Welcoming the Month of the Greatest Beloved (Peace Be Upon Him) – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

In the above video, Sayyidi al-Habib `Umar (may Allah preserve him and benefit us by him) talks about the state we should be in and the ways to prepare ourselves and our loved ones in welcoming the month of the Noble Birth of the Beloved ﷺ.

Welcoming Rabi al-Awwal by Seeking the Pleasure of Allah and His Messenger – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafīz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) teaches us how to welcome the month Rabi al-Awwal by. The following is an extracts from a talk in the mawlid in Dar al-Mustafa, 3rd Rabi` al-Awwal 1433 (26th January 2012)

The new moon of Rabi al-Awwal has appeared, the month in which Allah brought forth His best and most perfect slave, His Chosen One, His Beloved, the Most Noble of the First and the Last in the sight of the Lord of the Worlds. His uncle al-`Abbas addressed him at the end of his life, on their return from Tabuk, his last expedition, with the following verse:

وأَنْتَ لَمَّا وُلِدْتَ أشْرَقَتْ الأَرْضُ وضَاءَتْ بِنُورِكَ الأُفُق

ُفَنَحْنُ في ذلك الضِّياءِ وفي النُّورِ وسُبْلِ الرَّشَادِ نَخْتَرِق

When you were born the earth and the horizons were illuminated by your light

We remain bathed in that glow and it continues to light the path as we travel it

Every mawlid composed later is merely echoing what the Companions said to the Chosen One. They were the first people to celebrate the mawlid.

Our Master `Isa will descend to the earth and you will see how he will be ennobled by following Muhammad. Any of you that are with him at that time will see how he mentions the Master of Creation. His heart and the hearts of those present will be filled with veneration when they mention his name. He knows our Master Muhammad better than us, for a Prophet knows a Prophet. No member of this nation knows him in the way that the Spirit of Allah knows him.

The Master of the Followers, Uways al-Qarani, said to the greatest of the Companions, our Masters `Umar and `Ali, who knew the Beloved better than anyone: “All that you knew of the Messenger of Allah was his shadow.”

They said: “True, all that we knew of the Messenger of Allah was his shadow.”

Direct your hearts to attain His pleasure and a portion of His gifts. In every day and night there are gifts, and in every month, and in this month in particular. You attain these gifts according to your connection to the one who taught us, the unique one. Take a portion of his vast, noble, priceless teachings, with sincere desire, to attain the reality of:

It is more fitting that they please Allah and His Messenger if they are truly believers.

Strive in this noble month to please the Chosen One, seeking to please Allah. Please him with your intentions, your ambitions, your words and deeds. Allah is pleased with those that praise his Prophet, those that venerate His Prophet, those that support His Prophet. He is pleased with that which pleases the Prophet.

You have spent so much of your time and thoughts seeking to please yourself, your family, your relatives and your friends. This may have caused you to travel from one country to another. Have you sought the pleasure of the Beloved? How much do you think about this? How much do you worry about this? How far have you travelled seeking his pleasure? How much hardship have you borne? How much have you sacrificed? There is nothing on the earth or in this life whose pleasure is more worthy of seeking than Muhammad.

According to your faith you strive to please Allah’s Beloved. Seek his pleasure! When the Companions saw that he was pleased, when his face shone with happiness, they said: “It was more beloved to us than red camels.” Nothing was harder for them to bear than seeing him angry, seeing the vein between his blessed eyes swell up.

Look for the true meaning of seeking his pleasure in this month. You will not find it on the satellite channels. Seek it from its source, connect to the light of his message. This will show you how to seek his pleasure, in which is the pleasure of the Most High. If you have in your heart an attribute which does not please him, then strive to rid your heart of it. He is not pleased with arrogance, so do not be content to show arrogance, even to inanimate objects, let alone animals or humans, for the Lord of all things dislikes you doing this.

Seek it by giving life to the sunnah in your house in Rabi al-Awwal! If your family are heedless of Allah between Maghrib and `Isha, joking or watching TV then bring to life the sunnah of venerating this time. Teach them at home at this time. If they are young, teach them the Arabic letters so that they are connected to the Qur’an. If they are older, go over with them the parts of the Qur’an that they have memorised.

If the sunnah of seeking forgiveness before Fajr is absent, bring it to life in Rabi al-Awwal. Let there be at least one person seeking forgiveness before Fajr in the house, one person saying to the Oft-Forgiving “forgive me!” at the time which Allah loves for people to seek His forgiveness, at the time when delegations came to the door of the Bestower.

If no-one in the house prays in congregation then teach your wife, your sister, your daughter to only pray in congregation. Bring life to these sunnahs. Remove anything that displeases your Lord from your house, anything that displeases your Prophet, audio or visual. Let the house be filled in Rabi with the remembrance of the Beloved, with the mention of his attributes, his life, his birth. You will be enlightened and so will your family.

