Playing Kids, Praying Adults: A Taraweeh Lesson – Saad Razi Shaikh

Ramadan is a good time to teach children. And to learn from them.

 

Those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good. (3:134)

Sometime in early Ramadan, our blessed mosque was hit with an expected Taraweeh problem. This was a menace many foresaw, but few had the stomach to tackle it. The problem was of children. Yes, children running around Taraweeh, screaming their lungs out, creating a racket not unlike birds on an early morning. Elders were distraught, they were bound by the obligation to be kind to children, while at the same time they desired a hassle-free Taraweeh. It took two spirited warnings from the Imam to cut the din out and restore some normality. Save for the odd kid, still merrily gliding from the stair rails, the prayers went about with little disturbance.

My own thoughts on the matter were torn between two urges. The first was to show patience and mercy to the kids. The next, more pressing desire, was to send them back home. Surely, there had to be some decorum in the mosque? Kids need to be taught by their parents as much, I reasoned. Otherwise, how on earth were the worshipers supposed to pray? The mosque would not be reduced to a child’s playground.

But this line of argument couldn’t hold for long. If the children were not praying, rather playing during the prayers, it was because they did not know any better. Their nature was not attuned to silence and attention, and they fell easy prey to distraction. One mischievous glance would bounce off from one child to the other, an elbow jab, a back slap, all before it would spread into a full-blown pandemonium. The children were just acting upon their distractions.

Acting upon their distractions. These words stuck to my mind, for they made me uncomfortable. As an adult, I knew the importance of the prayers. I knew the importance of attention. I had been taught the manners regarding the prayer. Yet my prayers were far from perfect. At the spiritual level, particularly retaining to attention and reflection, I knew my prayers fell well short of the desired levels. Was it not true that my mind wavered often? On particularly tiring days, did my attention not slacken? The more I reflected on my own shortcomings, the more the noise of the children receded away from my mind. For while both the children and I were distracted, falling woefully short in our prayers, the distraction of the children was visible. Mine wasn’t. That was the lone difference between us.

Imam Ghazali, in his characteristic brilliance, mentioned in ‘The Beginning of Guidance’ that one shouldn’t see oneself as being superior to anyone else, even children. He writes:

‘If you see a child, you should say [to yourself], “This child has not transgressed against Allah, and I have, so certainly he is better than me.”

‘If you see an ignorant person, say, “This person has transgressed against Allah most high in ignorance, while I have done so knowingly, so Allah’s evidence against me is greater. And what do I know about what my final state [at death] will be and what his state will be?’

This short piece is not intended as a manual on how to go about dealing with children in mosques. Rather, it is about how the pulls and the triggers of everyday can serve as a means to check ourselves, who we are and where we are in our standing with our Lord. We often fall prey to the slightest provocations, the slightest turn away from the expected norm. Things often ‘rub us the wrong way’. Ire is predictable as the first line of reaction. But if we restrain for a moment, and prevent the worst of our impulses from bursting out, we could look into the clues the situation is providing us.

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, I was sent to perfect good character.Ramadan is the perfect month to better ourselves, to begin anew, to hold our tongues, to watch what we do, to reflect on what can be the better course of action. If the kids are creating a racket, perhaps it’s a test to see which one of us will show mercy to them, which one of us will rise to the Prophetic ethos and show the best of character. It’s easy to lose our patience, if not our minds. But as the Prophet ﷺ reminded us, ‘Circumspection brings nothing but the good.’ We need to remember this, in thought and action. We need to be those who remember the rank of forbearance, as ‘forbearance (hilm) is the best of character’. And that’s a struggle. But without the inner struggle, how will we improve?  

These are reflections, meant as a reminder, a ‘pull-up-your-socks’ moment first and foremost for my own self. Would I be more comfortable with silence during prayers? Certainly. Would I have improved as a person if the calmness of my own mind overcomes the noises outside it? Most certainly. This is the aim, Inshallah. And Ramadan is a great time to intend it sincerely, in thought and practice. May Allah make us those who are patient, who are kind, who are attuned to the Prophetic ethos, particularly in showing mercy, to ourselves and to others.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

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

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

 


Biography:

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


 

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

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

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

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

A Special Relationship

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

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

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

The Reason for this Creation

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Imam in All Things

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

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

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

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

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

Strive In Imitation of Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Degrees of Fasting – Imam al Ghazali

This is Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s translation of the passage on the three degrees of fasting from the Ihya of Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al Ghazali.

It should be known that there are three degrees of fasting: ordinary, special and extra-special.

Ordinary fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction.

Extraordinary Fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet – and all other organs – free from sin.

Perfect Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world.

Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya, and the intimates of Allah. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than Allah, Exalted is He.

It is bound up with the significance of His words:

قُلِ اللَّـهُ ۖ ثُمَّ ذَرْهُمْ فِي خَوْضِهِمْ يَلْعَبُونَ

Say: “Allah,” then leave them to their vain play. (Sura al An‘am 6:91)

Inward Requirements

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one’s organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment.

See Not What Displeases Allah

A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be Allah’s curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of Allah will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.”

Jabir relates from Anas that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Five things break a man’s Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.”

Speak Not What Displeases Allah

Guarding one’s tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and with recitation of Qur’an. This is the fasting of the tongue.

Said Sufyan: “Backbiting annuls the Fast.” Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: “Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.”

The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: ‘I am Fasting, I am Fasting!’”

According to Tradition: “Two women were Fasting during the time of Allah’s Messenger, , blessings and peace be upon him. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were on the verge of collapsing.

They therefore sent a message to Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, requesting permission to break their Fast. In response, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, sent them a bowl and said: “Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten.”

One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!”

Hear Not What Displeases Allah

Closing one’s ears to everything reprehensible, for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why Allah, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer. In His words, Exalted is He:

سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ أَكَّالُونَ لِلسُّحْتِ

Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain. (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:42)

Allah, Great and Glorious is He, also said:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit? (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:63)

Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. God, Exalted is He, said:

إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِّثْلُهُمْ

You are then just like them. (Sura al Nisa 4:140)

That is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “The backbiter and his listener are partners in sin.”

