Reflections on Surah Taha – Dr Hadia Mubarak

Dr Hadia Mubarak reflects on Surah Taha and how it can provide us with ease and comfort in these current times of difficulty and confusion.

At times of great distress, I find my heart naturally gravitating to Surat Taha, the twentieth chapter of the Quran. Its emotive energy is powerful, taking its reader through one of the most captivating sagas of prophetic history. It puts on display the spectrum of human emotion, beginning with fear, followed by hope, then a life of privilege and access, followed by one of exile, then a sense of complete vulnerability and destituteness to God, followed by blessing, stability and gratitude. 

One of the chapter’s many appeals to its readers is the realization of converse human experiences: betrayal and loyalty, cunning enmity and trusting affirmation (i.e. the magicians), fear and love, doubt and faith. Its verses capture a depth of love that outrivals the best of human love poetry. As a mother, the words “and we returned you to your mother so that her eyes may find coolness and she may not grieve” play on the strings of my heart like music. God identifies this act of divine grace – returning Moses (peace be upon him) to be nursed by his own biological mother – as a favor to Moses’ mother, an unnamed woman whose status is so high that God wants to console and comfort her grieving heart.

The narrative of Moses’ life, from his birth to the final exodus from Egypt, can be found in many junctures of the Quran. Musa (peace be upon him) is the most mentioned prophetic name in the Quran, appearing 136 times in thirty-three chapters of the Qur’an. Yet it is chapter 20, Surat Taha, that tell us a story of love: God’s divine and tender love for Moses (peace be upon him) and Moses’ loyal and yearning devotion to God.

God proclaims His love for Moses in a literary masterpiece that combines eloquence and etiquette. In the Quran (20:39), God declares, “I have cast my love over you so that you may be reared in My eyes” and in Quran (20:41), “I have fashioned/chosen you for Myself.”

Moses is eager to reciprocate God’s love, to be worthy of this divine favor. When the Israelites have neared Mount Sinai, Moses is overtaken by his longing to hear God and rushes to Mount Sinai, leaving behind the Israelites with his brother Aaron (Harun). At this point in the chapter, God asks, “Moses, what has made you come ahead of your people in such haste?” (20:83). The insertion of Moses’ name here reflects God’s gentle tenderness towards Moses. Moses responds, “They are treading in my footsteps. And I rushed to You, My Lord, to please You.” (20:84).

Muslim exegetes interpreted this verse as a sign of Moses’ longing (شوق) to meet God, his love so intense that he could not help but run to meet His lord. In his response to God, Moses reciprocates a high level of etiquette, addressing God directly as “my Lord” and affirming his devotion to God.

Finally, the Arabic-speaking reader might notice the double appearance of the term “أوحينا” (“We have inspired”) in this chapter, first in (20:38) and then in (20:77). It is in the juxtaposition of these two verses that the saga of Moses, his mother and the Israelites comes full circle. The first time this term is used, God inspires the mother of Moses to cast him in a basket in the Nile; she must muster the courage to do the unspeakable for the sake of saving her infant, who would inevitably be killed by Pharaoh’s men if left at home. The second time the term is used, God inspires Moses to flee with the Israelites and to strike a path in the Red Sea for them. Like his mother, Moses must muster the courage and faith that God will not let him down, that he and his people will not drown, that the waters of the Sea will transform into a sanctuary for them, just as the waters of the river became a sanctuary for Moses as an infant.

The juxtaposition of these two terms  (أوحينا), side by side, reveals a deep connection between the two stories. In the first instance of inspiration, the life of one soul is saved; in the second instance of inspiration, the souls of 620,000 people are saved, according to Muslim traditions. Yet the second rescue is dependent on the first. It is only through Moses that God chooses to release the Israelites from a life of slavery, turmoil and death. The Quran’s use of the phrase, “We inspired,” in these two distinct instances threads together one woman’s courage to rescue her infant son with one man’s courage to save an entire nation.


Dr. Hadia Mubarak is an assistant professor of religious studies at Guilford College. Previously, Mubarak taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson College. Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world.


 

Preserving the Light of Ramadan – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

How do we preserve the light of Ramadan once the month has ended?

 

One of the keys to preserving what we have attained is in the intentions we make before the month ends. We should make firm intentions to do good in Shawwal and beyond. We also need to beg Allah to preserve and increase the gifts He has given us. We need to be consistent in our attendance of gatherings and classes, consistent in our recitation of the Quran while reflecting upon its meanings and consistent in our recitation of the adhkar with presence of heart. We must also choose the best company and sit in the presence of people who have been given light.

 

Courtesy of Muwasala.org

Intentions For After Ramadan – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

What intentions should we make for after Ramadan?

