Transcend This World – Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir expounds on the crises of despair in society, its impact on the Muslim community, and Islam as the cure for this disease.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Our praises due to Allah who has revealed the scripture unto his servant and has made no crookedness therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)

Allah Most High has blessed us to live in interesting times, as they say. One of the characteristics of our time, speaking specifically of this land that we reside in, is the despair that we see. That despair can be measured by what collectively are referred to as the diseases of despair: drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, depression.

In terms of drug addiction, just discarding other forms of drugs, every day in this country, there are 170 fatal overdoses from opioids alone – heroin, morphine, percocet, oxycontin – the whole family of opioids. One hundred and seventy.

Were it not for Narcan which revives overdose victims, maybe it would be eight hundred a day, because for every one who fatally overdoses seven or eight are revived who would otherwise fatally overdose.

The Ravages of Despair

There are 241 alcohol consumption related deaths every day in this country. Just consumption. Excluding alcohol-related deaths, most fatal fatalities from auto accidents, the majority are alcohol-related. Most killings in domestic violence are alcohol-related. Maybe not most. A large percentage. But excluding all of that, 241 who die from overconsumption of alcohol every day.

There are 123 suicides every day. Almost 4,000 suicide attempts every day, which means that there are far more, because a lot of suicide attempts aren’t reported to the authorities. Increasingly large numbers of our children who should be the most hopeful find themselves dead as a result of suicide. Diseases of despair.

You see Muslims increasingly falling into many of these categories which indicates two things. One is a ignorance of our religion, because one who has knowledge of this religion understands that this is the antidote to despair: the anti-despair medicine.

The other is weakness of faith, which means there might be knowledge of the religion, but that knowledge hasn’t penetrated to the depths of the heart, so that it affects the hearts in ways that insulate the individual from the ravages of despair.

Understanding of Religion

We should understand. Understanding is very important. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: “The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion.” We can mention a balance of the hadith because it has benefit in it.

It was related from Mu‘awiya, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: ‘The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion. I dispense the Revelation, it is Allah who gives understanding.’”

So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gives it freely to everyone but Allah causes those seeds that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, spreads out to take root in some hearts. “And there will always remain from this community of believers a party, a group, who will establish their affair on the basis of the commandment of Allah.” (Bukhari)

What the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is telling us is that understanding translates into action. The foundation of our action is establishing our affair on the commandment of Allah. People are rejecting their traditional religious teachings. As people increasingly turn to atheism and that’s part and parcel of the crisis of despair.

Atheism and Meaninglessness

There’s no coincidence that as atheism goes up suicide goes up, because atheism is telling a human being that you’re no different from this […] this minbar I’m standing on. You are no different than these walls. You’re no different than a fly. You’re no different then feces or urine. You’re just physical stuff.

If a human being comes to believe that he or she is just physical stuff, there’s no relationship to a higher power, there’s nothing to hope for beyond the demise of this physical body, why not commit suicide? Why not end it all? There’s nothing beyond this to hope for. That’s one of the reasons you see this upward trajectory.

The believers must hold on to the commandment of Allah. The believers must hold as lawful that which our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has declared to be lawful. And the believer must maintain and hold on to what our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directly from Revelation, which came through the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or through his Sunna, have declared to be unlawful.

The lawful is unambiguously clear. The unlawful is unambiguously clear. Between those two are doubtful matters. Most people don’t know their rulings. There are people who want to make that which is unambiguously clear from the mutashabihat in terms of its lawfulness, and that which is unambiguously clear in terms of its unlawfulness, amongst the doubtful matters.

Adhere to The Book and The Sunna

Well, we need to reassess this. 1,400 years of Islam and scholarship from some of the most brilliant minds to ever walk this planet couldn’t figure out how Muslims are supposed to dress? 1,400 years of scholarship with clear unambiguous evidence, scriptural evidence, couldn’t figure out who Muslims should go to bed with?

We need to reassess? No, we need to adhere to the Book of Allah and the Sunna of his Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and die upon that and pass it on to our descendants. If we do that, we’ve done our job. If we fail to do that, there’s going to be more suicides. There’s going to be more alcoholism. There’s going to be more drug overdoses, because people will be lost.

The prophets were sent to guide people. And this Umma, the scholars of this Umma are the heirs of the prophets. And their communities are the community of believers in this world. They will establish their affair on the commandment of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the command of Allah.