Guarding the Limbs

Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to Fast – to abstain from lawful food – only to break one’s Fast on what is unlawful.

A man who fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. Lawful food is injurious in quantity not in quality. Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison.

The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess. The object of Fasting is to induce moderation.

Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!” This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.

Avoid Overeating

Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one’s belly. There is no receptacle more odious to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.

Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering Allah’s enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?

It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together. It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety.

If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The Secret Nature of Fasting

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are Satan’s means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one’s intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting.

No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined. Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one’s powers, with the consequent purification of the heart.

One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (awrad). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one’s heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.

Laylat al Qadr

The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God, Exalted is He:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.’ (Sura al Qadr 97:1)

Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He.

That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.

Look To God With Fear And Hope

After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one’s Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with God, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors. This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.

It is related of Al Hasan ibn abi al Hasan al Basri, that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: “Allah, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By Allah, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.”

Rather it is the one whose fast is accepted who should be in too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while one who has suffered rejection laughter should be precluded by remorse.

Of Al Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told: “You are an aged elder. Fasting would enfeeble you.” But he replied: “By this I am making ready for a long journey. Obedience to Allah, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.”


How Do We Know When Ramadan Starts? – Shaykh Rami Nsour

Shaykh Rami Nsour discusses how one determines when the month of Ramadan enters and the differences of opinions on the matter.

He brings up the debate concerning actual sightings versus calculation, and mentions that the discussion has a long history, but emphasizes that disagreements concerning these methods should not cause harsh words or the breaking of bonds.

Shaykh Nsour reminds us that the spirit of our faith is to accept differences of opinion in a broad range of subjects and to always seek conciliation and grace.

Our focus should be on the point of Ramadan which is to get closer to Allah through our worship.


With gratitude to Shakyh Rami Nsour and Tayba Foundation.


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

Talk about Islam with Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Episode 2) – What is the purpose of life?

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

 

Osama: Salam ‘alaykum Shaykh Hamza, As always, it’s a great blessing to be talking to you. In our previous conversation, we talked about the concept of religion, it’s relevance, and the experiential and logical proofs for it. Today, as a follow-up to that conversation, I’d like to pose a more practical question to you: What is the purpose of life?

Shaykh Hamza: Wa ‘alaykum salam Osama. I’m happy to be talking to you again! Let’s start in the same way as our last conversation: define your terms! When you ask, “What is the purpose of life,” what, in your mind, do you mean by purpose and and what do you mean by life?

Osama: Of course, that is a pertinent reminder. When I use the term purpose, I mean: the reason for which something is done or created, or, the reason for which something exists.

Shaykh Hamza: Okay great, let’s start with purpose; so you’ve defined the word purpose as, the reason for which something is done, created, or for which something exists. Now, someone who asks what the purpose of life is, and uses purpose to mean what you have just said, often doesn’t realize that he thereby presupposes many things. For example, someone who asks the question, “What is the purpose of life,” and means by purpose, “the reason for which something is done,” this person presupposes that life is something that has been done by someone for some reason. In the back of his mind, he is accepting that there is someone, a doer, a volitional agent who made the the phenomenon of life for some reason. Someone who says purpose is “the reason for which something is created,” (the second part of your definition) goes even further to presuppose that this doer, or volitional agent who made the phenomenon of life is God. The latter part of your definition, however–“the reason for which something exists”–does not explicitly reveal this presupposition. People who have this latter part of the definition of purpose in their minds may or may not presuppose that there is a Creator or Maker of life. Aristotle, for example, believed that all things exist for a reason that is embedded within them and that this reason drives them towards a particular end. He called this reason the “final cause” (telos) of things, and it was one of four kinds of causes that he postulated drove things in the world to change. I won’t dwell on these four causes now, but I will may have to return to some of them later as we will try to understand why a scientific understanding of the universe is often incorrectly equated with a purposeless understanding of the universe. So Aristotle believed that it was these final causes within things that gave them their purpose, not God. Aristotle did believe in God, but not in the same way that we do. More on that at a later point in our conversation, in sha’ Allah.

Osama: Sidi, these days a lot of people in the West do not believe in God, and most have not read anything about Aristotle. Don’t you think the presuppositions of modern people about the term purpose will be different to the ones that you have highlighted so far?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, most people today would have different presuppositions about the term purpose because we live in a post-Enlightenment and postmodern world that is heavily influenced by a worldview grounded in modern scientific reasoning that seeks to explain the universe without any reference to God.  So today, when people ask the question, “What is the purpose of life?” they are most likely  not asking from the perspective of someone who believes in God, nor are they asking from the perspective of Aristotle, rather they are probably asking from the perspective of modern science. But I think that Aristotle is still important because people’s perspective today has its roots in a reaction to a Christianized Aristotelianism.

Osama: Can you elaborate on the relationship between modern science and this “Christianized Aristotelianism”?

Shaykh Hamza: Good question! To answer this properly, I’ll need to give you a brief history of modern science so that you can appreciate how we got to where we are now. Modern science came out of a period in the history of Western Europe called the ”Enlightenment.” I am saying quote-unquote “Enlightenment” in quotation marks because true “Enlightenment” comes from the light of Allah Most High that He sends through His prophets–”Allah is the protector of the believers: He takes them out of the darknesses into light.” (Qur’an, 2:256) “Into light”–in other words, He enlightens them. I think I talked about this period in our previous conversation, right?

Osama: Yes, I recall that you mentioned to me that this was a period in Western history in which oppressive and corrupt religion was displaced, through revolution in some places and gradual movements in other places, because oppressive religious state structures in Europe wronged people by denying them property rights, trapping most of them in a life of serfdom in which they were bought and sold with the land they belonged to, wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few people, and religious people would use religion to become wealthy.