 

We intend to be among those whose entire year is Ramadan

We intend that our connection with Allah is expressed in our actions throughout the day and the night

We intend to serve the Ummah in the best way by focusing on the Three Objectives (knowledge, devotion and service)

We intend to seek the pleasure of Allah and to make His Messenger ﷺ happy in all that we do

We intend to attain an increase in presence of heart with Allah at all times but especially during the prayer and recitation of the Quran and the adhkar

We intend to establish gatherings with our brothers and sisters who we love for Allah’s sake

We intend to fast the Six Days of Shawwal and other blessed days such as Tāsūā’ and Ashura (9th and 10th Muharram) and the Day of Arafah and at least three days in every month

 

* Courtesy of Muwasala.org

Habib Kadhim al Saqqaf on the Last Ten Days of Ramadan

*Originally Published on 7/06/2018

Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf encourages us to maximise our benefit from the last ten days of Ramadan, and offers advice and practical tips.

Step 1: Appreciation & Intention

We can begin by appreciating the gift of these blessed ten days, and learning about what Allah is offering us therein. We can receive it with gratitude and joy, and thankfulness to Allah for His gift.

We can intend to fast happily, do good works and pray tarawih in order to follow the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Intend to deal with others well this Ramadan.

Step 2: Understanding

We know that the first part of Ramadan is mercy, the middle part of it is forgiveness, and the last part of it is freedom from the Fire. By recognizing that the last ten nights are freedom from the Fire, we can plan to strive harder in order to achieve it.

We can also keep in mind that Allah prescribed the fast to us, just as He did to others before us. It was not meant to be a pointless command to put us in difficultly, but rather to teach us valuable lessons in self-restraint and God-consciousness.

Step 3: Rejoice

Therefore, we can rejoice in the presence of these days, by exposing ourselves to the mercy of Allah, and embodying it by showing mercy to other. This is in the spirit of the hadith, “The merciful ones will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to the ones on Earth, and the one beyond the heavens will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi) We should pray for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and we should pray that people who are isolated or unaware of the religion, find a connection to it.


With gratitude to Greensville Trust.


 

On Praise and Celebration – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, discusses the spiritual and internal dimensions of Eid.

On Praise and Celebration

The two salahs (prayers) – along with the khutbahs (sermons) – of the two Eids are significantly placed at the beginning of the day of these two great Islamic occasions. They act as a singular reminder that no matter how joyous a celebration might be for us, the centrality of the Divine and normative spirituality in our lives ought never to be ignored. Our celebrations, festivities and commemorations are invariably configured within the orbit of that quintessentially Islamic practice of spirituality. Nevertheless, it remains a Sunnah to rejoice – to, in effect, feel and experience that joy – regardless of how bleak and dim matters might appear to be.

Our rejoicing, however, need not be read as a moment of insensitivity towards the suffering of others. On the contrary, our rejoicing is an expression of the Qur’anic verse: “Do not despair of the Mercy of Allah, for Allah forgives all sins.”(39: 53) We have to rejoice at the fact that even if we have nothing other than Islam and Iman (secure faith) that this is enough cause for celebration. “Indeed, the true religion with Allah is Islam.” (Qur’an, 3: 19). Here Islam is not presented as a falsification of other prophets and religions, but as a crystalline distillation of those beliefs, rites and practices that found both their manifestation and actualization – in all their multifarious forms – throughout our sacred history from the time of the Prophet Adam (Peace be upon him) and Hawa (Peace be upon her) to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations upon him). With the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations upon him) the sacred chain of prophets and religions had come full circle and found its perfection in him.

In the latter sense Islam is the ultimate ni’mah (Divine Grace). Within the starkness of this condition we need to remember that in Islam the emphasis is on optimism, not pessimism. This will remain so even though it appears as if we are going through one of our most trying moments in history. There are media and cultural biases against Muslims, religiously bigoted views about Islam and active distortion about the political and social conditions in some parts of the Muslim world. But when we venture below the surface, we encounter another story – that Islam is in fact the fastest growing religion on the planet• despite the best efforts by propagandists to smear and demonize Islam and Muslims. For those in the know in the non-Muslim world, it is not bombs, bullets and the behavior of emotionally disturbed individuals speaking in the name of the ummah that will get Islam and Muslims anywhere, but potentially this demographic fact of the massive conversion rate in the world today – particularly in the Western world. Yet care should be exercised in this regard. Demographics alone is not good enough.

