New Year Reflections: Review and Renew

An Islamic Guide to Embracing the New Year 

SeekersGuidance Readers provide the seeker with a purposely curated list of articles, answers, podcasts, and courses from SeekersGuidance on a particular topic. These guides serve as a gateway to knowledge and guidance.

The end of the year usually brings with it a sense of reflection and evaluation. This year has been more challenging, as we experienced the difficulties of a global pandemic. Many have struggled with anxiety, fear, loneliness and loss in many ways. 

Consider the start of the new gregorian year with a sense of renewal—“for indeed, with hardship comes ease. Indeed, with hardship comes ease” (Qur’an, 94:4-5). Reflect on your relationship with Allah Most High and consider the ways in which you wish to deepen it. There’s a special blessing in recognizing this need and in returning to Allah Most High, for in every situation, He has provided a path for us to do so. SeekersGuidance has many resources to help you on this journey.  

This comprehensive guide covers many pertinent topics related to starting anew: evaluation, purpose, repentance and returning, hope, love, responding with faith in difficulty, and improving the self. It seeks to give a sense of renewal—actionable and meaningful renewal of faith through reflection.

Foreword – Shaykh Abdullah Misra

The Passing of Time is a Journey

The new year marks the movement of the Earth circulating completely around the sun in 365 and a quarter days. This is a journey that the entire world embarks on, year after year. And this journey, in the course of a year comes back to where it began. And so these are the signs of Allah Most that He uses the sun, the moon, and the Earth, for example, to have a measure of time so that we as human beings can regulate. Otherwise, we would not understand how to measure the passing of time. So this movement around the sun helps us realize that time is passing in certain increments. When we realize that time is passing in certain increments, we know that anything that is incremental is limited.  We can count discreetly that we’re moving forward and we reflect upon how much we have covered and how much we have left.  Everyone can take stock of their own lives, their own life spans, and their own journeys.

The Opportunity for Review and Self-Accounting

The idea of self-accounting, or taking one’s self to account (muhasiba), has a significant place in Islam because it is the way we review where we are with Allah Most High.  The condition of our hearts – what have we done this past year; our deeds; our improvements; our journey towards Allah Most High; have we let bad habits into our lives? These are all important questions one can reflect on as one increment comes to an end and another begins. Looking back and reflecting is common in the Islamic tradition.

As a Muslim, we look at it with one eye on Worldly Life and the other eye on the perspective of the Hereafter.  So not only what events occurred, but the pictures and the stories of the year, this happened, and this event, and this event.  “It was a very eventful year,” everyone says. 

But where were we with Allah throughout those events?

When a disaster happened – did we pray for those involved?  Did we show concern for them?  If we could, could we help them in any way?  Could we donate in any way? Could we at least make prayer for people? And if there is a pandemic, what did we do in that situation? How did we experience that? How did that bring us closer to Allah? Ask yourself – what did this do for me and my relationship with Allah and the journey of my soul to Allah?

The Opportunity for Renewal 

It is not only a time of review, but it is a time of renewal. And Allah Most High brings us back to the beginning of the cycle. These are signs for those who reflect. The idea of time being cyclical and of coming back again and again and again. Why? So you can renew. Repentance (tawba) is a renewal and a cleansing of one’s sins. It is an opportunity to repent, regret, and have a fresh start.

What can you ask from Allah? “Allah thank you for bringing another year to pass upon me,  forgive what passed that You are not pleased with. And forgive me for my sins, and give me guidance so I may please You, and grant me the best of health and states in the coming year.” 

Renew Your Intentions

A new journey calls for new intentions. And we say ‘Ok Allah, in this year, we intend to do this for your sake. Not only the temporal projects – these are the projects that I tend to do; these are the resolutions I want to make; these are the things I want to get away from, oh Allah; these are things I want to get out of my life; these are things I want to bring into my life; things I want to strengthen myself with” Spiritually, what does that mean? Exploring different aspects of our relationship with Allah Most High, and with the people that Allah wants us to have relationships with, and people who have rights and responsibilities over us.

We bring our intentions towards making and setting new goals and resolutions towards how we can move forward for Allah Most High. 

Anyone who reflects, reviews, and renews their intentions – the passing of the years and the time is a blessing for that person. They have taken advantage of that time

And for those that do not? They are in a constant state of loss. Another year has passed and then another. It is just subtracting from your age. What is the passing of another year except that we’re getting older and going toward our ultimate end?

We recommend each other towards following the truth, and towards standing up for it, and towards enjoining. Enjoining the promotion of preserving deen and preserving truth, and justice, and mercy, and all of the good things that Allah wants us to see.

We need the patience to resist sinful practices but also patience to stay on the straight path because that requires effort. Our souls are on a journey to Allah Most High. Do we stay the course and stay dedicated towards that, or do we pass our time because we want to distract ourselves from the ultimate responsibility we have, which is to face Our Creator? 

Signs For Those Who Reflect 

Every single passing day – the sun rising and the sun setting – it’s a sign from Allah. The moon is a sign from Allah; the sun is a sign from Allah. And the passing of time and the new year passing is a sign from Allah.

Look back at your year in review – your self-accounting.

Renew your faith. Renew your repentance, which is to go back.

And renew intentions and resolutions – setting our intentions so that we come into the year intending to please Allah Most High and intend to live a life that pleases Him. 

 

Articles Relating to a New Year 

Hard Questions for the New Year – Imam Zaid Shakir

We thank Allah Most High for the gifts with which we have been blessed and we seek His forgiveness for our wrongdoings and shortcomings. We also make our New Year’s resolutions for the coming year—what we intend to achieve on our journey to Allah Most High, and the traits which we wish to leave behind.

ADVICE: Bidding Farewell to this Year and Welcoming a New Year

Dua for Protection at the Beginning of a New Year muwasala.org Habib Ali-AlHabshi.pdf

  

Articles Relating to Renewed Intentions 

10 Reasons Not to Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year – Sidi Tushar Imdad

New Year’s resolutions can be trendy, convenient band-aids to real change. But when you’re truly ready and self-motivated, then set realistic, time-specific, mission-driven and achievable goals in time for the new year. 

 

Articles Relating to People of Hope

Positivity Begets Positivity by Shaykh Muhammad Carr

Despite the ups and downs of everyday life, Shaykh Muhammad Carr refers to the positive psychology of Islam which teaches us to always do our best. The Holy Qur’an and Hadith have given us clear signs and examples of how to inspire people to break any negative cycles within themselves through approaches filled with hope and possibilities. 

Asking From God – The Art of Supplication: A Comprehensive Reader

 

Articles Relating to Making a Fresh Start

Human Potential: The Gift of Turning Back

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch asks the question: did Allah Most High create us to be perfect? In short, the answer is no and the presupposition that Allah Most High seeks from us absolute perfection results in devastating despair and a defeatist mentality.

Leaving Sins, Both Manifest and Hidden

 

Articles Relating to Repentance

The Door of Repentance and Return to Allah is Always Open – Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani encourages us to always remember that we’re dealing with the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate (al-Rahman, al-Rahim). Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an to never lose hope in Him, regardless of how badly we stumble, fall, err, or sin. (Qur’an, 39:53)

Overwhelmed by Guilt?

 

Articles Relating to Having Faith in Testing Times

Coping with Life’s Difficulties by Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

When you’re given a tribulation or test, the appropriate response is patience (sabr). If you respond with beautiful patience, which is at the onset of belief, then relief will follow. But if you don’t show patience then your troubles will increase.

Seek Refuge in Allah from Anxiety and Grief – Shaykh Salek bin Siddina

Turning Difficulty into Ease: Reflections from Surah al-Balad

 

Articles Relating to Attaching to Allah

Being with Allah and His Messenger – Habib Umar

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “A person is with the one they love.” Thus you can gauge your love for Allah Most High and His Messenger by gauging how much you are with them.

Our Only Concern is Reliance on Allah – Shaykha Ieasha Prime

Life, The Universe and Everything – Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

Loving Allah: A Reader

Our transaction with Allah is based upon Closeness – Advice from Habib Ali al-Jifri-Muwasala

 

Question and Answer Relating to Hope in Allah 

Losing Hope and Struggling with the Din

Shaykh Farid Dingle affirms that we should not despair of Allah Almighty’s forgiveness, and that the cycle of sinning and then repenting is part and parcel of our relationship with Him. He loves for us to repent to Him. All we have to do is keep striving.

 

Video on Renewed Intentions

Renew Your Vow With Allah, counsel from Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin mentions that the intelligent person is one who holds themselves accountable and prepares for what comes after death. Thus, we should constantly engage in this practice and strengthen our relationship with Allah Most High.

 

Podcasts on Seeking Closeness to Allah

The Importance of Repentance – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

In this podcast Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said calls the believers to realize that the real wrongdoing is in not repenting and turning to Allah Most High when one errs. Repentance is one of the key traits of the believers. Shaykh Faid emphasizes that Allah is always watching and that we should be heedful of that.

The Reality of Repentance – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Don’t Fear, Truly God Is With Us: The Unconditional Hope – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Renewing Gratitude Through Reflection – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

 

Courses from SeekersGuidance for Beginners and as Refreshers

The History of Faith: Islamic History for Beginners

In this course, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a complete overview of Islamic history, so that you will become more aware of the lessons from past events. You will gain a better understanding of how those events led to and potentially impacted the present-day reality that we face.

The Belief of the Masses: What Muslim Youth Need to Know

Living Hearts: Ghazali’s Book of Watchfulness and Self-Accounting Explained

 

Begin your search for knowledge. Sign up for a SeekersGuidance course. Trained and reliable scholars. Always free.

Living Simply: Active Minimalism

Do You Eat to Your Fill? The Real Minimalist Life

Shaykh Farid Dingle

In order to get through life with ease, the early Muslims (salaf) focused on certain key ways of living that would make it spiritually and practically easier and more fruitful. They coined a term for the variegated rules that they lived by, a term that summarized the system of living for the Hereafter. They called it zuhd: detachment from this world. For the purpose of this article series, we have found the best match in terms of meaning to be asceticism. Other terms to describe zuhd are indifference towards worldly matters or simple living. This is the eighth article from a series of articles and podcasts by SeekersGuidance scholar, Shaykh Farid Dingle.

Introduction to Asceticism (Part One)

Listening More, Talking Less (Part Two)

Entertaining Ourselves to Death (Part Three)

Being Extremely Moderate (Part Four)

Evaluation of the Self (Part Five)

Wronging Others in Word and Deed (Part Six)

Spreading Muck (Part Seven)

It is hard to claim detachment to the world yet still try to own it all. For this reason, the early Muslims lived a very spartan life and did a lot of doing without. This chapter discusses this “active minimalism” as demonstrated by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and those who followed him.

The Qur’an and Hadith are replete with descriptions and parables of the worthlessness of acquiring property, fame, money and power (i.e. worldly possessions) for the sake of themselves. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once passed by a dead lamb that had been left forgotten on the road and said, “Can you see how little its owner cares about this? By Allah, this world is worth even less in Allah’s eyes than this is to its owner.” (Tirmidhi)

As mentioned in earlier chapters, disdain for this world does not mean disdain for other creatures of Allah, nor does it mean that one does not engage productively or emotionally in this life. Rather, it means that one uses everything in this life—money, power, food, time, even relationships—as a bridge and means to the next life. This is the alchemy that changes nothing into everything.

That said, the natural result of treating everything around one as a means instead of an end is that one simply has less. Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud said, 

“Whoever desires this life will lose out in the next life. Whoever desires the next life will lose out in this life. People, sacrifice that which is fleeting for that which is permanent.” 

Although it is perfectly possible to buy a new Mercedes, for example, with some kind of noble intention, it is normally far-fetched that one would buy, eat, and consume anything and everything one could get one’s hands-on. Rather, minimalism should permeate one’s modus operandi and one should tend to have smaller homes, fewer cars, and fewer clothes.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave two examples of worldly pleasures that can be changed into worship by a noble intention. He said, “Of your worldly interests, only women and perfume have been beloved to me.” The worldly benefit of marriage is a social one and is not restricted to the individual. There is another hadith in which relations between husband and wife are described literally as a charity. The same applies to perfume. With a pure intention, marriage can be a worldly pleasure that is actually a huge act of worship, and therefore not of this world. Wearing perfume is also considered an act of charity because the benefit of smelling nice is felt by all those around one.

Excessive eating is one noticeable worldly pleasure that has no benefit to oneself or others. Rather, if one overeats, other people who would’ve eaten the surplus food are harmed, and one risks harming one’s health as well. For this reason, countless hadiths encourage eating less, and a culture of eating with the extreme economy can be seen throughout the lives of the early Muslims.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Three morsels are enough to keep a man’s back straight. If you really can’t take it, then one third for food, one third for drink and one third to allow you to breathe.” (Ibn Majah)

The point is that eating one’s fill is not recommended, and one should only eat what one needs to in order to fulfill one’s religious and worldly obligations. Luqman the Wise told his son, “O my dear child, once you are already full, don’t eat more. It is better to give it to the dog than to do that.” And Ibn Umar said, “I haven’t eaten my full since who knows how long!”

Eating little is a product of a minimalist life that uses the pleasures of this life to get closer to Allah in the next. If one turns one’s back on the next life, and turns to eating food so much so that one harms oneself and deprives the poor of food, one is doing a great wrong. One of Samura ibn Jundab’s sons ate and ate until he became obese. Samura told him, “If you die, I am not going to pray over you.” This is a hyperbole of course, but the point is understood: why depart from the way of asceticism (zuhd) and wrong yourself by using a blessing of Allah to give yourself health problems?

Minimalism is not just in things that we consume, but also in words. Anas ibn Malik said, “It is wise to remain silent, and there are few who do it.” Speaking is also a type of lust, and one should only speak in order to make remembrance (dhikr) of Allah, or to fulfill necessary practical or social obligations. Speaking less is also a good way to protect one’s tongue.

In summary, minimalism is not a goal in and of itself, and, as mentioned in the first part of the series, “abstinence in this life means working with the assumption that you will not live long. It is not about eating coarse food or wearing poor clothes”. However, such a mindset dictates certain actions and ways of living that do not allow for having or consuming more than is needed. Sorry, McDonalds!

 

Masters and Millennials: Acting Upon One’s Knowledge

Acting Upon One’s Knowledge

Masters And Millennials (thirteen) by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the thirteenth part of a series of articles that are based on al-Fawa’id al-Mukhtarah, one of the seminal works of the great scholar al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. The book focuses on a range of topics relevant to daily life and modern challenges for Muslims living in the West. In particular, this series is useful for anyone on the path of knowledge or seeking scholarship.


In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

Acting upon one’s knowledge
In the past few podcasts, we have been discussing calling people to Allah by teaching them. In this podcast, we turn to the importance of acting on our knowledge. Imam al-Ghazzali said in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, “al-‘amalu bila ‘ilmin la yakun” (action does not exist without knowledge). We need knowledge to act. He also said, “wa al-‘ilmu bila ‘amalin junun” (knowledge without action is madness).
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), said, “For whoever acts upon his knowledge, Allah will grant him the knowledge that he does not have”. This hadith, which is transmitted by Abu Nu’aym in his Hilyah, has two meanings. Firstly, it means Allah will increase the knowledge of such a person. Secondly, it means Allah will grant him knowledge from Himself (al-‘ilmu al-ladunni”). Allah favoured Sayyidina Khidr with this kind of knowledge.
Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-Attas narrated a story of a man travelling from Hajrayn to Qaydun every day, which is a four-hour journey. He would travel every day to receive one question and answer from his teacher and then return to his city to act on it. One day he was travelling to Qaydun with his daughter and, when they were about halfway there, he wanted to relieve himself. As he descended from his riding animal, his daughter told him to be patient. She said, “Let me soften the soil so that when you urinate, the urine will not splash on you and soil your clothes”. After he had finished relieving himself, he told his daughter to take him back to Hajrayn. She asked why he did not want to go to Qaydun as he usually did, so he replied, “I have learned a question and answer from you today, and it has benefited me. I have received my knowledge for today. Let me return home. There is no need to go to Qaydun”.
This story illustrates that we can learn from our daughters and sons, and from our younger sisters and brothers. Allah grants knowledge to whom He pleases. We should not reject the bearer of knowledge simply because we regard ourselves as senior to him or her.
Sufyan al-Thawri – a great hadith scholar known for his amazing contribution to the science of hadith – said, “Knowledge calls out to action. When action responds, i.e. when one acts on the knowledge, the knowledge remains. When one does not act on the knowledge, it departs”. He means that the essence and reality of knowledge leaves, and only its form remains. In other words, the turban is there, the jubbah is there, the beautiful speeches are there, but the essence of the knowledge has gone, and it is this essence that benefits us in our relationship with Allah.
Ibrahim ibn Adham said, “I was walking in Makkah one day when I saw a stone upon which was written: ‘Turn me over’. I turned it over and the following words appeared on the other side: ‘You do not act upon that which you know, so how can you seek that which you do not know’”.
Imam al-Haddad said the knowledge you receive is against you until you act on it. Once you have acted on it, it is for you, i.e. it is for your benefit and a means to attain Allah’s mercy and proximity. Students of din must bear this in mind.
Another important issue concerns one who goes against that which he preaches. Allah says, “Do you enjoin right conduct on the people and forget yourselves?” Allah is rebuking the person who does so.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said the first person to be thrown into the fire will be the one who, when Allah says, “We have given you knowledge. What did you do with it?” responds, saying, “I taught people and spread Your din and did da‘wah”. Allah will say, “You have lied”. In other words, you have taught and showed off with your knowledge. You have wanted people to talk about your beautiful classes and your intelligence and your excellent fatwas. Allah will instruct the angels to throw such a person head-first into the fire of Jahannam.
Ibn Simak said, “I admonished people on one occasion and my admonishment pleased me. As I was admonishing, I became impressed with myself. Then I heard someone in the spiritual realm calling to me. He said, ‘You are prescribing for those who are ill and unhealthy so that they may attain good health while you are ill. Do you not know that you must apply this advice to yourself before you apply it to others? Do not prohibit people from following a bad way and then follow it yourself. That is a dishonourable thing to do’”.
In other words, we cannot command others to get up for night prayer (Tahajjud), and to increase in performing good deeds and giving charity while we sleep in the early hours of the morning. However, it is not a problem to encourage others to do good while acknowledging our own weakness.
Our next narration is important. Sayyidina Hasan al-Basri was at home when a group of slaves arrived, telling him that their masters were treating them badly. They asked him to give a Friday sermon about freeing slaves so they could be saved from being treated badly by their masters. Hasan al-Basri listened to their complaints but did not give a khutbah on the topic until after three or four Friday prayers had passed. He then spoke about the importance of freeing slaves and emphasised that Islam encourages owners to set their slaves free.
Islam arrived in a world in which slavery was part of the economic system. Islam did not encourage this economic system but the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) knew that abolishing slavery while it was so important economically would have been disastrous. So Islam adopted a piecemeal approach instead, encouraging the gradual ending of slavery by emphasising the importance of freeing slaves.
After the jumu’ah prayers were over, everyone left the masjid and freed their slaves. One would have imagined that the slaves would be happy. However, they approached Hasan al-Basri, asking why he had allowed them to suffer for three or four weeks before delivering the lecture. He said he had delayed the lecture because it would have been difficult for him to talk about freeing slaves, as he had not owned a slave and therefore could not free one. He had not had the money to buy a slave. He said, “So when Allah made it possible for me to earn some money, I purchased a slave and then set him free. Then I was in the position to call people to do the same, because I had the knowledge and had acted on it”. When you have the knowledge and act on it, and then call others to do the same, you will be much more effective.
Maulana Qasim, said that a bad practice existed in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, in terms of which a widow would not remarry.  The practice was apparently based on a Hindu custom. No one proposed to widows, and their families would not marry them off. This caused great hardship for widows and went against the Qur’anic injunction to marry widows. One day Maulana Qasim delivered a lecture. He spoke about this practice, saying it has no basis and women are suffering. While he was delivering the lecture, someone raised his hand, saying he wanted to ask a question. Maulana Qasim said, “Yes, you may, but please excuse me for a few minutes”. He then left the masjid and returned after a few minutes. He asked the man about his question. The man responded, saying, “You are talking to us about marrying off widows and the bad, un-Islamic practice we may have inherited. What about your sister? She is a widow and hasn’t been married for many years”. Maulana Qasim said, “I felt you were going to ask me about this and I felt guilty that I am not practising what I preach, so I left the masjid and married my sister to the gatekeeper, whom I found to be a good man. I have acted on my knowledge, and this will have a much better impact on the hearts of the people I am teaching”.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) spoke out strongly against scholars or callers to Allah who do not practice what they preach. He called them “‘Ulama al-su’” (evil scholars or scholars of misguidance).
We ask Allah to allow us to act on our knowledge. We do not seek in this podcast to discourage you from encouraging others to do good. You should encourage them to do good. However, we must all resolve to act on all the knowledge we are given, no matter how insignificant we think it is. Consider the example of using siwak. Do not regard it, or anything like it, as a small matter. Such practices will elevate our status.
We began our podcast with the narration, “one who acts on their knowledge will be granted knowledge from Allah Himself”. May Allah make that a reality for all of us, Amin.

Living Simply: Spreading Muck

Living Simply

Part Seven: Spreading Muck

 

In order to get through life with ease, the early Muslims (salaf) focused on certain key ways of living that would make it spiritually and practically easier and more fruitful. They coined a term for the variegated rules that they lived by, a term that summarized the system of living for the Hereafter. They called it zuhd: detachment from this world. Other terms to describe zuhd are indifference towards worldly matters or simple or minimal living. This is the seventh article from a series of articles and podcasts by SeekersGuidance scholar, Shaykh Farid Dingle.

Introduction to Asceticism (Part One)

Listening More, Talking Less (Part Two)

Entertaining Ourselves to Death (Part Three)

Being Extremely Moderate (Part Four)

Evaluation of the Self (Part Five)

Wronging Others in Word and Deed (Part Six)


Sin is an offense to Allah, thus one should not talk, chat or gossip about sinful matters. In this chapter, Imam Waki discusses this concept and mentions the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the early Muslims concerning the concealing of sins, be it one’s own or someone else’s.

Privacy is a very important right in Islam. Privacy in marital issues, finances, and what one knows of others’ faults is something inviolable. Without it, no one can trust anyone else, and the fabric of society cannot be fixed.

For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 

“Whenever you sit together, the assumption is that everything said should be kept private.”

Ikrima, one of Ibn Abbas’ foremost students, said, “Whoever eavesdrops on a group of people, lead will be poured into his ears on the Day of Rising.” It is unlikely that he would just say this off the top of his head—he most likely heard it from Ibn Abbas, who likewise heard it from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself.

Talking about the immoral is an offense to Allah—and talking about someone else’s immoral acts is even worse. One of the early Muslims said, “Whoever hears of vile and immoral deeds and then talks about it to everyone is just as bad as the person who did it to begin with.” This is a profound statement and extremely relevant to us today. 

We love to gossip about people’s love lives and the crazy crimes that people commit, and we love to share such stories and images on social media. We do these things to the extent that we believe it is our right to know about which football player slept with which model, for example. All of this is disgraceful, base and unIslamic.

Part of speaking of the immoral is simply backbiting. We believe psychologically that by putting people down, we put ourselves up, and we get an emotional kick out of it. Ibn Sirin said, 

“It is unfair to your brother that you only mention his worst points and hide his good points.” 

Another one of the early Muslims said, “Three things are catastrophic: a ruler who never appreciates any good and never forgives errors, a neighbor who buries any good done to him yet tells everyone about every bad thing he sees, and a wife who is rude when you are present and who spends your money and cheats on you when you are absent.”

Even one’s own faults should be concealed. Imam Waki narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If Allah conceals your sins, then do not expose them.”  

There is absolutely no need, no benefit, and no right to talk about one’s past sins nor to confess to anyone unless someone else’s rights are involved.

Committing adultery, drinking alcohol, lying, showing off, or any other sin that no one needs to know about should not be shared or spoken about. One should only talk about one’s sins in order to get help getting over them, and this should only be with someone who has the knowledge or experience to help one. 

One of the prophetic Companions encouraged an adulterer to confess in court. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If you have covered him over with your very clothes it would have been better than doing this!” That is to say, it is not recommended to go to court to confess. If one owes someone any money because of past sins, one may give it back to them however possible. It is also not the right of one’s partner to tell them that one cheated on them, or what forbidden (haram) sexual acts one did before marriage. 

A general of the early Muslims told his soldiers, “Listen, you have come to a place where there is drink and women. If any of you sins (in either of these two ways), let him come and confess to us so that we may purify him.” This reached Umar ibn al-Khattab [and it annoyed him greatly], so he wrote to him saying, “May you lose your mother! You command a people whose sins Allah has covered over to rip Allah’s cover off them!” He was annoyed because the command the general gave was wrong. It is worth noting that although it is not recommended to go and confess in court, it is nevertheless legally binding upon the court to apply the law and enforce the fixed Shari’a penalty (hadd).

 


About the Author

Shaykh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to crafts lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language which can be found here. 

The corresponding podcast is due for release soon.

 

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Living SImply: Wronging Others in Word and Deed (Part Six)

Living Simply: Letting Go and Holding Fast

Part Six: Wronging Others in Word and Deed

 

In order to get through life with ease, the early Muslims (salaf) focused on certain key ways of living that would make it spiritually and practically easier and more fruitful. They coined a term for the variegated rules that they lived by, a term that summarized the system of living for the Hereafter. They called it zuhd: detachment from this world. For the purpose of this article series, we have found the best match in terms of meaning to be asceticism. Other terms to describe zuhd are indifference towards worldly matters or simple or minimal living. This is the sixth article from a series of articles and podcasts by SeekersGuidance scholar, Shaykh Farid Dingle.

 

Introduction to Asceticism (Part One)

Listening More, Talking Less (Part Two)

Entertaining Ourselves to Death (Part Three)

Being Extremely Moderate (Part Four)

Evaluation of the Self (Part Five)

 

Being detached from this world implies that one not be drawn to revenge, putting people down, or taking others’ emotional or material rights. In this chapter, Imam Waki discusses wrongdoing in its broadest sense, and focuses on the sin of backbiting and talebearing.


 

Imam Waki (Allah have mercy on him) begins this chapter with a hadith concerning oppression and transgression. Transgression means to want something so much that you end up wronging yourself or someone else. It is the very opposite of asceticism (zuhd), which means being emotionally distant enough from something to only do good by it. There is a hadith that goes: “Were one mountain to transgress against another, it would be pulverized.” This tells us that oppression is wrong and that its punishment is severe and swift. It also tells us that only man and jinn wrong others, and that is because they alone are morally responsible. As we wrong each other, the colossal punishments that we deserve are being held back until the time Allah decides to inflict them upon us. This imminence is echoed in another hadith: 

 

“The evil with the fastest punishment is transgression and cutting off family ties.”

 

Although being patient with abuse is part of accepting Allah’s decree, it doesn’t mean that we should not try to avoid it and pray to be protected from it. Imam Waki narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pray, “O Allah, give me victory over whosoever transgresses against me.” 

 

One of the worst weapons used in wronging others is the tongue, and this usually takes the form of backbiting and spreading rumours about others. Amr ibn al-As passed by a dead mule and told those with him, “I swear that it would be better for someone to fill his belly with this mule than to eat the flesh of his Muslim brother.” He was making a reference to backbiting, which is described as equivalent to eating a human corpse. Allah Most High says, 

 

“And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the dead flesh of his brother? You would detest it!” (Qur’an, 49:12) 

 

Ibn Sirin said the same thing when his students were discussing the nature of backbiting. He said, “Haven’t you ever seen a stinking rotten corpse?”

 

Backbiting means to say something about someone who is absent that they would not like, whether or not it is true. Ibn Sirin said, “If someone doesn’t like it to be said of him that his hair is curly, then don’t say that about him.” Ibrahim al-Nakhai put it even more simply: “Only call your brother what he likes to be called.”

