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.

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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.

Ramadan Rejuvenation for Kids | A Puppet Show on the Shifa – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

In this Ramadan daily series for young children, educator Ustadha Shireen Ahmed gives daily lessons from the Shifa of Qadi Iyad on the character and virtue of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The story is told from the perspective of a student of Qadi Iyad, who explains the text to his young son Mahmud. These episodes feature unique puppets which explain the lessons in story format to make them easier for young children to follow. This series streams daily this Ramadan at 9:30am ET at https://seekersguidance.org/live/.

Click here to download the colouring page.

Click here to view the full playlist.

Get Ready for Ramadan: Reflecting on the Great Opportunity – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin highlights the great opportunity for all Muslims in Ramadan to draw closer to Allah and be granted salvation. He urges everyone to reflect on that opportunity and increase in their aspirations for the good in Ramadan.

Ramadan: A Time for Spiritual Nourishment (2) – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, provides scholarly insights and spiritual reflections through a collection of essays on how we can make the most of Ramadan.

The Greatness of Ramadan

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ
The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guidance for humanity, as a clear proof of that guidance, and as a criterion for distinguishing between right and wrong. (Q, 2: 185).

In as much as celebrating the Prophet’s birthday can be read as a celebration of the greatness of the Prophet (saw) in his aspect of the perfect man (al-Insan al-Kamil); and in as much as Yaum Ashura (the 10th of Muharram) can be read as a celebration of the saving of the Prophet Musa (Allah’s peace be upon him) from the tyrannical pharaonic oppressors; similarly Ramadan can be read as a celebration of the revelation of the Quran during this month. It stands as living proof of the divinity of Allah, as living proof of the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad, and as living proof of the supremacy of revelation over all else.

But the Quran is also a Huda (a guidance). And as Huda – as true guidance – it teaches us how to live our lives as complete human beings. It teaches us how to live our lives with respect, dignity, honour, and love. It further teaches us that Allah is a divinity that embraces the concerns of all humanity.

It is also important to remember that the guidance and concerns of Allah are not limited to mere theoretical or idealistic utterances. The guidance of Allah plunges us into the mainstream of our earthly existence. One of the ways in which Allah has done this is by making the fast obligatory upon all of us.

Not only are we required to sympathize with the poor and the hungry, but we are thrown into the very experience of hunger.

Not only are we required to reflect upon our condition in a society with its mores, customs, habits, rules, and general routine – which looms far greater than the sum of its individuals – but it forces us to reflect upon the very nature of that society. It is so easy to become a cog in the political, economic, social, and industrial machine. In short, to become a spiritually forgetful being in the material and mechanical processes of ordinary life.

Fasting forces us to break this forgetfulness and forces us to anchor the consciousness of truth and spirituality in every domain of our existence i.e. to act upon the truth of Islam and to live by its spirituality.

Fasting, by depriving us of the daily luxuries and niceties of our mundane existence asserts the supremacy of our essential condition as beings endowed with a soul (ruh) over our condition as material and temporal beings. Fasting, therefore, at once draws us into the bosom of Allah (swt) and allows us to reflect upon the high moral, social, and spiritual values that Islam sets for us. In other words, fasting focuses our attention on the broader meaning of Taqwa (a heightened consciousness of Allah) as expressed in the following verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may learn Taqwa. (Q, 2: 183).

The Arabic of the phrase in the above verse “so that you may learn Taqwa” reads as “l’allakum tattaqun”. The term “taqwa” – in its narrower meaning – has been variously translated as fear, piety, self-restraint, and guarding against evil. However, to do justice to its meaning, and to better understand the link between the Quran as Huda (true guidance) and Taqwa as one of the most desired virtues, a more comprehensive understanding of the term is required. That understanding is dependent on our understanding of the nature of man and woman.

The Islamic perspective is that we, as people, are composed of both body and soul or matter and spirit. We are also considered to be both the vicegerents of Allah on earth and His bondsmen. As vicegerents we are commanded to perfect our earthly existence whether it be in our private, domestic, social, economic or political lives. As bondsmen of Allah we are ordered to perfect our spiritual existence. Taqwa circumscribes both these conditions. In other words, and as alluded to earlier, it means to observe our duty towards Allah in all our social and communal relations (towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike); and in our spiritual relations towards Allah Himself. This is a difficult task, and one of the means that Allah has given us to attain this level is Ramadan. But, and typical of Quranic “pragmatism”, there are no false promises. In the Arabic the emphasis is quite clearly on the phrase “l’allakum” (“so that you may” or “perhaps”). The means to Taqwa, through the great institution of fasting, have been placed at our disposal. It is up to us to use, misuse, or even ignore the means. This condition is encapsulated in the following Prophetic saying:

“For those who do not refrain from lying or acting on such lies, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink” (Bukhari).

