Intention for Seeking Knowledge by Imam Haddad

In this article, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides commentary on Imam Haddad’s famous “Intention for Seeking Knowledge.” Text and translation of this supplication is also provided.

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Actions are by their intentions, and each person shall have whatsoever they intended.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The reality of our actions is not merely what we do, but also why we do it. As Ibn Ata’illah explained, “Actions are lifeless forms, whose soul is the subtle reality of sincerity within them.” (Hikam al Ata’iyya)

Seeking Knowledge as a Spiritual Work

Seeking sacred knowledge (talab al-ilm) has been described in the Qur’an and Sunna as one of the highest of spiritual works. Thus, a sincere intention is particularly important.

Seeking knowledge can also be a source of honor and recognition in this world. This can be dangerous, as it can result in sinful inward traits such as pride, conceit, and arrogance. Only sincere intentions can protect a person, and fulfill the spiritual potential of seeking knowledge.

What is an Intention?

The scholars explain that an intention (niyya) is, “The resolve to (a) perform an act of obedience to Allah, (b) drawing closer to Allah thereby, (c) at the beginning of one’s action.” (Taftazani, quoted by Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar)

This has three components:
(a) “The resolve to perform an act of obedience” entails mindful, purposeful action. Bring to mind what are you doing, and that you are doing it as an act of obedience.
(b)“ … drawing closer to Allah…” entails bringing to mind that you are acting for the sake of Allah alone – seeking His Closeness, Love, Good Pleasure, and reward.
(c) “… at the beginning of the action,” entails pausing for a moment before you begin any action, at any time, in order to renew your resolve.

What is Sincerity?

Sincerity, or ikhlas, is the heart of Islam. It is defined by the scholars as, “Seeking to draw closer to Allah with one’s actions, without any ulterior motive.” (Qushayri)

Sahl ibn Abd Allah said, “The intelligent looked at sincerity, and the best description they found is that it is for one’s motions and rest – in private and in public – to be for Allah alone without partner, without anything being mixed into one’s motives. Not one’s ego, nor one’s whims, nor any merely worldly aspirations.” (Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman)

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Knowledge: A Practical Means for Making High Intentions

Part of having sincere intentions (al-niyya al-saliha) is to reflect deeply on all the multiple ways one is seeking the Pleasure of Allah through one’s actions. This is called “multiplying one’s intention,” or ta’addud al-niyya.

Because such deep reflection is rare for most of us, the scholars compiled statements of intention to help us make high, transformative intentions before we act.

One such powerful statement of intention for seeking knowledge is Imam Abd Allah ibn Alawi al-Haddad’s “Intention for Seeking Sacred Knowledge.”

This intention defines both the ultimate purpose of seeking knowledge – “seeking Allah Himself, His Good Pleasure, Closeness, and Reward” –  as well as the multiple ways one can make one’s knowledge sincerely for Allah.

The scholars encourage making it a deliberate, purposeful habit to make such a statement of intention – in one’s heart or uttered – every time one begins studying, teaching, reading, or listening to Islamic knowledge.

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Seeking Knowledge


 

Al-Busiri’s Burda and Celebrating the Mawlid – Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

The love of the Prophet is shining on the faces of his lovers this month. Many are reciting Imam Busiri’s Burda poem. But is it a bid’ah (blameworthy innovation?) Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib explains in this lecture.

In Praise of the Prophet

The praise of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and mention of his qualities is something that the angels proclaim, and all of Allah’s creation engages in. Most of all, it is a matter than Allah himself proclaims, in the Qur’an and in the previous scriptures.

This is a reality that we need to establish in our hearts. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be swayed by those who deny the merit of gathering to praise the Prophet. Repetition of praise of the Prophet has a positive impact on deepening faith in the heart. Faith increases and decreases, and anything that helps it increases and stir its increase is praiseworthy.

Poetry is a means of conveying praise and celebration and love. In every culture, we find poetry embraced by the lovers praising their beloved. Poems have lasted the test of time, recited throughout the ages. These poems may be religious or otherwise, in Arabic English, Urdu and in all other languages.

Learning literature is a means of softening the human temperament. So let us remain within the art of sending blessings and praise of the Prophet. In the pre-Islamic times, the Arabic would memorise poetry rather than writing it down. Humans have preserved poetry because they have a natural inclination towards love and expressions of love. In fact, people would recite in the presence of the Prophet, who said, “Truly, in some poetry, there is great wisdom.”

The First Burda

In our tradition, we only reject poetry with immoral or lewd meanings. One of the poems that was recited in the mosque of the Prophet, is called “Burda,”or mantle, authored by Ka’ab ibn Zuhayr.

