Clarifying the Issue of Talfiq in Islamic Law – Dr H. A. Hellyer

In their personal lives, are Muslims required to perform taqlid [practice by way of imitation] of only one madhhab [school of law]? If not, when can they go out of the one that they have studied or practiced?

Different ulama [scholars] in different madhhabs [schools of law] have different considerations and principles in looking at this question. The below is a mainstream understanding within the madhhab of Imam al-Shafi’i.

(Out of the four extant schools for Sunni Muslims, the madhhab of Imam al-Shafi’i is the third that was founded. It is the school of nearly all Sunni Muslims in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines), east Africa (Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya), Yemen and significant parts of the rest of the Arab world.)

It is important to note: this is a general comment on the issue of talfiq [mixing between different opinions in different schools of law] that applies to most lay (unspecialised in legal studies or awaam] Muslims. Considerations differ for muftis in giving fatwa; considerations might differ for those who are studying a madhhab to a more advanced level; those who receive specific instruction as part of their tarbiya [training] in a particular relationship with a teacher; and so on.

A Typical Shafi’i Viewpoint on Talfiq: Conditions

As noted above, the details around this issue may differ within a particular madhhab, or between madhhabs. A mainstream understanding in the Shafi’i school is as follows, nevertheless, may be understood as follows.

Generally, most individual Muslims may depart from their taqlid [practice by way of imitation] of the madhhab that one has studied or been taught if the following conditions are met:

Staying within the extant schools

  1. Such a departure entails following an alternative position that is transmitted reliably. Different scholars will have different positions on what ‘reliably’ means practically speaking – a precautionary view would be to limit it to well-known views within one of the four extant schools, though there are other viewpoints on this issue, which are available to the expert jurisprudent to evaluate. It is advisable that one learns that position from someone who is properly familiar and trained with it, rather than learning that position simply by picking up a book.

Impermissible and permissible talfiq

  1. That one is not guilty of impermissible talfiq, according to preferred precautionary opinion.Impermissible talfiq means that the end result of one’s combination of different opinions means that the final outcome is one that is not valid according to any of the madhhabs.By way of example: after performing wudu’ [ablutions] in a way that is only acceptable in Shafi’i and Hanafi schools, one bleeds (which breaks wudu’ in the Hanafi school), but considers his wudu’ intact based on the Shafi’i school (in which bleeding does not break wudu’). Later, he touches his wife and considers his wudu’ intact based on the Hanafi school (in which touching between spouses does not break wudu’). The end result being that his wudu is not valid according to both the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools respectively.
  2. There is a mainstream understanding, represented by the likes of Ibn Ziyad al-Yamani in the Shafi’i school,that talfiq is only problematic if it takes place in a single ritual (such as wudu’ mentioned above). It would mean one could do wudu’ according to one school, and salat (prayer) according to another, without considering this to be problematic talfiq in any way.

Having a need, and not treating religion like a play-thing

  1. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, an authoritative scholar in the Shafi’i school, notes in his Tuhfah al-Muhtaj: “If al-mushaqqa [hardship] increases (as a result) of iltizam [being committed] to our madhhab, then there is no shame in withdrawing (from that) by taqlid to another school.” Imam al-Nawawi, one of the foremost authorities in the Shafi’i school, elaborates upon this further in his Minhaj al-Talibin, which Ibn Hajar’s work is a commentary on: “That which the proof necessitates is that a layman is not obligated to follow a specific madhhab.”
  2. However, Imam al-Nawawi immediately goes on to note: “Instead, he seeks a fatwa (religious ruling) from whoever he wishes, provided he does not chase after concessions (emphasis mine). Perhaps those who prevented him (from following other schools) did so because they were not convinced he would not chase after concessions.”
  3. There are three points to be kept in mind here. The first is that generally and ordinarily speaking, Imam al-Nawawi confirms that a layman who does not have a madhhab in the first place, is at liberty to seek and apply a fatwa via whatever legitimate jurist might tell him, as does Ibn Hajar. The guidelines mentioned here are more applicable to individuals who have consciously chosen a school to study and practice, at whatever level.
  4. The second thing, however, is that in so doing, a constant and exhaustive search of the most lenient positions in the various schools (what would be described as ‘tatabbu’ al-rukhas’) is hardly advisable in terms of safeguarding one’s religion.
  5. The third point Imam al-Nawawi makes hints at the reason behind the second. Seeking out the most lenient positions is the opposite of precaution and taking one’s religion seriously. In other words, it turns one’s religion into something of a plaything, and is dangerous for one’s spiritual development.
  6. To avoid treating one’s religion like a plaything, indeed, it is advisable to consciously try to find a hajja [need] of some sort in terms of going outside of one’s school – such an attempt will, insha’Allah, safeguard someone from the concern Imam al-Nawawi points out above about ‘chasing after concessions’.
  7. The scholars have differed on what constitutes a ‘need’, and there is thus some leeway in this regard – but one should consider it carefully. Avoiding undue hardship would be an example of a ‘hajja’, for example. Again, the point to consider here is simply this – is one ‘chasing after concessions’, and making that the basis of their practice? Or does one genuinely have a need? Or is someone simply asking the first most qualified person they came across to ask, rather than seeking out the most lenient opinion? These are questions to be asked of one’s self.
  8. This point is less about whether the going out of one’s school will be valid or not, and more about a far wider consideration – how seriously one takes their commitment to their religion. If one is constantly seeking out the easiest position from among the schools, then many scholars, such as the aforementioned Ibn Hajar al-Haytami,will speak of their concern that such a person may become spiritually corrupted.

Philosophical and intellectual consistency

  1. On an intellectual level, one can only perform talfiq if one genuinely considers the position one is now taking from that is different from the one that one was taking before, is a valid one and possibly the correct one.
  2. If one genuinely believes that the position one was taking previous is actually the stronger and correct position, then one cannot intellectually then form a honest intention when it comes to following a contrary position. As such, it makes the action of talfiq effectively very difficult. If one is convinced of such an assessment of a position, then one should act upon it, and shouldn’t abandon it.
  3. As a result of these considerations, it becomes intellectually more difficult for more advanced students in a particular school to engage in talfiq. It is not impossible, but this intellectual honesty that is linked to intention is what makes the ability to engage in talfiq more difficult, the more one is educated in a particular school.
  4. As such, many of our scholars, such as Imam al-Kurdi, indicated that this preferable and easier intellectually and consciously to follow a less reliable opinion in one’s own school than to follow another school. This is because that in such a scenario, one is still able to consider that the same usul [legal methodology] is at work, because both positions are underpinned by the same usul in the same madhhab. When one goes outside of a school, one is implicitly accepting that not only the position may be valid, but also the different usul may be as well.

