Notes from the SeekersGuidance Winter 2010 General Assembly – Sr. Beenish Akhtar

Notes from the SeekersGuidance Winter 2010 General Assembly

By Beenish Akhtar

SeekersGuidance held its first ever General Assembly for the Winter 2010 semester. Students from over 15 countries tuned in to listen to inspirational messages from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus. The following notes on Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s portion of the program were taken by Sr. Beenish Akhtar of Virginia (US). The audio for Shaykh Faraz’s talk can be found here.

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Jihad Jane and the Muhammad Cartoons

Jihad Jane and the Muhammad Cartoons

(Wall Street Journal Blog)

By Wajahat Ali

article-0-08a7200c000005dc-848_468x377The recent arrest of Americ Colleen LaRose (who reportedly called herself Jihad Jane online) and seven individuals for allegedly plotting the murder of Swedish Cartoonist Lar Vilks, could be a teachable moment.

Vilks was allegedly targeted by assassins for drawing the Prophet Muhammad as a stray dog. This event speaks tellingly of how certain inflammatory images, which some non-Muslims may consider satire or benign parody, are intentionally provocative insults to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

As a Muslim-American writer, I know firsthand that creating thought-provoking art about Islam and Muslims can be a thankless task. If one’s fictional Muslim characters are not avatars of perfection or they happen to speak critically about certain Islamic customs, then the Muslim artist risks being convicted as a godless instigator by a vocal minority. However, in my experience the overwhelming majority of Muslim audience members embrace these uncomfortable, yet necessary, artistic depictions of religiosity provided the characters and images are complex, honest, and crafted respectfully, instead of being reduced to vile stereotypes purely for the sake of sensationalism.

Respected Muslim scholar Shaikh Faraz Rabbani of explained it to me, “I think the critical issue is recognizing the power of sacred symbols to committed believers. In Islam, the most central symbols are the Qur’an and the person of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).”

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The Death of a Star – On the Passing of Aminah Assilmi

The Death of a Star


The evening sky is a little dimmer now that one of its brightest stars has gone.  With a heavy heart and a reminder that sabr (patience) is at the moment of calamity, I mourn passing of Sr. Aminah Assilmi, who left this world in the early hours today, Friday (the best of days) March 5th.  She was as a second mother to me, a mentor, and a dear friend.  I will take the liberty (as I know she won’t mind) to say a few things.  I will not talk about her many achievements or the impact she has had on so many lives, as this would only embarrass her, as she did all that she did for the sake of Allah (God).  Those whose lives she touched know of what I speak, and those who did not have the good fortune to meet and interact with her won’t really get it.

Instead, I ask that you join me in reflecting upon important lessons we have learned from her and by her example.  Unlike random reminiscence, which holds little benefit to anyone, reflecting and acting on lessons learn benefit everyone.  The good that you do, based on what you have learned from Sr. Aminah, benefits her as sadiqa jariya (continuing charity).  And of course, the good you do, benefits you, both in this life and the next.

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Interview with Habib Ali – Anger, Restraint, Wisdom and the Prophetic Message in Our Times

Habib Ali Zain al-Abideen al-Jifri:
“It is difficult for people who are angry to listen to a message. Our message is for people of underst anding who live amongst the angry masses.”

Habib Ali Zain al-Abideen al-Jifri was born into a family of noble lineage extending in an unbroken chain to Imam Hussien, the Grandson of the Prophet (PBUH). Habib Ali is from the majestic city of Tarim in Southern Yemen. Nestled in the ancient valley of Hadramout, Tarim has been a center of learning and spirituality for centuries.Habib Ali received a classical Islamic education from illustrious scholars of Hadramout, embodying a methodology which crystallizes the middle way of Islam, Islamic jurisprudence, a respect for the difference between jurists and a spiritual education drawn from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Habib Ali is the founder of the ‘Tabah Foundation for Islamic Studies and Research ‘based in the United Arab of Emirates. He is also lecturer at Dar Al Mustafa, Tarim, an educational institute established for the study of traditional Islamic sciences. He is continually invited to lecture in many countries across the globe and appears regularly on a variety of network television and radio programmes. Saeed Al-Batati from the Yemen Times visited Habit Ali’s house in Tarim and conducted the following interview.

YT: Why has there been an increased interest in the Moderate Religious Discourse?

