʿb would notice that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, kindly look at him whist Kaʿb was praying, but then avert his gaze when he finished his prayer. This brought solace to Kaʿb, and counterbalanced the difficulty he was experiencing.
He even received a letter from one of the enemies of Islam inviting him to leave Madina to go to him with the promise of looking after him generously. What role did those glances from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, play in him resisting that temptation?
People are not always as them seem. Someone could come across as confident, smiling, and joking, but internally they could be carrying many wounds accumulated over the years. If this person then receives repeated harsh treatment from those he looks up to as being righteous, or from teachers, elders, respected community members, then the door to righteousness becomes less and less appealing. Which other door remains for him, then?
Turning away from bad actions – if possible – becomes less appealing, as they become a sure barrier to keep away those who treated him harshly despite him wanting and needing their help, support, and approval.
Such people should be directed to what’s best for them with kindness, and never should they be made to feel like there is no hope for them. A perfect example of this is the hadith in Sahih al Bukhari which mentions the mass murdered who killed ninety-nine people. He went to a worshipper wanting to know if he could repent somehow. When he was told ‘no’ he killed him and made the tally one hundred.
He then went to a scholar with the same question. The scholar filled him with hope, and showed him the way to repent and attain forgiveness with kindness, mercy, and wisdom. He was advised to get out of the places which he kept committing those sins in and to go to another city where there were righteous people living. He died on the way, closer to his hometown.
When the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment disputed over him, Allah told them to measure the spot where he died in relation to his hometown and his destination. If he was closer to the former he would be punished, otherwise, he would be shown mercy. He was in fact closer to home, but Allah caused the ground to expand and contract such that he ended up closer to his destination! Compare how Allah treated him to what the first man told him!
I once attended a Wing Chun class with a friend. There was a Muslim man there with his young sons; he had been learning for a few years, and was quite skilled.
During the practice element of the lesson, he raised his shorts quite high, exposing most of his thigh to everyone whilst making some point. One of those present said something like, ‘Bro, I don’t think you should be showing that.’ The comment wasn’t harsh, but it might have been better said in private afterwards. The lesson was held in the basement of a masjid, so perhaps this person assumed everyone there was religious.
The man who lifted the shorts got incredibly upset. To me it seemed like he was overreacting. He was quite emotional, and wanting to leave.
It later transpired that he was abused as a child by the teacher who he memorised the Qurʾan with. When he told his father he was told to be quiet, and when he told his mother she had the issue brushed under the carpet. This hafiz then ended up leaving Islam. He eventually returned thanks to the efforts of the martial arts instructor, but was left very scarred and sensitive to religious criticism.
How many people are pushed away from religion – partially or fully – due to harshness from those who they admire and expect leniency from?
One of the Companions who would regularly make the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, laugh had a drinking problem. Yes, a drinking problem! And, yes; he was a Companion. His name was ʿAbdullah, but was usually loving referred as ‘the Donkey’ – probably due to him humorous antics.
After wine had been prohibited, and the punishment for being caught drunk was in place, he ended getting punished for this on a number of occasions. This was his particular test that Allah had chosen for him. Allah had also chosen him for the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Being someone with a drinking problem did not mean that he had no virtue or standing before Allah. The drinking was a problem, but it didn’t mean that all the good he had ever done was worthless – that he was worthless.
After one public punishment, one of the Companions said, ‘May Allah completely humiliate you!’ In another narration he said, ‘O Allah curse him! How many a time is he brought [for punishment for this crime]!’ This was probably as a result of the disgust he felt for the sin – after all hating sins is a part of faith.
Yet, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not allow this sort of statement. He said to him, ‘Do not take the Devil’s side against your brother!’. What? Taking the Devil’s side? Helping him? Yes! The Devil wants all the descendants of Adam in Hell. Closing the door of warm, affectionate support for this person, such that it would prevent him from wanting to associate with the Muslims, is akin to helping the Devil lead him to Hell.
Not only that, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, ‘Do not curse him! [I swear] By Allah, all I know of him is that he loves Allah and His Messenger!’ (Bukhari).
What was that again? He loves Allah and His Messenger? That’s no small feat! And this statement came from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, himself too! This internal act made him deserving of kindness and compassion, just like he got the flogging for publicly drinking.
Perhaps there are some similarities between him and the man swaying and staggering up White Abbey Road…
Something merely broken can usually be fixed without much difficulty; but something severely shattered is not at all easily fixed…
“O Abd Allah! I counsel you to:
(1) love Allah (Mighty and Majestic),
(2) and to love His obedience;
(3) to have fear of Allah,
(4) and fear of His disobedience.
“If you are this way, then you will not dislike dying when death comes to you
“I counsel you to regarding Allah, my dear child.”
“Then al-Abbas turned towards the Qibla, said, “La ilaha illa’l Llah (‘There is no god but God’),” raised his gaze, and died.”
[Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, 2.15]
Translated By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
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