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, and in this conversation, I want to tell you something else about this period. Not only was this a period when the Christian Church was corrupt, it was also a period when it forcibly imposed a view of the universe that was, scientifically speaking, wrong. It taught by religious and political writ that the earth was at the center of the universe and that everything else–the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars–revolved around it. It took this position of Aristotle and “Christianized” it. (We’ll talk more about that later.) A number of scientists (most notably Copernicus and Galileo) challenged this view based on empirical evidence, but the Christian Church used its political authority to persecute and silence them. When, during the Enlightenment, the political power of the Church was taken away, scientists gained the freedom to use their minds and do science, and so science began to flourish. That’s what brought us to the world that we live in today.

Osama: I see, so from the perspective of the scientists, it seems that the Age of Enlightenment truly was, to a certain degree a period of “enlightenment” because it allowed intellectuals to reasonably question and critically examine the dogmatic teachings of the Church in order for the truth to prevail, right?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, it was “enlightening” from the perspective that it sought to critically evaluate the dogmatic teachings of the Church, but the reactionary nature of the Enlightenment movement led to a hyper-correction in which things went from one extreme to another one. So they took steps towards enlightenment, but they never got there.

Osama: I learned from your “Introduction to Logic” course how Aristotelianism became a part of Christian theology by passing first through the Muslim world, and then from there to Christian Europe. I think that the introduction of Aristotelianism into Christianity–what you just called a “Christianized Aristotelianism”– led to the downfall of the state-sponsored Church in the Enlightenment. I think that Christian scholars, despite their intention to prove as valid the beliefs forwarded by their religion through rational means, failed to recognise the false-truths that were “unprovable” through rational means, like for example, the Trinity, which Christians to this day have a tough time explaining.  This type of blind imitation that rejects the rules of correct reasoning, I estimate, is exactly what the Quran asks us to abandon, when God urges us to use our intellects. I would argue that this type of intellectual reasoning, which sought to prove the validity of a religion that had admixed within it falsehood, and that had no access to preserved revelation, must have been what led to the development of tension between the Christian theologians and empirical scientists; and this is probably what brought about the Age of Enlightenment in the West. Scientists like Copernicus and Galileo must have justifiably been opposed to the authoritative imposition of incorrect intellectual and scientific positions. Now, I think that in their zeal to rid their society of false, corrupt, and oppressive religion, the Enlightenment scholars must have opposed anything that sought to justify it; hence Aristotelianism too must have become a victim of their justifiable and long overdue intellectual onslaught of false and unjust religion, namely Christianity.

Shaykh Hamza: Exactly! Alright, now that we understand why a non-religious scientific perspective has become the prevailing worldview that modern people–sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously–ascribe to, let’s return to our discussion of what pre-modern Western intellectuals would have presupposed of the term purpose. You should keep in mind that the incorrect scientific positions that the Church upheld were actually directly taken from the natural philosophy of Aristotle — that is why I mentioned him at the beginning of our conversation. One of the aspects of this natural philosophy that the Church found theologically useful was its emphasis on final causes (teleos) –the purposes of things, which I explained to you at beginning of our conversation too. We saw earlier that Aristotle believed that the purposes of things were embedded within them, and drove those things to change and realize their purposes. The Church appropriated this view of the universe from Aristotle and it interpreted the final causes of things in a way that was consistent with its own belief in God, which was very different from the way Aristotle believed in God. For Aristotle, God was like an inanimate cause that didn’t have a will, that didn’t have any volition, that couldn’t choose to do anything, from which the universe necessarily followed just like burning follows from fire. For the Church, on the other hand, God actually created the universe, so He was someone who acted out of His free-Will (this is also what we believe and also what Jews believes). So the Church took Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and the universe was interpreted to be a universe that God had designed with purposes that it was meant to fulfill. Now, Aristotle also believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, so they appropriated that, too, and made it part of their religious belief that the Earth’s being at the center of the universe reflects the fact that human beings are the most special creation of God.

Osama: Is this an illustration of why the science-versus-religion debate began in the Western world? It seems that the scientists were at odds with Christianity, and by extension Aristotelianism too, as it was used as a tool by the Church to prove its own theology and philosophy.

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, so when scientists challenged the Church on scientifically incorrect beliefs like the earth being at the center of the universe, science and the Church became enemies, and that’s why the science-religion debate exists in the Western world. Aristotelianism, too, became an enemy of the scientists by both virtue of its conflict with science and by virtue of its historical association with the Church that forced its natural philosophy on others. Because of this enmity with the Church and with its accompanying Christianized Aristotelianism, scientists sought to understand the world in a way that was devoid of God and final causes. They said that they wanted to understand things not in terms of their final causes, the purposes that the Church had taught were embedded by God within them, but instead in terms of what Aristotle called the efficient cause.

Osama: I understand what you mean by the term final cause, but what do you mean by efficient cause?

Shaykh Hamza: The efficient cause was another one of the four causes that Aristotle believed in, and scientists sought to emphasise the efficient causes of things in the universe over their final causes in order to remove God and final causes from the philosophical–or, in a modern idiom, the scientific— analysis of the universe. Let me explain the difference between the efficient cause and the final cause. The efficient cause comes before its effect whereas the final cause comes after. Let’s say, for example, that I feel cold and so, in order to become warm, I wear my warm coat. The efficient cause of my wearing my warm coat is my feeling cold. My feeling cold (the efficient cause) comes before I wear my coat (the effect). My final cause, or purpose, or the reason why I wear my coat, however, is so that I can thereby become warm. My becoming warm (the final cause) comes after I wear my coat (the effect). The efficient cause drives me to wear my coat and if I am driven by a purpose (as all sane human beings are), then my purpose in wearing the coat (the final cause) is realized by doing the action, by my wearing my coat. So the final causes come after, and reflects the motive of the doer, and the efficient cause reflects the thing that drives someone to do it. In Aristotelianism, everything in the universe is alive and driven by purposes, similar to the way that human beings are. The seed has a purpose, a final cause, embedded into it. Its purpose, its final cause is to become a tree. And it has efficient causes that drives it towards becoming a tree–water, soil, and sunlight. Scientists who studied the universe sought to rid our analysis of the universe from these final causes, which were emphasized by the church in order to highlight the action of God, and focus solely on efficient causes. They thus got rid of both the oppressive Church and the irrational Aristotelianism.