At its origin our Religious Discourse is moderate but the Muslim Community has experienced circumstances at different periods of its history, these circumstances have caused the more extreme voices to rise to prominence over the voices calling for moderation. The inclination within certain individuals to take on extreme position is present in every nation, society, and way of life because one of the peculiarities of human society is the existence of moderate and extreme individuals and this is dependent upon circumstances and the psychological make up of a person be it a balanced or imbalanced personality.

However in the presence stability in the Muslim Community individuals holding extreme views find no room to extend their opinions to those around them, they find themselves severely limited and unable to have an impact on the reality of the Muslim community, unless the Muslim community goes through a period of weakness.

During periods of weakness, and instability those holding extreme position take advantage of the situation and use it as an opportunity to spread their opinions. If one was to take a look back through Muslim History one would find that groups such as the Qaramitah, and the Khawarij had no real impact except during periods of weakness.

It is the Custom of Allah that extremes do not continue for long, because extremism by its very nature does not contain the qualities that insure permanence and continuity.

These opinions spread when there is a void, but are then unable to continue. The voices calling to moderation have a background which is dual faceted: firstly that which relates to what is called the war on terror and what it entails. But there is a second reason one which is deeper and has a more profound relation to the human soul and it is the fact that extremism by its very nature is repugnant to people with a healthy psychological make up, and because moderation is the Foundation of the Islamic Discourse. The voices of moderation were unheard because some of the Powers which are now calling for a War on Terror were the very same Powers which once supported the extremists during the Cold War. Were it not for this support the voice of extremism would not have being prominent for all that time. But once the Powers that backed the extremists turned on them, the voices of moderation began to be heard, they were never absent it is just that now the loudspeaker was brought closer to them.

YT: Who is responsible for distorting the luminous message of Islam? And what is the way to bring it back? Read more

Ibn Khaldun on the Instruction of Children and its Different Methods

Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods

Chapter 6. Section 38 of the Muqaddima. The instruction of children and the different methods employed in the Muslim cities.

[The Importance of Qur’anic Instruction]

It should be known that instructing children in the Qur’an is a symbol of Islam. Muslims have, and practice, such instruction in all their cities, because it imbues hearts with a firm belief (in Islam) and its articles of faith, which are (derived) from the verses of the Qur’an and certain Prophetic traditions. The Qur’an has become the basis of instruction, the foundation for all habits that may be acquired later on. The reason for this is that the things one is taught in one’s youth take root more deeply (than anything else). They are the basis of all later (knowledge). The first impression the heart receives is, in a way, the foundation of (all scholarly) habits. The character of the foundation determines the condition of the building. The methods of instructing children in the Qur’an differ according to differences of opinion as to the habits that are to result from that instruction.

[The North West African (Maghribi) Way]

The Maghribi method is to restrict the education of children to instruction in the Qur’an and to practice, during the course (of instruction), in Qur’an orthography and its problems and the differences among Qur’an experts on this score. The (Maghribis) do not bring up any other subjects in their classes, such as traditions, jurisprudence, poetry, or Arabic philology, until the pupil is skilled in (the Qur’an), or drops out before becoming skilled in it. In the latter case, it means, as a rule, that he will not learn anything. This is the method the urban population in the Maghrib and the native Berber Qur’an teachers who follow their (urban compatriots), use in educating their children up to the age of manhood. They use it also with old people who study the Qur’an after part of their life has passed. Consequently, (Maghribis) know the orthography of the Qur’an, and know it by heart, better than any other (Muslim group).

[The Spanish Way]

The Spanish method is instruction in reading and writing as such. That is what they pay attention to in the instruction (of children). However, since the Qur’an is the basis and foundation of (all) that and the source of Islam and (all) the sciences, they make it the basis of instruction, but they do not restrict their instruction of children exclusively to (the Qur’an). They also bring in (other subjects), mainly poetry and composition, and they give the children an expert knowledge of Arabic and teach them a good handwriting. They do not stress teaching of the Qur’an more than the other subjects. In fact, they are more concerned with teaching hand­writing than any other subject, until the child reaches manhood. He then has some experience and knowledge of the Arabic language and poetry. He has an excellent knowledge of handwriting, and he would have a thorough acquaintance with scholarship in general, if the tradition of scholarly instruction (still) existed in (Spain), but he does not, because the tradition no longer exists there.1180 Thus, (presentday Spanish children) obtain no further (knowledge) than what their primary instruction provides. It is enough for those whom God guides. It prepares (them for further studies), in the event that a teacher (of them) can be found.

