Calling to Allah (Da’wah): Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin recounts an encounter he had with a Jehovah’s Witness representative, who was an example to those calling to Allah.

Conveying the Message

Ustadh Amjad was at home before Jum’ah prayer and there was a knock on the door. He opened the door and saw two people who are older, maybe in their late fifties or early sixties. One of them was on crutches, and handed him a Jehovah’s Witness brochure, and they had a brief, pleasant conversation. Shortly thereafter, the man picked up his crutches and walked off to the next house.

“These people are working so hard for something that’s not true,” Ustadh Amjad observed, “and we don’t work that hard for something that is true.”

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Convey [my teachings] to the people even if it were a single verse.” (Bukhari, Tirmidhi) While going door-to-door may not be the best way to do this, the least we could do is try to push past our discomfort. By forming relationships with our neighbours, coworkers, and friends, we can be in a better place to share what we know about the Prophet and this beautiful religion. If we make an effort to establish a connection, Allah may choose to open the doors of guidance.

The Prophet is reported to have said to Ali ibn Abi Talib, “For Allah to guide one person through you, is better for you than the most precious of merchandise.”

A Dedicated Caller to Allah

One of Ustadh Amjad’s teachers, Syed Umar bin Hamid al-Haddad, would continuously think about people whenever he went, in hospitals, on the streets, in airports. He was once sitting at home, and fervently prayed, “O Allah, guide someone to Islam.” Someone then knocked on his door and accepted Islam.

He was once in an elevator with Ustadh Amjad and a group of businessmen in the United States. He told Ustadh Amjad, “Tell them where I’m from.” When he told them that Syed Umar was visiting from Saudi Arabia, he said, “From Medina, the holy city.” The men were impressed, and hoped he’d have a nice stay. Everywhere this man went, his heart was turned to Allah for guidance of others.


Goodness to Parents – A Reader

Goodness to parents is one of the greatest character traits one can have. Here are some of SeekersGuidance’s best resources on the subject.

The Virtues of Parents

The Powerful Dua of a Parent

Supplication of Excellence to Parents – Du`a’ Birr al-Walidayn 

The Noble Intention of Parents

Parents – Your Door to Allah’s Acceptance, by Ustadh Uthman Bally

Highest Virtues, Excellence with Parents

10 – Umm Ayman – The Prophet’s Mother After His Mother

Prayer of a Concerned Father, Surat al-Baqarah (verses 127-128)

How Can I Guide My Parents to the Right Path?

The Close Proximity of Single Mothers to the Prophet ﷺ

Authenticity of Hadith Stating That Paradise Lies Beneath the Feet of Your Mother

 

Related Articles

Serve Your Parents Now Before It’s Too Late, by Ustadh Salman Younas

The passing of Habib ‘Umar’s mother

Reconnecting With Family–Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil 

Can I Pay for the Hajj of My Parents? 

My Father Was Smarter Than I Thought – Faraz Rabbani

“To Mothers” – Moving Poem by Baraka Blue

The Passing of the Father and Grandfather of Ustadh Salman Younas

Navigating Common Problems

Dealing With a Dysfunctional Relationship With Parents 

How Can I Deal With My Difficult Mother in a Respectful Way

I Have Bad Dreams About My Late Father. What Can I Do?

How Should I Deal With a Mentally Ill Mother?

My Mother Is Not Muslim. How Can I Help Her?

My Mother Makes Supplications Against Me. Will Her Duas Be Accepted?

Can I Give My Zakat to My Father?

To What Extent Should I Obey My Mother? 

Should I Listen to My Husband or My Mother?

How Can I Advise My Mother to Come Back to Islam? 

How Can I Deal With My Elderly Mother Who Refuses Assistance

My Mother Does Not Want Me to Read up on Death and Judgement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adab 09: The Proprieties of Fridays

Ustadh Tabraze Azam writes on the proprieties of Fridays, the sermon, prayer, Qur’an recitation, and supplications.

Out of His pure grace, Allah Most High has blessed the Muhammadan community (umma) with a day as special and sacred as Friday. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, remarked that Allah has made it “an Eid for the believers.” (al-Muwatta) A day of joy, then, blessings and magnificent rewards from an all-Generous Lord, if only we took some moments to pause and reflect.

It behooves us to recognize that Friday is not like any other day, but rather the chief (sayyid) of days, so we should endeavor to treat it differently. It is the day in which much good and righteous work, which may be otherwise lost or missed throughout the week, may be made up and surpassed. It is the day in which the bounties of Allah will continue to reach us in the hereafter, the day in which our sins from the previous week are expiated for, and the day for which the scholars have listed over a hundred virtues.

As the moments of our collective lives pass, we should strive to present ourselves before the sweet, graceful winds of Allah’s Mercy as they pass us weekly. And what better state than to greet them with complete gratitude (shukr) and full propriety, or adab, so that we can sow our humble seeds of sincere worship in hope of a momentous harvest in the next life.

The Purificatory Bath and Dress

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever performs the ritual ablution on Fridays has done well; and whoever bathes has done what is superior.” (Abu Dawud) It is an highly emphasized sunna to bathe on Fridays for those attending the Friday prayer. The reason for this is so that the prayer can be prayed with the most complete form of purification out of veneration for the tremendousness of the obligatory, major, congregational prayer of this day.

However, there is a more expansive position that states the sunna of bathing on Fridays is unconditional, and thus, applies to all Muslims, whether they’re attending the prayer or not. This is particularly useful for life in a western context where many of those attending the prayer may be simply unable to bathe right before attendance. As an aside, some of the early Muslims (salaf) would use Fridays as an opportunity to engage in conjugal relations with their spouses, and then bathe accordingly, so that they could head out into the world with lesser worldly distraction.

Further, it is recommended to take care of one’s personal, bodily upkeep on Fridays, unless one is trying to uphold the recommendation of avoiding such upkeep during the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijja [namely, until one’s animal has been sacrificed, if sacrificing]. That includes clipping one’s nails, from both the hands and feet, shaving one’s underarm hair and the hair below the navel, trimming the mustache, and other similar matters. You should also use the tooth-stick (siwak) and apply perfume.

Thereafter, it is from the sunna to dress in your best clothes. Needless to say that if you cannot, due to work or other undue hardship, it would be excusable. But the basis is that venerating the prayer and the occasion is from venerating the blessing of being gifted with witnessing the day itself. Many scholars encourage the wearing of white because it was the type of clothing the the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to encourage wearing most of the time. “It’s the best of your clothing,” he said, Allah bless him and give him peace. (Tirmidhi)

However, the practice of different lands naturally differs, so wearing lighter colors in the summertime and darker shades in the winter is also quite reasonable, and actually the custom in some Muslim societies. This is due to the fact that “white” could also be understood as lighter colors, because of the shared meaning, and darker shades will usually hide the effects of any adverse weather. But what is minimally expected is something dignified, modest and covering as this is the central point.