Ka’ab used to be one of the staunchest enemies of Islam, and used to write poetry lampooning Islam and the Prophet. However, guidance entered his heart, and he wrote a poem in praise of Islam. He entered the mosque and sought forgiveness from the Prophet for his past actions, who put his mantle over Ka’ab’s shoulders. Thus, his poem became called the “Burda,” or the mantle.

Interestingly, the first sixty lines of the poem were not religiously themed. Rather, they praised Su’ad, a lady whom Ka’ab had loved but had not been able to be with. The Prophet did not prevent his from reciting it in his mosque, nor did he criticise him. This proves that even non-religious poetry is permissible as long as it is not lewd or immoral in nature.

The Second Burda

It’s original name is “Al-Kawakib al-Duriyyah fi Madhi Khayr al-Bariyyah, ”or “The Shining Stars in Praising the Best of Creation.” However, it became famous as “the Burda,” to the point that it eclipsed Ka’ab’s original Burda.

Imam Muhammad al-Burisi is the author. He lived in Egypt but was originally from one of the Berber tribes of North Africa. He was the scribe for the local ruler, and would write the royal correspondence from the palace.

One day, as he advanced in age, he was affected by a type of paralysis. It took place suddenly, and nobody came to visit him. He stayed in his house alone, and sent a lot of blessings on the Prophet. Because he was a poet, he began composing a poem in praise of the Prophet, until he reached a line which he was unable to complete. He put his pen down and went to sleep, when he had a dream of the Prophet.  In his dream, the Prophet helped him complete the line, and then lay his mantle over al-Busiri’s body. When he woke up, his had been completely healed.  After he completed his poem, it began widely accepted and recited all over the Muslim world.

Imam al-Busiri’s Authority

It is interesting to note that Imam al-Busiri was not just a poet, but also an acclaimed scholar who studied with the best of his time. He took the Shadhili spiritual path who studies with Abu Abbas al-Mursi. His Burda became so famous that almost every major scholar wrote a commentary on it. Throughout the ages, no one contested the legitimacy of the Burda, whether they be grammarians, hadith scholars, or tafsir scholars. A few scholars would occasionally a few object to a line or two, but their questions could all be answered easily.

The problem is when people make categorical statements, such as “The Burda is shirk,”etc. This is a narrow-minded and intolerance approach. If hundreds of great scholars of the past had objected to it, they would have warned against it rather than promoting it.


The Lord of Forgiveness 03 – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba Dhib

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al Istighfar Explained, by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

In this segment, translated by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shayk Ba-Dhib continues looking at some of the many points of knowledge found in this formula, and what makes it the best way to seek forgiveness.

He starts by looking at thankfulness and what it entails, and having gratitude for everything, even for the gift of being grateful. He examines the relationship between Islam (submission to God), Iman (faith), and Ihsan (spiritual excellence), and how faith strengthens to become certainty, the foundation of the inward virtues of this religion.

Shaykh Ba-Dhib moves on to see just what makes this dua the foremost way of seeking forgiveness, and the significance of its various segments in understanding the best way to call on Allah Most High. He concludes by explaining the purpose of this treatise and its guidance on how to reflect, and how we can apply this in our lives, particularly in our Ramadan Quran recitation.

About the Series

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al-Istighfar Explained”. In this five-part series, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib covers a short treatise on explaining the foremost way of seeking forgiveness as has come to us from Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The work, “Tiryaq al-Qulub w al-Absar fi Bayan al-Ulum allati Tadamanha Sayyid al-Istighfar” (The Healing of Hearts and Eyesight in Exposition of the Knowledges Contained in The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness) is by Imam Ahmed bin Zain al-Habshi (d. 1145 AH). Text, transliteration and translation of sayyid al-istighfar can be found below. اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, A’udhu bika min Sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u Laka bini’matika ‘alaiya, wa Abu’u Laka bidhanbi faghfirli fainnahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no god but you. You have created me, and I am your servant—and I am upon Your covenant and promise as best I can. I seek refuge in You from the worst of what I have done. I fully admit to You Your blessings upon me, and I fully admit to You all my sins. So forgive me, for there is none to forgive sins but You.

Resources for Seekers

The Lord of Forgiveness 02 – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba Dhib

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al Istighfar Explained, by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

In this segment, the Shaykh starts breaking down the different parts of the formula of seeking forgiveness.