Taqwa can further be realized through three opportunities provided for us by the fast:

1. The disciplining of the will (tarbiyat ul-Iradah)
2. The purification of the self (tazkiyat un-Nafs)
3. The purification of the soul (tasfiyat ur-Ruh)

The potential of fasting as such, and Ramadan in particular, in making available these opportunities cannot be denied.

With regard to the disciplining of the will the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“For everything there is a purification and the purification of the body is to fast; and fasting is half of endurance.” (Ibn Majah).

All acts of endurance are naturally a function of the strength (or otherwise) of the will. If the will is strong, endurance is strong; if weak, then endurance is weak. One of the primary aims of Sabr – as an act of will – is to bring the will of the human being in harmony with the Will of Allah. This is essential if we wish to be acknowledged as true ‘ibad (servants) of Allah.

As for purification of the self (nafs) – here understood as the egotistic self – the following Prophetic saying is a clear reference to the fact that fasting is intended as a conduit for such purification:

“If anyone of you fasts then do not speak obscenely nor act obscenely. If anyone picks a fight with him or insults him then let him say ‘I am one who fasts, I am one who fasts.’” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Here the outer manifestations of the nafs viz. that of obscene speech (rafath) and obscene behaviour (jahal), are addressed with a view to bringing under control, and hence purifying, the inner self.

The purification of the soul, on the other hand, is contingent on the extent to which it is absolved from all sin. The Prophetic saying: “Those who fast with absolute faith and absolute contentment will have all their previous sins absolved” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmdhi, Nisai), may be read as a definite promise to the effect that the absolution of one’s sins is guaranteed if the two ostensibly simple conditions of fasting with total faith and total contentment are met.

These three processes are intrinsic to the cultivation of genuine Taqwa, and few religious acts provide a greater opportunity for its cultivation than Ramadan.

Allah says at the conclusion of the verse initially quoted:

وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
That He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and so that – perchance – you may be thankful. (Q, 2: 185).

The greatness of Ramadan therefore lies in the opportunity it offers for the development of Taqwa – a virtue that allows us to truly participate in that great cosmic celebration in honour of the revelation of the Quran as a Huda to all people, which is, as mentioned earlier, Ramadan itself. It is a virtue furthermore, that allows us to magnify Allah  as He ought to be magnified, namely, with complete awareness of our earthly duties and spiritual vocation; and, therefore, to be of those who are truly thankful to Allah. It is a virtue too, which is ultimately celebrated in the Quran itself, for Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O humankind! We have created you from male and female; and fashioned you into peoples and tribes that you may come to know one another. But indeed, the most honoured amongst you (in the sight of Allah) are those who are the most righteous and God-conscious. (taqwa). (Q, 49: 13).

 


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim 500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

Ramadan: A Time for Spiritual Nourishment – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, provides scholarly insights and spiritual reflections through a collection of essays on how we can make the most of Ramadan.

The Fellowship of Rayyan

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who have faith! Fasting is prescribed upon you in as much as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness.” (Q, 2: 183).

This verse makes it quite clear that fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligation on every Muslim who has reached the age of legal responsibility (taklif/mukallaf). The key phrase in this verse, however, is the one that declares “so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness”; or, in the original Arabic “la’allakum tattaqun”. This phrase – and similar ones occur with great frequency throughout the Quran – also demonstrates how eminently practical the Quranic commands are. There is no promise that the mere act of fasting would result in taqwa. The reason for this is captured in numerous hadiths that speak about the spirit of Ramadan. While the “letter” is important in the form of the law, there can be little doubt that without an awareness, an understanding and an internalisation of this spirit, that no legal rules would be able to secure the benefits of fasting. While we may argue that knowledge of the legal rulings is a platitudinous necessity; we need to argue with even greater force that knowledge of the spirit of Ramadan is essential to the actualization of ourselves as people who fast.

Amongst the prophetic sayings that clearly point to this are the following:

 “How many a person fasts without gaining anything except hunger and thirst?” (Nisa’i and Ibn Majah).

This hadith is elaborated upon and explained by the following hadith:

“Those who refuse to renounce preaching and spreading falsehood and then acting upon such falsities, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink.” (Bukhari).


