Posts

Hypocrisy: Content of Character 03 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus speaks on the three signs of hypocrisy that a believer needs to watch out for and work on to better conform to the ideals of Islam.

The Messenger of God, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:

The characteristics of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies; when he gives his word, he breaks it; and when he is given a trust, he is unfaithful. (Bukhari and Muslim)

There are a number of things we learn from this hadith of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, the one who is truthful in of himself and the one who is proven to be true. First is that the hadith begins with a word “ayah,” which is translated as sign.

It is as if the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us to read the signs of people. And this gets back to the whole function of prophecy. The Prophet, Allah bless him and given him peace, is teaching us how to view the world. He, Allah bless him and given him peace, is teaching us how to perceive.

The Mirror Image of Our True Selves

As one of our teachers said: “The Sunna is an optic, it is a way that we can then look at the world if we implement it within ourselves.” Likewise if we want to further this discussion we could speak of revelation itself as being like a mirror, a mirror by which we see our true selves.

As is the case of the mirror is that it shows how we really are. A healthy person looks into the mirror to see what needs to be improved, what needs to be cleaned up. Whereas the egoist will look into the mirror to admire his or herself. Much of religion ultimately relates to self-knowledge. “Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord.”

We are taught to approach knowledge as this is what revelation helps us do. It is to know the true state of our self, so that we can improve but it also works in both ways. There are people that have their true nature come out: that of disbelief, when they approach revelation.

Signs of the Hypocrite

Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, begins this hadith by saying: “The sign (ayah) of a hypocrite.” We will look further into this word, signs, because this is one of the scary words. This is one of the important words that we need to know so that we can protect ourselves from it.

Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us to read the signs in people. There are certain things that one outwardly does that indicate certain realities within one. When we talk about things that are bad or evil, it’s important that we learn about them or learn of them so that we can protect ourselves from them.

So, What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is when a person’s outward does not correspond to his inward, or his words to his deeds. There are two types of hypocrisy. 1) There is hypocrisy in belief. And 2) there is hypocrisy in acts.

The worst of the two is hypocrisy in belief. This is the category of people that Allah Most High says: “Indeed the hypocrites are in the lowest descending rank of the fire” (Sura al Nisa 4:145) We know that this is a very severe state and the reason is because not only is someone concealing their own belief while outwardly professing Islam. What ends up happening is that they are doing two wrongs. They are wrong in disbelieving and they are wrong in deceiving other people.

Hypocrisy in Acts

If we look at the second aspect of this we see how many problems arise from people placing their trust in other people whose internal reality is other than what they profess outwardly. There is a long list of harms that stem from this and we have multiple examples of this in the life story of our Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Here the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is not talking about hypocrisy in belief, rather he is referring to hypocrisy in acts. What we ultimately mean by this is that a person who has these three characteristics which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, mentions resembles the hypocrite in belief in the fact that the outward does not correspond to the inward.

For instance, when someone lies you often times as a default position will accept what they’re saying as true, but what’s hidden behind them is that they’re actually lying, so that the outward is different to the reality. Or when someone gives you their word and make a promise but then break it.” So outwardly that it appears that it’s going to be one way but it is another in the end. And when someone is given a trust. Outwardly it looks like they are going to take care of that thing but then they do not. OR do something else entirely.

These three things resemble hypocrisy in belief which is severe. So our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, mentions this in order to warn us from it so that we can be true believers.

Lying, Breaking Promises and Breaking Trust

The definition of lying is to inform another that something is otherwise than it really is, whether intentionally or out of ignorance. However one is not taken to account unless one lies intentionally. That is, when someone thinks something is true then they convey that, but it turns out not to be true. They are not taken to account for that.

The proof of this is when the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Whoever lies about me intentionally then let him take his place in the fire.” Nevertheless we have to be careful because our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also said “It is sufficient for a man to be in a state of sin that he tells other people everything he is told.”

We have to be careful, even if lying is if we intentionally don’t tell the truth, there are other ways that we get close to falling into this.

Truthfulness of the Tongue

One of the things that we should be seeking is truthfulness of word. We know that it starts with “sidqul lisaan,” being truthful of tongue, and it ultimately leads to being “siddiq,” an ultimate confirmer of truth, in all the dimensions of that meaning.