Allah bless the people of good who are striving in the East and West, the people who are remembering and reciting the mawlid, for they are the keys to removing tribulation. People raising their voices with the remembrance of Allah and His Messenger in their houses, in the mosques and in the streets are a cause for hardships to be relieved. So many Muslim groups have lost the way. They do not know how to rectify themselves or those around them. They do not seek it from the door that Allah has opened:

Allah will not change what is in a people until they change what is in themselves.

Let us change what is in ourselves. Let us make our children feel that Rabi al-Awwal has entered, and that it is connected to the Beloved. Make them feel that their lives are founded upon loving him, venerating him and following him. This is the foundation of the whole religion. May Allah grant you strong ambition and high intentions! May the end of the month not come before some of the rays of the Beloved’s light bring some relief to the suffering of the Muslims.

O Lord, bless us in this month. Bless us in our remembrance of You and Your Messenger. Make us among those who are mentioned in Your presence, and among those who are mentioned in his presence. Bless our hearts with noble intentions that raise us to the ranks of those beloved to You, so that on the Day of Judgement we are with those that you mentioned:

The Day on which Allah will not humiliate the Prophet and those who believe with him.

Make us with him, and our families, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our students.

Their light will run before them and by their right hands, while they say: “O Lord, perfect our light for us, and forgive us, for You have power over all things.”

If anyone has anything in their heart that prevents them from seeking Your pleasure and Your Messenger’s pleasure then remove it so that they prefer You and Your Messenger over everyone else.  So that when we sleep tonight nothing is more beloved to us than You and Your Messenger. Increase us in love tomorrow and in the coming days until we meet You, O Most Generous.


 

The Trodden Path (Episode 9): Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani of Turkestan

In this series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this ninth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani  of Turkestan.

The Trodden Path Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani 1314-1389=1896-1969 (Turkestan)

Muhammad Ibrahim ibn Sa’d Allah ibn Abdur Rahim ibn Abdul Alim Al-Fadli Al-Khutani was a famous scholar. He was born in Qaraqaash, Turkistan in 1896 (1314). He was born into a home with a history and legacy of knowledge and piety.

He memorized the Quraan at a young age under his paternal uncle and teacher, Qari Rozi Muhammad Al-Andajaani. He studied the basics under his father and his cousins, Shaykh Muhammad Sharif Al-Khutani and Shaykh Muhammad Esa Al-Khutani. 

When he completed his initial education, he desired to travel to Lucknow, but as per instruction from his teachers, he travelled to Kashghar. He settled at Madarasah Taj Hakim Bik where he studied under Shaykh Muhammad Yaqub and Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abdul Baqi Al-Artuji. With the latter he studied Talkhis Al-Miftah. In Kashghar, there was a scholar from Tripoli-Lebanon whose name was Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Al-Asli under who he studied Hadith. Thereafter the Russians deported this Shaykh to Khawarizm. 

However, he did not remain in Kashghar for more than eight months, after which he moved to Samarkand in 1914 (1332), where he settled in Madrasah Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. He studied under the Imam of the school, Shaykh Hadi ibn Fadl, Shaykh Muhammad Akram and Shaykh Burhan Al-Din. With Shaykh Burhan Al-Din he studied Al-Jazariyah and Al-Shatibiyah.

In 1920 (1339), he completed his studies, then went to Andajaan where he studied under his cousin Shaykh Rozi. He again read and studied Al-Shatibiyah with its commentary. He then received Ijazah from his Shaykh in Qirat. He then proceeded to Namnakaan where he studied Hadith under Shaykh Muhammad Thabit. He sought Ijazah from his teachers who granted it to him. Many of them narrated from Shaykh Ali ibn Zhahir Al-Watri (d. 1904 -1322).

In 1929 (1348), he traveled to Istanbul, thereafter he went to Hijaz to perform Haj after which he settled in Madinah. In Madinah, he was closely attached to Shaykh Abdul Baqi Al-Laknawi and Shaykh Abdul Qadir ibn Towfiq Al-Shalabi. Both were renowned Hanafi scholars of Hadith. He studied under them and heard the Musalsalaat and various other subjects.

He sought Ijazah from a number of other scholars in Hijaz. They included:

  • Shaykh Umar Hamdaan Al-Mahrasi
  • Shaykh Al-Sharif Ahmad Al-Sanusi
  • Shaykh Ali Al-Maliki
  • Shaykh Habibullah Al-Shanqiti
  • Shaykh Muhammad Al-Khidr Al-Shanqiti
  • Shaykh Ahmad Al-Fayd Abadi
  • Shaykh Idroos ibn Salim Al-Baar
  • Shaykh Umar Ba Junaid

In Madinah, he taught in Al-Madrasah Al-Nizhaamiyah with his teacher Shaykh Abdul Baqi Al-Laknawi, who had appointed him as a teacher. He taught between the years (1351-1354). When this institute was closed due to Shaykh Abdul Baqi’s ill health, he moved to Madrasah Torah Gul Al-Turkistani. When Shaykh Ahmad Al-Fayd Abadi learnt of his brilliance, he requested that he teach students at Madrasah Al-Uloom Al-Shariyah in the senior level.