Osama: This is an important discussion because one can definitely notice these subtleties when one studies science in college. We are not taught why the sun shines, or why flowers grow, or why it rains, but rather the emphasis is always on how the sun shines, or what makes flowers grow, or how it rains. The “why” question seems to be either ignored, or left for you to figure out for yourself, or is left for philosophy or religion. It seems like, as you pointed out, this is due to science focusing only on the efficient causes behind phenomena as opposed to its final cause.

Shaykh Hamza: Correct, and the reason for this is that modern science was formed in the crucible of all these tensions in the Enlightenment period. To illustrate the point you made about the way science is taught in classrooms today, you will notice that when you learn that plants grow through a chemical reaction called photosynthesis, in which chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy that drives an endothermic chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water to produce glucose and oxygen, you don’t learn that God created plants so that livestock could graze on them so that, in turn, humans could benefit from the milk, meat, skin, and wool of those livestock (which is what the Qur’an, for example would tell us). You learn about efficient causes, but you don’t learn about final causes. Another example. When you study fire in your school science class, you learn that it is the visible effect of a chemical reaction called “combustion”, in which a flammable gas is ignited to begin an exothermic chemical reaction between that gas and between oxygen to produce water, carbon dioxide, and heat. You don’t learn that God made fire so that we could warm ourselves in the cold (as the Qur’an would tell us), cook food, and drive cars, trucks, and airplanes. You learn about efficient causes, but you don’t learn about final causes. This is what we do when we study science. We focus on efficient causes and try as best as we can to ignore final causes, to ignore any kind of purpose in the universe. (We are not always successful in this. Biology is a prominent example of our failure–it is impossible to understand the organs of the human body, for example, without reference to purpose.)

Osama: Shaykh Hamza, it seems like we have come to agree that the reason why modern people have presuppositions of the term purpose, which are grounded in an atheistic worldview influenced by scientism, is the because of the outcome that ensued due to the tension that existed between a Christianised Aristotelianism and the western scientific community prior to the Age of Enlightenment. We also seem to agree that the Enlightenment, was to a degree, enlightening because it freed western civilisation of false and oppressive religion, and allowed the western scientific community to finally pursue their intellectual endeavours without fear of persecution. I don’t see anything wrong with what happened in the Age of Enlightenment so far, what do you think went wrong?

Shaykh Hamza: Well, this modern scientific view of the universe is wrong, just as the preceding Christianized Aristotelian view of the universe was wrong. They are wrong in different ways, but they are both wrong. Deep down inside us, we all know that this modern scientific view of the universe is wrong. Despite the fact that our science classes teach us–sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly–that the things in the universe don’t happen for any purpose, that they just happen because a bunch of a atoms and molecules randomly (whatever that means!) bumped into each other, we still find ourselves asking the question, “What is the purpose of life?” The fact that we insist on asking this question despite our modern education reveals that we know deep down inside us that there is something fundamentally wrong with this view of the universe. The search for purpose is embedded into what Muslims call the fitra; it is embedded into our souls and primordial natures. Because of our fitra, our souls, our primordial natures, we instinctively search for purposes, and when science tells us that there is no purpose in the universe, only efficient causes, we know that there is something missing. That is why we ask about the purposes of things. That is why we ask about the purpose of life. My reading of the Enlightenment is that it  was also , in reality, motivated by a search for purpose because the Christianity of that time wasn’t doing its job for people–it wasn’t giving them purpose. So people saw in their fitra, in their souls, and in their primordial natures, that their purpose wasn’t being fulfilled and they were moved by the Enlightenment to discover the true purpose of their life. The trajectory their search for purpose took, however, went off-course. They missed Islam and hence missed discovering the purpose of their life. They went from one state of purposelessness (Christianity) to a state with even less purpose (modernism) to another state with even less purpose (postmodernism). Their search for purpose took them farther and farther from their purpose because they weren’t enlightened by the light of revelation.

Osama: There is a lot to unpack in what you  have said here. Why do you think the Enlightenment was motivated by a search for purpose?

Shaykh Hamza: Living in the Age of the Enlightenment wasn’t pleasant. It was a period of revolution and civil strife. One of the reasons why that strife happened was that people knew within them that the societies in which they lived didn’t fulfill the purpose of their lives. They knew that the dogma of the Church wasn’t fulfilling their purpose, so they sought to fulfill it themselves through their reason. That’s why the Age of Enlightenment is also called the Age of Reason, in which we were to free ourselves of religious dogma by not doing things because God told us to do them, but because we wanted to do them, This is what we call humanism.

Osama: Right, so civil strife and revolution was a symbolic of a deeper problem, which was that the dogmatic religious teachings of the Church weren’t fulfilling the purpose that human beings sought to fulfill, so in their search to fill this void, they resorted to humanism. What is humanism, what is its relation to the post-Enlightenment world, and to the larger question of purpose?

Shaykh Hamza: Humanism is centered around the human being. It is the idea that things should be seen from the perspective of “me” and “I” and how “I” as the human being in general can maximise my own benefit by using my reason. I use my reason to find prosperity, eliminate poverty, to spread tolerance, to attain happiness, good health, and longevity, to reduce the infant mortality rate, and so on. This is humanism. It produced the dreams of the Enlightenment. We went from an oppressive Church-oriented society, in which we felt upset, to this world, to the pursuit of these dreams. Now, these dreams are good, but they are not the purpose of our lives. As religious people, as Muslims, we want these good things, too. However, we were not created to achieve these dreams. We were created for God. When we look at our existence in this world through these dreams, we look at the world as though there is no afterlife. This leads to societies in which, once again, we know within us that the purpose of our lives is not being fulfilled. And, once again, we feel oppressed. This is how humanism relates to our larger question about purpose. As for the relationship of humanism with other post-Enlightenment ideas, let me give you a few reasons why it failed, and how western intellectuals resorted to other ways of thinking. Events of the 20th century have rudely woken us up from our dreams to reveal the senselessness, the purposelessness, and the oppression of our post-Enlightenment world of “reason”. 20 million people died in the four years of World War I, 80 million in the six years of World War II, and two nuclear bombs destroyed the entire cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of the deaths of the two world wars and the dozens of modern conflicts since then have shown that as a result of human reason, as a result of the science and technology that was born out of the Age of Reason, the Age of “Enlightenment”, as a result of that, “enlightened” human beings have killed more people in the last one hundred years than they have in thousands of years before that. We all know this. We recognize this. And the rude awakening that the dreams of the Enlightenment are not meant to be, has left us disappointed and pessimistic about the Enlightenment project. From this disappointment has come a way of thinking that we call Postmodernism. Modernism  is the Enlightenment. Postmodernism is after the Enlightenment when we lost confidence in the Enlightenment project.