We have to get used to telling the truth. We have to get used to telling the truth even if it is bitter. Truthfulness saves you in the end. There is one thing to note here in relation to exaggeration. Some people say: “I’ve told you a 100 times” even though they don’t intend that exact amount, but intend that it be a lot.

However, if someone is in actual fact only asked once, some scholars say that this is a lie. But if the person is asked a number of times – more than what is generally accepted – then the person is not committing a sin when they say such a thing. There are degrees between these two that we have to be very careful of falling into. We need to watch carefully what we say.

Likewise, there are times when we are under pressure. There are times when we are uneasy. When it’s easier for us to lie. We have to then be committed to telling the truth and to be scrupulous in thinking about different circumstances that we find ourselves in so we can always maintain sidqul lisan: truthfulness of tongue and avoid lying.

The Value of One’s Word

The second characteristic here is “when he gives his word, he breaks it.” We have to get know that if we are giving our word, we are going to fulfill that. If you make an ordinary promise to someone else and you don’t intend to fulfill that promise, it is haram (unlawful) and sinful.

If, however, someone makes a promise and intends to fulfill that promise and for some reason can’t, that’s a different situation. But the dictates of ihsan (spiritual excellence) are that someone takes their own words very seriously. If they say they’re going to do something, they follow through.

There are some scholars who can’t rest at night if they have given their word until they fulfilled their word. It’s better not to tell someone that you’re going to do something and to go ahead and do it without mentioning it to them, than it is to tell them that you’re not able to fulfill this.

This is something that we need to teach ourselves and unfortunately that you find especially in our times. People are not living up to this and if this becomes prevalent in someone it is actually one of the signs that there is a sign of hypocrisy in acts in relation to him.

Betrayal of Trust

Finally “when he is given a trust, he is unfaithful.” Allah says in the Qur’an: “Do not betray Allah and his messenger, nor knowingly betray your trust.” (Sura al Anfal 8:27) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Someone who cannot keep a trust is devoid of faith. Someone who can not keep an agreement is devoid of religion.”

Not keeping our trust is something very serious. If you are entrusted with something, whether it be a physical object or a secret or whatever it might be, it is a trust before Allah. This is one of the greatest criteria by which we determine who the real people are.

We have these three traits: that of lying, that of breaking promises, and that of betraying our trust.
Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, included here that which relates to that “qawl,” which is lying. That which pertains to actions, which is the actual act of betraying the trust. And that which relates to intention, which is the breaking of promises. A person who has these traits is getting closer and closer to these people that Allah has deemed blameworthy in the Qur’an.

So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, combines these characteristics that comprehensively deal with the human being by way of word, by way of action, and by way of intention so that we can protect ourselves from this.

May Allah Most High protect us and the believers from all forms of hypocrisy and bless us to be upright sincere people for this religion.


The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

Cleanliness: Content of Character 02 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Purity is central to Islam. Every experience we have is an opportunity to purify ourselves. Every tribulation we go through is an opportunity for us to purify ourselves.

The Messenger of God [Allah bless him and give him peace] said: ‘Islam is clean, so cleanse yourselves, for only the cleansed shall enter Paradise.’ (CC:001)

There are a few points we want to reflect upon in relation to this hadith of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. First of all we have this word “natheef.” There are a number of words in the Arabic language that have a similar meaning of purity and cleanliness.

Cleanliness and Islam

What the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us is that the religion of Islam is “natheef.” That is to say, it is clean. It is virtuous. It is pure. It is good. It is upright. It is honorable. It is respectable. All of these other connotations are also meant.

Islam calls us to what is upright, what is moral. And it will ultimately lead to attaining the Mercy of Allah Most High. So Islam is pure and one the meanings we can extract from this is the distinctness and the purity of Islam itself as a religion and the behavior of its people.

So if we look at the words the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, it is clear that to relate to purity of Islam in and of itself, the cleanliness of Islam, we have to strive to become pure. “So cleanse yourselves” the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said.

We understand two things here: We have to live up the standard of Islam and live up to the purity of Islam so that it is reflected within ourselves and it very well might be that you have a Muslim who does not reflect the purity of this great deen.