In another narration the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Fasting (siyam) is a fortress. Therefore, if the day of fasting arrives for any of you, then refrain from any obscene behaviour and any acts of rage. And if one is insulted or physically abused then respond with the words ‘Inni Sa’im’ – I am fasting!” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Those who have the capacity to exercise such discipline, patience and restraint while fasting, will certainly be amongst the Companions and Fellowship of Rayyan. Said the Prophet – and narrated by Sa’ad ibn Sahl:

“Indeed in Paradise there is a door called Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection those who have truly fasted shall qualify to enter that door. None other than them shall enter it. Once they have entered, the door shall be locked and barred, and none shall ever leave it.” (Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Khuzaymah).

We can only strive and qualify for entry into this illuminated Fellowship of Rayyan if we are able to fulfil the exacting tasks of the moral and spiritual demands of the month of Ramadan.

Sacrifice and Sincerity

 

وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
For men who fast and women who fast; for men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity; for men who remember Allah abundantly and women who remember Allah abundantly – for them Allah has set aside forgiveness and a great reward. (Q, 33: 35)

The Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said that Allah says:

“‘The reward for every deed of a person is multiplied by ten till seven hundred, except for fasting. Fasting is solely for My sake and I shall personally grant the reward. The fasting person abandons all desire and food for my sake.’ There are two occasions of joy for the one who fasts. The joy one experiences when breaking one’s fast and the joy one will experience when one meets one’s Lord.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Nisai, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

Two vital aspects of the condition of the fasting person are highlighted here. The first is the question of sincerity (ikhlas) and the second, that of sacrifice. The first will be dealt with here; the second in the next segment.

Unlike most sacred rituals, such as the salah for example, the act of fasting is not visible to anyone. It is almost impossible to determine whether a person is fasting or not. It is a matter entirely between the individual and Allah. In other words, it is an act of pure renunciation. As an act of pure renunciation, it brings us face-to-face with our basic human limitations and needs. And in exposing these needs – these limitations – we are in fact reminded that the normal and natural human condition ought to be one of humility and sincerity. It is only the Divine Condition that is exclusively and uniquely independent. Allah, stands alone and inimitable in His Lordship. We – as a composition of human beings, and often arrogantly so – are both dependent on and defenceless in the face of Allah’s Rububiyyah (Lordship). Allah is Rabb; the human is ‘abd. In other words, one of our defining conditions is ‘ubudiyyah (bondsmanship) and not Rububiyyah. It is in the recognition and acceptance of this state of ‘ubudiyyah that the paradox of the potential for a merciful coexistence with our fellow human beings reside – the male of us and the female of us. For it is in the recognition of this state of ‘bondsmanship’ that we discover the liberating rhythms of sincerity and humility. Humility is neither slavery nor subservience. It is a deferential state that finds its life in the hearts of the sincere and that bursts into a reverential song that celebrates the humanity, the diversity and the humanness of another. It is in this song – this song of humility and sincerity; this song of the heart – that we come to discover the meaning of respect. Hence the Prophetic command to avoid any form of obscenities (rafath) and raging (sakhab) during the month of Ramadan. No amount of hunger and thirst can either undo or even legitimise the iniquitous results of the latter two conditions.

Severing our ties with the material world during this month is merely an aid to accomplishing these elevated states of spirituality and morality. In essence, fasting is an act of self-extinction. Those, therefore, who fast the month of Ramadan with faith “(imanan) and with selfless anticipation of Allah’s generosity and reward in the hereafter (ihtisaban)” [Bukhari and Muslim] will find their reward inexpressibly immeasurable. It is for this reason – as mentioned earlier – that only Allah as opposed to any other sacred and divine reward – knows the measure of the reward of the one who truly fasts for His sake alone.

Sabr: Patience, Endurance and Perseverance

 

Sabr (patience and endurance) is mentioned in the Quran more than 90 times.

Amongst these verses is the following:

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Obey Allah and His messenger. And do not fall into disputation amongst yourselves; for in such disputation you will lose your strength. So be patient, for indeed, Allah is with those who patiently endure (sabr). (Q, 8: 46).

Apart from the Divine rewards for this sacred human quality there are also earthly rewards. Very few things of worth come without a struggle. The joy a mother feels at giving birth is a result of nine months of patience and endurance. Likewise, the joy of graduating, of having completed a successful assignment at work, of completing a brilliant work of art, and so on, are all the fruits of sabr.

The month of Ramadan is also referred to as the Shahr as-Sabr (The Month of Patience and Endurance). On the other hand, as the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Clemency is from Allah and haste is from satan.” (Tirmidhi).