[The Way of the People of Ifriqiya]

The people of Ifriqiyah combine the instruction of children in the Qur’an, usually, with the teaching of traditions. They also teach basic scientific norms and certain scientific problems. However, they stress giving their children a good knowledge of the Qur’an and acquainting them with its various recensions and readings more than anything else. Next they stress handwriting. In general, their method of instruction in the Qur’an is closer to the Spanish method (than to Maghribi or Eastern methods), because their (educational tradition) derives from the Spanish shaykhs who crossed over when the Christians conquered Spain, and asked for hospitality in Tunis.1181 From that time on, they were the teachers of (Tunisian) children.

[The Way of the People of the East]

The people of the East, as far as we know, likewise have a mixed curriculum. I do not know what (subjects) they stress (primarily). We have been told that they are concerned with teaching the Qur’an and the works and basic norms of (religious) scholarship once (the children) are grown up. They do not combine (instruction in the Qur’an) with instruction in handwriting. They have (special) rule(s) for teaching it, and there are special teachers for it, 1182 just like any other craft which is taught (separately) and not included in the school curriculum for children. The children’s slates (on which they practice) exhibit an inferior form of handwriting. Those who want to learn a (good) handwriting may do so later on (in their lives) from professional (calligraphers), to the extent of their interest in it and desire.

[A Comparison of the Various Ways of Children’s Instruction]

The fact that the people of Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib restrict themselves to the Qur’an makes them altogether incapable of mastering the linguistic habit. For as a rule, no (scholarly) habit can originate from the (study of the) Qur’an, because no human being can produce anything like it. Thus, human beings are unable to employ or imitate its ways (uslub), and they also can form no habit in any other respect. Consequently, a person who knows (the Qur’an) does not acquire the habit of the Arabic language. It will be his lot to be awkward in expression and to have little fluency in speaking. This situation is not quite so pronounced among the people of Ifriqiyah as among the Maghribis, because, as we have stated, the former combine instruction in the Qur’an with instruction in the terminology of Scientific terms. Thus, they get some practice and have some examples to imitate. However, their habit in this respect does not amount to a good style (eloquence), because their knowledge mostly consists of scholarly terminology which falls short of good style, as will be mentioned in the proper section. 1183

As for the Spaniards, their varied curriculum with its great amount of instruction in poetry, composition, and Arabic philology gave them, from their early years on, a habit providing for a better acquaintance with the Arabic language. They were less proficient in all the other (religious) sciences, because they were little familiar with study of the Qur’an and the traditions that are the basis and foundation of the (religious) sciences. Thus, they were people who knew how to write and who had a literary education that was either excellent or deficient, depending on the secondary education they received after their childhood education.

[Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-`Arabi’s Recommendation]

In his Rihlah, Judge Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi 1184 made a remarkable statement about instruction, which retains (the best of) the old, and presents (some good) new features.1185 He placed instruction in Arabic and poetry ahead of all the other sciences, as in the Spanish method, since, he said, “Poetry is the archive of the Arabs. 1186 Poetry and Arabic philology should be taught first because of the (existing) corruption of the language.1187 From there, the (student) should go on to arithmetic and study it assiduously, until he knows its basic norms. He should then go on to the study of the Qur’an, because with his (previous) preparation, it will be easy for him.” (Ibn al-‘Arabi) continued: “How thoughtless are our compatriots in that they teach children the Qur’an when they are first starting out. They read things they do not understand and work hard at something that is not as important for them as other matters.” He concluded: “The student should study successively the principles of Islam, the principles of jurisprudence, disputation, and then the Prophetic traditions and the sciences connected with them.” He also forbade teaching two disciplines at the same time, save to the student with a good mind and sufficient energy.1188

This is Judge Abu Bakr’s advice. It is a good method indeed. However, accepted custom is not favorable to it, and custom has greater power over conditions (than anything else). Accepted custom gives preference to the teaching of the Qur’an. The reason is the desire for the blessing and reward (in the other world resulting from knowledge of the Qur’an) and a fear of the things that might affect children in “the folly of youth” 1189 and harm them and keep them from ac­quiring knowledge. They might miss the chance to learn the Qur’an. As long as they remain at home, they are amenable to authority. When they have grown up and shaken off the yoke of authority, the tempests of young manhood often cast them upon the shores of wrongdoing. Therefore, while the children are still at home and under the yoke of authority, one seizes the opportunity to teach them the Qur’an, so that they will not remain without knowledge of it. If one could be certain that a child would continue to study and accept instruction (when he has grown up), the method mentioned by the Judge would be the most suitable one ever devised in East or West.