Water, Purity, and the Nature of the Soul

We have to recognize that there has to be a continuous polishing of the heart and of the soul and of who we are so we can live up to the realities of this deen. Water, when it stands motionless, becomes stale, muddy, and foul. But when it moves and it flows it remains clear.

This is this nature of the soul as well, we have to have a constant movement towards purity. This is very different to what we are taught in the modern world – the current notions of being oneself. Often modern spirituality is just noticing our thoughts and there is a lack of need to improve.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad said in one of his contentions that “Islam is not about being yourself, it is about improving yourself.” Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us “So cleanse yourselves.” You could say that this is the sign of true religion.

You have people that are human beings, that have everyday realities, that make mistakes, that fall short, that often times have bad character emanate from them, that sin, but they recognize that and they repent and they turn back. They struggle with themselves and work on themselves to be better.

Our True Worldly Opportunity

Though we are never going to reach utopia here in this world our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, tells us to live up to this ethical standard of Islam and to work on ourselves and cleanse ourselves.

This is the opportunity that we have in the world: to cleanse ourselves. Everything that we do in this life is an opportunity for us to purify ourselves. Every experience we have is an opportunity to purify ourselves. Every tribulation we go through is an opportunity for us to purify ourselves.

All manifestations of ease and difficulty are opportunities to learn something and to purify ourselves. The Arabic word, “natheef,” connotes both outward and inward cleanliness. Our deen encourages us to be clean. Not only in relation to our food, our clothing, our possessions, and all of the other aspects that relate to this such as brushing our teeth, taking baths, trimming our nails.

But this cleanliness is also reflected at the level of belief. It is reflected at the level of practice, and it is reflected at the level of the heart. There is purity of belief, purity of practice, and purity of heart.

Begin With Purification

When our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said “al islam natheef” which means Islam is clean, this includes so many aspects of our deen – Islam, Iman and Ihsan. The inward and outward aspects that are related directly to the deen and the things we might not think has a direct connection to the deen. Everything in a sense is tied to cleanliness.

This cleanliness has a number of other implications and its interesting to note that this is the first hadith in this collection, The Content of Character.

One of the things you will find in the books of fiqh (jurisprudence) is that they begin with purification and they begin with the discussion of water. It is as if this collection begun with this particular hadith to let us know that all of the teachings of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, all relate to purity and how to attain it.

Cleanliness aligns with the fitra. It aligns with the natural disposition of the human being. There is something known as the Macbeth effect which psychologists refer to. What is notable is that culprits and victims of crime will physically wash at times to create some distance between themselves and an evil act.

Cleanliness Is First Nature

Islam is about cleanliness and this fitra. The natural disposition inclines towards cleanliness and Islam speaks to the central realities embedded within us. Islam is about bringing out that which Allah has endowed us with. The apparent blessing here is that we know the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, speaks to us in a way that we understand and his words bring about growth within us as a result.

This hadith calls on us to cleanse ourselves here in this world because our Prophet said “only the cleansed shall enter into paradise.” This is the goal of life as Allah tells us in the Quran:

On the day wealth, nor children shall benefit that only he who comes to Allah with a whole heart, with a purified heart. (26:88-89)

Praise Allah, we have been given this beautiful religion that is “natheef.” That is clean and pure in all of its different dimensions.

May Allah give us tawfiq to struggle with ourselves and cleanse ourselves and ultimately be the people of paradise.


The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

 

The Perfect Teacher: Content of Character 01 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

The perfect teacher is one who constantly teaches. Whose states are always edifying. Whose character is such that one learns from every word or moment of silence, from every act even when it is to refrain from acting.

Before we look into this book of the sayings of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, it is important that we understand that our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was a mu‘allim. He was a teacher and the Qur’an tells us this when Allah Most High tells us in Sura Jum‘a 62:2:

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the best teacher in history. More people attained ‘ilm, (knowledge), through him than any other. In particular the knowledge that is beloved and pleasing to our Lord Most High.

Seeking Knowledge is Worship

It is narrated in the collection of Ibn Majah that our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, came out from one of his chambers and entered into the mosque where he found two circles. In one of the circles they were reading the Qur’an, and they were supplicating Allah Most High. In the other one there were people teaching and learning.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Everyone of them is upon good. Those people are reciting the Qur’an and supplicating Allah. If He so wills He will give them, and if He so wills He will withhold from them. Those people are teaching and learning, indeed I have only been sent only as a teacher.” He then sat with those who were teaching and learning.

