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Summary Notes of Embracing Excellence: 30 Steps on the Straight Path (01) – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

DAY 1: On Certainty

Synopsis: Ustadh Amjad starts this class by reviewing who is the author and why this text is important.  He then delves into the topic of what is certainty (yaqīn), and what are the benefits of having strong faith.  He explained that one’s certainty can be strengthened by three actions, and that believers have three degrees of certainty.

 

“Certainty (yaqīn) is the essential thing, and all other noble ranks, praiseworthy traits of character and good works are its branches and results.” (Imam Haddad)

Notes:

  • Imam Haddad was a 12th Century (Hijrī) Shafi’ī scholar who had a deep level of knowledge in many Islamic disciplines.
  • Certain books are constantly repeated as they are not just a matter of taking information from each chapter, rather it is a reminder to constantly purify our intentions
  • The strength of Ali’s (may Allah be pleased with him) faith & certainty
  • Yaqīn is a level above the general faith of an average believer
  • The difference between faith and certainty (faith can be shaken but not certainty)
  • In general people start by rectifying their outward, and then from there they start to rectify their character, and then they work to strengthen the Iman in their heart; although all of things are virtuous, the order is backwards.  One should start by strengthening their belief & connection to Allah (Exalted is He), the natural result will be a purification of their heart & character, and righteous deeds.

How One Can Strengthen their Belief & Certainty:

1) Listening attentively to the Qur’an, hadith, & stories of the prophets sent throughout time

    • Reciting the Qur’an strengthens our belief & certainty, while pondering on the meanings within it.  Listen with your heart as well as your ears.
    • The importance of reflecting on the signs around us; the Might and Power of Allah Most High; the stories of the past and what became of the people who did not follow the prophets sent throughout time
    • Example of Prophet Musa being pursued and reflecting on how that may have felt: Prophet Yusuf and the many tribulations he faced, but how he overcomes the trials
      • We learn from this to be people of patience, success at the end will be for the people of belief

2) Learn from the Kingdom of the heavens and the Earth, and the creatures within it

    • Example of Prophet Sulayman asking for a unique blessing from Allah
    • How one learns from documentaries about Allah’s absolute Majesty; reflecting on the galaxy and how it is only the lowest of the heavens; there is no creature on earth except that Allah provides for it; reflect on how all of these creatures glorify Allah (Exalted is He)
    • How detrimental it is for the human condition to not be connected with the natural world

3) To behave according to what one believes, outwardly & inwardly with zeal and determination

    • Act upon what you know, every time it increases you in your certainty in all of your acts of worship; when one distances oneself from acts of obedience one is severely weakened and shaytan can overcome them
    • The importance of using all of one’s energy to seek the pleasure of Allah
    • How the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم would find comfort and rest in the prayer
    • The results of good actions and how that helps us to taste the sweetness of faith

Benefits of proper certainty:

    • Acquiescence in God’s promise
    • Turning to God with pure longing continuously
    • Abandoning what distracts one from Him
    • Spending all one”s energy seeking His pleasure
    • Sets the foundation for having noble rank, praiseworthy character & good works

 

 

Faith is Believing, Not Feeling – Dr. Ingrid Mattson

There may be times when we feel that we aren’t benefiting from our faith. But true faith is when we still believe that Allah will do what He has promised. In this address, Dr. Ingrid Mattson explains this concept in relation to the believer’s heart, mind, and actions.

How can Faith Benefit Me?

If faith is so beneficial, why are so many Muslims hurting each other? And why are they hurting?

When we see people who have hurt, we need to realize that many people have developed habits to help them survive in difficult times. These habits could come in the form of anger, dependency, and distancing themselves from others.  Rather than rush to judge them, we should rush to support them in their physical, mental and spiritual rehabilitation. Furthermore, we should strive to change the difficult and unjust circumstances that made them the way they were. Our faith tells us that we have been created whole, not broken, receptive to Allah and what He determines to be good. We have the inmate potential to connect with Him, and feel like we are coming home.

Depression: A Spiritual Disorder?

One of the fruits of our faith, is that it gives us happiness and hope, both in this world and in the next. But does that mean that a person who despairs because of depression or a related mental illness, is sinful or has low faith?