So, what is the position of Muslims vis-à-vis all of this? The Qur’an tells us, “When the help of Allah comes and victory; and you see people entering the religion in droves, then hymn the praises of Allah, be then grateful and seek forgiveness.” (110: 1-3). The message is clear: Islam is not the property or possession of any particular person. It does not belong to “me” to boast about when there is an increase in fortune and capital. It is not a self-aggrandizing condition that entitles cradle Muslims to sport and parade their newly acquired wares. What indeed are required are gestures of humility and thanksgiving that speak of hearts that are fully aware of the fact that Islam requires change founded in a sacred and transcendent order that seeks to spiritually liberate the human condition from the most blameworthy qualities that blight that condition. Qualities such as malicious envy, rancor, belligerence, bigotry and both internecine hatred and hatred of the “other”. In other words, celebrating the entrance of droves of humanity into Islam is meant and designed to celebrate the great qualitative changes that may precipitate from those who adopted Islam as their new faith, on the basis of choice and free will. Choices that may well contribute to elevating those cradle Muslims fossilized in an arrogance and self-righteousness that serve to undermine rather than proclaim the universal message of Islam.

The social importance of events such as Eid, however, should also not be overlooked. These are times during which thousands of Muslims fill our mosques to capacity in a collective moment of elevated togetherness. They are also times of unconditional giving and sharing – moments that know no borders, whether personal, individual, or organizational. Those who fail to participate in this unity of experience can hardly claim to be of the ‘Ai’din (participants in the celebration of Eid).

The very fact too, that it is a sunnah for women to attend the salah of the two Eids underscores the importance of a border-free participation in these two events. Like Hajj and ‘Umrah, they are designed to represent the ultimate in human togetherness. But this “human togetherness” we experience in our mosques – as Muslims proud of our religion, proud to be the bearers of the message of Islam – needs to be transferred into the broader arena of our social living.

As part of our own contribution to this togetherness my brother, Shaykh Ahmad, and I have long ago decided to join hands with those who are both firmly rooted in and creatively linked to our classical legacy and, more specifically, to that great normative Tradition of Islam that finds its expression in the voices of the likes of Hujjat al-Islam Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, al-Shaykh al-Akbar Muhyi l-Din ibn al-‘Arabi, Shykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhuli, al-Faqih al-Muqaddam, Shaykh Junayd al-Baghdadi, Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi and others far too numerous to mention. It is a Tradition, too, that has never failed to recognize and acknowledge that the Qur’an and the Sunnah form the twin sources of spirituality and Divine Grace (barakah) – a spirituality and a grace that have found their infinite space and flow upon the shores of those hearts receptive to the perennial rhythms of Divine Providence.
Upon these shores, and across the ages, stand these gladiators of Islamic Spirituality who wield those radiant staves – enlightened and enlightening – of Sufism.

In these representatives, we find an Islam that combines fearlessness with wisdom, methodology with sanity and a state of being imbued with confidence and dignity. It is an Islam that tells us when we invite to the Way of Allah that we do so with hikmah (wisdom) and maw’idht al-hasanah (beautiful exhortations). It is an Islam that tells us that representative Muslims are those who “are guided unto good speech and are guided unto the path of the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an, 22:24). It is an Islam that teaches us that while it is permissible to requite a wrong, that it is yet better to forgive. It is an Islam that teaches us that if we are oppressed and removed from our homes that we are entitled to fight for the restoration of our natural rights. It is an Islam, moreover, that teaches that if our enemies stop their hostilities with offerings of peace that we, in turn, reciprocate with peace and get on with our lives.

In short, it is an Islam the essence of which is taught in the madrasah of Ramadan. Here we are taught the virtues of taqwa (God-consciousness), the virtues of disciplining the will and aligning it with the Will of Allah, the virtues of purifying the heart and the soul, and the virtues of sabr (patience and endurance), namely, that extraordinary and richly rewarding capacity to live with fortitude in the long term.

In this madrasah we are taught to be truly human. And we can only be truly human, in Islamic terms, if we live up to the highest standards demanded by Islamic Spirituality. It is in the context of realizing the greatness of spirit within each and every human being that we come to recognize the greatness of Allah. Moreover, we need to live up to the greatness of that spirit within each and every one of us in order to realize, not only the meaning of the takbir (magnifying Allah) on both Eids, but also to rediscover that spiritual umbilical cord that connects us to Allah:

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar…La ilaha ill Allah wa l-Llahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar wa lillahi l-hamd – Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest. There is no deity other than Allah, for He, indeed, is the Greatest. Allah is the Greatest and to Him belongs all praise.

Ultimate Praise is for Allah alone for it is nothing other than an echo that found its first articulation when the children of Adam (Peace be upon him) and Hawwa (Peace be upon her) were asked to bear witness to their Lord in their original state of primordial nativity: “Am I not your Lord?” They proclaimed: “Verily, we bear witness!” (Qur’an, 7: 172).