Some will see that the general mission of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was to teach. Others will see that every moment of the Prophet’s life, Allah bless him and give him peace, he was teaching us in his words and actions. When he prayed, when he walked, when he sat, when he was still, when he was alone and with other people, the way he was at night and the way he was during the day.

The Character of the Perfect Teacher

He, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught us with his great character traits. He taught us first and foremost with his own state. He was the perfect example to us in all of our affairs inwardly and outwardly. All of our different relationships, our relationship with Allah, our relationship with the people and our relationship with creation. So in every single moment of his life, Allah bless him and give him peace, he was teaching.

When we think about his words in particular, one of the best ways to prepare ourselves for the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is to understand the magnitude of his words. Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:

He does not speak from caprice (his inclination) indeed that it is revelation revealed. (53:3-4)

Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was unlike other human beings.He, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not speak from caprice. He received revelation from Allah Most High. To understand the greatness of the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, we have to understand the greatness of revelation.

Revelation is the Key to All Knowledge

Indeed only a Prophet and messenger will truly understand the true nature of revelation. We can understand that the revelation is something great. We can understand what we are being taught by the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is how to align ourselves with the true nature of reality. How to align ourselves to the Divine Will and to do that which is pleasing to Allah Most High so that we become beloved to him Most High.

Without revelation there is no way for us to really understand all other types of knowledge. It is revelation that helps us with this. Revelation allows us to access knowledge that would otherwise be impossible.

The words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, are immense. He was the wisest of all of those that Allah Most High created. Everything he said was put in its proper place. Everything he said had deep and profound meaning. And one of the great ways we come to ascertain the truth is by taking his words and by putting them into practice. Once we know this, we are meant to prepare our hearts to be able to receive.

How to Receive the Words of the Prophet

If you look at the way the people before us received the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, you see that they had ta‘dhim . They exalted, magnified and respected the words of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

We know that the people of Allah when they heard the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, being spoken, transmitted and narrated, they imagined the Prophet himself, Allah bless him and give him peace, speaking directly to them.

In general, we should imagine that the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, come from his blessed mouth and we have an intimate description of what the mouth of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, looked like. We can imagine that it was wide and beautiful. He had white teeth with a little gap between them. We know that it was as though light was coming from his mouth, Allah bless him and give him peace.

You can imagine these words being uttered and you can imagine where these words are coming from. What then was the reality of the heart of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that was expanded?

The Raiment of the Heart

Everything you say is clothed in the state of your heart when it is said. What then was the state of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace? What then was the light of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace?
What then when he uttered words? How important and blessed are these words? If we open ourselves up to receive them, how much good could come to us as a result?

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, spoke of ghain. “Indeed my heart becomes clouded.”
One of the righteous said, this is not the cloudiness from otherness. This is the cloudiness from the Light that is coming to the blessed heart, Allah bless him and give him peace.

If this is the state of his heart – a state of radiance, a state of illumination — whenever our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, utters words and we receive those words, the seed will be planted in the fertile hearts and then what will come from that is all good and the source of all good is the prophetic inheritance.

Three Steps to the Prophetic Inheritance

One of the greatest ways we access that Prophetic inheritance is by opening our hearts and our minds and our souls and every dimension of our existence to the blessed words of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

In this process there are a number of steps we can go through, whenever we hear words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The first is that we have to learn to remain silent. It is impossible for us to listen if we cannot remain silent.
When can do that, we can take the second step which is to listen carefully to what is being said. Then we can move on to the third step where we reflect on what is being said. And it is reflection that will lead to understanding. Then we need to put that knowledge to memory. And as we memorize we also need to put it into practice.

So we need to remain silent, listen, reflect and then understand, memorize and simultaneously put into practice. Only then can we teach the blessed knowledge we are learning – first and foremost by example and then by words.

Preparing Our Hearts to Listen and Learn

We will be looking at this great book translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf titled The Content of Character and was compiled by Shaykh Al Amin Mazrui. As we journey through the beautiful words and sayings of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, we ask our Lord Most High to prepare our hearts to receive, to benefit us immensely and turn it into deeds that are pleasing to Him, the Most High.