The supplication begins with affirming God’s divinity, His oneness, His lordship, and our complete need and slavehood to Him. It also offers proof and knowledge of our understanding of God. For example, when we acknowledge that Allah has created us, this carries the meaning that we believe that Allah is All-Powerful, because a Creator necessarily needs to be all-Powerful. Furthermore, to believe that we are Allah’s servants, is to bring yourself into the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give his peace.

The “covenant” described in the supplication, is the one mentioned in this verse:

And when your Lord took from the children of Adam their descendants and made them testify. “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.”  – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were unaware.” (7:172)

The ability that is referred to, is the trait of free will that humans have. It is the trait of free will that allows us to believe in Allah, which will be rewarded in the next life, or punishment if we deny it.

Similarity, acknowledging that we are created, indicates that we believe that we will die one day. This causes us to wonder what comes after death, and to prepare for it.

About the Series

In this five-part series, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib covers a short treatise on explaining the foremost way of seeking forgiveness as has come to us from Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. The work, Tiryaq al Qulub wa al Absar fi Bayan al Ulum allati Tadamanha Sayyid alIstighfar (The Healing of Hearts and Eyesight in Exposition of the Knowledges Contained in The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness) is by Imam Ahmed bin Zain al-Habshi (d. 1145 AH).

Text, transliteration and translation of Sayyid al Istighfar can be found below.

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ

Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta khalaqtani wa ana ʿabduka, wa ana ʿala ʿahdika wa waʿdika ma astataʿtu, aʿudhu bika min sharri ma sanaʿtu, abu’u laka bi niʿmatika ‘alayya, wa abu’u laka bi dhanbi faghfir li fa’innahu la yaghfiru ‘dh-dhunuba illa anta.

O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no god but You. You created me and I am Your servant. I am upon Your covenant and promise to the best of my ability. I seek refuge in You from any evil I have wrought. I confess to You Your blessings upon me and I confess to You my sins. So forgive me, for no one forgives sins but You.


Resources for Seekers

The Lord of Forgiveness 01 – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba Dhib

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al Istighfar Explained, by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

In this segment, the Shaykh speaks about the prayer called Sayyid al-Istighfar, or “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness.” It is an established tradition, taught by the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The author of this text, Ahmad al-Habshi, was a student of the great Iman al-Haddad for forty years, This teaches us that a true scholar is the one who keep the company of their teachers, even after becoming a scholar. He was known as the “Father of the Mosques,” because he would look out for mosques that were old or damaged, and would repair them with his own hands.

The author begins the text with an introduction to repentance. He mentions that repentance is a door to Allah, through which a person becomes closer to Allah and a righteous state. It is the first station of religion. When someone commits a sin, they are far away from Allah. and when they repent, they are returning to Allah. Of course, true repentance is not just a statement made by the tongue, it’s a resolution of the heart.

About the Series

In this five-part series, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib covers a short treatise on explaining the foremost way of seeking forgiveness as has come to us from Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. The work, Tiryaq al Qulub wa al Absar fi Bayan al Ulum allati Tadamanha Sayyid alIstighfar (The Healing of Hearts and Eyesight in Exposition of the Knowledges Contained in The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness) is by Imam Ahmed bin Zain al-Habshi (d. 1145 AH).

Text, transliteration and translation of Sayyid al Istighfar can be found below.

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ

Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta khalaqtani wa ana ʿabduka, wa ana ʿala ʿahdika wa waʿdika ma astataʿtu, aʿudhu bika min sharri ma sanaʿtu, abu’u laka bi niʿmatika ‘alayya, wa abu’u laka bi dhanbi faghfir li fa’innahu la yaghfiru ‘dh-dhunuba illa anta.

O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no god but You. You created me and I am Your servant. I am upon Your covenant and promise to the best of my ability. I seek refuge in You from any evil I have wrought. I confess to You Your blessings upon me and I confess to You my sins. So forgive me, for no one forgives sins but You.


Resources for Seekers

Khoja Nasruddin on Prayer

Khoja Nasruddin clarifies what happens when one confuses the made with the Maker in prayer, and in many other things.

One day Khoja Nasruddin had some business that took him to Bursa. He had a specific problem concerning his business which he could not solve.

A friend therefore advised him, saying, “Since you will be in Bursa anyway, go to Ulu Masjid and pray there. Pray, earnestly, in front of the mihrab, every morning asking for a solution to your problem, and it will be solved.

Khoja Nasruddin did as his friend advised. For forty days he prayed and made supplication in front of the mihrab without fail. His prayers were not answered.