Osama: Before you go on, let me confirm my understanding here with you. So what you have argued thus far is that the Enlightenment produced various expressions of thought like humanism that were broadly grouped under modernism, and the dreams and ideals modernity called us to, through the use of reason, weren’t fulfilled because these ideals too were not the purpose of our life. Instead, because we didn’t pursue the actual ideals that were meant to fulfill our purpose, we ended up with events like World War I and II, which eventually caused the western civilisation to lose hope in the project of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, as a result of which we find ourselves in a postmodern world, wherein the project of Enlightenment has been deemed to have failed. Am I following correctly thus far? If so, can you please explain what is postmodernism, and how does it relate to the larger question of purpose that we are investigating?

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, you’re with me so far. Now, postmodernism is a pessimistic view of human beings. It’s the view that anybody who has power is corrupt and must always be suspected of harboring a desire to benefit at the expense of those under his power. (Sounds like pre-Enlightenment Europe, doesn’t it? Can you see how we’ve come full circle?) The goal of postmodernism is to curb the power of anyone who has power, to never trust anyone who has any authority, and to have the individual freedom to do whatever you want, to say whatever you want, and to interpret things any way that you want. Postmodernism is explicitly non-rational (the opposite of the reason-oriented spirit of Enlightenment modernism) and also explicitly purposeless. That makes it very difficult to have a reasoned dialogue with a postmodernist. It also breeds a non-rational anger, frustration, and vindictiveness in its most ardent adherents. That anger, frustration, and vindictiveness becomes its purpose. It has many different manifestations. Feminism is a manifestation of Postmodernism. Post-colonialism is a manifestation of Postmodernism. The LGBTQ movement is a manifestation of Postmodernism. Many kinds of strange art and music are manifestations of Postmodernism. The list goes on. Enlightenment humanism sought purpose in the abandonment of religion under the guise of reason. That failed to fulfill the purpose of our lives because it focuses on this world and turns away from God and the afterlife. Postmodernism was an offshoot of Enlightenment humanism and sought purpose in the critique of power and the promotion of an extreme individualism that seeks to disturb the norms of surrounding societies and seeks to stand out, but that, too, hasn’t helped us find the purpose of our lives because it, too, focuses on this world and turns away from God and the afterlife. Our purpose is found in true religion, in the submission of our souls to God through the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and living this life for the afterlife. Where do we go from postmodernism? Maybe we are going to go to post-postmodernism (laughs) or maybe we will finally discover the revelation of Islam as being true (smiles).

Osama: Now, by mentioning that the revelation of Islam truly presents the world with a solution to its philosophical problems and  lack of purpose, you are bound to have many who are going to doubt this notion by pointing to history to say that religion has already failed us in the West, why should we trust it again?

Shaykh Hamza: Well, when we look back at the history of Western Europe and refer to the Age of Enlightenment as the Age of Reason we are saying that the Christian Church suppressed our reason and that we found enlightenment by using our collective social will to put an end to oppression and our minds to decide for ourselves what is best for us. The idea that the false dogma of the Church should not be accepted on authority, and that we find enlightened by using our reason is correct. But the idea that this happened in the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason is not correct. It didn’t happen then. It actually happened a thousand years before that time in the age of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), who called the ancient Arabians to turn away from the false dogma of the Qurashite idolatrous establishment, and to become enlightened by shining the light of divine revelation onto their lives and then using their enlightened reason (enlightened by divine revelation, in other words) to make choices that fulfilled the purpose of their lives. There are many, many verses in the Qur’an that tell us that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was sent to take believers out of the “darknesses” of disbelief into “light” of belief (e.g., Qur’an, 2:257, 5:16, 6:39, 13:16, 14:1, 14:5, and many others). There are also many, many verses that command us to use our minds. “Won’t you use your minds?”–afala ta‘qilun–is a common expression of censure that is mentioned at the end of more than a dozen verses. And the Arabian polytheists are frequently censured for clinging mindlessly to the customs of their ancestors and refusing to use their reason to discern the truth and follow it. There is not a single verse in the Quran that tells people not to use their minds, not to reason, not to think. Thinking and reasoning is what our religion is based on, and the first obligation of every human being is to use their mind, their reason to discern that God exists, that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is His messenger, and that God will resurrect us and bring us to judgment after we die. The first obligation of every human being, in other words, is to discover the purpose of their lives. Now, the Enlightenment thinkers also used their minds, but not to discover the purpose of their existence. They used their minds to expose the hypocrisy and contradictions of the Church institution and its beliefs. But they didn’t go all the way. They didn’t go on to use their minds to rationally show what the purpose of our lives is. They didn’t do that because their rational inquiry was not enlightened by the light of genuine divine revelation.