 

The only time it is permissible to say something negative about another person is when it’s needed in worldly dealings, such as when warning someone of danger, or telling a manager that someone isn’t doing their job. Even then, it should be based on facts and not opinions, and it should not be done with malice. Even talking to oneself about how stupid, annoying, dumb, ugly, or incapable someone is is sinful. There is a slight difference between observing a “fact” that someone is ugly and looking down upon them in one’s own head because of it. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 

 

“Backbiting is to make a comment about someone’s character or physical features.” “We thought that it was saying something that was not true,” they replied. “‘No. That is slander.”

 

In view of the fact that backbiting is so bad, Waki cites the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, “I wouldn’t backbite someone for anything.” The problem with us is that we love to get back at people to make people laugh; our attachment to these low aims makes us backbite. As mentioned previously, this is the very opposite of asceticism and makes trust between family and friends very difficult indeed.

 

Another cancer of our society is talebearing: spreading stories about what other people did in order to ruin relationships. Imam Waki quotes the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, “A talebearer will not enter Paradise.” That is to say that such a person who does this and dies unrepentant has been threatened by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) that Allah places him in Hellfire until he pays for his crime.

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by two graves and said, “Verily, they are both being punished and not for something major. As for one, he is being punished for the habit of soiling himself with urine. As for the other, he is being punished for the habit of talebearing.” Then he asked for a green branch to be brought and broke it in two, sticking one into each of the two graves. He said, “Hopefully their punishment will be lightened until these dry out.” This shows that talebearing is not just sinful, but that it is one of those major sins that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) specifically mentioned would be punished in the grave.

 

It is such a serious sin that Allah has mentioned it in the Qur’an as well. Ibn Abbas was asked, “Who are these people that Allah is berating when He says, ‘Woe to every scorner and mocker!’ (Qur’an, 104:1)?” Ibn Abbas replied, “They are those who continually engage in talebearing, who split brothers apart, and who seek ill for the innocent.”

 

Ata ibn Saib, one of the great faith scholars, came back from Mecca and another great scholar, Shabi, asked him to tell him something interesting that he had learned. He replied, “I only have one thing: Abdurrahman ibn Abdullah ibn Sabit said that nobody lives in Mecca who is a murderer, usurer, or a talebearer. I found it amazing how talebearing was equated with murder!” “Why do you find it so amazing?” said Shabi. “Is there anything other than talebearing that makes people spill blood and dishonor that which is sacred?”

 

By contrast, those who restrain from such a foul social disease are the closest of people to Allah. 

It is narrated that when Musa hastened to his Lord (Qur’an, 20:84), he passed by a man whom he wished to be like because he was so close to [Allah’s] throne. “Who is this man, O my Lord?” he asked. “We will not tell you,” he was told. “But We will tell you what he used to do: he was never envious of what of His blessings [Allah] gave other people, and he would not engage in talebearing, and he would not be rude (uquq) his parents.”

 

Whether it be with the hand or the tongue, wronging is wrong and its punishment hits hard and fast. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Be very wary of the prayer of the oppressed because there is no barrier between it and Allah.” May Allah protect us all from sin, oppression, backbiting, talebearing and all that He detests. Amen.

 

About the Author

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to crafts lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language which can be found here. 

The corresponding podcast is due for release soon.

 

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Coping with Life’s Difficulties by Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

A Conversation Between Two Great Scholars on Coping with Difficulties

by Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

In the Name of Allah, the Encompassingly Merciful, the Particularly Merciful.

Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi posts regularly on a variety of contemporary and relevant issues, as a way of honouring the parents and teachers who have worked tirelessly to spread and preserve Islam. Her post on coping with life’s difficulties is reproduced in this article.


Timeless Wisdom from the Past 

People who express that they are overwhelmed by their life circumstances are often shamed for complaining and being ungrateful.

But when we look at the exchanges of our beautiful and noble scholars of the past, we see so much grace, so much compassion, so much humility.

What we do NOT see is shaming, blaming, and silencing people who are struggling.

This conversation is a wonderful example of two great scholars displaying vulnerability, honesty, transparency, empathy, and most important of all, timeless wisdom.

Please read through these slides [remaining paragraphs] with presence and really try to internalize the meanings. Think about where you are in the list and ask yourself whether or not you are responding in the way you need to be, and if not, what you can do differently.

 

Two Great Scholars of The Past – a Conversation About How To Cope With Life’s Difficulties

When the noble scholar Ibn ‘Ata‘Allah (Allah be pleased with him) first met the great Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi (Allah be pleased with him), who would later become his Shaykh, he said to him:

“I have a weight on my shoulders that is so heavy, it’s difficult for me to be in this world.”

Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi (Allah be pleased with him) said to him:

“I’ll teach you something and if you understand it, then that [the burden upon his shoulders] will be removed from you:

There are only four possible states to be in in this world.”

 

Four States of People In This World

1, TRIBULATION

When you’re given a tribulation or test, the appropriate response is patience (sabr). If you respond with a beautiful patience, which is at the onset, then relief will follow. But if you don’t show patience then your troubles will increase.

2. BLESSING

When you’re given a blessing, the appropriate response is gratitude (shukr). If you are grateful then your blessings will increase, but if you don’t show gratitude then you will lose your blessings.

3. OBEDIENCE

When you’ve been given the blessing of guidance, the appropriate response is to be humble and attribute your guidance to God so you do not become arrogant. If your religiosity makes you self-righteous then you are worse than a humble sinner.

4. DISOBEDIENCE

When you’re in disobedience, the appropriate response is repentance (tawba). If you repent sincerely then God will forgive you and guide you, but if you continue your disobedience then you risk your life here (dunya) and your Hereafter (akhira).

 

Ibn ‘Ata‘Allah (Allah be pleased with him) said:

“After he told me this it was like mountains were removed from my shoulders.”