Some scholars say [the command] is the emergence of the dajjal. Some scholars say it is the wind that will blow at the end of time and take the souls of the believers. Most scholars say it is Doomsday. They won’t be harmed.

Hold on to Your Inheritance

Our task, brothers and sisters, if you want to be safe and you want to be sound, make sure you’re in that group. Ibn Hajar al Askalani says it could be one group in one place, but most likely it is many groups. There’s some here, there’s some there. Some in America. Some in Africa. There’s some in Asia. There’s some in Europe.

This is a source of mercy, not just for us but for the world. As we said, the world, this country and the world in general, is being besieged by despair and hopelessness. We are the people of hope. Not foolish optimism, but the people of Hope.

We are the people of prophetic guidance and prophetic guidance brings clarity. We are the people of mercy. One of the reasons a lot of Muslims are so downcast and gloom-struck in our day and times is because they believe the lives of people who profit from their being no source of hope for people.

There are people that profit from that and say, “Oh, you Muslims, you have no mercy and compassion in your heart.” And Muslims start believing that. You want to know no compassion? No compassion are people who would sell nine million narcotic pills in a small town in Appalachia.

The Invention of Falsehoods

Prescribe nine million knowing this is going to addicting entire population. Where is the mercy in that? Then the people are dropping like flies from overdoses. Where is the mercy in that? Where is the mercy in fabricating enemies for the sole purpose of feeding a war machine that’s financed by 700 billion dollars of our tax money to keep the factories making bombs?

Inventing enemies in this country to keep this a machine of Islamic hate going. They’re stealth jihad. They’re taking over. Taking over what? “The Muslim Brotherhood’s taking over Congress and the Senate and our institutions.” Well, they’re doing a terrible job. there are 535 congressmen and 100 senators; 435 representatives.

There are zero Muslim senators and one Muslim congressman. Zero out of 100 and one out of 435 and that’s stealth jihad. That’s a merciless scheme to demoralize the community, to villainize and demonize the community, for the sole purpose of making money. They’re financed by tens hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an industry.

Where is the mercy? Right now, this hurricane, the winds died down, but the rain is coming. And they have open lagoons of pig manure and pig fetuses and pig blood from these hog farms next to African-American communities. Poor people who can’t go anywhere. They’re going to flood over. Even without flooding the spraying in the air coats their houses. They can’t breathe the air. People have respiratory problems. They have to breathe that garbage.

And the North Carolina legislature banned a bill that would even declare this a harmful practice. Where’s the mercy in that? You go up and down the ledger, there’s no mercy. There’s total exploitation of people.

Industrialized Despair

They won’t even give you a meal. You can fly on Ethiopian Airlines – one of the poorest countries in the world – you can fly from Addis Ababa to […]; they give you a hot meal, a hot towel to clean your hands with, for a two-hour flight. You fly from New York City to Los Angeles, five and a half hours, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels.

When you got on the plane, the sky cab, the company is going to take their tips. Where is the mercy in all that? And they’ll tell you, “Muslim, you’re not merciful.” And then you believe it and get all demoralized. Stand up! Be proud to be a Muslim. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give those people the satisfaction of demoralizing you. Thieves and killers.

A lady, Beth Macy, wrote a book about this whole opioid epidemic recently [Dopesick] and the subtitle: “[…] the [drug] company that addicted America.” Purdue Pharma, responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans and no one went to jail. Tens of thousands of dead people, millions of addicts, and to misdemeanor charges for false advertisement, because they said this stuff isn’t abusive.

Pure morphine repackaged is not abusive. So when the abuse rate was almost a hundred percent, “Oh, we’re guilty.” Misdemeanor on two of their executives. No one goes to jail. But all these little people, not selling heroin, selling marijuana on the street corner, are going to jail feeding this prison industrial complex. Where is the mercy in that?

Never Despair of Allah’s Mercy

And you, demoralized, believe your religion has no mercy. “Oh, my servants who are going to excess in terms of abusing the rights of their soul.” This is addressed of people who are idolaters. What does Allah say about the idolator? Allah doesn’t forgive that partners are joined with him, but he forgives any sin other than that to whomsoever he pleases. But if that idolator repents, then Allah says, even if you are an idolater, “do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.” (Sura al Zamar 39:53)

Allah forgives the idolater. Allah forgave the man who killed 100 people. Allah forgives people. One man came, long story short, and mention his sin and he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that to atone. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he started laughing and said, “Just scram. Get out of here.” Allah bless him and give him peace.