“God decides, and no one can change His decision.” 1190

Orbituary for Gai Eaton – Remembering the UK’s eloquent voice for Islam – Hisham Hellyer – The National

Remembering the UK’s eloquent voice for Islam – The National Newspaper

In retrospect, it was a litt bit peculiar to call his house after his passing. I was hoping to give my condolences to his family – instead, I got a chance to hear his voice one last time. On his answering machine, he still came through as the distinguished gentleman I had always known him to be. With the passing of Charles Le Gai Eaton, also known as Hassan Abdul-Hakeem, the last of a particular generation of remarkable western Muslims left this world – and certainly, he was one of the more influential of them, as attested by the numerous condolence messages from across the spectrum of British society and Anglophones everywhere.

Raised as an agnostic, Eaton received his education at Charterhouse (a renowned school in England), before going to study at Cambridge University. After working for some time as a teacher and journalist in Jamaica and Egypt, he joined the British diplomatic service in 1949. In 1951, he became Muslim, which irrevocably changed his world view, enabling him to become one of the pre-eminent writers on Islam for a British audience in the contemporary age. He was deeply engaged with the challenges facing Britain’s Muslims, and later served them at the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regent’s Park in London with distinction for many years. Read more

Sunna and Bid`a – Talk & Article by Shaykh Nuh Keller

PodOmatic | Podcast – Islamic Village Podcast – Sunnah & Bid’ahThe Seal of Shaykh Nuh Keller

A classic exposition on the true understanding of the Prophetic example (sunna) & innovation (bid`a). These are two concepts that are often misundestood–and much of the argument between different schools of thought revolves around these. Shaykh Nuh Keller presents a deep and authoritative explanation of sunna and bid`a. This recording is from the mid-’90s, but remains highly relevant in our times of argument and confusion.

Download the talk.

The article: The Concept of Bida’ in the Islamic Sharia
(from Sidi Mas’ud Khan’s excellent site,

Imam Abdullah al-Haddad on a Treasure of Paradise: La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (‘There is no ability nor power except through Allah’)

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful


Imam al-Haddad wrote in Gifts for Seekers:

You should know that the most comprehensive and inclusive formula for expressing the repudiation of one’s own claim to power and ability is La hawla wala quwawata illa billah (there is neither power nor ability save by God).
The Proof of Islam (Imam al-Ghazali), may God be pleased with him, said:

“Power (hawl) is motion and ability (quwwa) is aptitude.”

No creature possesses either ability or power over anything save through God, Who is Able and Capable. It is incumbent upon believers to have faith in whatever God permits them to do or abstain from – as for instance, in conforming to an injunction, whether by acting or abstaining, or in seeking their provision by resorting to action in the form of crafts and professions, and so on – it is God the exalted Who creates and originates their intentions, abilities and movements, and that the acts they choose to perform will be attributed to them in the manner known as ‘acquisition’ (kasb) and ‘working’, and shall be, in consequence, liable to reward and punishment; but that they exercise volition only when God Himself does so, and can neither do nor abstain from anything unless He renders them able to. They possess not a single atom’s weight of the heaven or the earth, nor do they attain to any partnership in its governance, or become supports to Him.

It is on the ability and power to make choices, which God has granted to His servants, that commands and prohibitions are based. Things which are done intentionally and by choice are attributed to them, and they are rewarded and punished accordingly.


[The Absolute is Allah’s Alone and the Relative & Dependent is the Servant’s]
Hence the meaning of la hawla wala quwwata illa billah is the denial of one’s possession of autonomous power and ability, and the simultaneous confession of the existence of that (relative) power and ability to make choices that He has given His servants to be their own.

He who claims that man has no choice or ability, that the acts he selects are identical with the acts he is compelled to do, and that he is in all circumstances coerced is a deterministic (jabri) innovator whose false clai would deny that there was any purpose in sending Messengers and revealing Scriptures.

By contrast, he who claims that man possesses the will and power to do whatever he does by choice is a Mu’tazili innovator. But he who believes that (1) a responsible (mukallaf) man possess power and choice to allow him to comply with God’s commands and prohibitions, but (2) [he] is neither independent thereby nor the creator of his own acts, has found the Sunna, joined the majoritarian community, and become safe from reprehensible innovation.

[Holding Fast to Ultimate Realities Regarding Allah’s Power and One’s Responsibility]

There is a lengthy explanation to this, which follows a rugged road where many have slipped and gone astray; and beyond it is the secret of Destiny, which has always perplexed intelligent minds and into which the Master of Messengers has commanded us not to delve. So let the intelligent be content with hints and let it suffice them to believe that everything was created by God, and nothing exists without His will and power. Then let them require their selves to (1) conform to the commandments and prohibitions, and (2) take their Lord’s side against their selves in every circumstance.

[A Treasure of Paradise]

A hadith says that La hawla wala quwwata illa billah is one of the treasures of the Garden.’ Understand the indication contained in terming it a ‘treasure‘ and you will know that its meaning is among the mysteries; for reward is of the same species as the act. The Prophet s.a.w has also said ‘Two raka’ats in the depths of the night are one of the treasures of goodness.’ Their reward comprises a hidden treasure because the time of their occurence, namely the night implies this.


[A Remedy For Sorrow]

It is also reported that ‘La hawla wala quwwata illa billah is a remedy for 99 ailments, the least of which is sorrow.’
It is a remedy for sorrow because grief mostly occurs when one misses something one loves, or when a distressful thing occurs; and whenever either of these things occurs people perceive their helplessness and inability to achieve their desired aims; hence they feel sorrow. If at such times they repeat in their heart and with their tongues words which mean that they disavow the possession of any ability or power of their own, then this gives them certitude in their knowledge that they are helpless and weak except where God gives them power and ability, with the result that their sorrow is banished, and their knowledge of their Lord is increased. This can be clearly understood from the Prophet’s s.a.w saying: ‘When one believes in destiny, one’s sorrow departs.’

And in attributing ability and power to His Name, Allah, which is the axis of the Names and the most supreme of them, and in following it on most occasions with the two noble Names which indicate two of the attributes of the Holy Essence, namly those of Exaltation (Al-‘Ali) and Magnitude (Al-‘Azim), lies a sign that He totally transcends and is absolutely holier than the illusions of those who have strayed from the path, are blind to the evidence, and have delved without insight into the secret of destiny and the acts of God’s creatures. So take heed!

And Allah alone gives success.

Source: Gifts for Seekers by Imam Abdullah al-Haddad

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus – Counsel to Youth – ISNA Canada Youth Halaqa – February 14, 2010

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus at ISNA Youth Program in Toronto – February 14, 2010

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus speaking at a youth halaqa at the ISNA Canada Center, February, 2010. On consciousness, spiritual wakefulness, religious depth, and connection with Allah.

Patience & Steadfastness – Guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Steadfastness from Nawawi’s Gardens of the Righteous (tr. Bewley)


Chapter on Steadfastness from Nawawi’s Gardens of the Righteous (tr. Bewley)

Allah Almighty says, “O you who believe! Be steadfast; be supreme in steadfastness” (3:200), and the Almighty says, “We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast,” (W2:154; H2:155) and the Almighty says, “The steadfast will be paid their wages in full without any reckoning.” (W39:11; H39:10) The Almighty said, “But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow.” (W42:40; H42:43) The Almighty says, “Seek help in steadfastness and the prayer. Allah is with the steadfast” (W2:152; H2:153) and the Almighty says, “We will test you until We know the true fighters among you and those who are steadfast” (W47:30; H47:31)
The ayats about the command to be steadfast and the clarification of its excellence are numerous and well-known.

25. Abu Malik al-Harith ibn ‘Asim al-Ash’ari reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Purity is half of belief. ‘Praise be to Allah’ fills up the balance, and ‘Glory be to Allah and praise be to Allah’ fills up everything between the heavens and the earth. The prayer is a light. Sadaqa is a proof. Steadfastness is an illumination. The Qur’an is a proof for you or against you. Everybody goes out and trades with his own self, either seting it free or destroying it.” [Muslim]

26. Abu Sa’id Sa’d ibn Malik ibn Sinan al-Khudri said, “Some of the people of the Ansar asked for something from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he gave it to them. Then they asked him again and he gave to them until he had used up everything he had. He said, ‘If I had anything more, I would not keep it from you. Whoever refrains, Allah will spare him from needing to ask. Whoever wants to be independent, Allah will make him so. Whoever shows fortitude, Allah will increase him in that. No one can be given any better and greater gift than fortitude.'” [Agreed upon]

27. Abu Yahya Suhayb ibn Sinan said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘What an extraordinary thing the business of the believer is! All of it is good for him. And that only applies to the believer. If good fortune is his lot, he is grateful and it is good for him. If something harmful happens to him, he is steadfast and that is good for him too.'” [Muslim]

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