In 1962 (1382), he moved to the library that was attached to the Prophet’s Mosque and was known as the Al-Mahmudiyah Library. He was very well acquainted with books and manuscripts and wrote a book where he mentioned the manuscripts that he read. He was also involved in translating works from Turkish, Urdu, Persian and the Uzbek language. He did conduct lessons in some of the smaller schools.

He taught in the Prophet’s Mosque, where he taught Al-Muwatta with the transmission of Imam Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan, Alfiyah, Al-Kawaakib Al-Duriyah in grammar and Tafseer Al-Jalalayn. His practice was to repeat these books once he had completed it and he may have even taught Mishkaat Al-Masabih.

Shaykh Muhammad Ibrahim travelled extensively. He travelled to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Najd (Riyadh), Kuwait and Jordan. In these countries he met and benefited from the scholars who included:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Zahid Al-Kawthari
  • Shaykh Mustafa Sabri
  • Shaykh Mustafa Abu Sayf Al-Hamami
  • Shaykh Muhammad Jameel ibn Umar Al-Shatee

In 1379 he visited Damascus and was Shaykh Abu Al-Khair Al-Maydani’s guest. Many benefited from him during this trip.

Over and above his travels, he loved performing Haj and must have performed Haj about forty times either by walking or by camel, even though it was tough.

He was a very warm person, who welcomed the scholars who arrived in Makkah and Madinah from other countries. In this way he met many and sought Ijazah from them. Some of them were:

  • Shaykh Abdul Hay Al-Kettani
  • Shaykh Alawi ibn Tahir Al-Haddad
  • Shaykh Muhammad ibn Iwad Al-Tarimi
  • Shaykh Umar ibn Sumait, Mufti of Zanzibar

Shaykh Ibrahim was affectionate to his students and would encourage them to increase their knowledge. If he observed signs of brilliance in a student, then he took special care of him and guided him. Many gained from him. Some of his students were:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Daftar Dar
  • Shaykh Hamid Mirza Khan
  • His son, Muhammad Yahya
  • Shaykh Umar Muhammad Falatah
  • Shaykh Muhammad Yasin Al-Fadani
  • Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah

Even though he worked tirelessly, he wrote a number of books namely:

 

  • Tuhfat Al-Mustajizin bi Asanid A’laam Al-Mujizin
  • Fath Al-Rauf Zhi Al-Minan fi Tarajim Ulama Khutan
  • Al-Risalat Al-Fadilah fi Thubut Al-Tawaafeen li Al-Qarin bi Adilat Al-Qati’yah
  • A book on the laws of Jumuah, Eid and Janazah in Turkish
  • A compilation of his teachers Fatawa

 

He was a person known by many to have avoided the luxuries and pleasures of the world; he was simple in his dressing. He was an orator and a person who maintained and upheld the recitation of the Quran. He was very punctual and particular in performing his five Salat in the Prophet’s Mosque. Outwardly, the respect and dignity of the ulama was clearly apparent. He was very fond of gathering books and manuscripts and his own library contained about fifty-two manuscripts. 

He took ill in 1969 (1389), for about six months and succumbed to this illness in the same year. The Janazah was performed in the Prophet’s Mosque and he is buried in Al-Baqi’.


Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


 

An Ode to Our Elders & Teachers – By Shaan Mukhtar

In this Pre Khutba talk, Sidi Shaan Muktar reminds us of the importance of respecting our elders and teachers. Sidi Shaan also emphasizes the critical need of showing mercy, compassion and respect to the young. In order for a community to thrive there has to be a mutual respect and harmony between the elders and the young.

* This video was originally posted by Muslim Community Center (MCC East Bay) on the 12th of April 2019.

The Scholar Who Worked as a Waiter – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

One of our teachers was Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Attas, a scholar and a true worshipper. He was known as ‘al-Zabidi’ because he spent some years studying with the scholars of Zabid (once a great centre of knowledge in Yemen). During his time there he chose to work as a waiter in a restaurant, not because he needed the money, but in order to refine his lower self (nafs): running round taking people’s orders, bring this, do this..

We visited him in his home in Huraydah at the end of his life with a group of scholars: among them Habib Mashhur bin Hafiz, Habib Umar bin Alawi al-Kaf, Habib Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Shihab and Habib Salim al-Shatiri.

He said:

“Last night someone saw the Prophet ﷺ in this very room.”