There is a hadith that shows us the nature of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and how he taught. This hadith is narrated in the collection of Imam Muslim.

While I was praying with the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, someone sneezed in prayer I said: May Allah have mercy on you. People started looking at me and I asked why are you looking at me? They struck their hands on their thighs.

When I saw that they were trying to get me to remain silent I became quiet. When the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, finished praying he called me. My father and mother be his ransom, I saw no teacher before him or after him who was better in teaching than him. By Allah he didn’t rebuke me. Nor did he hit me. Nor did he insult me. What did our Prophet Say? “This is prayer. It is not appropriate that we say things that people normally say in it. Indeed the prayer is to glorify Allah and Exalt him and to recite the Quran.”

Look at this individual. He made a mistake and look at how he was taught, gently. There was no one before or the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that taught as he did.

Allah willing, we will open our hearts to be taught by these blessed words of master Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.


The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

NB. Shakyh Yahya Rhodus is teaching from The Content of Character. References are given by title abbreviation and hadith number CC:001, and so on.

The Content of Character #54: Two Qualities That Are Never Coupled in a Believer

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.

Two Qualities That Are Never Coupled in a Believer

Welcome to episode 54 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today, we will be looking at qualities [that are] never coupled in a believer. It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Two qualities are never coupled in a believer: miserliness and immorality.” This is the hadith related by Imam al-Bukhari in Adab al-Mufrad, if we look at some of the other narrations (riwayat), we have a riwaya in the collection of [Imam] al-Nasa’i that states “Miserliness and faith are never gathered in the heart of a servant, ever.” And in another narration from [Imam] al-Tirmidhi, “There are two qualities that are never coupled in a hypocrite: carrying oneself in a good way and understanding of the religion.” These different riwayat tell a little bit about the believer, and they tell us also about the hypocrite and the different traits they will have [or] not have.

As for the believer, our Prophet is teaching us (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) in this hadith that this trait of miserliness (bukhul) and a good character, in general, are never gathered in the believer. What is meant here is that the believer has complete faith (kamil al-iman). [This is not to say] these traits are never [found] in a believer and that this person that has these traits, then they’re not a believer. No, what it means is that the stronger that our faith becomes, the more antithetical [these traits] will be to the reality of that faith. The stronger the faith, the less that we will have of these terrible traits.

What is also meant by this is that bad character, in general, sums up all of the different things that we are supposed to eliminate from our being, and that miserliness is undoubtedly one aspect of bad character. The Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), as the commentators have said of this hadith, mentioned miserliness in particular because it is one of the very worst of character traits; it is one of those traits that if you have it, it will lead to a long list of other bad traits.

Do Bad Thoughts Make Me A Bad Person?

So let’s look at some of these meanings and start first by understanding: what is bad character (su’u al-khuluq)?

Bad character, at its essence, is really about having the ego (nafs) and/or shaytan overcome us at the level of [our] thoughts. We know that thoughts can be of one of four sources, but three in particular [are useful here]. They can be of an angelic, demonic, or egotistical source. And if we set aside the angelic thought for now, because that can only lead to good, and we talk about the thoughts of the shaytan and the nafs; when a thought comes from the nafs and it overcomes us, and we don’t deal with that thought according to the direction of the Sacred Law and proper thinking (i.e. intellect), we end up responding to that thought.

Likewise, the shaytan can put a thought in our hearts to lead us astray, and we may not catch it and respond in a way that is pleasing to Allah the Exalted outwardly. That is the essence of what bad character is. It’s having those thoughts overcome us.

The essence of good character is its opposite. For instance, [if] you are angry and you want to lash out, [but] you restrain and hold yourself back, even though you know that you have that desire and it is something that is impermissible in the Sacred Law, that is the essence of what good character is. And that the more and more you do this, then good character eventually flows freely from you. In general, all bad character stems from being overcome by the thoughts of the nafs and the thoughts of the shaytan.

Miserliness is a Sickness

If we look at miserliness in particular, our Prophet informed us [of] three things that are destructive (muhlikat): avarice that is obeyed, desire that is followed, and a man being impressed with himself. Notice here when our Prophet said shuhhun, which is one of the [synonyms] for that miserliness. We might have that in our heart, but the key is that we don’t obey it [and] that we get ourselves used to going against it.