Osama: So you’re arguing that reason, when used correctly, is bound to lead human beings to recognise God and His true message to humanity?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, that is correct. A common analogy that Imam al-Ghazali and other scholars used to describe the relationship between revelation and reason is that revelation is like a light and reason is like the eyes. So if you go into the entrance of a dark cave and shine a light, then you can use your eyes to find your way, but if you enter without any light, then you will grope around in the dark and get lost. Allah sends us prophets and messengers to bring us revelation, which is a light that enlightens our minds to help us reason clearly. He tells us that that the Torah that He gave to the Prophet Moses (upon him be peace) contained “light” (Qur’an, 5:44), that the Evangel that He gave to the Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace) contained “light” (Qur’an, 5:46), and He tells us that he revealed a “light” to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) (Qur’an, 7:157), and that the Qur’an takes us out of darknesses into “light” (Qur’an, 14:1, 57:9, and 65:11). The Quran is a light because when you read it, it illuminates the way, and when you examine it, it makes sense. The Quran is guiding you to use your mind without any coercion and when you use this guidance and think correctly, you will independently come to the conclusion that Islam is true, Allah exists, and that He sent the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) as the last messenger. The Enlightenment thinkers were unable use their reason to discover the purpose of their lives because they weren’t enlightened. They didn’t have the light of revelation to enlighten their thinking and reasoning. You need the light of revelation in order to use your reason properly otherwise you will make mistakes. You might be correct on many conclusions, but you will make mistakes, not on every point–you might reach many correct and valuable conclusions–but on the things that really matter, the things that give purpose to our lives, you will make mistakes. There’s many good things that came out of the Enlightenment, just as there were good things that came from Aristotle before the Enlightenment. But enlightened thought requires revelation, and it is not possible for us to discover the purpose of our lives without recourse to revelation. In conclusion to our discussion about the Enlightenment, what I am saying is that calling what happened in Western Europe the “Age of Enlightenment” is a misnomer.

Osama: Why do you call the Age of Enlightenment a misnomer, especially, when it took the western world out from the dogmatic teachings of the Church?

Shaykh Hamza: It’s a misnomer because true enlightenment only comes through a mind that is enlightened by revelation. So when the mind is enlightened by revelation, the conclusions that it comes to will move a person to turn his soul towards the worship of Allah. It will move him to the fulfill the purpose for which he was created. In contrast, a mind that turns away from revelation and tries to be independent will grope about in the dark and make mistakes. Because it hasn’t been enlightened by revelation, it won’t see the light, it won’t know what it is supposed to go towards. This will end up destroying the soul by turning it towards the pursuit of worldly possessions — the “here-and-now” — and that pursuit is a feature of the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment has turned human beings away from focusing on God and the afterlife to focusing on the here-and-now, away from God to focusing on the human being, not as he was meant to be — someone who fulfills purpose of his life — but as someone who is focused on maximising pleasure and prosperity in this life.  Just look at the statistics: Canada, for example, is set to lose 9000 churches over the next decade because religion is no longer important to communities (link to: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/losing-churches-canada-1.5046812). Even though we believe that Christianity has been corrupted and has strayed from the original teachings of the Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace), it still officially promotes the ideal of living for God, for others, and for the afterlife, and goes against the Enlightenment ideal of the here-and-now, and the decline of those ideals in Canadian society is moving people even further from fulfilling the purpose of their lives.

Osama: If you hold the Age of Enlightenment to be a misnomer, do you have a different name that better describes that period in history?

Shaykh Hamza: A better name for what happened in Western Europe in this period is the “Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion”. So the Age of Enlightenment, in reality, was the “Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion”. If we, as Muslims, were to write a history of Europe, that is what we would call it. When “Enlightened” societies turned away from God, religion, and from focusing on the afterlife, they did this because false religion was being used to oppress people. They saw this and they turned away from it. They didn’t find enlightenment through false religion so they left all religion. The path to true enlightenment would have been to leave false religion and adopt true religion, enlighten the mind with the light of revelation to take the soul towards the purpose for which it is created, namely to love, adore, and worship Allah, and to focus on the afterlife. But that path–on a large-scale, at least–has not yet been taken. I want to emphasize here that the Age of Enlightenment–as Western historians would call it–or the Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion–as we would call it–wasn’t bad or evil. It was an escape from something bad and it was a step in the right in the direction because it threw off the shackles of blind faith and sought to discover the truth through the mind. These are all admirable things that we agree with. But just as the false and oppressive religion of western Europe didn’t give us the purpose of life, humanism and modernism, as I explained just a little while ago, also didn’t give us the purpose of life. That’s why people disappointed in the modernist project have turned to postmodernism. But postmodernism, too, doesn’t give us the purpose of life because it is anti-reason, and it is anti-purpose–that is the reality of the postmodern age and postmodernism. Postmodernism is, in many ways, even more entrenched in worldliness and even further from God and the afterlife than modernism was. So if we want the purpose of life, we need to turn to revelation, and to use that to turn with our souls towards Allah and the afterlife. Allah Most High says, “You prefer the life of this world even though the next life is better and more lasting.” (Qur’an, 87:16).

 

To be continued…


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


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The Virtues of Night Worship (Qiyam al-Layl)

Believers are divinely invited to perform night worship, or Qiyam al-Layl, as a way to draw closer to Allah. Nurulain Wolhuter writes on the great virtues of this act.

The heart of the seeker yearns for the inner secret; the one which is devoid of the ego’s desires and purified from the filth of worldly attachments. It is the prize given by the Almighty to the one whom He draws near.

And who is nearer to Allah than His beloved Messenger? He, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the subject of the divine injunction:

O you who wraps himself [in clothing],
Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little –
Half of it – or subtract from it a little
Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. (Sura al Muzzamil: 1-4).

So if he, the inimitably close, was commanded to rise at night and pray, how much more should we, the small and blemished ones languishing in the distance, strive to follow his example?

Humaid bin ‘Abdur-Rahman narrated: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is prayer at night.” (Nasa’i)

We will never be able to match his prayer, neither in length nor in quality. However, by doing our best, we can try to attain closeness, to become one of the muqaribin, or “the ones drawn close.”

Abu Hurayra narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Our Lord who is blessed and exalted descends every night to the lowest heaven when the last one-third of the night remains, and says: Who supplicated Me so that I may answer him? Who asks of Me so that I may give to him? Who asks My forgiveness so that I may forgive him?” (Sunan Abi Dawud).

It is also narrated that, during this time, the Messenger of Allah used to pray eleven rakat, or in another narration, 13 rakat, and that he ended with the witr prayer. He gave life to this time of the night by supplications and acts of supererogatory worship.

Abu Hurayra also narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘(Allah says) the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him (the obligatory deeds); and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (supererogatory deeds) till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him” (Bukhari).

The one who performs an abundance of acts of supererogatory worship, particularly in the last part of the night, is knocking on the door of Allah Most High, waiting to receive His love. The great Imam al-Haddad writes in his poem Qad Kafani (My Lord’s Knowledge Has Sufficed Me):

لم أزل بالباب واقف فارحم ربي وقوفي

I am ever a bystander at the door, so have mercy O my Lord! as I stand.

Some nights may be dry, others less so but our love remains lukewarm. Until, in the nights of the soul’s most ardent yearning, usually forged in tears and heaving breasts, the Most Merciful unlocks the door to a secret that no one knows but they. This is a meeting that may be fleeting or may be long, a full-blown union, or an encounter from which the tarnished soul may run. But for those who are timid, or who feel unworthy of the gift, the answer is to turn to the Beloved, seeking his intercession, and waiting for the next envelopment. He, the Most High, will open the door, again and again, at His Will and in His time, so the path to this inner secret is to stand at the door every night, crying, in sincerity and love, for the opening that is promised by the One who draws you near.


Nurulain Wolhuter is a student in the Shari’ah course at Dar al Safa in Cape Town, South Africa. She relocated there from Birmingham, UK, in order to pursue her studies and hopes to return in the future to do daw’ah and share her knowledge.


7 Student Testimonials to Inspire You #2

Last year alone SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary served more than 80,000 students from over 140 countries.

Here is what some of them had to say.

SeekersHub courses challenge you on the things you thought you knew

I wanted to sign up with a course from SeekersHub as I wanted to gain more knowledge on the deen, but I never knew where to start. People from various social media platforms encouraged me to be engaged with this organization as it was one of the more authentic means to gain knowledge in comparison to the variety of non-authentic things you can get on the internet.

I didn’t have any concerns when signing up because it was more of a case of I won’t lose out on anything if I signed up. You’re getting more out of signing up than you could lose. Since the classes were online, I was able to organize the time in my daily life to prioritize the gaining of knowledge. It helped me remove the unnecessary things that I do day to day and It helped me gain a wider understanding of things that I was not clear about in the beginning.

The courses challenge you on the things you thought you had an idea on. You have nothing to lose by signing up and the worst that could happen would be you would be where you started on your path, not behind it.

Joshna Yasmin Ali – London, UK

SeekersHub helped me realize the importance of prayers

I saw taking classes at SeekersHub as a tangible way of keeping my ever-turning heart more consistently in line with Allah’s grace. I also saw it as a useful way of learning for the sake of Allah. My only worries was how manageable would it be to pick and commit to a course and the background of the teachers I would be learning from.

Through these classes I realized the importance of prayers, and learning that knowledge is for Allah alone. I felt a sense of grounding in my spiritual development through this. To someone wondering on whether they should take classes here, just do it – procrastination and putting things off is either our way of masking our fears of getting things wrong, or Shaytan’s way of keeping us down and in despair of Allah’s mercy.

Have hope in what Allah is offering to you and give it a try – you’ll have lost nothing for trying. Thank you to all the teachers, and thank you for making it free and accessible.

Mobeen Salih – London, UK

SeekersHub changed my approach to knowledge from combative to gentle

I joined SeekersHub because I believe that the teachers are trustworthy and that they have a good agenda and a good intention. I wish to benefit and be a part of that. My only worries were from my end due to the fact that I have learning difficulties, and executive function difficulties.

I often wish I can be near to SeekersHub but I am very blessed to have access via the internet. Through SeekersHub I was exposed to some of the most knowledgeable and beneficial scholars of our time. I wish Seekershub can refresh Islam everywhere, because it refreshes myself.

I have changed my approach to knowledge from being very literal and harsh and debate-driven, thanks to Shaykh Faraz’s gentle example. He has taught me that intelligence can be equally deep and meaningful as a spiritual tool. I don’t know the history of SeekersHub except it may have been inspired by SunniPath some time ago.

I live in NZ but so much of the real estate of my heart is deeply affected by those who are spreading light with the aid of SeekersHub. I can only pray for Seekershub to have success in much abundance. If there is a reviver, I feel your work is a big part of this.

Thank you all so much and may Allah reward all of you with much abundant good both in this life and in the hereafter

Lydia Mills – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub studies improved my relationship to Allah

I registered for Seekers courses because I felt that my knowledge about Islam was very insufficient and I wanted to improve my relationship with Allah Ta‘ala. Alhamdulillah, my family and I never hesitated to register for the courses we took on Seekers.

I’ve realized the importance of studying with a teacher and I’ve realized the importance of seeking Sacred Knowledge in this day and age. After taking a few Seekers courses, I continued to pursue my Islamic education, and I’m now taking an ‘Alimah degree, alhamdulillah.

Learning the Faraid al ‘Ayn is a must for every Muslim, and we’re here in this world to please Allah Ta‘ala in whatever we do. We must know that which pleases and displeases Him, so that we may perform those acts which please Him, and avoid those which displease Him.

Ikhlas – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub offers a rich variety of important and needed Islamic courses

I joined SeekersHub to learn more about my deen. SeekersHub truly follows the Sunni way and it has benefited my family and me. SeekersHub offers a rich variety of different Islamic courses which are very important nowadays and which we are in immense need of. I pray that Allah may reward you.

Hayat S – Switzerland

SeekersHub courses have changed everything in my life in a positive way

Alhamdulillah, Allah Most High blessed me at a young age with a desire to seek sacred knowledge. But living in the West, and in a rural community, imposed many limitations. Being a woman also meant I couldn’t travel and live in a foreign country to learn (more than the fard al-‘ayn) without a mahram. So I had a look at several online courses offering traditional Islamic knowledge, but most of them were either too costly or had many prerequisites which I wasn’t yet able to fulfill.

SeekersHub seemed like the only option for me, so I enrolled. Alhamdulillah that I did! I often think, where would I be today if I hadn’t? Alhamdulillah, I had no qualms before or after signing up for my first class, or for any Seekers course since. This is because I know with certainty that the knowledge being conveyed is taught through authentic chains of transmission, and that the teachers are all qualified Islamic scholars.

I feel like these courses have changed everything in my life (in a positive way). But one thing I can say really benefited me is the absolute and apparent sincerity of the teachers. Even though I read many books on my own, learning these vast subjects with a qualified teacher enriched my understanding and truly humbled me. Through SeekersHub I’ve learnt that the benefits of seeking sacred knowledge are innumerable.

I now feel more motivated to perform supererogatory acts of worship and I have more respect for those around me, especially my parents. My aspirations are loftier now than ever. If you’re unsure about joining SeekersHub, do some research, and “ask those of remembrance if you know not.”

I probably would not have looked into SeekersHub if it hadn’t been recommended to me by a scholar I respect. But in the end, just pray istikhara and click that ‘Register’ button; you won’t regret it! I think the team at SeekersHub is taking care of a much-needed fard al kifaya. May Allah Most High preserve our scholars, and reward well those who seek knowledge of His din!

Sufi – New Zealand


Support SeekersHub Global as it reaches over 10,000 students each term through its completely free online courses. Make a donation, today. Every contribution counts, even if small: http://seekersguidance.org/donate/


7 Student Testimonials to Inspire You

Last year alone SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary served more than 80,000 students from over 140 countries.

Here is what some of them had to say.

Traditional Knowledge from Traditional Scholars

I wanted to get traditional knowledge from traditional scholars, but I just couldn’t find that kind of knowledge in my local community. When I looked online, SeekersHub was my obvious first choice.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I would have the discipline to complete my courses. But I managed stick to the course schedule and I am really grateful that I did.

The courses were really in depth. I was able to ask questions and get a full response. That was really important to me.

There are lots of Islamic institutes online, but SeekersHub does a really good job of providing knowledge at such an intimate level.

Zakaria Syed, USA

Seeking Knowledge from the Right Sources

I started taking SeekersHub courses because I wanted to gain knowledge from the right sources, namely righteous scholars.

In addition to providing me with beneficial knowledge for my Aakhirah, I can take the courses at my convenience and they are free.

I try to convince all my family and friends to give it a try. I am thankful and grateful to all the Shuyukh and every single brother and sister who is working behind this program.

Saila Ahmed, USA

Sound Knowledge and Spiritual Growth

At first I just wanted to learn more theology and Hanafi law, then I realized my ignorance and started to take courses on spirituality for self-refinement.

These courses have given me tremendous spiritual growth and sound knowledge of the inner and outer dimensions of Islam. They have allowed me to become more balanced when dealing with myself and others.

What SeekersHub provides is perfectly sound mainstream knowledge, the same kind that flipped Imam Ghazali’s perspective on knowledge when he said: “We used to seek knowledge for other than the sake of Allah, but knowledge refused to be sought for other than the sake of Allah.”

Gadeen Desouky, USA

Light of Knowledge and Guidance

Many times, when going through the toughest times of my life, completely broken and confused, and seeking help from Allah, I would stumble upon something from SeekersHub pointing me to the exact solution to what I was struggling with.

It was like a shining Noor from Allah in the form of knowledge and guidance. The benefit I gained is beyond measure, beyond any value, it is nothing but priceless.

It is through SeekersHub that I learnt the purpose of my life and was assisted in connecting my soul back to my Lord.

Studying with SeekersHub also made me realize that even ordinary people like me can access the most extraordinary wealth of knowledge which I initially used to think belonged only the Muftis and Qazis.

Plan your time well, prioritize, and take SeekersHub courses, because the returns and knowledge gained is way beyond the time invested.

Mehnaz – India

Realizing the Spiritual

I wanted to increase my knowledge of my Deen to bring myself closer to my Lord. I looked at my options, and chose SeekersHub because I knew that it is a well researched institution. Also the fact Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is connected with it makes it worthwhile and credible.

I made my Niyya (intention) and signed up for a few courses. The biggest benefit I got was in realizing the immense spiritual aspect of this knowledge.

I ask Allah, the All-Knowing to, grant SeekersHub the reach to benefit each and every Muslim who desires to pursue the path of ‘Ilm. May Allah, the All-Knowing, grant all at SeekersHub the best in their Dunya, Deen and Akhirah.

Nazier Rumaney – Cape Town, South Africa

Understanding and Clarity

I wanted to sign up with a course from SeekersHub as I wanted to gain more knowledge on the deen, but I never knew where to start. People from various social media platforms encouraged people to be engaged with this organization as it was one of the more authentic means to gain knowledge.

When I started taking online courses, I had to organize my time in my daily life to prioritize the gaining of knowledge. This has helped me remove the unnecessary time-wasting things that I used to do on a daily basis.

SeekersHub’s courses have also helped me gain a wider understanding of things I was not clear on in the beginning. They also challenged many incorrect preconceived notions I had in my mind about this deen.

I always tell people: You have nothing to lose by signing up to a course, and the worst that could possibly happen is that you remain where you started on your path, not behind it.

Joshna Yasmin Ali – London, UK

A Shining Light

SeekersHub is a reliable and convenient way to access and learn the necessary knowledge of Islam. I really love the access it gives me to scholars, teachers, and to a community of fellow seekers.

It is truly a shining light in a darkening world. I am surprised that it doesn’t get more credit for the benefit it spreads, but I am sure the reward of those involved is awaiting them in the Hereafter.

May Allah Reward Shaykh Faraz and the entire team.

Hassan Qureshi – Sydney, Australia


Support SeekersHub Global as it reaches over 10,000 students each term through its completely free online courses. Make a donation, today. Every contribution counts, even if small: https://seekersguidance.org/donate/