May Allah have mercy upon him – a scholar who knew the importance of refining the nafs.

– Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) during his commentary on the Ihya Ulum al-Din, Dar al-Mustafa, 28th Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1440.


 

Imam Hasan and the Effect of Hajj – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

* Courtesy of Muwasala

Imam Hasan, the son of Imam Abdullah bin Alawi al-Haddad was a seeker, a person of piety and a scholar who acted according to his knowledge. Imam al-Haddad, however, was waiting for him to reach higher levels. He said: “When that son of mine performs hajj something will be ingrained in him which was not in him before.”

So he went to perform hajj and implemented all the sunnahs, exerted great caution and effort until the hajj had its effect upon him. Then he returned to Hadramawt and became a paragon of renunciation of worldly things (zuhd).

They told him that part of his house was falling and it needed to be repaired (houses in Hadramawt are built from mud bricks and require regular repair) but he replied that he did not need that part of the house and life was short.

He focused on teaching and preparing for the next life until one half of the house caved in. He said: “The other half of the house is sufficient.”  He carried on in this way until only one room of the house was left standing. When people criticised him, he replied with a verse of poetry:

They say your house is so small it could have been woven by a spider!

I say to them I will not live long in it and it is plenty big enough for someone who is sure to die

This is the exact opposite of what hajj does to some people. They go to hajj and they have some humility but they return with more desire and concern for worldly things. This would be a sign that their hajj has not been accepted and we seek Allah’s refuge from that.

The whole purpose of hajj is to draw us closer to Allah, the King, the Living and that we see things as they truly are.


 

Commemorating The Life and Legacy of Imam Abdullah Haron – Shaykh Sadullah Khan (Video)

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan reflects on the life and legacy of one of South Africa’s heroes, Imam Abdullah Haron. As a religious scholar and a concerned community activist, Imam Abdullah Haron opposed and resisted the tyrannical Apartheid regime. After imprisonment by the apartheid government, Imam Abdullah Haron was martyred. Shaykh Sadullah reminds us of the struggle of Galiema Haron (Imam Haron’s wife) and the various challenges she and her family faced, and how the Muslim community abandoned her during her time of need. Her support and perseverance should never be forgotten, and as we remember and commemorate the life her husband Imam Haron, we should equally remember her life and struggle in support of her husband.

ADAB 14: The Proprieties of Prioritizing in Religious Practice

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of prioritizing religious practice.

“From the marks of following whimsical desires is rushing to perform supererogatory acts of devotion, and laziness in the fulfilment of religiously obligatory duties.” Profound words from the remarkable Ahmad b. ‘Ata Illah al-Sakandari (may Allah sanctify his secret). You don’t start profiting until you’ve broken even, and a lack of religious priority and guidance can lead to loss in this life before the next. Fortunately, the scholars don’t just leave us in the dark about how to function prophetically, and with true, praiseworthy adab, but they take us by the hand to ensure that we grow, recognise, appreciate and are subsequently grown, even without our own doing.

Our Master ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: “I have come intending to set out in jihad with you, seeking thereby the countenance of Allah and the next abode. I have indeed come, but my parents are weeping.” He said, Allah bless him and give them peace, “Return to them and make them laugh just as you made them weep.” (Ibn Majah) It doesn’t matter about your emotions, how much you want something, how beloved it appears to be to the lawgiver, or anything else. What matters is priority, and this is not it in your life at this time. Priority is what the Lawgiver wants from you and I, and that takes time to realise, absorb, consider and do.

1. Divine Love in Priority

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said in a holy tradition (hadith qudsi), transmitting Allah’s Speech to us: “My servant draws near to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him; and My servant continues drawing nearer to Me with supererogatory works until I love him.” (Bukhari) It is not by jumping to recommended or mere charitable deeds that a believer wins unto the great, good pleasure of the Divine, but by fulfilling that which He has made obligatory upon us. 

In another tradition, our Master Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported that a man came and said to the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Do you think that if I pray the prescribed prayers, fast [the month of] Ramadan, deem the lawful to be lawful and the unlawful to be forbidden, and I do not add anything beyond that, I shall enter Paradise?” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Yes.’ (Muslim) The religion is comprised of different duties, of course, but there is something special about the obligatory acts, a secret by which a person can attain unto ultimate bliss. 