A few days later, Khoja Nasruddin was still in Bursa, and his problem was still unsolved. He walked into Orhan Masjid, a smaller, less ornate mosque a few blocks from Ulu Masjid.

He prayed there and all his business problems were solved on the same day. His prayer was heard and answered.

Khoja Nasruddin went back to Ulu Masjid and cried out: “You ought to be ashamed, you big, fancy masjid! Your simple little neighbor managed in one day what you could not do in forty!”

 


Ask in the Presence of Allah – Dr Shadee Elmasry

Dr Shadee Elmasry recounts the narration on the reduction of prayers from fifty to five and lists nine things we can learn from this.

In the Isra and Miraj, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us:

Then the prayers were enjoined on me: they were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses, who asked: “What have you been ordered to do?” I replied: “I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.” Moses said: “Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah I have tested people before you, and I have tried my best with Bani Israel (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers’ burden.” So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah, and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses he said the same. I went back to Allah, and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day. He told me to go for a further reduction, but I was ashamed to ask for more.

Why did Allah go through all of this when he knew what the final number would be? Why not just ordain five from the start? What is this supposed to teach us?

Nine Points of Learning

1. It is supposed to teach us the approachability of Allah. That he is approachable with our dua. That we should never stop returning to Him asking for ease and mercy even if over and over again.

2. It also demonstrates the importance of the prayer, for we were asked for fifty a day, a very large number.

3. It also puts on display the importance of asking those who have experience. In this case, the prophet who is about to lead a nation, asking the prophet who already led a nation.

4. It also shows the compassion the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had for his umma, for he went back and forth quite a number of times, all for his concern with our well being.

5. It also shows the generosity of Allah with the umma of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, for even though we are doing only five, we are getting the reward of fifty, since one good deed is rewarded ten times over.

6. It shows that things unfold slowly, for the decrease did not go from 50 to 5 right away, but rather through steps and stages, for which we need diligence and patience.

7. So that the believers can feel the blessing of the reduction. If a mu’min feels the burden of five prayers a day, he feels relief knowing that it was originally fifty.

8. It is a gift to Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, that he was given the opportunity to show his concern for us and decrease the burden from off of Allah’s most beloved umma. Every individual Muslim is now indebted to him for this great ease which we experience daily. Our payment of that debt is recognizing his favor and increasing in our love for him.

9. It shows that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, could enter the Divine presence at will.

And Allah knows best.


Dr Shadee Elmasry was born and raised in New Jersey. He began studying at the age of eighteen, traveling to a number of countries including Egypt, KSA, Yemen and Morocco.

In addition to traditional learning, Dr Elmasry has received has an MA from The George Washington University and a PhD from the University of London SOAS.

Dr Elmasry went on to teach at several universities including Yale University, University of London SOAS, Trinity College, Hartford Seminary, and Manhattanville College.

Currently, he serves as Scholar in Residence at the New Brunswick Islamic Center in New Jersey. He is also the founder and head of Safina Society — an institution dedicated to the cause of traditional Islamic education in the West.


O Seeker! – Habib Ali al Jifri

Habib Ali al Jifri speaks on overcoming the seven obstacles in spiritual wayfaring to Allah Most High, and the fruits thereof.

This is the third and perhaps final series of “O Seeker!” by His Eminence al Habib Ali al Jifri, may Allah preserve him and benefit us by him.

The first series filmed in 2008 in the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, may Allah grant its people relief, was about the concept of spiritual wayfaring to Allah, the Exalted, and awakening a desire for it.

The second series held in the Heart of Chechnya Mosque in Grozny in 2016 detailed how to overcome each of the seven obstacles during spiritual wayfaring to Allah.

The current series of thirty episodes is about the fruits of overcoming these obstacles, which are spiritual stations and spiritual states. If Allah wills, a new episode will be added to this playlist everyday this Ramadhan (2018).

The program also airs on TV on the following channels (GMT +3 Makka time):

Al Irth al Nabawi (Nilesat 11334H) – 7:30 p.m., 1:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
CBC (Nilesat 11488H) – 10 p.m., 12 p.m.
CBC +2 – 12 a.m., 2 p.m.
Extra CBC – 3.10 a.m., 3:45 p.m.
Palestine (Nilesat 11823H) – 2:30 a.m.
Libya (Nilesat 10872H) – 1:10 a.m., 5 a.m.

Among the works referred to are Al Risala al Qushayriyya of Imam Abd al Karim al Qushayri (465 AH / 1072) of Nishapur, Iran, and Manazil al Sai‘rin of Shaykh al Islam Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (481 AH / 1088) of Herat, Afghanistan. May Allah be pleased them!