Things done in haste, unthinkingly, impulsively and rashly are invariably bereft of barakah (divine grace). Even our struggles against the worst of oppression need to be conducted with wisdom and deliberation. One of the most touching hadiths dealing with the overzealous and reckless nature of haste is the following narrated by Khabbab ibn al-Aratt (May Allah be pleased with him) in Sahih Bukhari. The Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) were distressed by the persecution of Muslims in Makkah and – close to despair – they turned to the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) for help.

The narration is as follows:

We raised a complaint with the Messenger of Allah while he was reclining on a shawl spread out in the shade of the Ka’ba. We said: “Do you not seek assistance for us? Do you not pray for us?
The Prophet (saw) then said: “There was a time before you when a man would be taken and partially placed and buried in the earth. They would then approach him with a saw, place it on his head and slice him in two. He would then be lacerated – both flesh and bones – with rakes of steel so that he may stop pursuing his beliefs. But I swear by Allah, that Allah desires your freedom to worship to the point where one may travel from Sana’a to Hadramawt fearing none other than Allah, even while a wolf is stalking his flock. But you…you are impatient!” (Bukhari).

However, to some, the question of sabr can be an elusive matter. What we need to understand first is that this world which we inhabit is a Dar al-Bala’ (An Abode of Appraisal). We will be tested, and our attitudes and responses evaluated. The best of us would be those whose attitudes and responses most closely approximate to that of the Prophetic standard and the Quranic ethos. Allah says:

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُور
Blessed is He in Whose Hands lie all dominion. And He has power over all things.
The One who has created Death and Life so that He may test those who are best in deeds. (Q, 67: 1-2).

In the sacred order of things, nihilism is absent. In this passage of the Quran, Death and Life are personified aspects of a real existence – aspects through and by which we will be tested. Those who pass this test are the people of ihsan – those whose thoughts, conduct and behaviour are marked by excellence, both outwardly and inwardly.

In three striking passages of the Quran Allah (swt) reveals three blessings of which the sabirin will be the fortunate beneficiaries. Says Allah:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

We shall indeed test you with something of fear and hunger, and some loss in wealth and life and the fruits (of your labour). But give the Good News to those who patiently endure.

Those who say – when afflicted by a calamity – “To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.”

They are those on whom the blessings of Allah descend and upon whom the Mercy of Allah is; and they are the truly guided. (Q, 2: 155-7)

It is clear from these verses that those who patiently endure are the recipients of the following three unique rewards:
1) The Grace and Blessings of Allah (Salawat)
2) His Mercy (Rahmah) and
3) The beneficiaries and recipients of His direct guidance (Huda).

Nonetheless it is important to understand – as so many mistakenly do – that sabr does not include all forms of tests and hardships, regardless of the nature. This is a seriously incorrect understanding.

Sabr eminently belongs to a domain of testing and suffering that is largely out of our reach. Such as, for example, being diagnosed with a deadly illness, the loss of a loved one or an economic crisis for which there is no immediate solution etc.

Other than the above, such as abusive husbands, tyrannical rulers, discrimination and injustice which are all within our reach to change, these are all conditions that demand, as our Islamic duty, that we attempt to try and change. Said the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him):

Those of you who witness an abomination, let him change it with his hands; if he is unable to do so, then let him speak out against it; and if he cannot do even that, then let him reject it in his heart – and this latter is the lowest form of Iman. (Muslim).

May Allah cast us all in the mould of those who are able to patiently endure those vicissitudes of life that are often not within our reach to change or alter. But let Allah also provide us with the moral strength and courage to change those forms of unwarranted tyranny, abuse and injustice, all of which are nothing less than a reprehensible slap in the face of Islam.

 


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim 500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

COVID-19: Making the Most of the Opportunity – Mufti Hussain Kamani

Mufti Hussain Kamani reminds us that when a believer meets difficulty, they engage in remembrance and respond by looking at the bigger reality. Even in prayer, our heart is in a different place — it’s with God.

Tests like COVID-19 remind us that matters are not in our hands — they are in Allah’s control. And while we can’t ever say for certain why God is giving us a particular tribulation, we can always use them as opportunities to turn to Him and ask Him for forgiveness. We can ask Him for forgiveness for our shortcomings, for taking our blessings for granted, and for not taking care of our world.

The next step is to learn to cope with the challenges we face. As self-isolation brings our community and social lives to a halt, we need to follow the guidance of both our health professionals and qualified scholars on how to navigate the situations we face. But we also should look for lessons we can learn from the current pandemic. For many, COVID-19 has been an eye-opener to the fact that we could die anytime. And this in turn opens up bigger questions that can cause us to reevaluate our entire lives. What legacy will I leave behind? Am I ready to stand before my Creator?

This valuable process can be hampered, however, by the mind-numbing information overload that is social media. This is why we need to take step back to engage with our heart and soul. This which is where self isolation presents a valuable opportunity: we are afforded far more free time to connect with our family and maximize our time, as it puts us all in a virtual devotional retreat. It would be a tremendous loss if all this potential for benefit is sucked up by digital media and other forms of wasting time.

Mufti Hussain emphasizes that we should build our days around the prayer, and devote ourselves to our ritual salah, reading Qur’an, dhikr, and supplications, using this time to turn inward and focus on God. By doing these things, we can make the most of the opportunities that this quarantine presents.

This reminder is part of COVID-19: A Global Islamic Response series. As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, the Muslim community is struggling to find answers to many questions. Along with the critical advice of health and medical professionals, we are in dire need of Prophetic Guidance. In these videos, Muslim scholars and community leaders from around the world provides clarity in these challenging times on how people from all faiths should view and respond to the current situation. Watch the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list….

COVID-19: Social Isolation in the Life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – Ustadh Abdullah Misra

Social isolation leaves many of us wondering what to do with ourselves as we spend much of our time at home. Ustadh Abdullah tells us that while our social channels may be disrupted during social isolation, our connection with Allah remains and can grow stronger.

He cites a number of instances we find in the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) of isolation from others, and shares a number of lessons we can find in these incidents.

From the Prophet’s time in the cave, we learn how to use our time to draw closer to Allah and pray to him. From the time of persecution in Mecca, we are reminded to use our time for learning and teaching. From the Boycott of Banu Hashim, we are given an example on gaining solidarity, patience, and faith. From the Prophet’s migration, we learn to be reassured with the realization that Allah Most High is with us. From the siege of Medina during the Battle of the Trench, we learn from the Prophet’s example to look at the bright side of things and maintain a positive outlook. From the Prophet’s separation from his wives, we learn the importance of deliberation and reflection. And from the Prophet’s devotional retreat in the mosque every year, we learn the importance of spiritual retreat.

Ustadh Abdullah closes by reminding that we can bring this spiritual retreat into our homes. He reminds us to makes our homes islands of faith and tranquility, to open up to others, and most importantly to open up to God and what he wants to teach us.

This reminder is part of COVID-19: A Global Islamic Response series. As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, the Muslim community is struggling to find answers to many questions. Along with the critical advice of health and medical professionals, we are in dire need of Prophetic Guidance. In these videos, Muslim scholars and community leaders from around the world provides clarity in these challenging times on how people from all faiths should view and respond to the current situation. Watch the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list….

Poem: Locked Down – Novid Shaid

Novid Shaid, a well respected poet from the UK, writes a poem to lift our spirits during this time of isolation and lock down.

 

LOCKED DOWN

One night as I sat
Shackled up by Facebook
The jitters from the Twitter
Filled my body and my face shook
The trap of the Whatsapp
Enwrapped my intentions
But a voice from beyond
Just arrested my attention
—-
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
—-
Locked down to the ground
Of the multiplicity
My heart was aground
A beleaguered city
Spellbound in the haze
Of my lusts’ euphoria
But the voice cleared away
The phantasmagoria
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
I arose with a heave
Enclosed by acedia
My head leaking facts
From the Wikipedia
My eyes bleeding tracks
From the social media
But the voice kindled me
I rejoiced with a fever
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallau alayhi wa sallam!
I strained to my door
To the ways of the speaker
My phone tingling
Making me feel weaker
My soul signalling
To awake like a seeker
The voice echoing
And the light shone brighter
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi wa sallam!
I followed the voice
In my mind’s metropolis
Approached by these hawkers
And hucksters and sophists
They plied me with gadgets
And pure luxuria
But the voice stirred me
Like the Queens of Nubia
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
Then beyond the display
Of my urban madness
A pistachio tree
I encountered with gladness
The limbs shivering
With the breezes of Oneness
The leaves whispering
Shimmering with abundance
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam!
The roots of the tree
Spoke to me in a dialect
The fruits of the tree
Was a map to redirect
“To find the essence
When you’re feeling remoteness
Recite this sentence
Tune in to the gnosis.”
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu Alayhi Was Sallam!

Novid Shahid