Qur’an Recitation: Sura al-Kahf and Other Chapters

Recitation of the Qur’an is a strongly encouraged act of devotion on Fridays. Many scholars note the virtue of reciting even the night before, which is, religiously, the “night of Friday,” as well as on the actual morning itself. Moreover, the evening before, Thursday night, is also a time to increase in glorification (tasbih) and seeking forgiveness (istighfar).

The most emphasized recitation on Fridays is that of Sura al-Kahf. Our Master, Abu Sai‘d al-Khudri, may Allah be well-pleased with him, said, “Whosoever recites Sura al-Kahf on Friday will have an illuminating light between this Friday and the next.” (al-Mustadrak) On the night before, some scholars have noted the praiseworthy nature of reciting Sura al-Dukhkhan and Sura Ya Sin, and even Sura al-Baqara and Sura Aal ‘Imran. Some have said that if one finds any of the aforementioned to be a high bar to uphold, then recite Sura al-Ikhlas much instead.

Nevertheless, whatever you can do, however little it may be, is superior to nothing at all. But strive to make your recitation meaningful. Take a moment to ask Allah Most High for the matters which are praiseworthy, and to seek His protection from the manners and ways of the godforsaken. Consider also using a copy of the mushaf which has the translation or exegesis besides it, if it helps.

Sending Many Blessings on the Prophet and Supplication

Of the greatest of actions a believer can engage in is sending blessings upon the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Sending blessings on Fridays is especially meritorious, as he himself instructed us. In a lengthier tradition (hadith) recorded by Abu Dawud, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “So send many blessings upon me therein [i.e. Fridays], for indeed your blessings are presented to me.” ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, the noted sandal-bearer of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is reported to have encouraged recitation of the following on Fridays: “O Allah, send blessings upon the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace (allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin salla ‘Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” (Hilyat al-Awliya’)

But of course, any simple formulation of sending peace and blessings upon him would fulfil this, even if it’s only “allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad.” Interestingly, some of the scholars noted that sending “many blessings” means to recite at least three hundred blessings during the night and three hundred in the day!

In another tradition (hadith) of note, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that, “Indeed, there is a moment on Friday that not a single Muslim coincides with whilst he is asking Allah for [something] good, except that He gives it to him.” (Muslim) The scholars have come to different conclusions regarding the indication of this tradition (hadith). Some said that it appears either at sunrise, at midday (zawal), after the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) or at sunset, and others said that it is at some point between the moment at which the imam takes his seat on the pulpit (minbar) for the sermon and until he says the exiting salams of the prayer (Muslim).

Ideally, one would strive to catch the varying times, even if only briefly. The reality of supplication, nevertheless, is that its greatest manifestation is when one asks with complete neediness and sincerity, maintaining a sense of presence of heart and mind in one’s intimate discourse with the Divine. Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah al-Sakandari remarked, “Whenever He loosens your tongue with a supplication, realize that He wants to give to you.” (al-Hikam)

Attending the Friday Prayer

An oft-forgotten sunna is to arrive early for the Friday prayer. Fortunately, especially given our busy lives, and particularly work on Fridays, contrary to the practice of many Muslim societies, there are varying scholarly positions of what being early entails, yet starting, generally speaking, after sunrise. The scholars would usually explain that the morning is divided into six parts, with those arriving in the first attaining the greatest virtue.

For all intents and purposes, getting there in sufficient time to get a place in the front row, besides the pulpit (minbar), with some moments of worship before the proceedings begin, would be sufficiently early for most and what the traditions (ahadith) are directing toward. The latter issue of being close to the place from where the sermon will be delivered is also a religiously legislated and encouraged action. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Attend the sermon, and sit close to the imam.” (Abu Dawud)

As you enter the mosque, it is recommended to intend the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf) and pray the prayer of greeting the mosque (salat tahiyyat al-masjid), on condition that it is not a disliked time to pray. Practically, this would refer to the moment the sun is at its zenith (zawal), or highest point in the sky. However, given the disagreement on the issue among the legal schools, and even within the Hanafi legal tradition, it wouldn’t be necessary to correct anybody except from the perspective of wishing well and good for them (nasiha).

Imam al-Ghazali notes that it’s also virtuous to pray a voluntary prayer, reciting therein, Sura Ya Sin, Sura al-Sajda, Sura al-Dukhan and Sura al-Mulk respectively. (This is actually his dispensatory set of chapters!) After the entry of the time of the noon prayer (zuhr), the sunna is to pray the strongly emphasized (sunna mu’akkada) four cycles (rak‘as). The sunna is to pray another four cycles, with one set of exiting salams at the end, after the Friday prayer is over.

Finally, there are two miscellaneous issues to keep in mind. Firstly, what if ‘eid happens to also fall on a Friday? The overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship held that the obligation to pray the Friday prayer remains, and nobody has an excuse to omit it. Not that it requires clarification, but the ‘eid prayer is a duty (wajib), yet the Friday prayer is a decisive obligation (fard), and getting priorities right would entail ensuring that the obligation gets taken care of before something lesser. And secondly, ladies aren’t obligated to attend the Friday prayer.

But if there is some benefit to be attained, such as being with religiously upright company (suhba), or hearing an inspiring lecture live, then it would be fine to attend on condition that (a) it doesn’t entail the neglect or non fulfillment of other duties, (b) the sanctity of the space is upheld by, for example, dressing in modest, covering clothing, and (c) there is a safe and dignified space for women.

The Sermon (Khutba)

Allah Most High says, “O believers! When the call to prayer is made on Friday, then proceed diligently to the remembrance of Allah and leave off your business. That is best for you, if only you knew.” (Sura al-Jumu‘a 62:9) The general rule is that whenever there is a sermon, one is duty-bound to remain silent and be attentive, irrespective of the language the sermon is being delivered in. As an aside, giving a sermon in other than Arabic in environments where Arabic is not understood is both valid and permitted.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If you say to a fellow attendee on Friday, ‘be quiet,’ and the imam is delivering the sermon, you have slipped.” (Bukhari) Note that what is meant is that he has violated the sanctity of the sermon. The most emphasized of sermons is the one before the Friday Prayer, given that it is a condition for the prayer’s validity. Consequently, it is the kind of sermon that many people will often be in attendance for, and thus, it is important to know the details of how to act therein.

The moral obligation to remain silent extends to all forms of speech as the sermon is being delivered, whether it be saying the greetings of salams to a fellow attendee or “amin” to the imam’s supplications, and until the end of the prayer itself. Technically, the duty begins at the moment the imam proceeds to rise for the pulpit (minbar). What then of the position that the “moment of acceptance [of supplication]” occurs between the two sittings of the sermon?