No, because someone who loses hope because of a mental condition, is not the same as someone who believes that there is no meaning to life from a philosophical or intellectual viewpoint. A person can have faith and be depressed as an emotional state, but not a spiritual state. Depression is not a spiritual illness, but a psychological and an emotional one. The real test is for the ones who do not suffer from those conditions, to support those who do have them. The onus is on those who are capable, not on those who are not.


Resources for Seekers

Bringing Certainty to the Heart: A Step-by-Step Guide by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

amjad tarsinThe original link can be found here
Imam ‘Abdullah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad of Tarim, known as “The Pole of Inviting and Guiding to Allah” (Qutb al-Da‘wah wal-Irshad), was the reviver of the 12th century A.H. He was known to be a master of the inward and outward sciences of Islam, and he had a special gift for being able to convey complex meanings in a way that was understood by all.
He had a deep knowledge of Allah that only comes through the spiritual struggle of having a pure heart that is not distracted from Allah. He describes the path to such knowledge by saying,

“We have found knowledge, not by means of words and phrases, nor by jostling with other men, but by a heart freed from the world, by weeping deep in the night, and constant vigilance of the Almighty.”

Below are some pieces of guidance taken from his work, The Book of Assistance, on three ways to attain certainty (yaqīn). He begins his book with this chapter, stating that,

“…Certainty (yaqīn) is the essential thing, and all other noble, praiseworthy traits of character and good works are its branches and results.”

Certainty, as defined by Imam al-Haddad, is

“power, firmness and stability of faith so great that it becomes as a towering mountain which no doubts can shake and no illusions can rock.”

1. Allah’s Majesty & Perfection
The first and most essential way to attain certainty, according to the Imam, is for the servant to:

“listen attentively with his heart as well as his ears to verses and hadiths relating to God, His Majesty, Perfection, Magnitude, and Grandeur…”

The first advice here is to strengthen one’s certainty by listening with one’s heart and ears to the way Allah describes Himself, and the way His Beloved Messenger describes Him. Through constant reflection on the Quran and hadiths that relate to the Attributes of Allah, one gains certainty and light in their heart.
Here are a few verses we can ponder:

“God is the Light of the heavens and earth. His Light is like this: there is a niche, and in it a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, a glass like a glittering star, fuelled from a blessed olive tree from neither east nor west, whose oil almost gives light even when no fire touches it– light upon light– God guides whoever He will to his Light; God draws such comparisons for people; God has full knowledge of everything.” (Qur’an 24.35)

“Believers, respond to God and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. Know that God comes between a man and his heart, and that you will be gathered to Him.” (Qur’an 8.24)

“Can man not see that We created him from a drop of fluid? Yet–lo and behold!–he disputes openly, producing arguments against Us, forgetting his own creation. He says, ‘Who can give life back to bones after they have decayed?’ Say, ‘He who created them in the first place will give them life again: He has full knowledge of every act of creation. It is He who produces fire for you out of the green tree–lo and behold!–and from this you kindle fire. Is He who created the heavens and earth not able to create the likes of these people? Of course He is! He is the All Knowing Creator: when He wills something to be, His way is to say, “Be”– and it is! So glory be to Him in whose Hand lies control over all things. It is to Him that you will all be brought back.’” (Qur’an 36.77-83)

2. Marvels of Creation
The second method recommended by Imam al-Haddad is to reflect on the creations of the heavens and earth. As Allah mentions in the Quran,

“We shall show them Our signs in every region of the earth and in themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth.” (Qur’an 41.53).

Being people of reflection (tafakkur) helps us ponder the marvels of Allah’s Power, which also brings about a deeper knowledge of Allah’s Attributes and Acts, once again strengthening the certainty in one’s heart.
Allah mentions those who reflect in the Qur’an:

“There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, for those with understanding, who remember God standing, sitting, and lying down, who reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth: ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose–You are far above that!–so protect us from the torment of the Fire.’” (Qur’an 3.190-191)

3. Faith & Action
The third method mentioned by Imam al-Haddad to attain certainty is for one to firmly and passionately perform the actions related to belief, both inward and outward. One of the ways that faith becomes firm in the heart is through putting it into action.
Seeking knowledge is not meant to be the pursuit of information to be used in intellectual debate, but rather as a path to knowing Allah and worshipping Him properly. Imam al-Haddad says that the proof that this brings certainty is Allah’s saying,

“But We shall be sure to guide to Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause.” (Qur’an 29.69)

These are three ways that bring certainty to the heart and below is a diagram that breaks these steps into parts. Every believer is capable of seeking certainty in this way.
Let us make time in our day to read the Qur’an with attentiveness so that it pierces our hearts; reflect on the marvels of Allah’s creation in nature; and strive to express our servitude in action and worship.