As noted, this is the general set of guidelines. They alter according to the level of learning of a person; if one is giving fatwa, another set of considerations apply; the tarbiya [training] of a particular student by a teacher; and so forth. By way of an example: many scholars, for example, will insist that their students actively avoid taking dispensations, even when it is ordinarily permitted to do so, in order to train themselves in the spiritual path. This is not a general point that is necessarily applicable to all Muslims.

As an example of how this might alter altogether – and without claiming this is the standard, normal approach – Imam Abdul-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, a prominent Egyptian scholar (b. 891 Hijri) and Shadhuli Sufi, offered the view that the pious, who are the ‘strong’, would always pursue the ‘azima [stricter] opinion from among the schools. In his perspective, the Sufi, in his struggle against his lower self would choose the stricter opinions. This would be during a particular period of the Sufi’s sulūk [wayfaring or path] – and it would be a matter of intense ethical consideration, as opposed to the legal domain per se, in that it is not everyone who is supposed to follow such a way of practice. At another stage of sulūk – including at an advanced stage – considerations might be different.

Any student of knowledge seeking to know how to apply such understanding to their lives in any given circumstance is advised to seek counsel from a faqih [jurisprudent] they trust, and who is familiar with their circumstances. May God grant us all understanding, Ameen!


Ustādh Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer (Biography from ‘A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Makkan Sages’) 

A noted scholar and author focusing on politics and religion, Dr Hisham A. Hellyer was born to an English father and to an Egyptian mother of Sudanese & Moroccan heritage and Ḥasanī & ʿAbbāsī lineage. He was raised between London, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, before receiving degrees in law and international political economy from the University of Sheffield, and a doctorate from the University of Warwick. He began researching Islamic law, theology and spirituality in his teens, keeping the company of and studying under a number of classically trained-scholars in the UK, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and elsewhere. They include the likes of Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, the former head of the fatwa department of South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council, and the khalifa of the Makkan polymath and sage, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki. Dr. Hellyer was appointed by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks as a Senior Scholar of the Zawiya Institute in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr. Hellyer’s career has included positions at and affiliations with the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, the American University in Cairo, Cambridge Muslim College, and the Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (CASIS).He is a frequent commentator and columnist in various media in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, and is included in the annual global list of ‘The 500 Most Influential Muslims’ in the world (‘The Muslim 500’). Among his written works are ‘Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans’ (Edinburgh University Press), ‘A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt’ (Oxford University Press) and “The Islamic Tradition, Muslim Communities and the Human Rights Discourse” (editor)(Atlantic Council). Dr Hellyer works between London, Washington DC, and Cairo, where he continues to research, teach, and study. @hahellyer


 

Connecting to the Imams of Fiqh – Mufti Taha Karaan

* Courtesy of Bayt Muhammad Academy

In this video, Mufti Taha Karaan elucidates with eloquence and precision why Muslims should connect and find value in the various schools of Islamic juristic thought. Contrary to what many believe and assume, the schools of Islamic jurisprudence have always employed rational and intellectual tools in their respective methodologies when arriving at solutions for people and societies. As the world changes and progresses, new challenges will arise and confront people. It is in these circumstances that qualified and astute scholars will need to build on the legacy of the past in order to guide and provide new solutions for Muslims in the modern era.

* This video was recorded on Monday 22nd May 2017 at Masjid-e-Rizwan in Blackburn (UK) as part of Mutfi Taha Karaan’s Affinity lecture tour with Bayt Muhammad Academy. For the original youtube link please click here

 

Acquisition of the Clear Light: Part 5

This is the fifth part of a series of translations of Habib Umar’s work, Qabs al-Nur al-Mubin, an abridgement of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din.

 

Obligatory precaution against the devil’s overpowering of the heart and the prevention of his entrances therein.

Know that the heart is like a pitched dome with doors through which concerns enter, and similarly like a target of which arrows from various directions are aimed towards, so the point of entry for these renewed influences are either external, through the five senses or internal, through imagination, desire, anger and natural traits within man’s composition.

The most notable of acquired influences within the heart are spiritual promptings, through the medium of thoughts and reflections which are its acquirement’s of knowledge by means of renewal or recall, which is called spiritual promptings, as a prompting takes place preceded by the hearts ignorance of it. So the base of actions are spiritual promptings, these spiritual promptings then awaken the desire, the desire awakens the resolve, the resolve awakens the intention and the intention awakens the limbs.

These are divided between that which calls to evil, of which is what is ultimately harmful and that which calls to goodness, of which is what is of benefit in the Final Abode. So these are 2 varying spiritual promptings, the good of which is called an inspiration and the bad of which is called a whisper. As long as the end result varies, it’s is an indication of the varying of its respective cause.

The agent of a good spiritual prompting is angelic and the agent of an evil spiritual prompting is demonic. The subtlety which equips the heart to accept a good inspiration is called harmonization and that which equips it to accept a demonic whisper is called deception and failure. An angel is an epitome of a creation which Allah Most High brought into existence, its role is the outpouring of goodness, benefiting by knowledge, revealing truth, counseling towards good, enjoining the good and this was the purpose for it being created and facilitated. A devil is an epitome of a creation which has an opposing role to that which is that of counseling towards evil, commanding immorality, to cause despair by means of distress, when considering to embark upon goodness.

A demonic whisper is opposite to inspiration, a devil is opposite to an angel, harmonization is opposite to failure, Allah Most high says: And of everything we have created pairs.” (Sura ad-Dhariyat 51:49). All matters have pairs except Allah Most High, as He is unique without a pair, in fact, He is the one, the Real who created all the pairs.

The heart is attracted towards the devil or the angel. He (SAW) said, : “In the heart there are 2 callings. A call from the angel promising goodness and belief of the Truth, so whoever amongst you finds this then know that it is from Allah Most High, so show gratitude to Him and a call from the devil promising evil, disbelief of the Truth and forbidding goodness, so whoever amongst you finds this should seek refuge in Allah Most High from the Devil.” Thereafter he recited His words: “Satan promises you with poverty and orders you to commit what is indecent, but Allah promises you His Forgiveness and bounty from Him. Allah is the Embracer, the Knower.” (Sura al-Baqarah 2:268)

Regarding the attraction towards these 2 dominating factors, He (SAW) said: “The heart of a believer is between the two fingers of Allah the Most Exalted.” Mujaahid mentioned regarding His statement: “From the mischief of the Whisperer who withdraws. It is spread out within the heart, upon him remembering Allah, it withdraws and shrinks and if he is unmindful, it spreads out within the heart.” Regarding their difference, Allah Most High says: “The Evil One has got the better of them: so he has made them lose the remembrance of Allah.” (Sura 58:19) Ibn Wadhaah said regarding the narration he mentioned: If a man reaches the age of 40 without repenting, the devil wipes his face with his hand and says: By my father, a face which will not succeed. By this, the meaning of a whispering, a spiritual prompting, an angel, a devil, harmonization and failure all become clear.