The scholars explain that the supplication made in the heart at this time is also of real consequence, and the moment will not be missed by supplicating sincerely without actually uttering anything. Your spiritual state can also be a form of supplication (lisan al-hal). The imperative to remain quiet at this time is so emphasized that even in the case of harm, you would only say something if it cannot be averted by mere motioning and the like. (As for a pre-sermon lecture, one should give it the respect it deserves, but the rulings aren’t quite the same.)

The same applies to the sunna four cycles (rak‘as) before the Friday prayer, namely, that it is impermissible to pray them during the sermon as it would distract one from the duty to be attentive, let alone the recommended prayer of greeting the mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid). However, if you’re already praying, you may simply complete the prayer. If you do arrive late, and during the sermon, you would delay this sunna prayer until after the obligatory Friday prayer, whereby you would pray two sets of four cycles (rak‘as).

The only exception to praying at this time would be in the case that a person missed the same day’s dawn (fajr) prayer. The reason for this is that maintaining order (tartib) between makeup prayers (qada’) is also a duty, yet more so, since the subsequent prayer’s validity depends upon its fulfillment. Hence, you would pray in this instance to ensure that your Friday prayer is valid.

Praiseworthy Deeds and Actions

There are a number of other meritorious actions which can obviously take place at any time, but are specifically encouraged by the scholars on Fridays. Marriage ceremonies, for example, are ideally to occur on Fridays and after the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr). Similarly, visiting graveyards on Fridays is generally praiseworthy, as is giving something in charity (sadaqa). Another tremendous act of devotion is the prayer of glorification (salat al-tasbih). This is specifically encouraged by the scholars as a prayer which should be prayed, at the very least, yearly. The person who can make a consistent habit out of it, such as on Friday mornings, is certainly somebody blessed and chosen by Allah Most High. Note that the prayer of seeking aid in memorizing the Qur’an is to be prayed on Thursday night.

As for traveling on Fridays, it is permitted without dislike, as long as you avoid doing so after the entrance of the time of the noon prayer (zuhr). In such a case, you would need to pray before heading out. Any type of trade after the first call to prayer (adhan), or anything which delays one’s attendance at the Friday prayer, is usually wrong and impermissible. Another issue is that fasting is both valid and permitted on Fridays. However, due to the fact that there are conflicting traditions (ahadith), and consequently differences between the jurists, it is perhaps superior, barring other considerations, to omit fasting that day unless it coincides with your fasting habit or you conjoin with a day before or after it.

In closing, let us remind ourselves of the virtue of those who die on Fridays. It is reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever dies on Friday or its night is inscribed with the reward of a martyr, and is protected from the tribulation of the grave.” (Tirmidhi) We ask Allah to bring our hearts to life by virtue of our striving to bring our Fridays to life. And we ask Him to increase us in the great, lasting good deeds (baqiyat salihat), particularly those on Fridays, with the kind of sincerity and love that will be pleasing to Him for eternity.

And Allah alone gives success.


http://seekershub.org/articles/islam/adab-08-proprieties-travel/
http://seekershub.org/answers/quran/adab-07-proprieties-earning-living/
http://seekershub.org/articles/knowledge/adab-05-adab-mosque-pt-i/

The True Scholar: A Person of Knowledge and Action by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This podcast is a recording of a talk that Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gave in Johannesburg Habib Umar’s tour. He speaks about the definition of a true scholar.

Click here to access the podcast. 

In Johannesburg, Shaykh Faraz spoke about the characteristics of a true scholar, or, a true Sufi as, “A person of knowledge who acted upon their knowledge, so Allah granted them knowledge of what they didn’t know.”

The first step to this, is simply being a person of knowledge, or ilm. Each time has its particular challenge. In our times, we see many educated Muslims who still have questions and doubts. We need to remain connected to sacred knowledge, so that we can help others clear up their doubts and misconceptions. Complaining about people who are disrespectful or rude will not help. In fact, even knowledgeable people can start having doubts if they disconnect from the knowledge and their teachers. Therefore, we should always have a regular routine of learning, even if small.

The second step is aml, or action. We have a responsibility to embody our knowledge and take our deen seriously. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was known as The Honest and Trustworthy, even before he became a Prophet. We carry the trust of the religion, and we should ask ourselves whether we are fulfilling that trust.

The third aspect is haal, or our state with Allah. We should be engaged in correcting ourselves, and work on spiritual purification. A great scholar from Damascus, Shaykh Ali Zafar, used to give fiery sermons, saying, “O you who have turned away from your Lord! O you who have forgotten the command of your Lord!” The listeners used to cry and repent. One of his students went back to visit his hometown, and was asked to give a sermon. He did it in the same way as Shaykh Ali had, but before two minutes had passed, the congregants got angry and beat him. When he returned and told the story to his Shaykh Ali, he told him,” My son, when I address people, I am addressing people, I place myself in front of myself. I’m not putting anyone down, I’m talking to myself. And because I’m being true to Allah, people are being affected.”

May Allah allow us to be those who apply what they know, so Allah gives them knowledge of what they do not know.


The Believer Is the Mirror of the Believer

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani presents five lessons we can take from the hadith, “The believer is the mirror of the believer,” and how to realize this in our lives.

It is a great blessing of Allah Most High that He has granted us the means of turning to Him on a daily basis with our obligatory prayers. On a weekly basis through the Friday prayer. To serve for us as reminders of our purpose and duty in life to turn to Allah, to submit to Him, to worship Him, and to express our gratitude and thankfulness to Him.

The worship that we engage in, what is the prophetic impulse – the impulse of our beloved Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, in our worship? The impulse is thankfulness. It is gratitude. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “ Should I not be a thankful servant?

So we serve, Allah Most High, we submit, we worship out of gratitude and thankfulness, recognizing all the blessings that we have from Allah. And from the great blessings of Allah upon us is that He has sent to us a Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, who granted us clear guidance that is easy to bring into one’s life. That transforms one’s life from the merely mundane, from the merely worldly into something that enables us to turn to Allah, to seek Allah, to take the steps to attain closeness to Allah Most High and contentment.

The Speech of the Prophet

Allah describes the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, as a mercy for all creation. “We have not sent you except as mercy to all creation.” And from that gift of mercy that the Prophet is, blessings and peace be upon him, is the way he gave us guidance. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said in the hadith related in the sahih: “I was granted encompassing speech.”

The words of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, are few. You will hardly ever find a hadith in which the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, spoke for paragraphs. He spoke in phrases and sentences and he said very little. What he said, blessings and peace be upon him, was full of impact. It was full of meaning. One of the countless marvelous hadith of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is a hadith that we’re going to touch upon, which are the words of the beloved Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him: “The believer is the mirror of the believer.”

One of the reasons the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, spoke in words that are statements of wisdom, that he didn’t spell out everything, is to empower us as believers, so that we reflect on his example. And so that we can derive from it meanings that are not just specific to a particular context, but that are generalizable to any circumstance. It will speak to you wherever you may be. Whatever you may be facing.