May Allah reward the Imam for his sincere concern and counsel to the believers.
We ask Allah for an increase in iman and the highest levels of certainty so that we may worship Him as though we see Him.
And success is from Allah and His assistance is sought.
Relevant resources:
Certainty vs uncertainty: Thoughts on the Occasion of the Middle Night of Shaaban – Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown
Key Principles Relating to Certainty, Doubt, and Baseless Misgivings (waswasa)

Taking Far-Fetched Things Into Consideration When Determining Legal Rulings

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Should obscure possibilities be given consideration? For example, if someone creates a video, it is possible that another person takes a snapshot of a frame in the video and makes it into a physical picture. Another example, most well-versed people are adamant that whey does not come from pig, but the possibility still exists. In this case should whey be avoided unless certain that it does not come from a pig source?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

No, obscure or far-fetched possibilities are of no consideration when it comes to legal rulings. Their very obscure nature shows that they are without basis. Both the examples you mention fit the definition of an obscure possibility.

Yes, possibilities that have some sort of basis may be of consideration when it comes to specific rulings. However, when it comes to other rulings, it too may not be of consideration.

Varying Degrees: From Certainty to Conjecture

The scholars generally divide the levels of certainty and doubt into:

a. Certainty (yaqin), defined as the attainment of conviction regarding the occurrence of something or lack of.

b. Reasonable surety (ghalaba al-dhann), which is preponderation towards correctly deeming something to have occurred or otherwise while the heart is generally assured of one’s preponderation.

c. Likely probability (dhann), which is preponderation towards correctly deeming something to have occurred or otherwise while the heart is generally not assured of one’s preponderation.

d. Doubt (shak), where there is no preponderation towards any one of the two equally possible choices and there is in fact no way of doing so either.

e. Misgiving and conjecture (wahm), which is preponderation towards incorrectly deeming something to have occurred or otherwise without any basis.

[`Ali Haydar; Durar al-Hukkam; Hamawi, Ghamz `Uyun al-Basa’ir]

Misgivings & Conjecture

From the above, misgiving and conjecture are never of any consideration and must be ignored. To follow such misgivings would be sinful and contrary to the way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Obscure and far-fetched possibilities would fall into this category.

Doubt

As for doubt, then it has some details to it.

Firstly, a person must in fact be sure of being in doubt, namely (a) there being two equally possible choices (b) where the individual does not lean towards any of the two, and (c) nor is there a way of preponderating one over the other.

Thus, if one choice is an obscure possibility and the other is more probable in the eyes of the individual, it would not be
considered doubt as deeming one as being more probable is preponderation itself. Nor is it considered doubt if one has the means to prefer one choice over another, such as through sound inquiry.

If both lack of preponderation and lack of means to preponderate are present, the person would be considered in a state of doubt. Here, there are three possible scenarios:

1. Doubt arising concerning something whose basis is impermissibility in which case the ruling of impermissibility would hold. An example of this is consuming the meat of animals, the basis of which is impermissibility until proper sacrifice is established. As such, if one comes across meat and is doubtful whether it is permissible or impermissibile to consume, it would not be permitted to consume it.

2. Doubt arising concerning something whose basis is permissibility or certainty in which the ruling of permissibility would hold. An example of this are issues relating to purity as purity is always deemed the base assumption. As such, if one comes across some water whose color has been slightly changed and is doubtful whether this change was an effect of filth or simply due to passage of time, it would be permissible to use this water for ablution assuming it is pure, which is the default assumption.

3. Doubt arising concerning something whose basis is unknown in terms of impermissibility ot permissibility in which case the ruling of permissibility would hold with dislikedness. An example is taking wealth from someone the majority of whose wealth was gained unlawfully without being sure whether the wealth one took from this individual was from the unlawful or the lawful portion. Here, it would be permissible to deal with such a person but there would be dislikedness in doing so. As such, it should be avoided.

[Ibn Humam, Fath al-Qadir]

From the above, it is clear that in certain cases doubt may effect a ruling while in other cases it may not. The important thing to note as mentioned previously is differentiating between genuine doubt and misgivings as the latter is of no consideration whatsoever.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani