Covid-19: An Islamic Perspective – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

In this essay, Shaykh Seraj Hendricks who is one of South Africa’s most respected scholars, provides clear guidance on Covid-19 and how Muslims should take confidence in the rich Islamic legacy which prioritizes the sanctity of human life and health.

Throughout history various peoples and places have been afflicted by severe plagues and epidemics. Millions of people have been wiped out by these calamities. Each of these peoples had to confront, contend with and rise to the challenge of these blighting conditions. Muslims no less than anyone else. The Covid-19 pandemic – spreading from Wuhan in China – is the latest to assail the contemporary world. 

Fortunately, we have a legacy undergirded by knowledge and wisdom, enveloped, as it were, in love and compassion. We need to embrace and share these timeless values with the rest of the world. 

We cannot, on the other hand, fall into an abyss of pietistic delusions, rigorous ritualism and self-righteousness. At this level the Shari’ah offers a plethora of texts in the Quran and Hadiths which, in turn, precipitated one of the greatest responses in human history to matters of this order. 

The following is but a sample of the many great doctors and pharmacologists who contributed to the evolution of medicine in its current incarnation: 

a) 8th Century: Harun al-Rashid founded the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah). Here, many medical texts and ancient manuscripts were translated. With respect to a creative and energetic engagement of medicine, astronomy, science, mathematics and many other subjects, this marked one of the most productive periods of advancement – not only in Muslim history – but also in global history. 

b) 9th Century: Abu Bakr al-Razi. Born in Persia he was a physician, chemist and teacher. Many of his books were later translated into Latin and Greek. His contribution to building hospitals was quite immense. 

c) 10th Century: Surgeon al-Zahrawi (Abul Casis) was born in Cordoba. Apart from being the inventor of numerous medical instruments, he was the first to design an illustrated surgical book. 

d) 11th Century: In Baghdad, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) composed the Canon of Medicine (al-Qanun fi l-Tibb). This was a five-volume book that included all the known medicine up to his time. His book was prescribed for hundreds of years in European Institutions of learning. 

e) 12th Century: Ibn Rushd (Averrroes) was born in Cordoba, Spain. He was a polymath excelling in Islamic Law, Philosophy, Astronomy and Medicine. His aptitude for medicine was noted by his contemporaries and can be seen in his major enduring work Kitab al-Kulliyat fi al-Tibb (The Book Dealing with the Universals of Medicine). This book, together with Kitab al-Taysir fi al-Mudawat wa l-Tadbir (The Book of Particularities dealing with Facilitation of Medical Treatment and its Planning) written by Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr, became the main medical textbooks for physicians in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim worlds for centuries to come.

f) 14th Century: The Ottoman, Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu was a surgeon born in Amasya, Northern Turkey. His famous work on surgery was called The Imperial Surgery. This is considered to be the first illustrated surgical Atlas and the last major medical encyclopaedia from the Muslim world. This book also features female surgeons for the first time. 

The ideas and energetic creativity contained in the works mentioned above – while representing only a fraction of Muslim contributions to these and other sciences – capture the mood and spirit that defined the Muslim zeitgeist of those periods. Let us now look at some of the sacred texts both in the Quran and Sunnah that inspired this dynamic elan in Muslim communities throughout the Islamic world. Then let us also briefly look at some of the defining principles and maxims that later scholars developed and that served to animate the sacred textual narratives of the Quran and Sunnah into a living, breathing embodiment of creative and living Fiqh

The need to address this matter becomes even more imperative in view of the dastardly incoherent responses to the current covid-19 pandemic by certain minority “Muslim” groupings. This has led to a state of shocked disbelief by both Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the world. This minoritarian madness appears to have surfaced here in South Africa too. Reports indicate that more than twenty mosques in South Africa are under pressure to open their doors to congregational prayers and activities. What these people are clamouring for are unquestionably prohibited in Islam. Let us not mistake the fact though, that most of these minority groups are obsessed with power politics. Theirs is simply shameless power play. This is often the case with those suffering from minoritarian and certain forms of extremist complexes. These people are in serious need of attention, and possibly equally in need of psychotherapy. However, under the circumstances, there is a serious need to present a reasoned and grounded perspective on the matter. 

As Muslims we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are fully responsible for the consequences of any irresponsible behaviour. The Quranic narrative is quite clear about the condition that whatever good we are beneficiaries of is what we have earned; and that whatever misfortune we might suffer is, likewise, a consequence of what we have earned.

 

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

No soul is burdened beyond its capacity. It receives every good that it has earned; and it suffers any ill that it has earned. (Baqarah, 2: 286).


The Quran is replete with references of this nature. Three of these are pertinent to our point: 

 

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Mischief (and corruption) have appeared on land and on sea because of what the hands of people have wrought. (Rum, 30: 41). 

وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ

And whatever assails you of misfortune (and calamities) is a result of what your own hands have wrought, but He forgives many. (Shura, 42: 30). 

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

Every soul will be held responsible for its deeds (Mudaththir, 74: 38) 

It is clear from these – and many other verses – that as people obligated (mukallaf) to observe the precepts of Islamic Law, that a huge measure of personal responsibility is vested in us. This is particularly pertinent with respect to circumstances such as Covid-19. The Quran prohibits us from wanton exposure to life-threatening situations: 

 

وَأَنفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ وَأَحْسِنُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And spend of what you have in the Way of Allah; and do not let your hands contribute to your own destruction. (Baqarah, 2: 195). 

There can be little doubt in the minds of most Muslim scholars, and lay people alike, that a wilful – and senseless – disregard for these Quranic precepts is shameless. A larger context for these precepts is provided by the many hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the position of his Companions with respect to plagues and epidemics. 

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: 

لَا عَدْوَى لَا يُورِدُ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِحٍّ

Infection (and contagion) is not a matter of superstition! Do not mix the sick with the healthy. (Muslim). 

In his encyclopaedic commentary on the Hadith collection of Muslim, Imam al- Nawawi states that the command “Do not mix the sick with the healthy” is a clear instruction to the effect that anything that causes harm must be avoided; and that, moreover, this act of avoidance would be in consonance with the concepts of preordainment and predestination as understood in Islam. 

In Islam the question of the Decrees of Allah is one that envisages them as multiple and manifold. There is no one decree that forces a person in a particular direction.  

The manifold nature of Divine Decrees, therefore, allows for a large margin of choice. This is evident too – mentioned later – by the response of Umar al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) during a time when he and his army encountered a plague while out in the battlefield. However, in the case of infectious and contagious diseases, the Hadith is clear about the fact that quarantine – or isolation – is mandatory. 

Another Hadith that forcefully speaks about quarantine is the following: 

 

Sa’ad reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: 

إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ بِالطَّاعُونِ بِأَرْضٍ فَلاَ تَدْخُلُوهَا، وَإِذَا وَقَعَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلاَ تَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا

If you hear about a plague in a particular place then do not enter it: and if it occurs in a place where you are present, then do not leave that place. (Bukhari). 

A particular Hadith that has caused some unnecessary concern for some people is the following: 

‘Aysha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that she asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) about plagues and he said: 

أَنَّهُ كَانَ عَذَابًا يَبْعَثُهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ، فَجَعَلَهُ اللَّهُ رَحْمَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ، فَلَيْسَ مِنْ عَبْدٍ يَقَعُ الطَّاعُونُ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي بَلَدِهِ صَابِرًا، يَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُ لَنْ يُصِيبَهُ إِلاَّ مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَهُ، إِلاَّ كَانَ لَهُ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ الشَّهِيدِ

It is a trial that Allah sends upon whomsoever He wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any bondsman who resides in a land afflicted by a plague while remaining steadfast and patient – knowing that nothing will befall him except that which Allah has decreed – will be given the reward of a martyr. (Bukhari).

This Hadith must be understood in the context of the aforementioned Hadiths. In this way it becomes obvious that the one who patiently endures the misfortune of being subjected to a plague will be rewarded if he/she exercises the choice to remain in the afflicted area. There is certainly no reward for a person who leaves that place for a non-afflicted one, thereby escalating the potential for that disease to spread further. On the contrary, that would be a criminal act according to Islamic Law. This is precisely the case with those who are demanding unqualified congregational space in mosques and elsewhere. Given the current Covid-19 state, this is criminal. Period. 

A telling case with respect to choices is the case of Umar ibn al-Khattab (alluded to earlier). The narration is as follows:  

خَرَجَ إِلَى الشَّأْمِ حَتَّى إِذَا كَانَ بِسَرْغَ لَقِيَهُ أُمَرَاءُ الأَجْنَادِ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ بْنُ الْجَرَّاحِ وَأَصْحَابُهُ، فَأَخْبَرُوهُ أَنَّ الْوَبَاءَ قَدْ وَقَعَ بِأَرْضِ الشَّأْمِ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ ادْعُ لِي الْمُهَاجِرِينَ الأَوَّلِينَ‏.‏ فَدَعَاهُمْ فَاسْتَشَارَهُمْ وَأَخْبَرَهُمْ أَنَّ الْوَبَاءَ قَدْ وَقَعَ بِالشَّأْمِ فَاخْتَلَفُوا‏.‏ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ قَدْ خَرَجْتَ لأَمْرٍ، وَلاَ نَرَى أَنْ تَرْجِعَ عَنْهُ‏.‏ وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ مَعَكَ بَقِيَّةُ النَّاسِ وَأَصْحَابُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَلاَ نَرَى أَنْ تُقْدِمَهُمْ عَلَى هَذَا الْوَبَاءِ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ارْتَفِعُوا عَنِّي‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ادْعُوا لِي الأَنْصَارَ‏.‏ فَدَعَوْتُهُمْ فَاسْتَشَارَهُمْ، فَسَلَكُوا سَبِيلَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَاخْتَلَفُوا كَاخْتِلاَفِهِمْ، فَقَالَ ارْتَفِعُوا عَنِّي‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ادْعُ لِي مَنْ كَانَ هَا هُنَا مِنْ مَشْيَخَةِ قُرَيْشٍ مِنْ مُهَاجِرَةِ الْفَتْحِ‏.‏ فَدَعَوْتُهُمْ، فَلَمْ يَخْتَلِفْ مِنْهُمْ عَلَيْهِ رَجُلاَنِ، فَقَالُوا نَرَى أَنْ تَرْجِعَ بِالنَّاسِ، وَلاَ تُقْدِمَهُمْ عَلَى هَذَا الْوَبَاءِ، فَنَادَى عُمَرُ فِي النَّاسِ، إِنِّي مُصَبِّحٌ عَلَى ظَهْرٍ، فَأَصْبِحُوا عَلَيْهِ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ بْنُ الْجَرَّاحِ أَفِرَارًا مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ لَوْ غَيْرُكَ قَالَهَا يَا أَبَا عُبَيْدَةَ، نَعَمْ نَفِرُّ مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ إِلَى قَدَرِ اللَّهِ، أَرَأَيْتَ لَوْ كَانَ لَكَ إِبِلٌ هَبَطَتْ وَادِيًا لَهُ عُدْوَتَانِ، إِحْدَاهُمَا خَصِبَةٌ، وَالأُخْرَى جَدْبَةٌ، أَلَيْسَ إِنْ رَعَيْتَ الْخَصْبَةَ رَعَيْتَهَا بِقَدَرِ اللَّهِ، وَإِنْ رَعَيْتَ الْجَدْبَةَ رَعَيْتَهَا بِقَدَرِ اللَّهِ  

Abdallah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) left for Syria until they reached a place named Sargh. Here he met the commanders of the army, ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah and his companions. They informed him that a plague had afflicted Syria. ‘Umar then addressed the people and said: “I will withdraw in the morning, so you too must return.” 

Abu ‘Ubayda then said: “Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” 

‘Umar replied: “Would that another had said so. O Ubayda! Yes, we are fleeing. But we are fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah! Do you not see that if you descended with your camels into a valley with two fields, one fertile and the other barren, that you would graze the camels in the fertile one? You would graze in the fertile field by the decree of Allah and not the barren field (also there) by the decree of Allah!” (Bukhari). 

In this case – with particular reference to the nature of Divine Decrees – ‘Umar al- Khattab demonstrated a much more coherent and balanced concept of the matter. This is the approach that has defined our classical legacy with respect to the question of Divine Decrees (or Qada and Qadr). Short of that, we could all be fatalists – which, too, is prohibited in Islam. 

 

In addition to the textual evidence cited above, our classical scholars have also developed a host of precepts and axioms – based on their holistic readings of the texts – to aid and facilitate our understanding when confronted with challenges such as Covid-19. 

Under the rubric of Maqasid al-Shar’iah (the Higher Objectives of Islamic Law) a number of principles have been devised. Six of the important ones – also referred to as the Kulliyat al-Sitt (the six universal principles) are the following: 

a) The Preservation of Life – Hifz al-Hayat

b) The Preservation of Religion – Hifz al-Din

c) The Preservation of the Intellect – Hifz al-‘Aql

d) The Preservation of Progeny – Hifz al-Nasl

e) The Preservation of Property and Wealth – Hifz al-Mal 

f) The Preservation of Human Dignity – Hifz al-‘Ird 

To stand in violation of any of the above is considered a cardinal crime in Islam. To consider the Preservation of Life alone ought to be enough to wring the conscience of any Muslim. 

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ

Take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except through justice and law. (al-An’am, 6: 151) 

أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

If anyone killed a person – unless it be for murder or treason in the land – it would be as if he killed the entire humanity. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the entire humanity. (Al-Ma’idah, 5: 35). 

Another subject in Islamic Law, also based on holistic and integrated perspectives, is referred to as al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyyah (Maxims of Islamic Law). There are five principle ones: 

a) Matters are to be judged by their purposes and objectives – al-Umur bi Maqasidiha

b) Certainty is not removed by doubt – al-Yaqin la Yazalu bi l-Shakk.

c) Difficulty must be alleviated – al-Mashaqqah Tajlibu l-Taysir.

d) Harm must be removed (whether harm to oneself or another) – al-Darar Yuzal.

e) Custom has the weight of law – al- ‘Adah Muhakkamah

The relevant maxim here is “Harm must be removed”. This is based on a Hadith of the Prophet (saw) where he stated “La Darar wa la Dirar – Intentional harming of oneself or another is forbidden.” (Malik, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi and Daraqutni). According to the polymath Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti, this maxim is intrinsically linked with the one before it “Difficulty must be alleviated.” In resolutely adhering to the rules and regulations imposed upon us by the deadly Covid-19 virus, we may eventually overcome the difficulties imposed upon us by this virus. It is our Islamic duty to adhere to all measures that are designed to protect us from the potential harm of the virus with the subsequent objective of alleviating the difficulties we have to endure. In this case the sabr (patient endurance) referred to earlier is an imperative under the circumstances. Human life is sacred in Islam. To disrespect the lives of others is unequivocal proof of the fact that one is undoubtedly bereft of self-respect.  

With respect to the latter imperatives, a further precept referred to as Dhu Nuz’ati Jama’iyyah has been developed. This precept states that the general and collective interests of the public take precedence over individual and/or minority interests – particularly where such individual or minority interests unequivocally militate against the greater and collective public interests. 

As it is in the case of demented groupings such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, this is a toxicity that must be dealt with unremittingly and with firm determination. 

On a final note, let us remind ourselves that spreading fake news about a matter as serious as Covid-19 may have consequences as deadly as the virus itself. We need to shun all forms of paranoia, irrational fears and even flippancy and, instead, embrace responsible action in all that we do. We owe it to ourselves and the rest of humanity. Once again, the Quran is resolutely vocal about this: 

وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُوا بِهِ وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ

When a matter related to public safety and fear reaches them, they broadcast it aloud. Had they only referred it to the Messenger and to those in authority amongst them, then those with the expertise would have been able to engage all the necessary investigations. (Nisa’, 4: 83). 

As Muslims we can be proud of our legacy. We need to reclaim that legacy, so that once again we may become a productive and positive force in serving both Allah and the rest of humanity. 

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks , Azzawia Institute (April 2020).  


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 Muslim500 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.


 

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ONLY ONE WEEK TO RAISE $30,000 TO PRODUCE THE FIRST 5 BOOKS IN THE SERIES – photographic essays on the lives of the modern saints:

Book 1: Sidi Muhammad ibn Al-Habib (1872-1972) by Dr. Karim Lahham

Book 2: Habib Ahmad Mashhur Al-Haddad (1907-1995) by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi

Book 3: Shaykh Murabit Al-Hajj (1913-2018) by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

 

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Video : A Perspective on the Pandemic – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

* Courtesy of Cambridge Muslim College

The current pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of the world we live in. But is it unprecedented? Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Dean of Cambridge Muslim College, shares his perspective on this humbling phenomenon, one which is not unfamiliar in our Islamic tradition. He also highlights the beauty and healing of our religious practice and provides helpful suggestions on how to remain connected as Muslims.

On the Commemoration of Events in Islam – Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki

On the Commemoration of Events in Islam (What is in Sha’ban?)

Translated by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Of the accepted and established principles amongst the people of knowledge (ahl al- ‘ilm) is that a particular moment in time is made remarkable or auspicious by the events associated with it. The event, in other words, forms the source of the values and the estimation ascribed to that moment. 

The magnitude of the event determines the magnitude of the occasion; likewise, the ascribed blessings of the event determines the ascribed blessings of the occasion. 

Moreover, the stronger the identity, and the greater the impressions made by the events on people, the stronger and greater will they identify with the time during which the events occurred. 

From this point of view it will become evident that the essential purpose of this book, Madha fi Sh’aban (What is in Sha’ban?), is to focus on the links that connect the ummah (the global Muslim community) to their history with the aim of deepening their perceptions and religious experience of Deen-related events and occurrences. 

While it is true that some differ with regard to the method and manner of presenting these events to people, namely, that they are not in agreement with respect to their arrangement and organization; there can nonetheless be little doubt that even two people – on their own – would not differ with regard to the aims and objectives of organizing and commemorating these events. 

This is so for the reason that whenever we set out to strengthen these connections that bind the ummah to its history by utilizing the events and occurrences through and by which these moments become exalted; then we are at once inviting them to a reality that is pure, a belief system that is correct, a path that is straight and a way that is natural. This indeed constitutes, at once, the essence of our history and our ennoblement as a people. From this foundation we are able to proceed to all that is good, righteous and beneficial. 

The commemoration of all these events and exalted moments are – through the permission of Allah – acceptable and legitimate; for it is through this fundamental principle, viz. the undeniable interconnectedness of the event and the moment that we are able to take advantage of these opportunities that have the force to stimulate our minds into a recollection of these momentous events. In this way the mind, the heart, and the emotions return to the distant past with a sense of yearning for our history – a yearning that enables us to examine that past for the lessons it may provide. This is what constitutes the genuinely “informed lesson” (al-dars al-‘ilmi); and it is this that the universities with their lecturers and lectures, and the madrassahs with their programmes and prescribed works cannot transfer to people in a way that would allow them to live, perceive and experience this history in a holistic manner – with their hearts, minds and emotions. 

Indeed, whenever, we celebrate by commemorating the birth of the Prophet (Salutations upon him) or the Hijrah (his flight from Makkah to Madinah), or the Isra and Mi’raj (the Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet) or the month of Sha’ban, then we invite people to connect with their minds, hearts and emotions to the realities and the events that fill the vast spaces of these moments. However, these commemorations are not meant to venerate the event as such or to deify it; nor are they commemorated in a manner that expresses an article of our faith. On the contrary, these commemorations are designed to express our ultimate veneration of Allah, the Exalted, who is the ultimate Creator of both space and time. These commemorations, therefore, essentially represent the veneration of a slave to his/her Lord, the Creator. But, at the same time, they are also designed to celebrate and laud the one who has played a seminal role in these events – the one who at once formed an intrinsic part of, and for whom these events were established; and who, moreover, forms the axis around which these events are all connected. This latter veneration is the veneration of the one who loves for the sake of the beloved…for that possessor of grace whom Allah has chosen to be at the centre of these events. 

I am astonished at those petrified and fossilized minds, those minds of stone, that ignore the central figure of these events – the figure through whom, for whom, with whom and from whom these events emerged in the first place; and then proceed to focus on the event in so far as it is merely an event. This perspective, without a doubt, constitutes the essence of bid’ah (a reprehensible innovation). Indeed, and even beyond that, it signifies the epitome of ignorance and short-sightedness. We do not venerate or exalt time for time’s sake, nor space by virtue of it being space, for this is in fact, and in our estimation, an act of shirk (idolatry). 

On the contrary, our focus is upon that which is beyond, greater and more exalted than mere time or space. Nor do we venerate particular personages for what they possess of body and bones. What we in fact do is to look at their station, their standing, their rank and their love and belovedness…so is there any sin or falsehood in this? 

“Glory to Allah, this is indeed a serious slander!” (Qur’an, 24: 16). 

Al-Maliki, Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi, n.d. Madha fi Sh’a ban? (What is in Sha’ban?). Silsilatu Idah Mafahim al-Sunnat al-Nabiwiyyah (5). pp. 4-6. 

Seek Refuge in Allah from Anxiety and Grief – Shaykh Salek bin Siddina

* Courtesy of Shaykh Salek Bin Siddina

I hope and pray to Allah that all of you are well, and that this pandemic has not preoccupied your thoughts. I hope that your worries have not led you to spend the precious moments of your time, which are the capital that a believer invests for his true future in the hereafter, squandered on listening to the news. Excessive news consumption leads people to become paranoid and anxious. This anxiety weakens them and makes the body more susceptible to illness. This is why the Prophet ﷺ taught us the well-known supplication as mentioned in an authentic hadith. It begins as follows:

Oh Allah, I seek refuge in you from anxiety and grief/depression.

The Prophet ﷺ goes on to seek protection from other things, but note that he began with anxiety and depression. Anxiety and grief are so harmful to the intellect and the body, yet, how much constant worry do you have streaming through constant negative news consumption. This leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, despite much of the news being sensationalized and exaggerated. In fact, the news contains obvious lies, as is clear to any sane person who reflects on it.

Avoid and beware of listening to the news too much. Instead, direct your focus toward Allah with repentance. Learn what Allah has made obligatory upon you and implement it, then Allah will lift the calamity from you.

Allah says “and whosoever has taqwa (God conscious obedience) of Allah, He will make for him a way out (of every problem).” Allah will remove all the pressure, anxiety, depression, and worry with taqwa. “and bless him from where does not expect.”

The great scholar Muhammad bin Ahmad Al Hudayki al- Soussi (who passed away 1189 A.H.) during the time of the plague said, “do not be excessive in your fear, instead, hold firmly to Allah”.

He said (may Allah have mercy on him):

“The slave of Allah should know that panic is not beneficial. Rather, it leads to destruction (in several ways). It leads the panicked one to neglect his/her requirements. It leads to wasting one’s life in delusions, which in reality have no fruitful outcome. What is upon him/her is to fulfill one’s duties as a believer and exerting the effort needed to completely rid oneself of one’s sins before one is taken to account for them. He/She should be ready for the journey back to and the facing of one’s Lord. Allah has already measured out all movements, stillnesses, appointed times (of death), provision and (the number of) breaths. A person will not die until he lives out the time appointed for him and (used up) his provision. “Allah will not delay (the death of) a being one’s its appointed time has come.” The only escape and refuge is (fleeing to) Allah. Being pleased with the decree of Allah is mandatory. Belief in the (divine) decree is mandatory, whether it is good/positive or bad/negative”.


Adhering to the National Lockdown – Mufti Taha Karaan

* Courtesy of the Muslim Judicial Council

In this video, Mufti Taha Karaan reminds the Muslim community of Cape Town to continue to adhere to the rules of the national lockdown. Mufti Taha emphasizes the strategic importance and benefit social distancing will have on the outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, he addresses the elders of the community to be an example for others and not to place themselves in vulnerable situations. Furthermore, Mufti Taha makes mention of how we should negotiate the various conspiracy theories that have become extremely prevalent. We should remember that Allah has ordained a destiny for Muslims and humanity, and that should provide us with solace from any anxiety.

* We extend our gratitude and appreciation to Mufti Taha Karaan and the Muslim Judicial Council.


Biography of Mufti Taha Karaan:

Mufti Taha Karaan is a Shafi’i scholar born in Cape Town, South Africa, to a family renowned in both its maternal and paternal lineage for Islamic scholarship. His father, the late Mufti Yusuf Karaan (may Allah have mercy on his soul), was one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars in the Cape.
Mufti Taha completed his Qur’anic memorization in one year at the Waterfall Islamic Institute, the oldest Islamic seminary in South Africa. During his stay, he assisted in the editing of the Qur’anic prints that the Institute has become famous for the world over. After finishing four years of the ‘alim course in two years, he journeyed to the Indian sub-continent and Dar al-Uloom Deoband, graduating from there in 1991 with the highest of distinctions, as did his father, in a class of over 700 students. He then travelled to the Middle East and completed a two-year graduate diploma at the Higher Institute for Islamic Studies in Cairo, Egypt.
Mufti Taha is the recipient of numerous chains of transmission (ijazaat), from well-respected scholars in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others, in numerous fields of Islamic study.
Currently, Mufti Taha is the Mufti of the Muslim Judicial Council. He is a sought-after speaker at Islamic symposia and conferences but attends them sparingly, preferring to spend most of his time at the Islamic seminary, Dar al-Uloom al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah, that he founded in 1996. The educational thrust of the seminary reflects Mufti Taha’s own pioneering vision and commitment to squarely interface with the challenges of the modern age through the twin objectives of preservation and progress.
In his teaching, writing and legal verdicts (fatawa), Mufti Taha regularly addresses contemporary issues such as the challenges of post-modernity, feminism, Islamic economics and finance, the old and new Orientalisms, and fiqh issues affecting Diaspora Muslim communities.
His students describe him as divinely-gifted with encyclopaedic knowledge; possessed of a near photographic memory; an insatiable bibliophile within the Islamic sciences and without; a teacher that never ceases to inspire; endowed with an elegant calligraphic hand and a penchant for poetry; thoroughly unassuming, pleasant, brilliant and tender-hearted.

COVID-19: Understanding & Responding to Adversity – Ustadh Tayssir Safi

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent events have left many bewildered and confused. How do we make sense of these types of events? How do we respond? It is these two questions that Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi tackles in this brief yet informative discussion.

Ustadh Tayssir begins by explaining how we understand tribulations. He highlights wisdoms of tribulation pointed to in the Qur‘an. He points out that tests indicate the blessing our ability to choose, and are means to turn to God. Evil only relates to human choices—not to the Divine.

In addition, Ustadh Tayssir highlights that the hardship of this life is put in perspective by the eternal life of the Hereafter and expiation of sins. He quotes relevant saying of the Prophets that shed light on the hardship faced in this life and how the believer should respond.

Finally, Ustadh Tayssir explains that the hardships we face can also be means to good and positive change in our lives. They also highlight the fleeting nature of this life, and hence we should respond by turning to the Creator.

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: Practical Guidance on Self-Improvement – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed gives practical guidance on how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. She shares tips on achieve physical and emotional wellness, both personally and when relating to others during this time of social isolation.

Ustadha Shireen begins looking at the personal level by emphasizing the central importance of our daily prayers. She also highlights the importance of supplication as well as nurturing good habits, such as Qur’an recitation, beneficial reading and study.

Additionally, she offers practical tips on working from home and staying organized and healthy.

Next, Ustadha Shireen discusses how to deal with the situation in the context of family. She underscores the importance of good character with one’s family, particularly highlighting helping out at home and having etiquette with elders.

Finally, Ustadha Shireen explains how one should respond to the crisis at the communal level. She highlights why one should stay at home, be heedful of the warnings of health officials, avoid hoarding and support the needy.

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….

The Month of Sha’ban: Prelude to Ramadan – Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir

* Courtesy of Imam Zaid’s Facebook page

Sha’ban is a month of good that introduces the great month of Ramadan. The Prophet, peace upon him, used to fast voluntarily during this month more so than in any other month. One of the motivations for that, as we will mention below, is that Sha’ban is the month during which the deeds performed by the servant ascend to God.

Usama b. Zayd relates: “The Prophet, peace and mercy of God upon him, used to fast so many days in succession that we said, ‘He will never break his fast.’ At other times he would go without fasting for so long until we said, ‘He will never again fast;’ except for two days, which he would fast even if they occurred during the times he was not fasting consecutive days.