May Allah Most High increase us and protect us all. Ameen (may it be so). And may He bless our scholars today for giving us access to our scholars of the past. Ameen.

This exchange was relayed to us in this short 10 min clip by @shaykh_hamzayusuf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5IIRf8Od0Q (search Youtube: 4 States to be in this world- Hamza Yusuf)


Biography of Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi was born in Afghanistan and moved to the United States with her family at age two. She credits her Islamic journey to the year 1996 when she began attending Islamic classes in Hayward, California. These classes were taught by her teacher and mentor since then; Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. 

One of her main areas of focus is to help create a strong sisterhood for the women in the community by leading halaqas (spiritual study circles) and support groups whilst offering individual spiritual counseling and mentoring. She noted that many of the spiritual problems encountered were actually reflective of the deep and complicated mental health issues of the community and would be better served by focusing on mental health. Thus, along with her cousin Dr. Nafisa Sekandari, they co-founded a website called Mental Health 4 Muslims (www.mentalhealth4muslims.com). 

Ustadha Hosai is also a freelance writer and editor and lectures on various Islamic/spiritual topics.

Further details can be found on this link: http://hosaimojaddidi.com

 

 

Who is Thy Neighbour?

Who is Thy Neighbour?

In the video “Who are our Neighbours?”, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad introduces the idea of what a neighbour is.  In today’s global village, it can be hard to define who a neighbour is. Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad reminds us through the narration of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) that the neighbour is the one who is both near and far.  Whether a neighbour is next-door or forty houses down, we should be trying to practice the “human virtue” that is being good to one’s neighbours. 

The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the last day, let him honour his neighbour.”  This can encompass neighbours whom one has known for years, neighbours that are temporary/short-term and of any faith.  Neighbours have rights and should be treated with the proper respect, care and consideration.  Especially in this current environment where many people are suffering and may not have family or friends to rely on for help.

The Importance of Treating our Neighbours Well

It is said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) heard so much about how one should treat their neighbour well from Jibreel (may peace be upon him) that Allah’s messenger thought that the neighbour may end up having a share in the inheritance. 

One of the prophetic commandments is “Whoever has a neighbour to his garden, encloser, or plot of land should not sell that plot of land without offering it first to his neighbour.”  These narrations truly highlight the concept of treating one’s neighbour well.  Whenever there is a decision to be made that would affect one’s neighbour – the rights of the neighbour should be addressed first.  Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad quotes Imam Hasan al-Basri stating, “Good neighbourliness is not just, not doing things that annoy your neighbour, but it’s putting up with the inconvenient things that they may do.”  

How Can One Become a Good Neighbour?

The Messenger of Allah was told, “O, Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) there is this woman who fasts every day and who prays every night, but she upsets her neighbours.”  The Messenger of Allah said that “She is in the fire.”  The purpose of prayer, fasting and all other forms of worship is supposed to keep one from engaging in such “ugly behaviour.” 

As well as developing good manners, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad mentions, “There are inward preconditions for the validity of the prayer” – simply doing the act of prayer does not suffice.  He adds – with every prayer we should become better versions of ourselves and how we interact with others is a reflection of whether we are implementing prayer correctly in our lives.  Developing one’s habits or breaking old ones is no easy feat, but if one takes the time and effort to do so with Allah’s guidance, we can become better people and honour the rights of those near to us.

Watch the full video here:

Article based on “Who are our Neighbours?” by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.

More Islamic Resources from Cambridge Muslim College: www.cambridgeislamiccollege.org

 


Learn how to treat your neighbours from the best of creation in this SeekersGuidance session – The Prophet as a Neighbour. 

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The Art of Saying Yes – The Positive Prophet

The Positive Prophet

Understanding How the Prophet Never Said No to Any Request

An explanation offered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) relates that “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) was never asked anything whatsoever to which he said no.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

 

Ibn Allan al-Bakri explains in this commentary:

“… was never asked anything whatsoever” 

This is to emphasize the negation, indicating all times. And “anything” is in the indefinite case (shay’an) to indicate the inclusion both of major requests and minor ones, and both when he (peace and blessings be upon him) had the matter requested and when he didn’t.

 

“… to which he said no”

Rather, if the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had the requested thing, he would give; or he would respond with good words–such as promising to give later or making supplication for the one asking. Thus, if he had, he would give generously. And if he didn’t, he would promise and he would fulfill his promises.

 

Thus, this doesn’t mean that he would always give what was requested immediately. Rather, it means that he would never respond negatively.

 

And Allah alone gives success.


Continue Your Search for Knowledge

Related Articles

The Positive Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) – Understanding How the Prophet Never Said No to Any Request

The Unconditional Hope – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Being Depressed? Or Hoping for the Best?

 

Related Answers

Divine Decree, Contentment, and Lessons From the Prophet’s Life

How Can Someone Always Have Trust In Allah?

Negative Thoughts About God

 

Related Courses

Faith and Reliance on Allah: Ghazali’s Book of Divine Oneness and Trust Upon Allah Explained

Perfecting Prayer: Khadimi’s Treatise on Presence in Prayer Explained

Habib Umar on the Path of Spiritual Excellence: An Explanation of Ba’l Faqih’s Treatise The Spheres of Islam, Iman, Ihsan, and `Irfan

 

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The Prophet’s Smile – “Around Us But Not on Top of Us”

The Prophet’s Amusement at Allah’s Mercy

By Shaykh Amin Buxton

 

In this series, the Prophet’s Smile, we visit the moments where the Prophet smiled and laughed. We also discuss how he was described when smiling and laughing. By studying his characteristics, we gain insight into what he talked and thought about, and ultimately, the undeniable beauty of his character. By knowing more about him, we hope to increase our love and longing for him. We also hope to gain his love and pleasure, which cannot be separated from the love and pleasure of Allah Most High.