Obligatory, missed duties also need to be made up and should be given precedence over supererogatory works, unless that which requires attention is minimal. So you should focus, for example, on the missed dawn prayers (fajr) rather than praying extra cycles (rak‘as) of the mid-morning prayer (duha). Generally, makeup prayers and fasts should be prioritised, as is the case with missed zakat payments. Mandatory duties such as missed end of Ramadan charity payments (sadaqat al-fitr), missed ritual sacrifices (udhiya/qurbani), expiations for fasting, oaths and the like, should also be given precedence to other monetary acts of devotion

2. Duties: Communal and Personal

Allah Most High says, “However, it is not necessary for the believers to march forth all at once. Only a party from each group should march forth, leaving the rest to gain religious knowledge then enlighten their people when they return to them, so that they too may beware of evil.” (Sura al-Tawba 9:122) In his exegesis, Ibn ‘Ashur explains that seeking knowledge is also a communal obligation, and that the entire community of believers (umma) would have been negligent if they had all left in jihad. Rather, there were multiple obligations to take care of, and a sufficiently large group needed fulfil each duty. Both were prioritised and of equal, communal importance. 

The communal obligation (fard kifaya) is that which is due upon every community of believers in a particular place. It is not limited to seemingly religious roles. An example would be the need to have doctors, lawyers and traders, all of whom are required to run a healthy society. This obligation is only lifted if a sufficiently large number of people fulfil it whereby the need is taken care of. Otherwise, the entire community is sinful. The personal obligation (fard ‘ayn) is that which is due from every single individual without exception. Similarly, there is a communal sunna, such as the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf), and personal sunnas, such as the emphasised cycles (rak‘as) associated with each prescribed prayer. All of these also require fulfilment as such sunnas are duties which cannot be left without a genuine, shari‘a-countenanced excuse. 

The personal obligation is of greatest importance because matters which pertain to the generality are lesser in emphasis. But some individuals have a greater responsibility to take care of duties on behalf of the entire community because of their aptitude and personal circumstances, and their reward will be commensurate with the sincerity of their service and devotion. What this also means is that each person may get the reward of fulfilling an obligatory duty by intending their permissible work as such whenever they set out in the morning or night. Each person has a place, and actions are but by their intentions. When there is a choice, prioritising entails choosing a communal duty that is not yet fully fulfilled.

3. Knowledge of Your Current Circumstances (‘ilm al-hal)

It is obligatory, of course, to know enough that you can worship Allah Most High in the situations you normally find yourself in. In this context, worship relates to three things: (a) that which relates to the mind, ‘aqida; (b) that which relates to the limbs, fiqh; and that which relates to the heart, tasawwuf. All of this is required, albeit to the extent of the need, in order to fulfil your duty to worship. 

The Ottoman scholar, and the Shaykh of the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-haram) of his time, Yusuf al-Amasi (d. 1000 AH), writes in his brilliant treatise, Tabyin al-Maharim: “It is obligatory to know the [basic] rulings of (1) the five prescribed duties [assuming that they are due]; (2) the details of sincerity, because the soundness of actions depends upon it; (3) [basic] rulings of the lawful and the unlawful; (4) the details of showing off, because the worshipper is deprived of reward otherwise; (5) the details of envy and conceitedness, because they consume a person’s good deeds just as fire consumes wood; the details of (6) buying, selling, (7) marriage and divorce, for somebody who intends to do these things; and the (8) [basic] rulings related to foul and impermissible language.” A fair deal to work on! Note that this is just a list with respect to the obligatory. There are also mandatory (wajib) acts which require performance and severely offensive (makruh tahriman) acts which need to be avoided. 

What this means is that knowing the details of logical arguments, debates of ancient philosophers, when particular penal punishments are applicable, what Razi said about a particular verse, the names of the Companions who fought at Badr, in what situations the predicate is hidden in classical Arabic, and other non-essential issues from the various Islamic sciences may wait for another time. The sincere person is focused and clear about what he needs and he takes the requisite steps in order to attain unto it. Otherwise, one should look to their heart as to why they are studying whatever it is they are studying, and if it is at the expense of the above or not, because the scholars would state that this is following one’s desires and not acting in accordance with prophetic guidance. “Consult your heart,” said the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, even if the scholars answer you time and again.

A related issue is that a man would also need to know a sufficient amount of worldly knowledge such that he can earn a living and support his family, and accordingly, he is fulfilling an obligatory duty by learning a trade or preparing himself for that.

4. Different Priorities at Different Times

The scholars of the science of Islamic Spirituality (tasawwuf) mention that the true aspirant is a “son of his moment.” This is characterised in the words of Imam Junayd who said, “The believer’s state changes forty times daily,” pointing to the idea of prioritising whatever is required at any given time. It is clearly preferable to do certain things at certain times, and other things at other times. The key to all of this is knowledge, wisdom and sincerity. A brief example would be choosing between extensive night worship and being fresh and ready for work in the subsequent morning, even if in the month of Ramadan. Negligence in fulfilling one’s responsibilities with due care, a matter related to the rights of others, is far more serious than any reward earned for extra rak‘as or recitation of the Qur’an.
The jurists expressed this idea of priorities in the legal maxims (qawa‘id fiqhiyya) they developed to help those in the judiciary and elsewhere to understand the underlying principles which are shared between particular groups of rulings, but to also forward universals, something that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also encouraged. An example of this is the statement: “Warding off harms is given precedence over the attainment of benefits.” Similarly, “Severe harm is warded off by undertaking lesser harm.” It may well be that the circumstance calls you to behave in a manner which is contrary to that which is normally expected because there is some kind of grave harm entailed in doing otherwise.

The cases of this are too numerous to mention, but, as an example, consider the following list of scenarios which the jurists deemed to take precedence over the ritual prayer, even if it meant that the prayer time would exit: (1) a midwife who fears for the life of a baby; (2) anybody able to help a drowning or burning person, or anybody else in need of urgent, life-saving assistance; (3) a traveller who genuinely fears for his life or wealth from armed criminals. Please note that this is a technical discussion and if you face any of these scenarios regularly, it’s best to consult with a learned scholar first to ensure you fully understand the details of when such a choice is religiously acceptable and when it is not.

5. Avoiding the Unlawful versus Fulfilling the Obligatory

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “That which I have prohibited you from, shun it, and that which I have commanded you with, do it to the best of your ability.” (Bukhari) Not doing something is far easier than doing something, and this is partly the reason for the prophetic dispensation provided for the obligatory, contrary to the prohibited. One’s dedication in leaving the unlawful should be more intense than one’s performance of the obligatory, given that all it entails is not doing something, but the omission of both is obviously inexcusable. 

It is important to progress in learning with gradualness and wisdom. One should start with the obligatory (fard) and the prohibited (haram) and work to establish and remove those matters, respectively, and then move on to the mandatory (wajib) and the severely offensive (makruh tahriman) and so on. If you are jumping ahead to undertake commendable or praiseworthy (mustahab/mandub) actions, and you haven’t taken care of that which comes before, you are only kidding yourself. Fulfilling such matters is fine in moderation, even whilst you haven’t mastered the other things, but not at the expense of those which are hallmarks of sincere believers. The early righteous would say, “Works of piety are done by both the righteous and the corrupt, but nobody has the strength to leave sin except the sincerely faithful.” 

6. Public and Personal Benefit

The general principle is that benefit which accrues to other than oneself is better and more beloved to Allah Most High than personal benefit, except in some situations. An example of this latter case would be, according to Sultan al-‘Ulama al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam, the remembrances (adhkar) after the prayer wherein one recites subhana Llah, alhamdu li Llah, Allahu akbar, thirty-three, thirty-three and thirty-four times respectively.

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Every person’s joints have [an associated] charity due each day in which the sun rises: to reconcile between two [disputing] people is a charity; to assist another by helping him onto his mount, or lifting his merchandise onto it for him, is a charity. A good word is a charity. Each step one takes to the prayer is a charity. And removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari)

Our religion is service at its very heart; the scholar is a servant, the doctor is a servant, everybody with a profession serves, even if only their dependents. “Whoever doesn’t serve, shall regret it,” as one of the righteous once remarked. 

Priority, then, is in recognising that some matters are more urgent than others, and for the believer, that the next life is far more important than this life. May Allah Most High grant us the vision to be farsighted enough to recognise where our eternal benefit lies, to facilitate the attainment of such goals, remove obstacles and hardships from our lives and the lives of all believers, and allow out hearts to thrive with His Pure Love. 

 

And Allah alone gives success.

ADAB 12: The Proprieties of Ramadan

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of Ramadan.

The fast is mine, and I shall recompense for it” (Bukhari). This is what Allah Mighty and Majestic instructed the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to inform his community (umma). The centrality of Ramadan and the fast is not lost on any of us. Allah Most High says, “Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful of Allah” (Sura al-Baqara 2:183). A month of seemingly endless mercies, blessings and spiritual joy which returns, by Divine grace, year after year to stir up the believers into performing works of everlasting consequence. The secret to a successful Ramadan is in recognizing that, whilst the blessed month comes and goes, the one who makes it come and go is the All-Generous, Ever-Present. The point of Ramadan is to reorient our lives to Allah Most High. This is what we see in the prophetic example, and this is what we aspire to. 

1. Sowing the Seeds & Preparation

Genuine and sincere longing for the blessed month entails preparation, namely, some time to sow the seeds, and then to harvest when the noble guest of Ramadan arrives. The proprieties of true preparation include repentance and seeking forgiveness for wrongs, returning any rights owed to their respective owners, reconciling relationships after having wronged people, refraining from sin, planning ahead to ensure that you will have time to reap your harvest, and making lofty intentions. 