Furthermore, he would not fast in any month as many days as he fasted during Sha’ban. I said: ‘O Messenger of God! Sometimes you fast so much it is as if you will never break your fast, at other times you leave fasting for such a long stint it is as if you will never again fast [voluntarily]; except for two days that you always fast.’ He asked: ‘Which two days are those?’ I replied: ‘Monday and Thursday.’ The Prophet, peace upon him, said: ‘Those are two days in which the deeds are presented to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds are presented while I am fasting.’ I said: ‘I do not see you fasting in any month like you fast during Sha’ban.’ The Prophet, peace and mercy of God upon him, said: “That is a month occurring between Rajab and Ramadan that many people neglect. It is a month in which the deeds ascend to the Lord of the Worlds, be He Mighty and Majestic, and I love for my deeds to ascend while I am fasting.” Related by Imam Ahmad and Imam Al-Nasa’i.

–  Imam Zaid Shakir

 

Below is Imam Zaid’s recent visit to SeekersGuidance, click below to watch.


About Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir is a co-founder, and senior Faculty Member of Zaytuna College located in Berkeley, CA. He is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work.

Born in Berkeley, California, he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center formerly Masjid al-Huda.

After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid Al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale University and developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences.

For seven years in Syria, and briefly in Morocco, he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and spirituality with some of the top Muslim scholars of our age. In 2001, he graduated from Syria’s prestigious Abu Noor University with a BA in Islamic Sciences and returned to Connecticut, serving again as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, and writing and speaking frequently on a host of issues. That same year, his translation from Arabic into English of The Heirs of the Prophets was published by Starlatch Press.

In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he taught courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. In 2004, he initiated a pilot seminary program at Zaytuna Institute, which was useful in Zaytuna College’s refinement of its Islamic Studies curriculum and its educational philosophy. For four years, students in the pilot program were engaged in the study of contemporary and classical texts. In 2005, Zaytuna Institute published, Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim„ an anthology of diverse essays penned by Zaid Shakir. He co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque, Oakland, CA. in 2007. He authored an award-winning text, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al-Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen in 2008. He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change since 2009. The mission of United For Change is, through modern discourse, to create awareness of the broadest and most consuming topics within the Muslim community. The aim is to leverage the diversity through cooperation and goodwill and address the obstacles that have proven to be divisive.  His most recent work is Where I’m Coming From: The Year In Review, a new collection of his essays from 2010. Imam Zaid has also authored numerous articles and research papers on a wide range of topics.

He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. He is ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009). Imam Zaid is a signatory along with religious and spiritual Leaders from around the world who presented the UN Secretary General with a declaration in support of the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, marking the largest number of nations ever signing an international agreement. Inspired to work with religious groups on sustainable living and climate change in 2017, Imam Zaid is a Green Faith partner in action for the earth. The mission is to inspire, educate, organize, and mobilize people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds globally for environmental action. In 2018, CNN listed him among 25 influential American Muslims.

While many have cited Imam Zaid as example of Islamic moderation, his critics have questioned his moderate credentials by citing his expressed hope for the conversion of America to Islam and adoption of Islamic law in America. Dr. Ingrid Mattson stated that Imam Zaid is solidly grounded in the Islamic legal, ethical and intellectual tradition, which all Muslims share, as well as his personal understanding of the current political context.


 

EXCLUSIVE WEBINAR: Your Best Ramadan Ever – Tushar Imdad

Ramadan 2020 promises to be unprecedented and unlike any Ramadan in our lifetime due to the Coronavirus restrictions.

Unprecedented circumstances call for unprecedented action.

When times change, successful people adapt accordingly.

There’s no reason why Ramadan 2020 shouldn’t be your best Ramadan ever.

Especially if you apply productivity science and Islamic Time Management principles.

Sign up to the upcoming, exclusive FREE webinar to find out how:

https://yourbestramadan.tusharimdad.com/1-signup

And take a massive step towards making this Ramadan your best ever, inshaAllah!

Tushar Imdad

Biography:

Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  

 A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   

Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in  productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included  ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.