Your sin is one against you. You do a good deed and it’s immediately multiplied ten times. Seven thousand. Seventy thousand. Seven million. Allah is Rahim and Karim. How hard do you have to work to go to hell, if that’s how things are reckoned? One sin is one against you.

The Reason for Hope

Even if you conspire to sin and then you leave it, then it’s credited as a good deed. Leaving a bad deed is a good deed. You know, I’m gonna do this and that, masha Allah. I get home, get dressed, go call up someone. I’m gonna go visit and we’re gonna go out and … “astaghfir Allah, that’s totally haram.” That’s the good.

You left the bad deed, it’s a good deed. Don’t you say you’re a sinner. Leaving the bad deed is a good deed and so the cycle kicks in. How hard does one have to work to go to hell? This is the mercy of Allah Most High. Allah forgives all sins. What did you do? Just repent to Allah and Allah will forgive you.

Why do you have no hope? Why are you despairing of Allah’s mercy. If those are the odds and if this is the mercy of Allah, then it’s rightfully said, “It is only a disbelieving people that despair of Allah’s mercy.” (Sura Yusuf 12:87)

So believers, never despair of Allah’s mercy. Don’t walk around here in a state of doom and gloom. Lift up your head, smile in the face of your your fellow believer. Smile in the face of everybody: the ordinary people. Spread peace, spread greetings of peace to people. Feed people.

“Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is the best manifestation of Islam, the most virtuous manifestation of Islam?” “That you feed people and greet people, those you know and those you don’t know.” Our sister, in the Rainbow Rec Center, just feeding people for 20-something years. Every Saturday. It’s one of the best manifestations of Islam.

And greet people those you know and those you know not. You should be a greeting machine. Everyone you pass:

– Assalam alaykum, how you doing? Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban.
– What does that mean?
– That means, Hey, you’re welcome. You’re like my family.
– Really? No one ever said that to me.
– We Muslims. That’s how we roll.

Islam Is The Beautiful Religion

Pick your head up. This is a beautiful religion. Don’t despair. It’s not a believing characteristic. It’s a characteristic, as we said, of people who have no faith. Those are the people, unfortunately, falling into drugs, falling into despair, falling into suicide, falling into alcoholism. We’re the antidote. We should be going to people.

That’s why they want to demoralize the Muslims, so we don’t believe we have anything to offer anybody. “Who wants to listen to us? They all think we‘re a bunch of terrorists.” I’ll tell you who wants to listen to you, those hundreds of people every day who are taking their Shahada, all over this country. They don’t want to see that.

We have to organize ourselves to serve them. And to serve those people who aren’t Muslim. The sister feeding the people at the Rainbow Rec in East Oakland, most of those people aren’t Muslim, but they’re human beings and they have human needs.

We should be rising up and organizing ourselves to meet their needs and don’t let them politicize our religion. They’re willing to politicize it so they can frame the discussion and frame the way that they present Islam to people. No, we have to we have to spiritualize it. It’s not a political struggle.

This Is Not a Game

We. as Muslims, we do a disservice when we frame it like that, because we’re playing into their hands. It’s a spiritual struggle. It’s a struggle between truth and falsehood. It’s a struggle between people who want to victimize and exploit and destroy people, and people who want to give them life, and to give them hope, and to give them direction.

That’s the struggle and we have to keep it at that level, because that’s our strength. Everything else will take care of itself. The politics, the economics, will take care of themselves.

But if we become wrapped up into this political struggle the parameters of which have been defined by the enemies of Islam, we’ll never get to the spiritual and the people will never get the hope, because in their mind they’re looking at Islam through a frame that we as Muslims sometimes help to reinforce.

We have to frame the issue along the lines that play into our strengths. When you have one congressman and zero senators, politics is not our strength. I hope you understand that. You can hoop and holler all you want. But when those are the odds, I’m not saying there’s no politics in Islam, I’m saying that our struggle is a grassroots struggle.

Our struggle as a struggle to save people. Our struggle as a struggle to give people hope. Our struggle is a struggle to inspire people. Our struggle is a struggle to put people back in touch with their humanity. And when that happens to tens and hundreds of thousands of people, to millions of people, everything else will take care of itself. May Allah give us tawfiq.