In this article, we discuss one particular incident where a bedouin requested for rain. His response to the abundance of rain made the prophet smile.


Anas narrates that a Bedouin man came to the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) while he was delivering the Friday sermon in Madinah and complained to him that there was a drought and their livestock was dying and their women and children were hungry. He then beseeched the Prophet to ask for rain. The Prophet raised his hands in supplication. At that point, there was not a cloud in the sky but as soon as he began to supplicate, clouds began to form and pile up like mountains and then it began to rain. Even before he had descended from the pulpit, the Prophet’s beard was dripping with rainwater. It continued to rain that day and the following day and the rain continued until the following Friday.

On that day, the Prophet was once again delivering his sermon on the pulpit when the same man returned (or another man – Anas could not be sure). “O Messenger of Allah,” he said, “our homes are falling apart and our livestock are drowning, so ask your Lord to make it stop!”

The Prophet smiled and raised his hands in supplication saying: “O Allah, around us but not on top of us, around us but not on top of us!” He pointed to the sky and signaled for the clouds to move and they began to clear until there was a circle of clear sky around Madinah while the rain continued to fall upon the areas around the city for another month.

(Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

Life was not easy in the early community in Madinah which mostly relied on agriculture and livestock for its sustenance. The drought was a very serious threat to the survival of the people of the city. This Bedouin man came in a state of desperation. He was obviously feeling the effects of the drought hard as he tried to graze his animals in the area around Madinah. He was so desperate that he did not even wait for the Prophet to finish speaking, but interrupted his sermon and complained about the severity of the situation. The Prophet could have told him to sit down and wait but he responded immediately, knowing that the man was speaking not just for himself but for a whole community. Allah says of him: Your suffering distresses him: he is deeply concerned for you (Quran, 9:128).

The Prophet is Allah’s Beloved and when the Beloved asks, the One who loves him so much instantly responds. Within seconds rain started pouring down. Rain is symbolic of Allah’s mercy – when the one who was sent as a mercy to everything asks the All-Merciful for mercy, it duly pours down. In fact, it comes in such abundance day after day that people cannot handle it. And this was perhaps what brought a smile to the Prophet’s lips when the request came to stop the rain. It tells us something about human nature – as Allah says: man was created hasty (Quran, 21:37). We want something very badly and then we get it, we realize we want something else. Blessings can quickly turn into trials. The Prophet’s smile may also have been an expression of his wonder at his Lord’s bounty and generosity.

Here we witness not just one but two miracles, two acts of divine mercy – the immediate sending down of rain and then the immediate removal of that rain. It is noticeable that the Prophet did not ask for the rain to stop completely, but instead, he asked for it to be removed from the city of Madinah itself where the damage was being felt. He asked for the harm to be removed but the benefit to continue and this is what happened: the valleys around Madinah continued to receive plentiful rainfall for a month. There is a lesson in this that if we receive a blessing but it then becomes difficult, we should not ask for it to stop coming but we should ask for whatever detracts from that blessing to be removed. The scholars also teach us when we ask for something to ask for it accompanied with gentleness and wellbeing (lutf and afiyah).

We see time and time again that when the Companions were in difficulty or had needs great or small they would go to the Messenger. The Bedouin man could have asked Allah directly for rain but he knew that the Prophet was infinitely closer to Allah and his prayers would be answered. They understood the concept of an intermediary. They knew the status of the Prophet in Allah’s sight and they knew the Prophet was happy to play the role of an intermediary. And he did so with a smile.

May Allah give our beloved Prophet the highest of rewards on our behalf.

 

Human Potential: The Gift of Turning Back

Human Potential: Turning Back

By Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

This is the fourth of a series of articles by SeekersGuidance scholar Shaykh Yusuf Weltch on the amazing human potential. Shaykh Yusuf poses thought-provoking ideas about what humans are capable of; both success and destruction. In pursuit of perfection, many may feel despair and a sense of failure. What does Allah Most High require from His servants?


Good deeds. Lots of charity. Lots of prayers. Lots of fasting. This is what comes to most of our minds when we hear the word piety. No wonder we despair of achieving piety. This is an example of how our perception of the  ‘spiritual journey’ affects our ‘spiritual journey’. The presupposition that Allah Most High seeks from us absolute perfection results in devastating despair and a defeatist mentality.

Did Allah Most High create us to be perfect? In short, no—even though a level of perfection is possible. Allah Most High created the Angels who do not disobey Allah whatsoever, who never tire in glorifying Him, who are not tainted with animalistic human vices. However, He still chose to create human-kind. The Angels, out of sheer curiosity, asked, “Will you put in the land those who will sow corruption therein and shed blood.” Allah Most High replied to them, “Verily I know what you know not.” (Qur’an 2:30)

Angels obey Allah Most High without any internal or external opposition. Whereas, humans have both. Externally we must combat the deception of the Devil, the distracting illusory nature of the world, as well as bad companionship and peer pressure. Internally we must fend off our misguided desires and lusts as well as the fame-seeking ego. This opposition sets us up to either be the best of the best or the lowest of the low.

“By the soul and how He formed it – and inspired it [to know] it’s vice and virtue! – The one who purifies his soul succeeds – and the one who corrupts it fails.” (Qur’an 91:7–10)

By overcoming these obstacles, humans excel past the ranks of the Angels toward the highest levels of spiritual rectitude. But what brings great solace to those who have succumbed to the defeatist outlook on the spiritual journey, is the fact that sinning does not necessitate failure. The Messenger of Allah said, “All of the children of Adam err and the best of those who err are those who turn back in repentance” (Tirmidhi).


About the Author

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied inheritance law, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance teachers team in the summer of 2019.

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