The program airs with English subtitles.


With gratitude to Muwasala.org and Almoreed.com.


Sura al Kahf: Gratitude – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Shaykh Walead Mosaad tells the story of the man of two gardens who was ungrateful for the blessing he was given and what we can learn from this.

Sahib al jannatayn or the man of the two gardens is the next parable. In reality it was one big garden. It was surrounded by date palm trees. A river ran though it and it had crops in its center.

The mufassirun mentioned that this garden was self irrigated. The man didn’t have to do anything. It was an amazing garden. Allah Most High Says:

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعً

Strike for them a similitude: Two men, unto one of whom We had assigned two gardens of grapes, and We had surrounded both with date-palms and had put between them tillage. (Sura al Kahf 18:32)

So there two men, one of the men had this garden of grapes and it’s surrounded by big trees and it has a river running through it and also has crops for tillage. In other words it’s self-sustaining – a perfect garden.

The First Mistake Made

Some of the narrations say they were brothers, or first cousins, or from the same tribe. Some say that the other man had something similar to it, or that he had wealth similar to it, but he spent it all in the way of Allah Most High and was left with nothing for himself.

كِلْتَا الْجَنَّتَيْنِ آتَتْ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمْ تَظْلِم مِّنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ وَفَجَّرْنَا خِلَالَهُمَا نَهَرًا

Each of the gardens gave its fruit and withheld naught thereof. And We caused a river to gush forth therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:33)

He didn’t have to do much to maintain it. It was there and the rivers were flowing and everything was going great. It was a marvel of agriculture.

وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرً

And he had fruit. And he said to his comrade, when he spoke with him: I am more than you in wealth, and stronger in respect of men. (Sura al Kahf 18:34)

Here’s where the problems begin. This verse is now kufr ni‘ama, a denial of blessing from Allah. What is important is that a denial of blessing from Allah can lead to outright kufr which is denial of Allah altogether.

The first mistake he makes is that he attributes his wealth to himself and does not see it as a blessing from Allah. He says the word ana (I). Anytime you see the word ana in the Qur’an it’s bad news. The first one to say ana is Shaytan: ana khayrun minhu … “I am better than him. I am made from fire. He is made from clay and dirt. Hence I am better.”

Isn’t the man saying a similar thing? “I have more money. I have more wealth. And hence I will be more respectful, have a better reputation, be more powerful in the eyes of men and those that I think count.”

Being Self-Important

So it began with this ujub: being impressed with oneself. The reason that no one should be self-impressed is because there’s no you here in the whole thing. Especially something like this. Look at the verse before it. Look at how Allah describes it. It goes back to Allah who is the One who made the river spring forth in the middle of it. Who is the One that made the fruits bear what they bear.

When you talk about crop farming, especially if it’s your livelihood, there’s nothing really that can teach you as much tawakkul as that. The farmer works and his harvest is once a year, maybe twice a year depending on his crop. The rest of the year he’s digging, he’s tilling, he’s seeding, he’s maintaining, he’s irrigating, and he’s not getting a dime back.

Nothing is coming back in income and the whole hope is that the crop will be so successful that at harvest time all of his needs and income for the year will come from that single crop. That’s a lot of tawakkul.

So what this man did completely contravenes that. Perhaps because it was so effortless for him. Perhaps this made him think: “I did all of this and it was so easy.” He didn’t have to struggle, to irrigate – the river burst forth and ran through it. He didn’t have to make tributaries and have it run and all these type of things. It ran on its own and he became deluded by this fact. And then he looked at his friend or his brother. “You gave your whole thing away. You’re stupid. Look at me.” It begins with self-attribution.

The Sins of Pharoah and Qarun

The same thing happened to Qarun who was from the Umma of Musa, peace be upon him. What was the worst thing that he said? The people said about him: “Look how great he is, and he has all of this. We wish we had like the same as Qarun.” And Qarun says: “I have been given this because of my knowledge. I have been given this because I did things right.” He’s attributing it to himself. And Allah destroyed him. The earth enveloped him and swallowed him.

The same thing happened to Pharaoh. He said ana in the worst way: ana rabbukum. Not even Satan could say that. Pharoah said: “I am your lord.” Again, the ana gets involved.

Taking all of these things into consideration you come to no other conclusion than that the worst thing that can happen to someone is they have this ana, this jabarut, this tyrannical overtaking of themselves by themselves. Because of what they attribute to what they think they’ve done, what they think they deserve, what they think they’re entitled to.

But then it gets worse.

وَدَخَلَ جَنَّتَهُ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ قَالَ مَا أَظُنُّ أَن تَبِيدَ هَـٰذِهِ أَبَدًا

And he went into his garden, while he is wronging himself. He said: I don’t think that all of this will ever perish. (Sura al Kahf 18:35)

He is only wronging himself, at the end of the day, for when you say something wrong or do something wrong the one who’s going to pay the highest price is yourself. One of the things that happens when people start attributing things to themselves as they become deluded and they think: “I’m always going to be like this.” These are things people take for granted.

And then finally the culmination:

وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِن رُّدِدتُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهَا مُنقَلَبًا

I don’t think not that the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord I surely shall find better than this as a resort. (Sura al Kahf 18:36)

Denying Allah’s Blessing

The denial of the blessing from Allah Most High leads to the denial of Allah. Because when you deny the Day of Judgment you deny Allah. This is serious kufr. You don’t think Allah has better than what you think you have here? And you don’t think the Hour is coming?

But notice the tasalsul – the chain. See how one step leads to another. First he says: “I’m better than you because I have more than you.” Then he says: “I don’t think it will ever go away.” And finally: “I don’t even think even the Hour will come. I think this is it and I have everything.”

Then his Sahib, his friend, comes back to him.

قَالَ لَهُ صَاحِبُهُ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَكَفَرْتَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَكَ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ سَوَّاكَ رَجُلًا

His comrade, when he spoke with him, said: Do you not believe in Him Who created you of dust, then of a drop [of seed], and then fashioned you a man? (Sura al Kahf 18:37)

The Duty of Care

Here is an important point. Allah says: His friend or companion said when he spoke with him (yuhawiruhu). The word yuhawiruhu means he is having a discourse with him. He didn’t say: “O my God! are you like a kafir? What the heck? Are we not brothers? How could you say this?” No, he actually has a concerned discourse.

Moses was called upon by Allah Most High to speak in soft tones to Pharaoh. So what about this person and his brother? He’s no worse than Pharaoh. Even in those things that may come out that are shocking, whether we hear from a Muslim or non-Muslim, sometimes people just say things to shock and sometimes they don’t know what they’re saying.

Rather than condemn them to hell as may be the initial impulse, let’s try to save them from hell first. This is what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to make him think, to reconsider what he just said. He’s not just bringing him back to his own creation. He’s bringing him back to the creation of Adam, peace be upon him, because the gardener wasn’t created from dust or dirt, our father Adam was.

Back to the Beginning

This is kind of an overture to how we all actually began. That we came from dirt, from our father Adam, peace be upon him. And then after that we became the pollinated seed from the mother and the father. Then he made you into a man. So when you’re developing inside and you’re an embryo, then become a fetus, and then you go through these three stages of development, did you do that yourself? Is that all about you?

Should you be someone who is haughty and arrogant because you did that and it was perfect? What is difference between you and the fetus and the perfection therein and all of the resources that the fetus the baby needs are perfectly provided much in the same way that your garden is working?

The companion is appealing to the gardener’s intellect. He’s appealing to his sense of recognizing inherent truth when you’re presented with it. He implores him to reconsider his words and gives him a parable. And then he is emphatic:

لَّـٰكِنَّا هُوَ اللَّـهُ رَبِّي وَلَا أُشْرِكُ بِرَبِّي أَحَدًا

But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe unto my Lord no partner. (Sura al Kahf 18:38)

Gratitude Is the Way

What is the conclusion? Well, if Allah created you from dust, and then from a single seed, and then made you into a man – and only a God can do that and no one else – then why scribes partners with that or why ascribe that to yourself? Hence your assertion is false. It can’t be right.

And then he tells the gardener what he should have said.

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ دَخَلْتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلْتَ مَا شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ ۚ إِن تَرَنِ أَنَا أَقَلَّ مِنكَ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا

If only, when you entered your garden, you had said: That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no strength save in Allah! Though you see me as less than you in wealth and children… (Sura al Kahf 18:39)

Here he says: Contrast what you said before with what I would have said as a believer. If you had entered your garden and said: ma sha Allah, la quwwata illa biLlah – this is by Allah’s mercy, this is by Allah’s will, there is no power and there is no strength except through Allah, then you recognize this blessing.

He is teaching the gardener how to capture the blessing. This ayah is like a madrassa – it’s a school in the sense of all the meanings that come out of it. And you can see its manifestations. When you say: ma sha Allah, la quwwata illa biLlah, this is called tying up your blessing. Make sure it doesn’t go away.

How do you tie up your blessing? By recognizing it. How do you increase your blessing? By thanking Allah.

لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ

And if you are thankful then I will only increase you. (Sura Ibrahim 14:17)


This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.


Sura al Kahf: The People of the Cave – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Shaykh Walead explains the verses of Sura al Kahf that tell the story of the People of the Cave. He highlights the key lessons and significant themes it addresses.

أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا

Or have you deemed that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder? (Sura al Kahf 18:9)

The story of the People of the Cave seems to be well known among the People of the Book, especially the Christians. Imam Ibn Ashur discusses why the Jews would know that story because although we call them Muslims, they were followers of Isa, peace be upon him.

Historians place these events at around 200-250 AD. This was a time when the Roman Empire was at its height. IT did not become Christian until Constantine. At that time the Empire was pagan.

The first 400 years of Christianity there was wide disagreement about the divinity of Isa, peace be upon him. The true followers of Isa, peace be upon him, recognized his prophethood and did not attribute divinity to him.

Were the Sleepers Christian?

Although some texts call them Christian, it is in the sense that they followed Christ and not the doctrine of the church that was established 100-150 years after them. However Christianity was established with its known doctrine when they woke up.

There was also wide disagreement about where they were located. Some say Greece. Some say Turkey. Some even mention Andalusia or Islamic Spain. We do not know for certain. There is a riwaya from Ibn Abbas that in the time of Muawiyya, during a campaign, they went north and were told, “This is the cave of the People of the Cave.”

Muawiyya, who was a leader at the time said he wanted to see it. Ibn Abbas advised him not to, saying that, “This is not for us.” Nonetheless he sent a group to the cave and a fierce wind prevented them from entering. And Allah knows best. But this is not important to the lesson of the story.

The Inscription

When Allah says, “Or have you deemed that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder?” it is formed as a question but is in fact a negation. Allah is pointing out the fact that there should not be a source of bewilderment seeing that He can bring the dead back to life, putting the young men to sleep for 309 years is not so wondrous, but is one more sign among the signs of Allah.

As for the word raqim (inscription), some have said that when the people of the cave, they became a fable or story. The people of their town wrote and inscription with their names on it and put it at the mouth of the cave. Another narration says it was the name of the dog that stood guard outside the cave. Again, we don’t know.

In verse ten Allah speaks about the most important aspect of the story. He says:

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

When the young men fled for refuge to the Cave and said: Our Lord! Give us mercy from Your presence, and shape for us right conduct in our plight. (Sura al Kahf 18:10)

This is the most important aspect of the story, which is that the Sleepers turned to Allah Most High in their direst moment of need and Allah rewarded them, not just in this life but also in the next. This dua is the dua of one who has nowhere to turn other than to Allah, and it is answered.

The Sleepers and Their Companion

As the story goes they were a group of young men who lived in this town. The Roman emperor at the time persecuted non-pagans and enforced outward declarations of allegiance to paganism and to sacrifice animals to pagan gods. The young men were among those who refused. One narration say they were summoned before the emperor and held their stance.

The emperor, due to them being young men, gave them time to think it over until he returned. They spoke among themselves about what to do, where should be turn? And one of them suggested that they hide in the cave. It is likely that they knew the cave already as a place of refuge much like the cave of Hira.

Regarding the dog, there are narrations that say the dog was theirs while other narrations says that it was a stray dog. When they were on their way to the cave it followed them, and they could not do anything to get rid of it. The dog followed them all the way there and stayed outside the mouth of the cave for the entire time.

Some have noted how amazing it is that most people don’t give much consideration to an animal these days, but by following and staying with these righteous people the dog is mentioned in the Qur’an – in the eternal, perfect speech of Allah for what seems like such a small act.

فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَىٰ آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا

Then We sealed up their hearing in the Cave for a number of years. (Sura al Kahf 18:11)

Some of the mufassirun say the slept for 300 solar years, which equate to 309 lunar years. Others say that is the amount of time people say they slept, but that no one truly knows.

ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِنَعْلَمَ أَيُّ الْحِزْبَيْنِ أَحْصَىٰ لِمَا لَبِثُوا أَمَدًا

And afterward We raised them up that We might know which of the two parties would best calculate the time that they had tarried. (Sura al Kahf 18:12)

The two parties refer to the people outside of the cave who did not know what happened to them. Some say they went into the cave and never came out.

The Sealing of the Cave

In the narration with the Roman emperor it is said that they followed their tracks to the cave but never found them. Much like the Quraysh who followed the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, to a different cave but also did not find him.

It is said that the Roman emperor ordered his soldiers to go after them but that they could not cross the threshold. Something prevented them from entering.

At his point that narration says that the Roman emperor ordered that the cave be sealed. And that the cave was not opened again until 309 years later, by a shepherd who was looking for shelter for his sheep.

Allah then says:

نَّحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُم بِالْحَقِّ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى

We will tell you their story in truth. They were young men who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance. (Sura al Kahf 18:13)

In other words, no one besides Allah Most High truly knows their story.

وَرَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ إِذْ قَامُوا فَقَالُوا رَبُّنَا رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَن نَّدْعُوَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَـٰهًا ۖ لَّقَدْ قُلْنَا إِذًا شَطَطًا

We made firm their hearts when they stood forth and said: “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We call unto no god beside Him, for then should we utter an enormity.” (Sura al Kahf 18:14)

Either they said this among themselves or they said it to the Roman emperor, which is more likely.

هَـٰؤُلَاءِ قَوْمُنَا اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ لَّوْلَا يَأْتُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِسُلْطَانٍ بَيِّنٍ ۖ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا

Our people have chosen gods besides Him though they bring no clear proof. And who does greater wrong than one who invents a lie concerning Allah? (Sura al Kahf 18:15)

The Testing of Faith

In other words iman (faith) is not a blind belief and following. The pagans are challenged with the words: Show us that these things that you made and worship can harm or benefit you. Without clear proof, how can you justify this belief? For if you associate others with Allah or worship others beside Him, it is actually a lie against Allah.

وَإِذِ اعْتَزَلْتُمُوهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّـهَ فَأْوُوا إِلَى الْكَهْفِ يَنشُرْ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُم مِّن رَّحْمَتِهِ وَيُهَيِّئْ لَكُم مِّنْ أَمْرِكُم مِّرْفَقًا

And when you withdraw from them and that which they worship except Allah, then seek refuge in the Cave; your Lord will spread for you of His mercy and prepare for you a comfort and an aid. (Sura al Kahf 18:16)

The mufassirun say that these words were said by one of the Sleepers. Most likely their leader. Some mention that the leader’s name was Maximilian. Others mention that the one who was sent into town when they woke was named Malich or Malicha.

وَتَرَى الشَّمْسَ إِذَا طَلَعَت تَّزَاوَرُ عَن كَهْفِهِمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ وَإِذَا غَرَبَت تَّقْرِضُهُمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ وَهُمْ فِي فَجْوَةٍ مِّنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۗ مَن يَهْدِ اللَّـهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِ ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيًّا مُّرْشِدًا

And you might have seen the sun when it rose move away from their cave to the right, and when it set go past them on the left, and they were in the cleft thereof. That was (one) of the signs of Allah. He whom Allah guides, he indeed is led aright, and he whom He sends astray, for him you will not find a guiding friend. (Sura al Kahf 18:17)

Something about the topography of the cave. If a cave has a large opening it is called a kahf. If it has a small opening, as at Hira, it is called a ghar. A cave is defined as a opening or a break in a mountain. This cave was big enough for sunlight to reach inside the cave.

This verse shows that had the sun actually penetrated inside the cave it would have burnt them, it would have been unbearable. That means there was a shifting of the sun so that it would not cast sunlight upon the sleepers inside the cave. This is why Allah says: “That was (one) of the signs of Allah.”

The Priority of Religion

The People of the Cave were tried and tested in their faith to the degree that they could no longer exist and practice their religion. All the doors were closed. And that is one of the tribulations of the Dajjal; that people will be tried and tested in their faith or religion.

These verses, this story that Allah relates to us, serve as an example of where to put one’s priorities and how to go about doing it. The preservation of your religion, as the scholars say, is of the highest priority.

If you are in a situation where you cannot practice your religion it is incumbent upon you to find a situation where you can. You are not allowed to continue in that place. You have to leave. You have to find something different.

The Meaning of Hijra

Consider the Hijra of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and his Companions. The hijra of the people who left Andalusia after the Inquisition.

Many of these emigrations that have happened throughout history were of people who escaped to preserve their religion. Even the Jews left Andalusia for the same reason and only found sanctuary in the Muslim lands.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, mentions in a hadith that the true muhajir, the one who emigrates, “is the one who emigrates from his sins.” In other words, from one’s own disobedience. That is a spiritual emigration.

It is to leave off and put aside all things for the sake of one’s religion. And to flee to Allah for the sake of Allah.

The People of the Cave serve as an example of this.


This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.