On the evening following the twenty-ninth day, it is recommended to seek out the new crescent. If it is seen, the recommendation is to supplicate with the words, “O Allah, make it rise over us with safety and faith, and security and submission. My [Lord] and your Lord is Allah (allahumma ahillahu ‘alayna bi’l yumni wa’l iman wa’s salamati wa’l islam rabbi wa rabbuk Allah)” (Tirmidhi). If the sky is overcast, the thirtieth of Sha‘ban is termed the Day of Doubt (yawm al-shakk). Fasting a voluntary fast on this day is recommended, but not necessary, nor disliked, as long as your intention is unequivocally clear. 

2. Recommended Sunnas of the Fast

From amongst the recommended sunnas is to partake in a pre-dawn meal (sahur). The Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Partake in the pre-dawn meal, for indeed, it has blessing [in it].” (Bukhari) Of course, it isn’t necessary to actually have an entire meal, rather a sip of water or a single date also fulfils the sunna. The proper time for this extends from just after the halfway point of the islamic night right up until dawn. Delaying it until just before dawn is also recommended. 

When breaking the fast, the sunna is to hasten it. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Allah Mighty and Majestic said, ‘The most beloved of My servants to Me are those who are quickest to break their fast.’” (Tirmidhi) An excessive or undue delay would be to avoid breaking the fast until the stars become manifest in the sky, which, incidentally, is the entry of the disliked time for the sunset (maghrib) prayer. Moreover, the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, would regularly break his fast with fresh dates (rutab) or normal dates (tamr), and in their absence, water. (Abu Dawud) But failing that, anything sweet would also suffice, such as various types of fruit. Needless to say that facilitating the means for others to break their fast is also something tremendous in the sunna. 

From the greatest of times for supplication is actually any point during the fasting day, but particularly at day’s end. The Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would supplicate with the words, “The thirst is gone, the veins have been moistened and the reward is assured, if Allah wills (dhahaba al-zama’ wa ‘btallati ‘l-‘uruq wa thabata al-ajr in sha Allah).” (Abu Dawud) Lastly, and most importantly, the greatest sunna of them all is to fast spiritually by abstaining from all that is displeasing to Allah Most High. The warnings of doing otherwise are plain in the prophetic sunna, “… Allah has no need for him to leave his food and drink.” (Bukhari)

3. Generosity & Charity

Our Master ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Supreme Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was “the most generous of people,” and in the month of Ramadan, he was more generous than “an encompassing, swiftly flowing breeze.” (Muslim) Generosity can be in knowledge, service, charity, assistance or otherwise. 

From the wisdoms of the month of Ramadan is that we get to appreciate what those of somewhat lesser means experience much more regularly. With our bellies starved of nourishment, our souls weaken and are humbled before our Lord, and what better way to increase in manifest good in such a state than to pull something out of our pockets to give in the way of Allah Most High.

The lawgiver encourages us to give by stipulating a mandatory requirement of charity. Specifically, this is to pay the end of Ramadan charity (sadaqat al-fitr) whereby we strive to lend a hand on the day of ‘Eid to the poor and needy so that they can be as joyous as others. The amount due is the local monetary value of approximately two kilograms of wheat, but each believer may pay beyond that whatever he likes. In order to meet needs, it is preferable to pay it early enough so that it may reach the poor in good time. There’s also nothing wrong with pooling funds together to give a larger amount to a needy person or family. 

4. The Secret of Taqwa

The secret of benefiting from this month is in upholding the spiritual dimensions of the fast. What this means is that you protect your mouth from engaging in lying, slander and the like, your eyes from impermissible gazes, your ears from hearing the unlawful, and the rest of your limbs from succumbing to the self’s weakness in this sensitive time. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged us to be steadfast when he explained that you should say, “I’m fasting,” (Muslim) to the one provoking you to the unbecoming. He also informed us, Allah bless him and give him peace, “How many a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” (Ibn Majah)

As well as being vigilant not to break one’s greater fast, one should strive to avoid making up for lost food in the evenings! Many scholars have expressed the harm and undoing of any spiritual gain which comes about by indulging after sunset. Being a little less nourished is sought, and acting in a manner contrary to that vitiates the very experience one is supposed to have in the blessed month. Similarly, one should be avid with time. Disengage from social media and other forms of gratificatory engagement so that you have time for Allah Most High. Keeping up one’s warm family ties (silat al-rahim) is always encouraged, but strive to decrease in unneeded commentary and entertainment. 

5. Recitation of the Qur’an

Allah Most High says, “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard to distinguish between right and wrong.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:185) This is the month of reconnecting to the Qur’an, engrossing oneself in its recitation and meanings, and changing one’s life for the better by its blessings. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to mutually recite and review the Qur’an with our Master, the Archangel Jibril, may Allah give him peace, in this month, and notably, twice in the year he left this world. (Bukhari) The same, incidentally, occurred in his final spiritual retreat where he performed it for twenty days, teaching us, once again, that works of devotion should increase, as the days of our life pass by, and not decrease. 