We Are a Joyous People

Let me leave you with this verse, brothers and sisters. Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say, [O Muhammad]: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy let them rejoice. It is better than anything they can gather [from this world.] (Sura Yunus 10:58)

We should be a joyous people. All this stuff has happened out there. Islamophobia and all this other stuff is happening. Depression, suicide, we went through the whole gamut and the first khutba. We still should be a joyous people, because we have faith in our heart, because we have belief in the Hereafter, because we know no matter how bad things get in this world, if we patiently persevere, if we struggle and we forge on, then we’re opening the gates for unimaginable bliss for the rest of eternity.

Eternal bliss. When we understand what eternity means, and we understand that everyone’s life in this world will end, young or old, rich or poor, black or white.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Sura Aal Imran 3:185)

Life Begins in The Hereafter

Everyone is going to die. Everybody’s going to die and so our life really begins when we die – in the big scheme of things, in the greater scheme of things – and once we die the gate is opened to eternity. This world is finite. Paradise and Hell are eternal.

خالدين فيها
dwelling therein forever

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
dwelling therein forever and ever

Either Hellfire. Not forever and ever for believers, but who wants to experience a second of that? Or Janna [The Garden]. That’s what it’s all about. And Allah Most High, in giving us faith, has blessed us and placed us on a path to Janna.

We have to nurture our faith, and cultivate our faith, and rejoice in our faith. “Let them rejoice in this. I is better than anything anyone could gather from the world.” What does it mean that someone gets all the cars? They have the whole collection. They have the 1965 Mustang all the way up to their 2018 Tesla. They have them and everything in between. They got the Rolls Royce, they got the Lamborghini, you name it. They even got the Bugatti.

They got the whole lineup. They have the whole residential lineup. They have the condo at Lake Merritt. They have their chateau in the Rocky Mountains, in Aspen. They have their home in the Hamptons that they never get to. They have the whole line up from the condo to the chateau to the the house in the Hamptons. Check everything on the list. They got it.

Wardrobe. They have it all. From the alligator shoes to whatever you’re supposed, if you have money. They got it. In the house in the Hamptons they have horses they never ride. Because they never get over there. But they got the horses, too. They got the house and they got the horse.

Faith Is Proof of Allah’s Love

What does it mean if they don’t have faith? What does it mean that as soon as they get the house with the horses and they’ve checked the final check the final box on the list, they die? People are deceived into thinking all this means something.

“If this world meant to Allah as much as a gnat’s wing,” do you know how small a gnat is? If it meant a gnat’s wing “He wouldn’t have given an arrogant rejecter a single drop of water to drink.” (Tirmidhi) Allah gives it freely to whomsoever He pleases.

He gives it to the Muslim. He gives it to the person who’s not a Muslim. He gives it to the rich. He gives it to the black. He gives it to the white. He gives it to those who come who inherit it and those who get it because they can throw a ball in a basket. He gives it freely to whomever He pleases.

But He only gives faith to those He loves. That’s why the believer rejoices. May Allah give us faith that leads us to rejoice no matter what is happening in the world, because we can look beyond the world. We can look at something that transcends the world. We can look at something more valuable than the world and everything in it.


The Wisdom of Suffering – Why We Suffer

“Why We Suffer” is a series that explores why there is suffering in the world, and how we should respond to evil according to Allah’s teachings. In this segment, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani speaks about why we experience difficulty.

Shaykh Faraz opens the session by exploring the reasons behind tests and trials, and how we can benefit from difficulty, tests and trails.

Trials tend to bring out the hidden virtues, or vices, in people. These trials serve as an examination, allowing us to realise our potential and limits as human beings. But most importantly, trials and difficulties are a means of  getting to know our Creator.

The purpose of these tests can be found in the following verse of the Qur’an:

  [He] who created death and life to test you, which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. (67:2)

Both the times of ease and times of difficulty teach us more about Allah and His different attributes, and help us build our connection to Him. Furthermore, they teach us that only Allah is in charge. When we experience suffering or some sort of difficulty, we are humbled to this reality.

Therefore, we are tested not just how we respond to the obvious tests of difficulty, but also how we respond to times of ease and success and happiness.

About the Series

Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Dean of Academics at SeekersHub Global) and our founder Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explain the Islamic understanding of why there are tests, trials, evil and suffering in this life. They address questions such as: What is the wisdom and purpose behind evil and suffering in this life? How should we respond to evil, suffering, tests, and trials? What are the spiritual teachings of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) to respond with trials?


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The Environment and the Qur’an – Living Green Series

The Living Green Series takes us through our responsibilities towards green living and environmental stewardship. In this segment, Shaykh Ali Hani speaks about what we know about environmental protection in the Qur’an.

Shaykh Ali Hani begins by speaks about the Arabic meaning of the word Bi’ah, or “natural environment”, referring to things that affect humans, and that humans affect it. It includes the plants, animals, people and water bodies.

The Qur’an tells us that the universe has been made for us, meaning that the creation of the natural environment is deeply linked to our existence in their earth. We also know that Allah has made us people Khalifa, or Vice-regent, representing Allah on this earth.

In another verse, it is mentioned that our purpose in life is to worship Allah. This is not just for devotions like prayer and fasting, but also includes being kind and gentle, and treating others well. However, the greatest act of worship is to know Allah.

Allah created the universe with precision, perfection and order. It is in constant worship of Allah, and always obedience to His commands. Similarly, we are commanded act according to His law. We must use what He had given us in moderation, and in a way that is in harmony with the universe.

The human race is distinct from the rest of the natural environment, because it is blessed with an intellect and rational reasoning. A true believer uses this intellect to fix problems in the environment, and fears to even kill an ant, knowing that Allah is watching him.

About the Series

What is the place of green and environmental stewardship in Islam? How does the Qur’an view concern for the environment?  What is your responsibility towards the environment? Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin and Shaykh Ali Hani answer these are other critical questions by citing several prophetic traditions emphasizing environmental consciousness and awareness.


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Reconnecting With Family–Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah, now a mother of two, looks back at her Eid al-Adha, spent reconnecting with her estranged father.

Last Eid, my eldest daughter turned two. This year, she is three, and is now a proud big sister. My youngest daughter just turned 7 months. Alhamdulilah, this Eid, I am now a mother of two. I am elated. I am exhausted. I am grumpy. I am grateful.
I live with my mother-in-law, husband, and our two little girls in a green, leafy suburb in Malaysia. A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law, may Allah preserve her, reminded me to invite my father over for Eid. My initial response, as always, was mild panic. My parents divorced ten years ago after a tumultuous marriage. I didn’t want him to spend another Eid alone, but I still felt a little nervous.

Trying to Reconcile

So, I procrastinated for as long as I could, then casually asked him to spend Eid with us. And then he caught the overnight bus from Singapore to meet us in time. My eldest daughter was so excited to see her only grandfather, and my youngest gave him coy smiles from the safety of my arms. I am embarrassed I took so long to ask him, and I am so grateful for my mother-in-law’s commitment to family ties.
There was a time where I could not imagine ever reconciling with my father, but anything is possible through Allah’s Help. Falling pregnant changed everything. My husband’s father had passed away even before we got married, and so the only grandfather my unborn child would have would be my father. I wanted him to be part of my baby’s life. I decided then, with my husband’s encouragement, to give reconciliation another try. Our last attempt did not end well, but I knew we had to give it another shot.

Sharing the Joy

When I called him to share the good news, he was overjoyed. He posted me what must be the first edition of “Every Woman”, enthusiastically instructed me to consume green smoothies and walk like a duck towards the end of my pregnancy. It wasn’t all peachy, though. In my first trimester, I described to him how exhausted I felt. His WhatsApp responses were in excitable capital letters describing how my tiredness was nothing in comparison to the next two decades of child-rearing! I cried, told my husband what happened, took a break, and then resumed WhatsApp checks in with my father with only positive pregnancy updates.
Now that I am a mother, I understand how difficult it is to know that your child is hurting. Not all parents know how to self-regulate, keep calm, and validate your child’s pain – especially from the generation that came before the trend of self-care. I take the lesson from this – even though I cannot protect my daughters from pain, I can try to be there for them, as calmly and as compassionately as I can. My father did his best too, with what he knew. And so, one step forward, many steps back, rinse, repeat, and back again – this has been our dance of reconciliation since my first daughter was born over three years ago.

When he came yesterday to visit both my daughters, our Eid felt complete. My eldest daughter excitedly gave him a tour of our garden, showed him her books, and delighted him by eagerly eating durian while she sat next to him. He laughed as she licked the durian seed clean. My youngest daughter grinned at him from the playmat while she made tentative back-and-forth attempts at crawling towards him. “She is another extrovert! An alert baby,” he declared proudly.