The Reflection and What Reflects

“The believer is the mirror of the believer.” This is very intriguing because there’s two believers mentioned, and there’s a mirror. Which one are you? Are you the reflect the one who’s reflecting or the one who is reflected? Both are possible. I’m just going to touch on five lessons that one can derive from this hadith.

The first lesson has to do with the company that one keeps. A believer is a mirror of the believer. If you want to know your standing as a believer, your state as a believer, what do you need to do? You need to become someone who keeps good company. The company that you keep will transform who you are.

They say that when it comes to learning you’re affected as much by socialization, even at a high level of academic achievement, as you are by simply your intelligence and what you study. If someone wants to go into a field of research, for example, you’re affected as much by the company that you keep in terms of your achievement, as you are by your own levels of intelligence and your own study. There are many reasons for this, but it is very true in your state as a believer.

The Company You Keep

The company that you truly keep is not just the physical company that you keep, but what do you do on your on your time on, says, Facebook, because that’s virtual company. And what extent of that real and virtual company that you keep is a company of believers that you want to become like? The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, told us in another hadith that: “A person will be with those they love. A person is on the way of their close companions. So let each of you look carefully as to whose close company you keep.” Because that’s where you’re at in your din.

That’s both a warning to consider what company that you keep, both real and virtual, and also, what do you keep the company of people for? So you might become keeping company with the best of believers, with people that are really impressive, but you can just hang out with them because they’re cool or they’re fun to be with. In those kinds of situations it can just be hanging out and that’s good. But there’s a higher aspiration that you want to benefit from them as a believer, as one who believes in Allah and turns to Allah Most High.

You want to see the reflection of good qualities. Someone is generous. So don’t just freeload of them. Learn generosity from them. You have another friend you like being around her, because she’s always smiling. Try to take that as a mirror from which you benefit in your own standing with Allah Most High. Having a cheerful, positive countenance is beloved to Allah Most High. It’s from the wing of the beloved Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him.

The Sunna Is Balance

The second lesson has to do with being a mirror for others. What is a mirror? It shows you things as they are. Why do you look in the mirror in the morning? When you do look in the mirror intend to follow the Sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, used to look at the mirror in the morning before he’d go out in public.

When he’d be out for an extended period of time, the beloved Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, used to have certain things that he’d keep with him. Amongst them was a small mirror, because Allah is beautiful and He loves Beauty. And Allah means the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, beautiful, but he took care of his appearance for the sake of Allah. And also because how you dress and how you look affects relationships.

The sunna is balance. You take the benefit now you can derive from a mirror, but it is against us to not to look excessively. So you keep a mirror with you and you look and you fix yourself up without looking excessively. That’s what a mirror does. It reflects. It shows you what you need to correct. So you should be a mirror for others.

The Good Companion

Firstly, you should be reflecting virtue, so that you are the good companion. When people keep company with you, they benefit from the way you are. They benefit from your attitude. They benefit from your company. And it’s not a question of saying religious things. It’s not about talking din. It’s about living din. That you smile. That you have concern for others. That you’re caring. That you’re respectful. They’ll benefit from that company even if you don’t say a thing about religion.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, used to be silent most of the time in his gatherings with the Companions, may Allah be well pleased with them. They learned more from his silence than we learn from his speech, blessings and peace be upon him. Because the way he was in his relationship with Allah, taught them as much as his words, blessings and peace be upon him.

Be a mirror for others: 1) in the way you conduct yourself, 2) that you’re true to them. The mirror, if it is as it should be, shows you things as they are. They come to you looking for advice and you’re honest with them. You have sincere concern for them.

Sincere Concern for Others

If someone comes and says for instance: “You know I want to marry Zubayr. What do you think?” And you know that Zubayr is just a bag of problems, but he’s your first cousin. If they find out that you said that Zubayda shouldn’t really marry Zubayr, it’s going to cause problems. So you say: “Oh, you know, he’s a good guy.” And he’s not. That is not being a true mirror for Zubayda.

It entails being true in your relationships. Of course, with wisdom, with the intention of sincere concern and benefit. Not just out of harshness. The mirror doesn’t hit you. The mirror shows things as they are so that you’re able to improve. Reflect on that. Being a mirror for others is to inspire them to the good.

The third is to instill in them thankfulness. One of the sunnas of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, when you look in the mirror is that, if you find anything good you praise Allah Most High. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had a dua that he recited. “O Allah, just as you have made my form beautiful, make my character beautiful.” It’s an expression of thankfulness, not an expression of conceit.

You spend a lot of money getting that haircut. You look at in the mirror, you don’t go into self-praise. You go into praise of Allah. It’s a blessing from Allah. Or you always wanted you know some effect of your martial arts, and finally you have a swollen nose. Finally you bloodied. Instead of feeling all that, you thank Allah Most High.

You try to reflect good for others by being true to them, by inspiring them by your own example, and thirdly by instilling in them a positive perspective. A lot of people are down. A lot of people feel sadness and sorrow. By reflecting in them, the good; by reminding them of Allah, about His blessings, you inspire them to be thankful, which is one of the purposes of a mirror.

Who Is the Believer?

The fourth lesson that we can learn from from the words of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is to consider the believer here not to refer to an individual, but the believers at the whole. That in relation to the things that happen around us, what is the first response that we have as a believer? The MSA lost it lost its mind, let’s say, and they started protesting the film and the cartoons and this and that. What do you do?

Are you responsible for what’s going on in Islamabad or Cairo or Tunisia? No, you’re not. – If you are, go and fix what you did. – But you’re not responsible. The first thing that you do is to see what goes on around you as a mirror for yourself. When you see others exhibiting rage, anger, and ugly conduct, you’re responsible, first, for yourself. Are you out of control?

Maybe not all the time, but sometimes when provoked, when your dad starts talking Pakistani politics or putting down Punjabis or you know dissing Sudanese or Lubnanis or whoever they put down. How do you respond? It’s very easy to say those people over there, how come they do this? But very often we are, ourselves, the Firaun, on occasions. Then when you see things happening around you, you take a lesson. That’s true in the Qur’an as well.

Look to Yourself

When you read the stories in the Qur’an, you don’t say: “O, what a bunch of losers, Firaun and his people. It’s an address to you. You’ve see in it a mirror for yourself. “Do I have Firaunic tendencies?” If you do, then rectify yourself. You take what’s happening around you as a mirror.

Then you look at what public response you should have. If nothing else, you pray that Allah changes things for the good. You see what you can do about it, but the first thing begins with an inward response. Then what is going on.

The believer is a mirror of the believer: al mu’min. The al prefix in Arabic has very different usages. One of them is we say: “Hadha huwa al-rajul.” It can also refer to the one who had the complete qualities of rujula. Like the saying: “He’s the man.” Or they used to say. I don’t know if you guys say it anymore.

You say, “He’s the man,” meaning, he’s all that. He has what we respect in terms of manliness. So, the believer it is a mirror of the believer. Who is the believer? He is the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him. Your relationship with the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, it is not just: “O, that’s so beautiful. He was such a kind person, masha Allah.” That’s supposed to be a mirror for you. That you see in that what the good is and you consider what you need to be changing.

Truly Reflect Prophetic Virtue

The true believer is the one who most truly reflects prophetic virtue. You always turn to the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, so that you can learn what virtue is. What good is. With what intention? One, to be inspired and that itself increases you in faith, but more importantly to look at what you need to be improving on. The mirror teaches you. That mirror is the act of reflecting on that image that is implanted.

It also tells you that you should have such clear knowledge of the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, you should be able to see that image of the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, so that you can reflect on it and be transformed by it, which entails learning about his example, his conduct, his character, his worship, his way in life. The way he was with others. The way he was with his Lord. These are some of the lessons that we can take of the many many lessons of the hadith.

The fifth lesson, and it’s subtle but many of the great scholars have mentioned it in their commentaries on the hadith. It’s metaphorical as mentioned by Shaykh And al-Qadir Jilani and by by others as well of the hadith commentators. The believer is the mirror as it were of the Believer, al-Mu’min, and that is Allah Most High.

Polishing the Heart

The believers’ heart is meant to be a mirror for the light of divine guidance. We know from the hadith of the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, that the heart is what Allah Most High looks at. Allah does not look at your bodies and forms, rather He looks at your hearts. The heart trusts so that it can no longer shine light. The heart darkens through one’s sins. The polish of the heart is seeking forgiveness and remembrance of Allah.

It’s not that you can see Allah in your heart in some physical way. No, your heart should be reflecting the light of divine guidance, the light of faith. And if you don’t find that, if you find that faith is a distant glimmer, it’s a flicker that you recognize once in a while, then know that you have a heart that requires polishing.

How do we polish that heart? The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “The polishing of the heart is the remembrance of Allah.” He said, “The polishing of the heart is seeking forgiveness. The polishing of the heart is to say, ‘la ilaha illa Allah,’ and keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah.” So that the light of faith is shining in your heart. So that you find contentment and clarity and you can see things as they truly are.

May Allah Most High make us of those who recognize and reflect on and are realized in the meanings of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, saying: “The believer is the mirror of the believer.”

 


The Elements of Gratitude

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani takes a very close look at the meaning of gratitude in Sura Ibrahim 14:7 and how gratitude can be shown in every moment of our lives.

Why do we obey Allah? Out of gratitude. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?” If we look at the Qur’an, Allah tells us in Sura Ibrahim 14:7. There’s a context to this which, is our master Musa’s proclamation to Bani Israel and so on. You can read the tafsir of the context. There’s a specific context to this verse. It’s one of the marvels of the Qur’an.

If a friend of mine and I are having conversation and you strip it of its context, what will happen? It won’t make sense. But the Qur’an has a specific context either within the text of the Qur’an itself or the context of Revelation. That gives insight into the meaning, but the general meaning of the words is not affected by the context, in so far as the general meaning still applies.

If someone asked me: “All right have you had lunch?” And I say: “No. I haven’t. I’m hungry.” If I say I am hungry, it doesn’t apply for all the time. It just applies in this context. But the guidance of the Qur’an, though there’s a specific context here related to Bani Israel. This is what our master Musa is told to tell them: “When your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, surely, My punishment is severe.’”

A Serious Proclamation

There are a number of things related to this verse. Ibn Ajiba in his tafsir, Al-Bahr al-Madid, mentioned that the first thing is: This is a proclamation from Allah. An adhan is a public announcement is a public announcement. So it’s much more emphatic than simply saying something. You are announcing it widely.

But it’s not just that. It says: “wa idh ta’adhdhana Rabbukum.” The tafa‘‘ala pattern in the Arabic language conveys active effort. That is, your Lord fully proclaims – fully proclaims. This is meant like, “Get it!” It’s not just an announcement. This is in bold, red, capital letters. A major proclamation. This is not just something Allah is telling you. He’s proclaiming. Pay attention.

It’s difficult to to translate the Qur’an. It’s impossible to translate the Qur’an because to catch the eloquence you have to be brief, but to convey the meaning you’d have to be very wordy. So “When your Lord openly proclaims, widely, demanding full attention for the proclamation.” Then comes a conditional statement. “If you are grateful then We shall surely grant you increase.”

The Elements of Gratitude

How are you grateful? The scholars of tafsir say, the believers’ gratitude is to respond to the gift of life with recognition of the Bestower of gifts through having faith. Because if you recognize that your life is a gift, who is it a gift from? It’s a gift from the Creator. So, believe in Him! That’s the first element of gratitude.

Then if you recognize that Allah has granted you health, has blessed you with these limbs, what is the recognition for your physical blessings? It is righteous deeds. Each limb has blessings that are due for them.

Literally if you translate the verse, you say, if you have been grateful. It’s put in the past tense. In the Arabic language when you put something in the past tense meaning: “If you are fully grateful,” that gratitude is a standard. It’s not just something you do. It’s done with. You have full gratitude.

The response to your gratitude, Allah emphasizes this several fold in saying “la’azidannakum.” The letter lam here is for emphasis. The letter nun is also for emphasis. The fact that is formed as a conditional sentence, “If you are grateful, then I will grant you increase,” is also for emphasis.

The Promised Increase

It’s fascinating, because what will you be granted an increase in? Normally someone says, e.g. if you clear the snow from the driveway, I’ll give you…” and you mention what you will give. But Allah Most High says: “I will grant you increase.” But the increase is not specified. Meaning it’s unconditional.

The gratitude is a condition. What are you grateful for? Whatever you’re grateful for you’ll be granted increase beyond measure. Beyond measure. Now this increase is both of the good of this life and the good of the next as we know from the Qur’an. So gratitude secures increase in worldly terms but there is also the eternal increase of reward.

The basic increase of any good deed is that Allah rewards it tenfold. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us: “A good deed is rewarded tenfold, up to 700 times, to many times thereof.” One of the things that takes the good deed from having ten rewards to having 700 or beyond measure is if you do the same thing with gratitude Allah will reward it far more than doing the same deed with sincerity but lacking in gratitude.

The Sunna of Action

The sunna of action is that anything that you do should have two qualities. One is sincerity. That will secure you some multiplication for your reward. But the other key to increase the spiritual impact and the eternal rewards is gratitude. That’s the prophetic way. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?”

The scholars mention that if you look at prophetic teachings; if you are grateful, Allah does not say, If you are grateful for the things that are pleasing to you. That is the obvious gratitude. If there’s something pleasing to you be grateful. That is the common person’s gratitude. But the true believers’ gratitude – the gratitude of the righteous believer is in pleasing things but also in difficulty and distress, because the distress is also from Allah Most High.

This is why Ibn Ata’illah in his Hikam says: “If f you can see Allah’s giving when He withholds from you then Allah’s withholding becomes from His giving itself.” Why? Our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, says in a sahih hadith: “How strange are the affairs of the believer, because their affair is all for their good. That’s for no one but the believer. Pleasing things happen to them, they are grateful and that is for their good. Distressful things happen to them, they are contentedly patient, and that too is for their good.”

The Meaning of True Patience

Contented patience is a branch of gratitude, because the patience of the believer is not a begrudging patience. “What can I do about, you know? Just grit my teeth and deal with it.” That’s not gratitude. That’s not patience. They say that the beginning of true patience is leaving complaints.

There is a level below patience which is making yourself be patient. Which is take a breath, don’t complain, but you feel complaint within. That’s not patience. That’s not steadfastness. That is what is called “making yourself be patient.”

True patience has gratitude in it. True gratitude is to see everything as a blessing from Allah. Allah Most High tells us: “Say, it is all from Allah.” Gratitude in one sense has an action and a response. The action is Allah’s, which is, it is all from Allah. Whatever comes to you is from Allah, so you see everything as from Allah.

Your response is to respond in the way pleasing to Allah. That is gratitude. Divine action–human response. The human response is the response that Allah has called you to have. And the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation.

What is the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation? That’s a sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. In any situation there is an outward sunna and an inward sunna. It’s action and attitude. That’s basically life.


Leaving Sins, Both Manifest and Hidden

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani expands on Sura al-An‘am 6:120, detailing what it means to leave manifest and hidden sins, and to find contentment in Allah.

One of the times when people really hurt themselves is in trials, because outwardly the trial itself doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. Whatever happens outwardly doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. What harms you is how you respond to what happens to you.

If you drown in a tsunami you’re not harmed in any way. If you respond to it right; you accept that you die. You die a martyr. You’re eternally in paradise. You weren’t harmed. Someone beats you up, but you were patient. It’s not the outward that harms you. It is how you respond to it.

So in trials, knowing how you turn to Allah Most High, how you respond, is one of the greatest of possibilities, because if Allah loves the servant He sends them trials.

Whoever Is Content Shall Find Contentment

If you respond to the trial in the way that is pleasing to Allah, you are the beloved of Allah Most High. At the same time the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, told us that Allah sends us trials. Whoever is content with Allah shall find contentment. Whoever is angered, whoever is upset, shall find anger and upset.

Whoever is content shall find contentment, meaning that they’ll find Allah’s contentment and Allah will place contentment in their hearts. Whoever is angered and upset will find the anger and upset of Allah upon them. And they will find a heart state of anger and upset.

This is one of the hidden sins. No one sees it. And it’s subtle because it is not simply what you claim, but actually how you are. One way of looking at leaving outward and inward sin. Leaving outward sin is leaving disobedience to Allah Most High. Leaving inward sin is leaving objection to Allah Most High.

That is integral to faith. One of the pillars of faith is that you believe, that you have conviction in, and accept and submit and surrender to the reality of divine decree. That it’s good and it’s bad are from Allah Most High.

Trials Are Tremendous Opportunities

This is why trials are a tremendous opportunity from Allah Most High. The righteous would rejoice more in trials then the common person rejoices in blessings. As the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him said: “The people most tested are the prophets, and then the righteous, and there were those from the people before you who would rejoice more in tribulations than you rejoice in blessings.”

Why? Because they saw the trials, the tribulations, the difficulties as being opportunities of expressing one’s love of Allah. Of expressing the true thankfulness to Allah. Of expressing one’s slave-hood to Allah. Of expressing one’s recognition of the Lordship of Allah Most High.

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shagouri said: “The slaps of the beloved, how sweet they are.” Because the lover realizes that everything is from the Beloved, and everything that is from the Beloved is beloved.

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said: “Let your knowing that it is He who is trying you diminish the pain of trials.” And are you accustomed to anything from Him except excellence and has He has he made you habituated to anything but what is good for you? You just need to learn how to turn in each situation in the way that is entailed by that situation.

What Is Entailed by Leaving Sin

Part of what is entailed by leaving sin that is hidden his contentment and surrender to Allah Most High. This is from hidden sin and from the sin that a lot of people are in. “Why is a lot doing this to me?” You are married you wanted a happy marriage. That’s not the way of the believer.

What should the believer seek? “I consign my affair to my Lord. And Allah indeed knows well His servants.” He knows what they need. He knows what they’ll benefit from. He knows what’s good for them. Allah is telling us that He will test us both with good and with bad as a trial. And the trial of good is sometimes more intense than the trial of difficulty.

One of the great Imams of the spiritual path, Ibn Ajiba, in his dictionary of spiritual terms, says that rida (contentment) is to face destruction with a smiling face. Everything that’s coming to you is coming from Allah, so you face it with a heart that is smiling.

The Vision of the Believer

The believer sees with two eyes. One eye is the eye of faith. “Say, It is all from Allah.” At that level the believer is smiling regardless of what’s happening. It’s from Allah. This is the creating of Allah. If He is your beloved, the lover has no objection to their beloved.

Ibn al-Farid says: “Punish me with what You will other than distance from You. For You will find me the most loyal of lovers.” And this is love. This is how love is, otherwise it’s mere pretense.

Another definition of contentment is happiness that one finds in one’s heart as destiny (qada) descends. Qada refers to the blows of destiny. You lost your job and the heart should be smiling. It’s from Allah. You take the outward means because that is what slave-hood entails. You take the means but you see everything as being from Allah Most High.

Another definition of contentment is to leave your choice for the sake of Allah – in what Allah has chosen and made to pass. We make our plans, we take our means, but it is Allah’s choice that comes to pass and you surrender your choice to His.

Leaving Your Plan for His Plan

You are planning to do your PhD and you’ve saved for it and worked for it, and done this and that. Then something happened and your parents need you. They need you to work and not to do your PhD right now. So you leave what you planned for what Allah is pointing you towards.

Yet another definition of contentment is for one’s hard to find expansiveness and to leave all objection to what comes to one from the One and Overwhelming: Allah Most High. That’s contentment. Surrender.

This is a reality of Islam: it is taslim. To leave self-direction. That is that you try to force your preferences in life rather than submitting to what is from Allah and what Allah is pointing one too. Leaving your personal choice.

You take the means. This is what you’d like to do. This is what appears to be good. But as things unfold, if you are awake and conscious and reflective, other things are entailed. So as things unfold you leave your choice for what is preferable with Allah Most High. You leave what you would like to direct yourself to to what Allah is directing you to.

Consigning One’s Affairs to Allah

This is the meaning of consigning one’s affairs to Allah Most High. How do you attain this contentment in surrender? Ibn Ajiba says: “It begins with patience,” which is to hold yourself to what is pleasing to Allah. “And to struggle.” To force yourself to be content. To surrender. To say, “Okay, this is what is right. I’ll do it even though I don’t feel like it.” Fake it…

The first step is patience. The intermediate level of contentment and surrender is to find serenity and to hold yourself to serenity. When the thoughts of objection and dislike come, you don’t even listen to the whisperings of why. “The lover is death to those who deny love.” To be a believer you need to learn how to love.

The end of contentment and surrender – to be fully realized by contentment and surrender – is when you find rejoicing along with that serenity and no impulse towards objection or dislike. These are stations of believers, because in every moment you are in a state of being completely enveloped by divine bounty, and by divine mercy, and by divine blessings.

The Lover Moves by the Grace of the Beloved

Hence the divine command: “Say, in the bounty of Allah and His is blessing, in that let them rejoice,” (Sura Yunus 10:58) because the contentment and surrender is with Allah and to Allah, so that whatever comes from Allah is accepted. True contentment and true surrender is with Him, Most High.

This is a little of what can be mentioned regarding this great verse: “Leave sin, both manifest and hidden.” (Sura al-An‘am 6:120). One has to be careful that one not only leaves disobedience manifest and hidden, but also leaves objection to one’s Lord, Most High.

The first step on the path to Allah is to leave the thing that calls you to turn away from the path to Allah, or that holds you back on the path to Allah, which is what the essence of sin is. May Allah make us of those rush to Him and who draw close to Him. Amin.


Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People: Book by Habib Umar

What is Sufism? This new treatise by Habib Umar ibn Hafiz and translated into English by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, covers the principles of Sufism and the characteristics of those who follow it.

What is Sufism?

This book seeks to clarify the meaning behind this often-misunderstood term. Sufism, or tasawwuf as it is known in the original Arabic, is the science of purifying the heart for the purpose of reaching Allah. This is done by acting with ihsan, or excellence, in every situation, and following the sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

A true Sufi is someone who has reached the station of ayn al-yaqin, or the witnessing of certainty, which usually comes after many years of hard work. The people who try their best, but have not yet reached, are really quasi-Sufis, or mutasawif. As for the people who love them, but are not actively trying to progress spiritually, are attempting to resemble Sufis.

The Traits of Sufis

There are many people all over the world, who claim to be Sufis. Habib Umar outlines the ten traits that must be followed by anyone who claims to be a Sufi. These traits are universal to the various spiritual paths.

  1. Knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunna: This forms the very foundation of the Sufism, and any actions that contradict the basics of Islam, are not from Sufism. This also means that the Sufis strive to follow the  sunna with utmost excellence. In fact, the isnad (chains of transmission) of all the major works of Qur’an, hadith, tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence) were passed down through the people of Sufism. Therefore, everyone today who is qualified to teach any of these sciences, has Sufis in their chain of transmission.
  2. Concern with perfecting the heart for the sake of Allah: Since Allah looks towards our heart, not our outward forms, Sufis prioritise working on their hearts to attain ihsan. Sufism is not about singing, clapping, or wearing specific clothing. Rather, it’s about removing everything besides Allah from the heart.
  3. Sincerity. Sufis should be extremely meticulous in analysing their actions, making sure that they are solely for the sake of Allah, and shy away from praise and recognition.
  4. Trueness: This entails doing everything possible to do a deed for the sake of Allah alone, with no pride or ostentation. This also means being humble enough to accept advice from everyone, and not to mind if others turn away.
  5. Humility of the heart: There are countless verses, hadith and stories which emphasise the centrality of humility. A Sufi does not raise themselves above others, or believe that they are better than anyone else, preferring instead to carry themselves with humility.
  6. Recognising the people of honor, and eliminating envy: By showing honor to people who posses it, they strive to give everyone their rights, and not have envy towards anyone.
  7. Remembering Allah abundantly: Sufis strive to make dhikr and remember Allah, with presence of heart, as much as possible.
  8. Conveying with excellence and eliminating discourteous argumentation: They strive for excellence by avoiding arguments unless absolutely necessary. If an issue arises, they clarify it in the best manner.
  9. Responding to evil with goodness, and having concern: A Sufi has utmost concern for others, and does their best to strive for their wellbeing. They forgive those who wrong them and respond to any evil they face with goodness.
  10. Love of Allah, preferring Him over all else: In their daily life, they consider Allah more important than everything, and strive to attain his love.

Sufism: Its Essence & the Traits of its People, is published by Dar al-Turath Islami. If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling in our On-Demand course The Path of Spiritual Excellence.


 

Questions and Answers – Radical Gratitude Series

Whgrateful servantsat is true gratitude, and how can it make a difference in our lives? In this segment, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin answer some commonly asked questions about this topic.questions and answers

 

Q: How do you find ways to forgive when it’s very difficult?

A: This is a good question, because we should be real in how we cultivate spiritual ideals. The first thing to do is look at the life of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and see the incredible honor that stemmed from his forgiveness. His forgiveness of the Quraysh after the Conquest of Mecca was more than about a few arguments. He and his followers had suffered 20 years of serious aggression, wars, torture, and physical and psychological harm. However, his heart was so attached to Allah, and he wanted what was best for his people. Therefore, when he was given the upper hand, he chose forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the biggest steps to healing from pain, and resentment continues to burn us. Sometimes our nafs blocks this meaning from us. If someone is being harmed, then we have the right to prevent that. After that, we can try to look for excuses for them. If that’s difficult, you make duaa for them, that Allah guide them.

Q: How is it possible to have patience without being passive?

A: Scholars say that everything has a knowledge-based response, and then an action-based response. Before we try, we should keep in mind what patience means. Neither patience or gratitude are passive. Gratitude is more than seeing the good; it is using things for what it’s used. For example, being grateful to live in Canada does not mean ignoring the wrongs done by the Canadian government. Rather, we use our blessings to do what Allah has commanded us to do-work towards truth, justice, mercy and the prevention of harm.

Q: How does one explain gratitude to children?

A: Syed Naqib al-Attas, one of the most brilliant minds in education of the 20th century, broke down children’s education into three components. Firstly, there is tarbiya, or education, raising the child. Secondly, ta’deeb is the instilling of correct manners and etiquette to any situation.  Finally, ta’leem is teaching the child, which can be done in many ways.

Q: What about someone who isn’t feeling the essence of gratitude in his heart?

A: Ultimately, Allah does not squander an atom’s weight of good. The scholars define a good action as, “anything that has even a residual aspect of good.” The devil will try to suggest that you are not grateful enough, or not sincere enough, but flee from those thoughts.

About the Series

“If you are grateful, We shall surely grant you increase,” Allah promises in the Qur’an. “Should I not be a truly grateful servant?” said the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In this seminar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin explore Radical Gratitude: How Thankfulness Transforms Our Life and Religion.


The Reality of Gratitude and Its Fruits

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the radical reality of gratitude in Islam and how it finds expression in all aspects of Muslim life.