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Recite the Qur’an in every month.” (Bukhari) The best of times you can fulfil this sunna is in this blessed month. If difficult, you can also combine your recitation of the Qur’an with listening sessions where you can focus instead on the meanings of what is being recited. Optimally, you would use the month of Ramadan to understand the actual message of the Qur’an, and how to apply it in your life. There are a handful of useful works in English which may help with this, but the best situation is being able to read a reliable work of exegesis (tafsir), ideally with a teacher. 

6. Night Prayer

The Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that, “Whosoever stands [in prayer] in the month of Ramadan, out of faith and sincerity, his past sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari

The night prayer (qiyam al-layl) of Ramadan is tarawih. These twenty cycles (rak‘as) were originally prayed by the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, only later to be institutionalised by the Companions (sahaba). All four canonical schools of Islamic Law hold that the tarawih prayer is twenty cycles, and that they are to be prayed after the nightfall (‘isha) prayer. Praying less doesn’t fulfil the sunna fully, but it is superior to not praying at all, particularly in the presence of a genuine excuse. Ideally, these cycles should take place at the mosque because of the special benefits found therein, but praying individually also minimally fulfils the sunna. 

The Lady ‘A’isha, may Allah be well-pleased with her, transmitted to us that Allah’s messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to pray eight cycles of night vigil (tahajjud) both inside and outside of Ramadan. (Bukhari) The takeaway is that the month of Ramadan is about struggle, increase and striving, and not simply using the expected works of devotion as replacements for existing routines of worship. But whatever you can do with sincerity is better than nothing at all, and if one does so, one can be hopeful of attaining unto an enormous windfall from an All-Generous Lord. 

7. The Spiritual Retreat (i‘tikaf)

One of the dearest of the sunnas of the month of Ramadan is the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf). Our Master Abu Huraira, may Allah be well-pleased with him, reported that the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to perform the ten-day retreat every single year. (Bukhari) The jurists explain that it is a communally emphasised sunna (sunna mu’akkada kifaya) to perform retreat, that is to say, the duty is fulfilled if somebody in the community performs the retreat at the local mosque, yet all have committed something blameworthy if entirely omitted without excuse. 

The retreat entails spending approximately the last ten days and nights in the mosque, worshipping Allah Most High, intending to rise to angelic levels of obedience and devotion, entirely detached from the world and worldliness altogether. The one in the retreat would eat, drink and sleep in the mosque, leaving only for something essential such as to perform the ritual ablution (wudu) and to use the bathroom. Merely being in the mosque and waiting from prayer to prayer, engrossed in learning, remembrance and sincere adoration of the Divine can be a life-changing experience.  

If there is a dignified and safe space in the mosque for women, it would be permitted for them to also perform the retreat in the mosque if there is some otherwise unattainable benefit to be found therein. But the Sacred Law (shari‘a) has also permitted them to perform the retreat at home, and it is usually superior for them to do so, all else being equal, something which men are not permitted to do. 

8. The Night of Power (laylat al-qadr)

Allah Most High says, “The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months.” (Sura al-Qadr 97:3) 

There are many different narrations and positions amongst the scholars of Islam regarding when the Night of Power actually occurs. But many scholars are inclined towards the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Needless to say that this is also one of the wisdoms for being in a spiritual retreat in the last days of Ramadan! Incidentally, in the nights which may possibly be this special occasion, it is recommended to bathe, cleanse oneself and adorn oneself with perfume and good clothing. But with that, the scholars explain, outward purity is meaningless if unaccompanied with inward purity, namely, deep repentance. 

The Beloved Prophet of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would strive in Ramadan in a manner greater than other months, and in the last ten days in a manner unlike the others. (Muslim) The Lady ‘A’isha, may Allah be well-pleased with her, said that when the last ten days of Ramadan arrived, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, “would worship in the night, awaken his family, strive and really dedicate himself to working [righteous deeds].” (Bukhari

She also reported, may Allah be well-pleased with her, that she asked the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, “If I know which night the Night of Power is, what should I supplicate in it? He said, ‘Say: O Allah, You are Pardoning and you love pardon, so pardon me (allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbu ‘l-‘afwa fa‘fu ‘anni).’” (Tirmidhi

9. Keeping up the Forward Impetus

The early Muslims (salaf) would supplicate for up to six months after the ending of Ramadan, asking Allah Most High to accept their works. A meaningful Ramadan is a month in which routines of consistent devotion are established, godfearingness (taqwa) settles in the heart and a desire to please Allah Most High covers one’s states and works. Finally, the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whosoever fasts [the month of] Ramadan and follows it up with six [fasts] of Shawwal, it is as if he has fasted the entire year.” (Muslim)

We ask Allah Most High to grant us the ability to become people of deep faith, certitude and godfearingness, solely for His sake, increasing in each and every moment to higher states of Divine Good Pleasure. 

 

And Allah alone gives success.