Moving Forward

I was putting my youngest baby to sleep, and my husband sent me a photo of my eldest daughter praying behind my father. In this shot, she is wearing a mini prayer garment and looking up at him with the adoration only a grandchild can have for a grandfather. This is a balm for all of our weary hearts. It took me the birth of my daughter to find my way back to my father. Allahu Akbar.

Please make dua for my family, especially my father. Please pray that if it is khayr, that Allah reunites him with all of his estranged children, and their children, before the day he leaves this earth. And if that is not khayr, please pray that he will reunite with them in the Garden, where there is no more pain. May Allah grant us contentment with His Decree.

This Eid, may you also be blessed with beautiful reunions.


Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.


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How the Ihya Overcame Apartheid–Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Mishkat Media have produced a wonderful interview with Shaykh Seraj Hendricks on the deep influence of Imam al Ghazali in Cape Town, and the Shaykh’s own role in the struggle against apartheid.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks is among the third generation of scholars who have been teaching the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences) in South Africa. The Ihya is a 40-volume work on Islamic ethics, spirituality, and religious practice, written by the great Imam Ghazali. It has gained fame not as a manual of Islamic law, but because of its essential focus on spirituality and purification of the self. Shaykh Seraj’s grandfather was reportedly the first man to bring the book to the lands, where he was delegated to teach it.

Shaykh Seraj’s first exposure to the Ihya series, was the Book on Halal and Haram, which was when he was eighteen. He found himself fascinated by it. While studying psychology in university, he interviewed a scholar called Shaykh Mahdie, who was in his seventies. Shaykh Mahdie mentioned that he had just finished his 20th reading of the Ihya. Later on, Shaykh Seraj learned that it was part of the litanies of the Ba’lawi spiritual path, to do 20 readings of the Ihya in a lifetime.

In this interview, he speaks of the Ihya and its effects on the South African communities. Religious scholarship was established when the Dutch colonisers exiled many Muslims leaders to South Africa. Rather than cutting off the spread of Islam, ot served to establish a small community, whose leaders painstakingly kept up their religious practices. They dedicated rooms in their houses for worship, and kept up the readings of Sura Yasin and the litanies of the B’lawi tariqa, with their love for spirituality and connecting with Allah. In this way, Islam survived through slavery and colonialism. However, it still had to suffer through apartheid.

The Muslims were heavily involved in the struggle against apartheid. Shaykh Seraj himself was imprisoned briefly for his role in the movement. While in prison, he was invited by other prisoners to give a talk in the prison square. He began preaching that Muslims should not harbour hostility to others, even to the prison guards. He then turned to the prison guard in charge, and reminded him that oppression is not limited to a particular group, but is a mindset build on prejudice, and that the guard, a dehumanized being, needed their help as much as anyone else to overrule oppression. The guard got angry and threatened to shoot.

Shaykh Seraj finishes the interview with encouraging all Muslims to support institutions that teach Islam, in order to overcome personal and societal barriers.

 


Posted with gratitude to Mishkat Media. Connect with Shaykh Seraj Hendricks at Azzavia Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa.


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Change Happens: Qur’anic Principles for Social Change–Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What is change? How does change happen? What is the purpose of change? What are the spiritual and worldly keys to change—for the individual, for groups, for communities, and for believers?

In the first part of the series, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani speaks about the definition of change, reform, and rights.

What is Change?

There is not, in fact, any intrinsic benefit mentioned in the Qur’an about change. Rather, we are called upon to change from an undesired state to a desired one, in accordance to what Allah has deemed to be good and true. Not only are we responsible to change our own states, but we also have  a social responsibility to have concern for the greater societal good.

Furthermore, we are taught about reform (islah). Something is considered to be reformed when it is free of harm. Therefore, a righteous person is called a salih, or someone who had made a personal change and fixed themselves.

We also have a definition for good. We have a moral criteria, we do not believe that good is relative. For example, just because someone is very rich, does not mean that we can steal from them. Allah has upheld justice, and His justice is not punitive. Rather, it is restorative. Justice entails that we are required to give everyone their rights, and deal with them in the best possible way.

Some obligations comes through choice, while others are circumstantial. For example, after choosing to get married, it is our duty to do well by our spouse. However, if we see someone bleeding on the sidewalk, it is our responsibility to help them, even if we haven’t been the cause of their injury.