But we should not forget our praise and thanks for those upon whom and within whom the imprints of that Lordship have found their resonance and expression. They are those prophets, saints and savants who have been touched – in varying degrees – with the radiance of Divine Grace. As living symbols of all that constitutes the sacred, these are the people, too, we should never forget in our commemorations and celebrations. They form as much a part of sacred history and memory; as sacred, – if not more on occasion – as those divinely selected and sanctified moments of space and time.

 

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Azzavia Institute 2020

Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 9: Never Lose Hope | Shaykh Edris Khamissa

Ustadth Edris Khamissa reminds us that we should never lose hope in the mercy and blessings of Allah. However, if we wish to be recipients of Allah’s mercy and bounties, we need to ensure that we are manifesting mercy to our fellow human beings. Let us take the opportunity this Ramadan to strengthen our bonds with family, friends and strangers.

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary offers structured learning and inspiring religious guidance, completely free. We also offer over a dozen classes with scholars from around the world streamed live this Ramadan. View the full schedule and tune in daily at https://www.seekersguidance.org/live.

We offer FREE courses, with clear learning streams for Islamic studies, Youth Islamic Studies, and Learning Arabic as well as a range of topics. To Register Visit https://www.seekersguidance.org/courses.

During this current crisis, we need your help in spreading clarity in these confusing times. We are in a time when scholars and students are left without support due to the closing of religious institutions and we can’t afford to let this hurt people’s faith. Help us to raise $1 million with your zakat and charity and support the Islamic Scholars Fund.

You can also assist SeekersGuidance in spreading the light of guidance through our at https://www.seekersguidance.org/donate

Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 6: Reviving Souls, One Kind Word at a Time | Shaykh Ahmed El Azhary

In age of social media, Ramadan is a great opportunity to work on self-discipline, especially on restraining our speech. In this episode, Shaykh Ahmed El Azhary explains the importance of kind words when dealing with others.

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary offers structured learning and inspiring religious guidance, completely free. We also offer over a dozen classes with scholars from around the world streamed live this Ramadan. View the full schedule and tune in daily at https://www.seekersguidance.org/live.

We offer FREE courses, with clear learning streams for Islamic studies, Youth Islamic Studies, and Learning Arabic as well as a range of topics. To Register Visit https://www.seekersguidance.org/courses.

During this current crisis, we need your help in spreading clarity in these confusing times. We are in a time when scholars and students are left without support due to the closing of religious institutions and we can’t afford to let this hurt people’s faith. Help us to raise $1 million with your zakat and charity and support the Islamic Scholars Fund.

You can also assist SeekersGuidance in spreading the light of guidance through our at https://www.seekersguidance.org/donate

Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 5: The Higher Aims of Fasting: Patience | Ustadh Tayssir Safi

 

It is important for us contemplate why outward devotional acts were legislated, and what are some of the key aims and wisdoms. Ustadh Mohammed Safi explains how one of the central aims of the fast is to help foster the virtue of patience. The outward struggle to refrain from the very key human desire to be satiated is a means of teaching us patience and helping us foster this central virtue of our faith.

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary offers structured learning and inspiring religious guidance, completely free. We also offer over a dozen classes with scholars from around the world streamed live this Ramadan. View the full schedule and tune in daily at https://www.seekersguidance.org/live.

We offer FREE courses, with clear learning streams for Islamic studies, Youth Islamic Studies, and Learning Arabic as well as a range of topics. To Register Visit https://www.seekersguidance.org/courses.

During this current crisis, we need your help in spreading clarity in these confusing times. We are in a time when scholars and students are left without support due to the closing of religious institutions and we can’t afford to let this hurt people’s faith. Help us to raise $1 million with your zakat and charity and support the Islamic Scholars Fund.

You can also assist SeekersGuidance in spreading the light of guidance through our at https://www.seekersguidance.org/donate.

Righteousness Through Fasting – Moulana Muhammad Carr

* Courtesy of Neo Marketing

In this video, Moulana Muhammad Carr discusses the great benefits and effects that fasting has on our spiritual states. Fasting is that act which is able to breakdown the cycle of desire and sin in those actions which we are not able to intellectually wean ourselves off.

The Point of Worship in Ramadan – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this timely reminder, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani reminds us that our acts of worship in Ramadan are means to an end – seeking Allah Most High. He uses the Qur’anic verses on fasting to show us the objectives of such works of worship. Furthermore, he urges us to find our purpose in our devotional acts by seeing them as a means to seek our Lord.

*This video was recorded on  May 15, 2018.