Gratitude is not just a warm sentiment that one has. The believers’ gratitude has an object. Our gratitude is to Allah Most High. So the gratitude of the believer is different from other peoples’ gratitude. Our gratitude is also different because we don’t just feel gratitude for some things. The believer feels gratitude for everything.

This gratitude is radical because this gratitude is transformative. It’s transformative of your emotional state, of your life, of your spiritual state, and of your standing with Allah.

The Reality of Gratitude

To approach gratitude soundly, we begin by looking at the reality of gratitude. The word for gratitude in Arabic, shukr, is a very interesting word, because its essential meaning comes from increase. Gratitude is a response to something with increase – with more than was expected. That’s the sense of shukr. It has the sense of increase in response.

There’s a number of types of plants that were called shakir. You plant one tree and these plants would grow around the tree even though you didn’t plant them. They would form around the prior growth.

The other use for shakir was a type of shrub or bush that would grow in a very dry environment and would have vegetation on it despite there being very little for it to grow upon. So it’s a response with increase.

Similarly in the Arabic language they say of an animal that it is shakur. An animal such as cattle that grows bigger than you would expect given what you fed it. Something is nurtured, something is given some sustenance, and shukr describes that it’s responding to it in the right way but with increase.

They’d also referred to camels as being or having shukr in the sense that it would take you much further than you would expect given how much it had to eat a drink.

Gratitude in Religion

Now gratitude, shukr, religiously has a more specific connotation. Ultimately gratitude in its religious meaning is a spiritual act. It does have worldly implications because the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Whoever is not grateful to people is not grateful to Allah.”

How is it understood religiously that our gratitude to people is done as an expression of gratitude to Allah Most High? Ultimately all gratitude is to Allah. Part of gratitude to Allah is to be grateful to people, but gratitude to people is not separate from gratitude to Allah. All gratitude of ultimate significance is gratitude to Allah.

Someone is a shepherd and has a dog. They have gratitude for the shepherd dog because it is helping you out, but that gratitude is out of gratitude to Allah in that the dog is a blessing from Allah. Someone is grateful to their friend but that too should be from gratitude to Allah Most High.

One of the great scholars of Islam, Imam Ahmed al-Zarruq, defines gratitude as having several as having a basis and an expression. He says: “Gratitude is a rejoicing of the heart at the bestower of blessings, not merely the blessing itself. This is manifest on one’s limbs such that one’s tongue actively praises Allah and one’s limbs Express good works and leave contraventions.”

This is the definition he gives in his third commentary on the Hikam of Ibn Ata’illah. Imam al-Zarruq over 30 commentaries on the Hikam, at least 18 of which were complete. So gratitude is the hearts’ rejoicing at the blessing, but not but not at the blessing insofar as there’s something pleasing to you.

Gratitude Is also a Test of Faith

Gratitude is a type of happiness but it’s not a happiness at the blessing, because that kind of gratitude, that kind of happiness or appreciation, will actually turn you away from Allah Most High. That’s why happiness and rejoicing and blessings can be a more difficult test than sadness and feeling down and being in difficulty. When you’re in difficulty, anyone with some faith in their heart, if you’re in difficulty what do you do? Turn to Allah. The difficulty ends up being good to you. You had a difficulty and you turned to Allah.

When pleasing things happen, when success happens, when joyous things take place in your life, naturally, you rejoice. You feel happy. But the key that distinguishes gratitude or religiously consequential gratitude is that it’s not just feeling happy, it’s not just feeling satisfied, it’s the hearts rejoicing at the bestower of blessings. It’s rejoicing with Allah for having given you that blessing.

Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an: “You have no blessing except that it is from Allah.” (Sura al-Nahl 16:53) He also tells us: “Say! In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy, in that let them rejoice. It is far better than the things that they amass.” (Sura Yunus 10:58)

When is Gratitude Real?

So you paid for the new SmartWatch. It arrived. You rejoice. Is that gratitude? No, it would only be gratitude if the rejoicing was by seeing that as being from Allah Most High. That is gratitude and not merely the blessing itself, which is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us in one of the hadith in Imam al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith: “Whoever finds any good let them praise Allah.”

This is a very important definition: “Gratitude is a rejoicing of the heart at the bestower of blessings, not merely the blessing itself.” What is the result of this? That your tongue would be praising Allah, and your limbs would direct the blessing towards the obedience of Allah, towards what is pleasing to Allah in your life. And that you would keep from disobeying Allah with what He has blessed you with.

Imam al-Zarruq says: “There are three integrals of gratitude. The first is the hearts rejoicing at the giver due to his blessings, due to his giving. That is,” he says, “the reality of gratitude.” Gratitude is then expressed on the tongue by praising Allah out of recognition of His gift by saying “Alhamdulillah.”

When is it gratitude to say “Alhamdulillah”? When that saying of “Alhamdulillah” comes from a recognition in your heart of this matter being a blessing from Allah.

Imagine you’re stuck somewhere. You got a notification that the taxi you ordered is one minute away. You went outside but the guy took a wrong turn and you’re stuck in the cold. The taxi comes and you say: “Alhamdulillah.” Are you rejoicing at the taxi coming? If you are, is that gratitude?

It’s not a religiously consequential gratitude. “I feel grateful that the taxi has come.” Okay. Good. It’s better for you than to feel miserable, but that’s just worldly gratitude. The gratitude we’re talking about – that is transformative – is that when pleasing things happen to you you feel grateful to Allah, because the taxi didn’t come on its own. “You have no blessing except that it is from Allah.”

Building Gratitude

We need to train ourselves to be grateful when we say “Alhamdulillah.” Zubayr and Zubayda finally got married. Zubayda was trying to explain the relationship between gratitude and saying “Alhamdulillah” to Zubayr.

They both went to a steak house. Zubayda had a steak and she is in a state of gratitude to Allah Most High. But she didn’t say “Alhamdulillah.” Zubayr ate it. He’d been vegetarian. When you get married you’re basically wrapped around your spouse’s finger, so he stopped being vegetarian for the sake of Zubayda, because she loves steak. He finished and he says: “Alhamdulillah.”

Who is spiritually in a better state, Zubayda or Zubayr? Zubayda, because her heart is in a state of rejoicing at the Giver due to His giving. That is the reality of gratitude. It is light upon light to them that appreciation in the heart is expressed on the tongue by you saying “Alhamdulillah.”

But saying “Alhamdulillah” without this appreciation of this blessing as being from Allah, this is not gratitude. It’s something that’s not quite gratitude. Then if the gratitude is true it will have a manifestation, which is a third aspect of gratitude, which is to keep one’s limbs within Allah’s commands.

Gratitude for each limb is to direct what Allah has blessed you with towards Allah’s good pleasure. And not to use Allah’s blessing towards the disobedience to Allah. If you see it as a blessing from Allah use it within Allah’s limits.


This is taken from a live seminar on Radical Gratitude given by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at SeekersHub Toronto this year.