So it’s upon the servant to acquaint himself with every affair that comes to mind to know whether it’s an angelic calling or a satanic calling and to eagerly examine it with an insightful eye, without any caprice from the natural disposition, which is only perceived through the light of God-consciousness, insight and abundance of knowledge as He Most High says: “Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, make remembrance.” (Sura 7:201) Which means that they return to the light of knowledge. “At once, they have insight.” (Sura 7:201) Which means that the problem becomes manifest to them. As for the person who has not accustomed his self towards God-Consciousness, his nature is inclined towards the obedience of what has deceived him through the following of his caprice, and as a result, his mistakes are many and his destruction is brought near without him noticing.


Translator: Abdullah Salih, converted to Islam in 2003 and thereafter, embarked on a journey of seeking knowledge in the Valleys of Hadramouth in the beautiful city of Tarim. He was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Habib Umar, where he studied under him various sciences such as, but not limited to, some of the original works of Ihya as well that of the abridgment. He now resides in Namibia with his family and is engaged in Dawah activities locally as well as internationally.


Habib Kadhim al Saqqaf on the Last Ten Days of Ramadan

*Originally Published on 7/06/2018

Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf encourages us to maximise our benefit from the last ten days of Ramadan, and offers advice and practical tips.

 

Step 1: Appreciation & Intention

We can begin by appreciating the gift of these blessed ten days, and learning about what Allah is offering us therein. We can receive it with gratitude and joy, and thankfulness to Allah for His gift.

We can intend to fast happily, do good works and pray tarawih in order to follow the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Intend to deal with others well this Ramadan.

Step 2: Understanding

We know that the first part of Ramadan is mercy, the middle part of it is forgiveness, and the last part of it is freedom from the Fire. By recognizing that the last ten nights are freedom from the Fire, we can plan to strive harder in order to achieve it.

We can also keep in mind that Allah prescribed the fast to us, just as He did to others before us. It was not meant to be a pointless command to put us in difficultly, but rather to teach us valuable lessons in self-restraint and God-consciousness.

Step 3: Rejoice

Therefore, we can rejoice in the presence of these days, by exposing ourselves to the mercy of Allah, and embodying it by showing mercy to other. This is in the spirit of the hadith, “The merciful ones will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to the ones on Earth, and the one beyond the heavens will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi) We should pray for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and we should pray that people who are isolated or unaware of the religion, find a connection to it.


With gratitude to Greensville Trust.


 

Talk about Islam with Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Episode 2 continued) – What is the Purpose of Life?

Dear readers, welcome back to the continuation of our second episode of our periodic conversations with Shaykh Hamza Karamali as part of the “Talk About Islam” series. Shaykh Hamza Karamali is the Dean of Academics at SeekersGuidance, and is one of our senior teachers.

continued…

 

Osama: You have forwarded the idea that Islam is an enlightened religion because it has the light of true revelation that other religions like Christianity and Judaism don’t possess. I would like to discuss this point in greater detail with you in another conversation, but for now, how do you respond to those who argue that, in reality, what Islam is lacking is an Enlightenment similar to one that Christianity went through?

What is your take on this?

 

Shaykh Hamza: The reason why people say that Islam needs an Enlightenment is that they look at the Muslim world and they see congestion on the roads, litter in public spaces, pollution in the air, grime on buildings, and rust and dents on cars.

They compare this image with the image of a modern Western city with fast-moving highways, clean streets, fresh air, tall steel skyscrapers, and shiny new cars.

When they think of the Muslim world, they think of unemployment, no industry, no science or technology, and when they look at the modern Western city, they think of the opposite.

So you have this contrast, and when people in the media say that Islam needs to be enlightened, what they are really looking for is the worldly prosperity that is associated with the Western world.

This worldliness is, after all, the lens of the Enlightenment (or as we decided to call it, the Age of Escape from Oppressive Religion) because when in this age people moved away from oppressive religion, which used the idea of afterlife, God, and spirituality to oppress other people, they also turned away from the ideas of afterlife, God, and spirituality that were associated with oppression, and focussed instead on the here-and-now.

Their goal is for us to use our full human potential in this life. That is the lens that they look through when they bring the two opposite images to mind. The idea of the Muslim world needing an enlightenment is driven by a desire to have these things in the here-and-now, and that is really the question that is being asked.

We have two responses to this question.

The first is that, whereas in the case of Europe, there was a collusion between an established Church and a corrupt government to oppress people in the name of religion, that is not the case in the Muslim world today, nor has it ever been the case in our history.

Oppression in the Muslim world in recent times has not happened because of religion, but because of socialist dictatorships, and socialism is a child of the Enlightenment, not a child of Islam.

The corruption that has beset many Muslim countries, too, is a child of the Enlightenment because it comes from worldliness, a focus on the here-and-now, even at the expense of religious principles. If Muslim societies were religious, there wouldn’t be any corruption–corruption is religiously forbidden in the strongest of terms.

If Muslim societies were religious, we wouldn’t litter and we would be conscious of pollution–cleanliness, as we all know, is a part of our faith.

If Muslim societies were religious, they would excel in everything they did, in industry, in science, in technology, everything–the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is narrated to have said that Allah loves for us to perfect everything that we do.

So even if we look through the lens of the here-and-now, the way to achieve it is to become more religious, not to become more worldly under the false pretext of an enlightenment that seeks to overthrow a nonexistent oppressive religiousness.

The second response is that being Muslim means that we look at the world through a different lens. For example, an illiterate old woman in the middle of Africa who lives in a small mud hut, who wakes up at night to prostrates to her Creator, who adores Him, loves Him, reveres Him, and cries before Him in prostration every night, but who is not surrounded by skyscrapers, nor does she have a shiny car, nor does she know anything about science or technology — from our lens, this woman is enlightened because she has found the purpose of her life, whereas someone who has all of the trappings of modern life and is pursuing the pleasures of this world while forgetting about God, forgetting about their soul, forgetting about the afterlife, forgetting about the purpose of their existence — they are not enlightened.

Being Muslim means that your whole perspective changes. And if you look at the world from this perspective, if you look at the congested city with old cars and dirty streets, and then, in the middle of all of this, you hear the adhan (call to prayer) from mosques all over the city, then that adhan drowns out the negativity associated with the congested city and old cars and dirty streets because the adhan drives us to the purpose of our lives.

This is not to say that streets shouldn’t be clean; they should be clean.

It is not to say that traffic shouldn’t be regulated; it should be regulated.

It is not to say that there should be no prosperity in this world; that is something that Allah gives us when we  turn to Him sincerely. That’s not the point.

The point is: is our purpose the here-and-now, as those who ask this question imagine, or is our purpose with Him and with the afterlife? It’s with Him and with the afterlife.

 

Osama: Great, now I’d like to request of you to summarise for us, how do Muslims understand the term purpose when asking the question: what is the purpose of life?

I ask this question now because we have discussed in a lot of detail what the presuppositions of pre-enlightenment Christian intellectuals influenced by Aristotelianism were, and what the presuppositions of post-enlightenment modernist and post-modernist intellectuals influenced by scientism were, about the use of the term purpose, and would now like to know what the presuppositions of Muslim scholars would be about the use of this term.

 

Shaykh Hamza: We believe based on evidence that God exists and that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is His final messenger. Based on this evidence-based belief, we see that this universe is created by a doer, a volitional agent, that is God.

God created this universe for a purpose. Everything in the universe is created for a purpose. He tells us these purposes in the Quran.

The locus of the entire universe is the human being, and the human being stands out because the purposes of everything else are found in relation to the human being, and the purpose of the human being is found in his relation to God.

Allah tells us why He created us in the Quran:

“I only created jinn-kind and mankind is so that they might worship me.” Qur’an, 51:56

The original Arabic of this verse has the letter lam before the verb, “to worship” — illa li ya‘budun. This lam is normally translated as “because”. With this translation, the verse would mean, “I created jinn-kind and mankind because I wanted them to worship me.” This is an incorrect translation here and it is not what this verse means.

Let me explain.

Allah created the universe with wisdom. The idea of purpose in the universe, for us, returns to the wisdom of Allah.

Allah’s wisdom is something that He creates in the universe.

To say that He creates everything with a wisdom is different than saying that He created everything with some motive. This is important to understand.

What’s the difference?

Well, when I explained Aristotle’s idea of the final cause, I gave you the example of the coat that I wear in order to become warm. The final cause, in this case–in order for me to become warm–is my motive. It is, in other words, a need that drives me to do something to fulfill that need–I need to become warm, so I wear my coat.

Behind every motive lies a need.

Needs move us, motivate us, to undertake certain actions.

This is how human beings work, and this is how Aristotle formulated his thought.

Now, when we ask about the purpose of the universe, then we have to look at the question in a different manner because Allah doesn’t need anything.

Everything needs Him; He doesn’t need anything.

That, in fact, is the meaning of the Qur’anic verse that all of us know: Allahu al-Samad (Qur’an, 112:2).  This means that Allah is al-Samad, which means that He is the one who everything needs but who Himself needs no one.

Allah Most High exists necessarily; everything else is contingent. He doesn’t need anything; everything needs Him. He is the absolute King and Master. He is the Sustainer and Lord of everything.

Since He doesn’t need anything, He cannot be driven by motives.

But everything that He creates has a purpose.

But that purpose is not a motive that drives Him to create that thing.

So the purposes that He creates in the universe aren’t things that drive Him.

If you return to the verse I cited above–”I only created jinn-kind and mankind so that they might worship me,”–you will notice that I translated the lam before the verb, “to worship” as “so that they might…” If I had translated it as “because he wanted ..” then it would mean that Allah Most High needs jinn and humans to worship Him. But that is not what the verse means.

The verse does not mean that Allah Most High needs us to worship Him.

He created us to worship Him?–Yes.

He created us because He needs us to worship Him?–No.

He tells us many times in the Qur’an that no one who disbelieves in Him does Him any harm whatsoever because, “Allah is completely free of needing anything in the universe.” (Qur’an, 3:57) He tells us many times in the Qur’an that, “whoever does good only benefits himself, and whoever does good only harms himself.” (Qur’an, 41:46) And the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us that Allah Most High says, “O My servants! You will never be able to harm Me, nor will you ever be able to benefit Me. O My servants! Were every single one of you, humans and jinn, to be as Godfearing as the one with the most Godfearing heart among you, that would not increase My Kingdom in the slightest. O My servants! Were every single one of you, humans and jinn, to be as wicket as the one with the most wicked heart among you, that would not decrease My Kingdom in the slightest.” (Muslim)

So Allah Most High doesn’t need our worship.

When He says that He created us in order to worship Him, He doesn’t mean that He needs our worship; He means that the purpose for which He has created us–our purpose that lies within us, the purpose of our lives, in other words–is for us to worship Him.

Let me give you an example.

If I were to take your cell phone and try and play baseball with it, I may or may not do well. I may hit a home run with it (unlikely!), or I might break your phone in my attempt to hit a home run (likely!). If it works, however, it is not going to work that well. Pretty soon, I will give up using the cell phone as a baseball bat, and go find an actual bat whose purpose is to be played baseball with.

Why doesn’t a cell phone work like a baseball bat? It doesn’t work because that is not the reason, the purpose that the maker of the cell phone made it for.

Similarly, Allah created us for the purpose of worshipping Him. That means that if We worship Allah, then it’s like we are playing baseball with a baseball bat, but if we turn away from that and stop worshipping Allah, then it’s like playing baseball with a cell-phone — life won’t seem to work for us because that is not what we were meant to do.

You might break, just like the cell-phone if it is used to play baseball.

You are going to find frustration, you are going to find depression, the world won’t make sense, the world will be pointless, and you will have all of these feelings because you are not fulfilling your purpose.

You will have a spiritual void, a sense of meaninglessness, a sense that things are right and that you aren’t doing what you should be doing. Much of what we discussed in our previous conversation, the spiritual void that people feel in their lives as a result of a lack of genuine religious company and practise, it stemmed from this lack of purpose.

But when you do what you were created for, when you worship Him in prostration, when you cry, when you recite the Quran, when you give charity, you will find within yourself a happiness that a million dollars won’t give you.

That’s what we mean by “purpose”.

 

Osama: Okay, it seems that we are now done with our discussion about the meaning of the term purpose when the question what is the purpose of life is asked by following three groups of people:

 

  1. Pre-enlightenment Christian scholars who were influenced by Aristotelianism: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded within Aristotle’s conception of the four causes, in specific the final cause.
  2. Post-enlightenment atheist scholars who were influenced by Scientism, which grew as a response to the dogmatic teachings of the Church: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded in a rejection of Christian theology and Aristotelian thought, which was used to justify those Christian teachings.
  3. Muslim scholars, who believe in the truth of the revelation of the Quran: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded in the Quranic view that the wisdom behind the creation of mankind and jinnkind was that they may prosper and attain happiness as a result of their adoration, love, and worship of their Creator, Allah.

Now that we have gained a deep and strong appreciation of what the meanings of the term purpose are of these various groups of scholars, I’d like to turn your attention toward the second term that was used in the question, life.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Sure, though I would like to remind you that you haven’t shared your definition of the term life with me yet (smiles).

 

Osama: Thank you for reminding me to define my terms (smiles).

If I were to put on the hat of a pre-Enlightenment Aristotelian thinker, then I would most likely define life as being a term that refers to the existence of an individual human being or animal.

If I were to put on the hat of a post-enlightenment scientistic thinker, then I would most likely define life as the condition that distinguishes “living things” [animals and plants] from “non-living things”.

I am interested to know how you, as a Muslim, define the term life?

 

Shaykh Hamza: I don’t like your definition of life (laughs), and I don’t think that that is what people mean when they ask “what is the purpose of life?”.

I would like to say two things here.

The first is that the idea of “life” is related to the idea of “purpose”.

There is a field in science called biochemistry. Biochemists study the chemical processes of life. The emergence of biochemistry was very exciting for people who wanted to explain the world without any reference to God because it contains the idea that life can be explained through a series of chemical reactions.

Now, chemical reactions do have a relation to life. That they are related to life is undeniable–all of modern medicine is based on this. But is life a series of chemical reactions? No it is not. And anybody who asks the question “what is the purpose of life” knows deep down within them that life is more than a series of chemical reactions, it is more than what the biochemists say.

Animal life (we’ll put plant life aside for a moment) is historically associated with the idea of voluntary movement. An animal is anything that moves voluntarily. When a lion roars, it roars voluntarily. There is some sort of volition involved: he can roar or not roar. Likewise, I, as a human being, when I speak, my speech is voluntary–I can choose to speak or not speak.

Animal life thus  is associated with voluntary action.

Note that this is a very different kind of definition of “life” that you will get in biology because biology examines life from the perspective of efficient causes, from the perspective of chemical reactions, not from the perspective that I am bringing, which was there in the Christian tradition as well as the Muslim one, and it probably has its roots in Aristotle.

Any sensible human being would look at things like this. And so I guess that when I say “any sensible human being would look at things like this”, this is a jab in the ribs of scientists who want to do away with a God-centered perspective of the world, life, and everything. Because when they say that life is just a series of chemical reactions, they are not sensible.

Just look inside and ask yourself: if they were to publish volumes and volumes of books with chemical reactions and tell you that this is life, would you believe it? No you won’t!

Life has to do with volition and voluntary movement.

That is life with respect to animals but with respect to human beings, it is something more.

Why?

Because human beings have a mind and a soul, and they can use their minds to reflect on the universe to see that it was created by God, and they can see that they are responsible to God, and they can see that their life has a purpose and that the purpose of their life is to worship Allah (Glorified is He) so that when we are resurrected and we meet Him on the Day of Judgement that we will be successful forever in our life to come. These are things that we as human beings can see. (Remember, this is all based on evidence because we have evidence-based belief in our religion.)

So human life is characterized not just by voluntary motion, but by voluntary motion that is governed by mind rather than instinct.

Animals act, however, is based on instinct.

Human beings, on the other hand, can reflect, decide to go one particular way or another, discern right from wrong, and they can choose to do the right, and choose to turn away from the wrong.

I would say that somebody who asks, “What is the purpose of life?”, they are not asking about the purpose of some bacterium, but they are asking about the purpose of human life, because they are searching for purpose, we are searching for purpose, and we feel that we know that there is a greater purpose for which we are created.

So I will rephrase your question: Instead of asking, “What is the purpose of life?” we should ask, “ “What is the purpose of my life?” or we should ask,  “What is the purpose of the life of human beings?”

In these questions, life is not a chemical reaction. In these questions, “life” means the choices that we make to do things based on our mind.

This question is revealing; it is actually asking: “what kinds of choices should I make?” or “what kinds of things should I do in my life?

That’s the question, and that what I think is being asked.

 

Osama: I must say that I truly admire what you have said with regards to life, and how the human mind and soul is what differentiates human life from animal life.

I have an important question though; considering that we live in a world dominated by materialistic and scientistic thought, how is one able to prove the existence of the soul, which seems to be an abstract and immaterial reality?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Well, the Enlightenment has created a materialistic worldview. It has created, along with modern science, a way of looking at the world in terms of matter–things that you can touch, feel, sense, measure, and do experiments.

It seeks to understand everything through this lens, including the human being.

The human being is not matter, the human being is more than matter. Matter makes up the body of the human being. What makes the human being alive, what gives the human being life, what makes the human being who he is, is not the matter that we can sense. What makes the human being who he is, is his soul.

If you were to ask me, “How do we know that the soul exists?” I would say that the soul is “you” — it is known through introspection. All of us know that there is an “I”.

If you were to ask me, “What is “I”?” I would say that “I” am not the cells in my body. The cells die and they are regenerated. After so many years, almost every cell in your body is replaced with a new one. This means that you are not your cells, that is not who you are — that comes and goes.

If you were to ask me: “Who are “you”?” I would say that the physical “you” changes. You were a child, and then you grew up to become an adult. You grow old and everything about you changes but you are “you”, you remain “you”, and you know that “you” haven’t changed.

If you were to ask me: “What is the “you”, the “I”, the thing that gives you your identity, the thing that makes you alive by virtue of which you have volition, and gives you the ability to choose?”

I would say that this is your soul.

We all know that it is there.

It is the unchanging “I” as the physical and material aspects of the body change but the “I” aspect doesn’t.

Science is materialistic, so it doesn’t explain things using the soul, it explains things using biochemistry, chemical reactions, electrical impulses — that is how it explains the phenomenon of life.

Science explains life with reference to reproduction and metabolism but it doesn’t actually explain what life is — life is consciousness.

There is a problem that philosophers and scientists grapple with and it hasn’t been answered yet, it is called the problem of consciousness.

The problem of consciousness is that none of these things explain what it means to be conscious. When we are conscious, we feel pain, happiness, sadness, and we make choices — we have experiences. These experiences, we know, they are not chemical reactions. My happiness is not a chemical reaction, my sight is not a chemical reaction — this is consciousness. I am conscious of something, I know, I choose, and I do.

If you were to ask me: “What’s the locus of consciousness and all of these experiences?” I would say that the locus is the human soul.

It is the human soul that feels happy, pained, sad, and that has love, and it is the human soul that knows God. Empirical observations don’t take you there.

Finally, if you were to ask me to summarise in exact terms: “What is the reality of the soul — what is it exactly?” I would say, well, we don’t know (smiles).

We know it is there but we don’t know what it is.

Allah tells the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) that:

قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوْتِيْتُم مِنَ العِلْمِ اِلَّا قَلِيْلًا

Say: The spirit is from the tremendous affair of my Lord, and you’ve only been given a little bit of knowledge.

 

In other words, the soul shows human weakness and incapacity, and that is who we are. We are incapable and weak and so we need Allah. The fact that the very thing that we are — the “I” — we can’t fathom it, it shows how weak and incapable we are.

The fact that we can’t fathom it, however, doesn’t mean that it is not there.

We can’t fathom God, but we know that He is there, we have evidence that He is there.

How can we fathom God when we can’t even fathom ourselves?

The ruh, or the human soul, is a tremendous creation of God, He swears by it in the Quran:

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا

By the great soul, and the tremendous One who fashioned it.

 

Whenever Allah swears an oath by something, it means that it is tremendous, and this is one of the greatest creations of Allah.

This is the soul and that is how we know that it exists.

 

Osama: That seems to be a fair explanation of the soul though I’d be very interested to talk about in detail with you in one of our future conversations. You said that the soul is what feels love, happiness, and  sadness etc. I’d be interested to find out how this ties in with our purpose, which is to love God. I wonder how the soul “loves” God? I won’t ask you to answer this question now, let’s leave it for another conversation because we have had a pretty long conversation thus far (smile).

Let’s conclude Shaykh Hamza, if I were to ask you to please answer the question “what is the purpose of life?” directly after having considered the meanings of the individual terms purpose and life, how would you answer this question?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Well, the first step towards answering this is to understand the concept of life, which we discussed in great detail just now, and in order to understand that concept, we need to understand who you are. The question of what life is revolves around who you are, and as we discussed, you are your soul.

A great Muslim poet, an early Afghan Shafi’i called Abul Fath al-Busti, who lived almost a thousand years ago wrote:

يَا خَادِمَ الجِسْمِ كَمْ تَشْقَى بِخِدْمَتِهِ

أَتَطْلُبُ الرِّبْحَ فِي مَا فِيْهِ خُسْرَانُ

أَقْبِلْ عَلَى النَّفسِ وَاسْتَكْمِلْ فَضَائِلَهَا

فَأَنْتَ بِالنَّفْسٍ لَا بِالْجِسْمِ اِنْسَانُ

O servant of the body, how miserable will you be by serving your body?

Do you seek profit in that in which there is loss?

Turn to the soul and complete its perfections,

for it is by virtue of your soul that you are a human being, not by virtue of your body.

So, what is the purpose of your existence as a soul?

 

As a soul that has the capacity to discern the fact that Allah created it, and sent messengers who it can discern are genuine, to call you to the worship of Allah?

Allah created souls before He created bodies.

We had a life before the life of this world — it was called the universe of souls (‘alam al-arwah).

Allah mentions in the Quran:

وَاِذْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَنِيْ آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُوْرِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوْا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا

Allah brought out all of the souls that would ever exist, He then addressed them: Am I not your Lord? They said, Indeed we witness [your Lordship].

We know Allah, we knew Him before we came into this world, we spoke to Him and recognized Him, and remnants of this conversation are imprinted in us. As we come into adulthood from childhood, this yearning for the knowledge of Allah, which is the purpose of our existence, drives us as we search for our purpose in life, and we find that purpose when we use our mind that is enlightened by the light of revelation to discern our Creator and what He wants from us by listening to the messengers, and living our lives according to what they convey from Allah — worshipping Allah and making Him our sole goal in our lives.

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الجِنَّ وَالاِنْسَ اِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوْنَ

I only created jinn-kind and mankind so that they might worship me.

 

This is the purpose and wisdom for which Allah created us, and then He placed within us a recognition of this wisdom. This is why when we incline towards this world for the fulfilment of our desires, we do not find within ourselves happiness and we don’t find within ourselves that we are living a purposeful and meaningful life.

Our purpose is realised by looking beyond this world into the world through which we, through our soul, will persist. If we worship Allah in this life, it gives us eternal felicity in the next life and we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

All of this is not because Allah needs something — because there is a difference between a motive and wisdom — and purposes with respect to Allah are wisdoms not motives.

Allah did this out of sheer generosity so that we could be happy in this world and attain to eternal felicity in the next world, and that is the purpose of our existence and life.

 

Osama: I ask God to increase you, to grant you the best of both worlds, and to grant all of us, all human beings, the ability to be able to fulfill their real purpose for being alive in the most resplendent of ways that pleases the One who made them the way they are.

Thank you, and I look forward to our next conversation.

al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Amin!

Wa ‘alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

 


Osama Hassan is an Australian of Pakistani descent who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Curtin University. He is currently pursuing studies in the Islamic sciences and Arabic in Amman.


https://seekersguidance.org/articles/is-religion-relevant-in-the-21st-century-interview-with-shaykh-hamza-karamali/

 

Dying Upon Love of Allah — the Beautiful Counsel of al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib to His Son

Imam Bayhaqi relates in his Shu’ab al-Iman that when al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib—the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him and his folk)—was on the verge of death, he said to his son:

 

“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

 


 

 

 

Why Do We Waste So Much Food in Ramadan? – Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi

In this video, the late Egyptian luminary and scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi (RA) urges us to reflect on our consumption of food in the month of Ramadan. He reminds us that there is no benefit in overeating or being gluttonous once the time of breaking fast sets in. Rather, we should suffice ourselves with minimal food so that we may reap the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting. By being conscious of the true meanings of Ramadan, Muslims will be able to live lives of moderation and balance.

 


Biography:

Shaykh Muhammad al-Sha’raawi was born in Egypt on the 5th of April , 1911. At the age of 11, he had completely memorized the Quran. He graduated from the Faculty of Arabic Language at the al – Azhar University in 1941. He was considered and recognized as a gifted exegete of the Quran. He was revered and respected in the Muslim world for his scholarship and piety. His regular weekly programme on Egyptian television immediately following Friday prayers was followed by millions of people around the Middle East. During his programmes, he would explain the Qur’an with humor, wisdom and the use of examples drawn from everyday life. He passed away on the 4th of June, 1998. Reportedly more than a million mourners packed Cairo’s streets in a display of grief.


 

Ramadan: The Doors to Ecstasy – Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf

Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf reminds us that fasting is an act between the creator and His slave. It is an immense gift from Allah Most High.

In the name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. Praise is to Allah lord of the Worlds and prayers and peace upon Muhammad, leigelord of the prophets and messengers, and upon his family and all of his companions.

Greetings of peace to all my brothers and sisters joining us for this blessed celebration. May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you. A greeting of love from the two blessed sanctuaries to all our brothers and sisters who have in common with us: “There is no god but Allah,” in the East and in the West. And to you especially.

A Special Relationship

From the benefits of Ramadan and fasting is a special relationship with Allah Most High, and with His Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that opens to a person doors of ecstasy and taste for the love of Allah and His Messenger , Allah bless him and give him peace.

For verily fasting as it has reached us in the Hadith Qudsi: “…except for fasting, verily it is for Me.” Therefore it is an act between the Creator and His slave, it is not seen by anyone else, it does not appear in any account and cannot be quantified.

Rather it is an ongoing gift that is not limited and cannot be counted; it is a relationship of ecstasy and experience with The Creator.

The Reason for this Creation

The realization that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this bounty. That without him we would not have known Ramadan. We would not have known the Qur’an. The Qur’an would not have been revealed. And that we would not have known fasting and that we would not have known anything of worship.

For Verily he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means of all this good having reached us. May the best of prayers and peace be upon him. Therefore if not for him, Allah bless him and give him peace, none of this good would have reached us.

So every fast, and every night prayer, every Tarawih, every Tahajjud, and our completing of the recitation of the Qur’an should remind us of him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

And also to remind us firstly that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this good reaching us. Secondly, that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means by which our actions are accepted. For we do not reach Allah through these actions except that we have done it in accordance with the manner in which he did them, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The Ultimate Imam in All Things

Verily he is the Imam in reality, Allah bless him and give him peace. If I pray in a congregation in a mosque behind an imam, then in my heart I must feel that, this imam is a stand-in, in the place of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. The original imam is the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. For verily the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is without doubt the Imam upon reality in every presence.

He is the Imam in the presence of prayer, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam on the day of the greater intercession, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam of the night of ascension, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the imam of the creation in paradise, Allah bless him and give him peace.

If they go unto the plain upon which they will gaze upon the divine countenance, the veil will not be lifted on the lovers except through there adherence to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

It is at that point that Allah will remove the veils from their sight and insight, so that they may witness the divine countenance, and through that experience eternal happiness.

How then can we not love the beloved? How then can we not make him, Allah bless him and give him peace, our means and path to closeness to Allah Most High?

Strive In Imitation of Him

I am then in my fast, as he fasted, Allah bless him and give him peace. And in my night standing, standing as he stood , Allah bless him and give him peace. In my recitation, reciting as he recited, Allah bless him and give him peace. My heart, my intellect, and my presence is never separate from imitation of him, Allah bless him and give him peace. I imagine him, Allah bless him and give him peace, in my states of movement and stillness. For he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the path to this happiness.

Therefore my dear brother and sister Muslim, if you desire increase in goodness then make present the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and imitate him. Imagining that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is in front of you in all of your states. Thus will you realize happiness.

Through his status, and by Allah’s love of him, Allah bless him and give him peace, he accepts the slaves and lifts tribulation, and registers happiness for whom he has made happy from the people of happiness.

Whoever abandons and distances himself from this beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace, they will bite upon their own hand on the day of resurrection. And whoever follows him, Allah bless him and give him peace, will attain the greatest happiness in the worldly life and on the day of resurrection.

O Allah, make us happy with your Messenger Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace. And gather us with him, Allah bless him and give him peace, and grant us his companionship in the abode of grace. Show us his face in our sleep and when awake and in the hereafter, by way of your mercy, O Most Merciful of the Merciful.

Prayers and peace upon our leigelord Muhammad and upon his family and companions. Praise unto The Lord of the worlds.

Celebrate the Gift of Ramadan – Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi

Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi gives advice on how to enter Ramadan and how to make the most of it through the idea of celebrating this blessed month.

Praise be to Allah who granted us the health and the well-being so that we can come today and attend one of the circles of knowledge and remembrance. Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds, for every bounty that He has embraced us with, whether we are aware of it or not. Once a person reflects on the bounties and gifts that Allah Most High bestows upon each one of us every day, they see that every day there is a flood of a new gifts that Allah bestows upon us.

We just need to open our hearts such that we can witness them. One of the gifts today that He has given all of us is that He allows us to establish a means towards fulfilling one of His obligations, which is fasting the month of Ramadan.

They say that someone who establishes the means hopefully they will also establish the ends. If somebody is enlightened at the beginning, most likely they will also be enlightened towards the end. So if Allah gives you the tawfiq that you make good wudu, you come early to the Masjid, you walk and do not drive – these are means towards the end – then most likely your prayer is going to be good. That is how what we think of Allah Most High.

Be Grateful for Reminders

One of the beautiful aspects of our Shari‘a, our tradition, is the concept of a reminder. Many of you have attended many sessions about how to prepare for Ramadan. And if you did not attend one of them you wish you had. The imam might have given you some advice about how to prepare for Ramadan. So it’s a challenge for each one of us when we come to such topics which we are well acquainted with, or that we think, we perceive, we are well acquainted with – not to gain benefit, but to be interested. It’s a bit difficult to be interested in these topics become like a routine.

Now looking at the concept of a reminder and our Shari‘a can help us survive a reminder.Allah Most High ordered his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to always give reminders. A reminder is not teaching you something, but for you be reminded of it. You know it already. It is not like learning from scratch, but yet Allah ordered the prophets to continually give people reminders, because that’s our nature.

We are humans. We forget. Actually we forget much much quicker than we even think. In the morning, your parents tell you to do something. Your spouse tells you to do something or get something. And at the end of the day you forgot to bring that thing. We get lost in routine.

How to Receive Gifts from Allah

It is from Allah’s mercy that we need continuous reminders. Now people receive it in two ways. One might say, “Well, you told me the first time. Are you being pushy?” Another person might say, “I am bored.” That is one way to look at the reminders, but the interesting part is that the Qur’an says:

يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding. (Sura al Baqara 2:269)

Those who have the core of intelligence. Those who are really, really smart. These are the ones who look at the reminders and say: “I need the reminder. Without the reminder I probably cannot survive.” These reminders are from Allah. These are His words:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا

And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind. (Sura al Furqan 25:73)

This is how Allah describes the believers. Every time they are reminded of one of the gifts, one of the signs, one of the verses of Allah Most High, they don’t receive it with deaf ears and blind eyes. So we ask Allah to let us benefit from His reminders.

Celebrating the Gift of Ramadan

We should celebrate Ramadan. I started hearing this term celebrating Ramadan – Muslims celebrating Ramadan – honestly, I started hearing this more when I came to the West. In the East we don’t hear that term. The most commonly used term is a Qur‘anic term, which is “shuhud al shahr,” to witness the month. Allah says in the Qur’an:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

Whoever witnesses the month, let him fast it. (Sura al Baqara 2:185)

Normally, whether it’s in the media or it’s in the writings, they use the term witness. Now, here, we started hearing the term celebrate. The term is not actually chain overriding that term witness, but it has an extra element. It’s actually a very beautiful element, which is the element of joy. There is some joy and happiness.

It’s not like month of Ramadan is coming by, I’m just passing that passage of time. Rather I am now in a ceremony. I am in a celebration. I am celebrating this month and the celebration of the month can be with the outward ceremonies. Our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allahe be pleased with him, was passing by the masjid and he saw that it was full of people at night praying tarawih. He rejoiced. That’s a ceremony, a ritual that we have.

I’ve seen Muslims and non-Muslims look amazed by these long lines of iftar. Of people sitting and everybody’s holding their dates waiting for that signal, and when that event comes in and everybody eats, and you could see the smile and the happiness fill the room. It’s part of the ceremony. But celebration is more about something in the heart.

To prepare for the month and to go through the month, the concept that I am celebrating this month adds a great dimension to how we live that through the month of Ramadan. So, why should we celebrate?

The Universe Rejoices

First the skies, the universe, is celebrating and the question then is: Why am I not joining? That is the right question, because everything is celebrating. the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to tell the good tidings at the beginning of the month to his Companions. He would say: “A great month has arrived. The doors of paradise will be open.”

I can imagine how beautiful it would be, for the skies, the doors of paradise to be open. Imagine the breeze, the beauty, the fragrance of Paradise that opens to the skies and to the worlds.

And imagine the heat and the doors of hellfire, which is roaring. It is always roaring and whistling and breathing. There are angels watching over it who have never smiled since Allah created the Hellfire.

But in this month Allah orders them all to be closed. Moreover all of these demons that impact us and other creatures in ways that we don’t know much about, Allah orders the most evil of these demons to be chained. There are a lot of events that we don’t see, but they are happening.

It’s a big celebration. And generally if there is something magnificent happening in the skies then the believers should connect. A believer should connect. That is why we celebrate Laylat al Qadr. The skies celebrate it. The angels come down. And who else is coming? Jibril himself, the Ruh himself, comes down in person. Allah orders everybody to come down. They descend. It’s a big celebration, so the question is am I joining or not? Because everybody is celebrating.

The Two Friends in Paradise

There is another story. Our master Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, one of the ten Companions whom the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, promised would enter paradise. He says: I had two friends. They were from the same tribe. They were probably relatives since they were always competing for the good.

In one of the battles one of them was killed as a martyr. A year later his friend passed away, but not as a martyr. He just passed away. So Talha said, I saw in a dream that the door of Paradise was closed. Then there was some knocking and it was opened, and I saw the second friend inside. He looked around and then he found his companion and then he ordered him to come in.

In other words, the second one was in Paradise and he was inviting the person who was a martyr to come in. And then, he says, the door was closed. So the first friend, the martyr, knocked again just to make sure. And then offered his hand saying, Can you pull me in? They said, No, your time is not now.

So Talha says: “I woke up and I went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and I told him this is what I saw. Everybody was surprised that the second man who was not a martyr got into paradise before the first one. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Why are you surprised?” Did he not live to fast another Ramadan? And he prayed six thousand raka‘t. (Musnad Ahmad)

Increase in Rank and Station

Now, regardless of the theological questions that will come to your mind about why and how, we trust Allah’s wisdom and we trust Allah’s Justice. But there is a message here that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us. And that is to attend Ramadan. It is such a great bounty, such a great gift, that the more you attend Ramadan, the more likely it is that you will gain higher station in Paradise.

Every Ramadan that we pass through is a cause for joy. Rejoice in the fact that Allah has allowed us to come through it. We know friends who did not come through. All of us probably have loved ones who passed away. They are not about to witness Ramadan with us. So praise Allah for allowing us to witness Ramadan once more.

Ramadan is truly a cause for celebration.


An Overview of the Maqasid Podcast: Knowledge, Devotion and Service by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Nilufer Gadgieva provides an overview of the Knowledge, Devotion and Service podcast, a podcast series available on SeekersGuidance by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

 

The Maqasid podcast is a series of brief, half-hour lessons discussing the altruistic aspects of knowledge, devotion and service, many of which are critical to the well-being of the Muslim soul. With poise and dedication, Shaykh Yahya covers various aspects of chivalry and companionship which could better strengthen and grow the relationships between modern Muslims, as it once did in the past.

The first set of lessons cover a book by Imam Abdulwahhab ash-Sha’rani known as Adab As-Suhbah, or the Etiquettes of Companionship. Through the life stories of the pious, the Shaykh thoroughly explains the significance of some of the most important aspects of good companionship in the context of Islam and how we can implement and integrate them into our own lives. Among the most important of these are selflessness, humility and understanding, and the removal of hasad, or envy, in our hearts towards our companions. He provides targeted steps for Muslims to take to practically increase love and affection in our daily relationships with our fellow human beings, and it makes for a compelling series.

The next set of lessons which are currently ongoing cover Imam Al-Husayn Al-Sulaimi’s Kitab-Al Futuwwa, or the Book of Spiritual Chivalry. This series is expansive and rich in classical Islamic etiquette of moral conduct between Muslims, and Shaykh Yahya touches upon important experiences in human life that relate to the points he discusses. While similar to the traits of Adab As-Suhbah, these characteristics are highly specific and indicate the reality of chivalry that comes from genuine love for the sake of Allah. Both moving and relatable, this podcast will surely make us reconsider our social priorities as family members, friends and neighbors of one another.

Personally, this podcast had a positive impact on me, particularly when I was in a place of uncertainty with my companions. Questioning their intentions towards me, I realized that companionship for the sake of Allah is purely just that, and I can’t take anything my friends do, say or act towards me in a personal light. Those who genuinely love me will reciprocate my efforts for them, and if they do not, I must be the better friend, partner and relative and give them 100% regardless of their attitude towards me. Loving for Allah’s sake removes the burden of conflict, sensitivity and suspicion from among friends, near and far, as it enhances a rational manner of approaching companionship.

The example of the Prophet, his Companions and the pious is sufficient for us, and to emulate their strong, unbreakable bonds between one another is truly a goal to be achieved in one’s life. Islam is a social religion, not one of individualism and isolation, and to be able to live in harmony with one’s family and friends (and to maintain that harmony) essentially contributes to our purpose in life – to submit to Allah and envelop Islam in our lifestyle.


Click here to listen to listen to “Knowledge, Devotion and Service” by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.