In conclusion, we see social change as a responsibility, not as a whim-based function. We should be having a sense of responsibility to work to improve the lives of the poor or oppressed, rather than waiting until a picture goes viral.


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The Great Event: Sura al Waqi’a Explained – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a thematic study of this Sura, its explanation (tafsir), key lessons, and how to grow one’s relationship with Allah through deepening one’s understanding and relationship with this great Sura.

Sura al Waqi’ah is one of the most beloved and most recited Suras of the Qur’an. This is because of the sense of urgency and opportunity it conveys.

This Sura has three main themes:

The Resurrection

The first theme, found in verses 1-56, described the amazing awe-inspiring power of the Resurrection, as well as the various stations which all people will be in.

The resurrection is a reality. It has been said, “If the light of faith were in your heart, the hereafter would be so real that you wouldn’t feel the need to travel to it.” There are two types of disbelief in the Hereafter; the explicit denial, and lesser denial. The latter involves a lifestyle that does not act as if the Hereafter exists. We should nurture a sense of reality of the hereafter, to give us the sense of urgency that we need to ensure that we take this life seriously.

Proofs of the Resurrection

The second theme, found in verses 57-80, speak about the rational proofs of the Resurrection.

Modern science usually argues that there is no Creator, However, we believe that things cannot create themselves, and we have many proofs in the Qur’an and in other places. The human being is like a plant, nurtured by reflection and watered by remembrance. If bereft of these, the faith could shrivel and die. Therefore, we have a duty to learn more about our beliefs. If a society isn’t firmly rooted in their faith, the faith can leave when in testing times.

During and After Death

The third theme, from verses 81-96, speaks about the state of a person during and after death.

After death, there are many types of people. The ones brought near, will have joy and ease in Paradise. There will also be those of the right hand, who will be greeted with good. As for the one who denied, they will be in Hellfire.

All  blessings are from Allah, even life itself. We must respond to these blessings while we still have time. However, Allah asks us why we only look at these blessings when we are close to dying, or when we see someone else die, even though Allah is closer to us than anyone else.  Closeness to Allah is not an issue of distance, but in the sense that He sustains everything, at all times.


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The Position of Culture in Islam – Dr Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

Is Islam and the culture mutually exclusive? Or can Islam enrich an existing culture?

What is a Cultural Imperative?

As Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah explains, good cultural conventions have the power of law. They are given the same priority that law has, as long as they do not actually contradict Islamic law. Unfortunately, this is an idea that we have lost over the past 200 years.

This does not, of course, mean that we begin to drink alcohol if we come to a culture in which alcohol is prevalent. This only applies to cultural practices which agree with the rules we follow as Muslims. What this means is that Muslims are never aliens, no matter where they go. This was the way Muslims lived for a thousand years. This is why scholars called Islam a crystal clear river; because it is pure and clear, reflecting the color of the bedrock.

Therefore, if the culture was Chinese, Islam would look Chinese. If the culture was Indian, Islam would look Indian. If it goes to Europe, Islam would look European–such as Bosnian culture, which was a beautiful European Muslim culture, destroyed during the genocide.

Story of the Ethiopians in the Masjid

In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, a group of Ethiopians came to Medina to meet their Prophet for the first time. They fasted the month of Ramadan, and on Eid day, they celebrated with the people of Medina. Filled with joy, they began singing in the masjid, beating drums and dancing with spears. When Umar ibn al Khattab tried to stop them, thinking that it was disrespectful behaviour, the Prophet intervened and told the Ethiopians to keep playing.

This teaches us that African Muslims remain Africans. Just because they become Muslims, does not make them any less African.

The Mosques of China

In China, there are many mosques that beautifully reflect the cultural customs of those times and places. For example, in the city of Shiyan in Northeastern China, there is a mosque with a rather short minaret. In China at that time, the Chinese culture did not like tall buildings in the central Confucian area. To respect that, the Chinese Muslims built a minaret that suited their purpose, but was in line with the cultural customs at that time. In addition, the mosques were surrounded by the gardens with the traditional Chinese designs, designed to bring peace and comfort to the heart. By passing through the gardens, people became prepared to enter the mosque ready and focused for prayer.
Beyond architecture, Chinese Muslims used their culture in many others ways. For example, they refined Arabic calligraphy in a way that suited the Chinese pen, writing phrases like, “There is no God but Allah,” and the 99 Names of God, from top to bottom, using the unique Chinese brush strokes.

Indonesia and Malaysia

The first mosques in Indonesia and Malaysia were built with the structures of the Sacred Mountains in mind. These structures were compromised of four pillars, and three or more layers of roofing, and were always used to built temples. By using these structures to build their mosques, the Muslims were able to have a mosque that was respected as a sacred place in line with the customs at the time. This did not mean that their religion was compromised in any way.
They would also build huge drums outside the mosques. In the forest-thick areas, voices could not be heard, and neither could the adhan. The people’s culture had developed a complex drum language, which could be heard for miles. In this way, the Muslims were able to call people to pray with the drums, although they would also call the adhan to fulfill the Sunnah.
There are pools of water in the mosque courtyards, in which the people had to wade through before entering the mosque. In the rice-paddy civilization, the peasants would spend a lot of time in muddy fields, and mud would be spread wherever they walked. Rather that to have an enforcer yelling at people to clean themselves, which would deter them from coming again, the Muslims decided to build the pools instead, which would ensure that the mosque remained clean without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Islam and Culture

Muslims are not cultural predators, and Islam has not come to destroy culture. The governing concept was, “unity in diversity.” Today, cultures are being destroyed through the global mono-culture, which is not a culture. Because of this, usually the way we dress doesn’t carry a specific message of our identity.


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Faith is Believing, Not Feeling – Dr. Ingrid Mattson

There may be times when we feel that we aren’t benefiting from our faith. But true faith is when we still believe that Allah will do what He has promised. In this address, Dr. Ingrid Mattson explains this concept in relation to the believer’s heart, mind, and actions.

How can Faith Benefit Me?

If faith is so beneficial, why are so many Muslims hurting each other? And why are they hurting?

When we see people who have hurt, we need to realize that many people have developed habits to help them survive in difficult times. These habits could come in the form of anger, dependency, and distancing themselves from others.  Rather than rush to judge them, we should rush to support them in their physical, mental and spiritual rehabilitation. Furthermore, we should strive to change the difficult and unjust circumstances that made them the way they were. Our faith tells us that we have been created whole, not broken, receptive to Allah and what He determines to be good. We have the inmate potential to connect with Him, and feel like we are coming home.

Depression: A Spiritual Disorder?

One of the fruits of our faith, is that it gives us happiness and hope, both in this world and in the next. But does that mean that a person who despairs because of depression or a related mental illness, is sinful or has low faith?

No, because someone who loses hope because of a mental condition, is not the same as someone who believes that there is no meaning to life from a philosophical or intellectual viewpoint. A person can have faith and be depressed as an emotional state, but not a spiritual state. Depression is not a spiritual illness, but a psychological and an emotional one. The real test is for the ones who do not suffer from those conditions, to support those who do have them. The onus is on those who are capable, not on those who are not.


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Ours Is Not A Caravan of Despair: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

True joy lies within the heart, and it is unshakeable. Every breath, heartbeat, and moment is a gift from Allah.not a caravan of despair

Knowing that happiness comes from Allah, we should keep in mind that suffering and hardship come from the same Lord.

An Alternative Perspective

But how can there be joy in hardship? This is where the believer sees things differently. We know that there is a Hereafter, and that we find mercy in the response. When we find oppression, difficulty and distress, we know that is it an opportunity to turn to Allah.

With any situation, our question should be; “How can I be a truly grateful servant? What is the response of gratitude?” Through prayer, charity, advocacy and gathering with others, we work to find a solution. Rather than be a social commentator, we should connect with those who are suffering, and work to improve their lot. Through action we can truly express our gratitude.

The question we need to ask is not, “Why are things the way they are?” Rather the question is, “What is the response required from me?”

See Allah in Everything

One of the poets said, “If you see God as the actor in everything, you behold all creation as beautiful. But if all you see are the traces of His creation, you turn something dazzlingly beautiful into something ugly.”

In the Qur’an, it has been revealed that, “For indeed, with hardship comes ease. Indeed, with hardship comes ease.” (94:4-5). Rather than being told that ease comes after hardship, we are told that it comes with hardship. Allah is not telling us that ease is coming; He is telling us that ease is here.

May Allah grant us to see the opportunity for mercy, good, gratitude, direction, and positivity in every situation. After all, ours is not a caravan of despair.


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