And our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) sought refuge from miserliness. And a hadith in [Sahih] al-Bukhari, our Prophet made a supplication, “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from miserliness and I seek refuge in you from cowardice…” And it’s interesting here that our Prophet, at least in this narration, coupled and associated cowardice with miserliness. This is one of the manifestations of cowardice is being stingy and miserly. And then the hadith goes on to say, “…and I seek refuge with You from being returned to the worst of years, and I seek refuge from the affliction of this world, and the punishment of the grave.”

What Does It Mean To Be “Miserly”?

So what then is miserliness (bukhul), if we wanted to offer some type of definition? People might think that there’s a degree of relativity here. Someone might think that they’re being generous and someone else might think that they’re being stingy. How do we define it, and how do we know whether or not someone really is miserly or not?

Scholars have said that [miserliness] is when you do not give out from your wealth at a time where it is an obligation for you to do so. We can obviously see that this definition is limited, because there are certain things that are not obligations for us that, if someone would not do them, surely they were not considered to be miserly. And an example of this is if someone [is] taking care of their family, their legal (shar’i) requirement is to [provide] the very basics or absolute necessities. They have the ability to do [more], but they don’t give their family anything more than the basic necessities. We would surely consider that person to be miserly.

And other scholars have said that the the miserly one (bakhil) is the one who finds it hard to give. Again, [this definition] is not fully sufficient, because everyone, to a certain degree, finds that giving is hard. It just depends on how much we’re giving. People differ in that regard. Some people find small things hard to give. And [for] other people, small things are easy to give, but the larger things or a good percentage of their wealth, they find it more difficult to [give].

When we talk about bukhul, we’re talking about two things: refraining from giving out our wealth in relation to obligations, [and additionally] things that are part of our legal respectability; things where we really know that this is something that we should be giving. If a guest comes over to our house, customarily you’re going to honor that guest by serving them tea, or some type of sweets or food or something like that. To not give that person proper hospitality when you have the ability to do so, even though it might not necessarily be an obligation, would surely be considered miserly, because customarily [withholding] is not something that people do.

A Time to Give, A Time to Withhold

When we talk about the ideal of where we want to be, ultimately it’s in the middle. Generosity (sakkha) is a balance between two extremes. It’s a balance between miserliness on one side, and between extravagance on another. Allah the Exalted says, “And those, when they give out from their wealth they’re not extravagant nor are they miserly, and they are in a state of moderation between the two.” (Qur’an 25:67) This is really where we want to be. The ideal is that, at the heart-level, we want to detach ourselves from our wealth. When we know that it’s better for us to give, we give; and when we know it is better for us to not give, [that] we don’t give. Everything that we do, we put in perfect balance outwardly and inwardly. There could be times where we think that we just want to freely give, but there’s actually a better place for us to put our wealth; or that it’s not the right time for us to give out our wealth, or [perhaps] it’s not the right person or cause for us to give our wealth to.

So what we’re really looking for is balance, between absolute miserliness and the virtues of its opposite, which is munificence (jud); and there are various degrees of giving, and the highest giving of all is that we prefer others over ourselves (ithar). But here, our Prophet is warning us of bukhul, and that is to know that it is an obligation for us to give our wealth. The greatest of obligations is zakat and then zakat al-fitr. The worst type of miserliness is to not to give [to these obligations].

In relation to customary things we should give freely, opening our heart(s) by [opening] our wealth, and then hopefully we’re protected from this horrible trait of miserliness and we move up in degrees of generosity. The stronger that our faith becomes, the easier that it will be for us to give because we [will] become detached from this world that we see. The whole purpose of Allah the Exalted giving us wealth is for us to be able to use it in a way that is pleasing to Him in this world.

May Allah the Exalted give us tawfiq and bless us in all of our affairs and to remove from us this horrible vice of miserliness, and bless us with good character and to protect us from all manifestations of bad character.

Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions; and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.


The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

Content of Character #55: Setting Aside What Causes You Doubt

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.

doubt

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

Set Aside What Causes You Doubt

Welcome to episode 55 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today, we will be discussing the idea of setting aside what causes you doubt. The Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not.” This is related in the collections of Imams Ahmad, al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi, and [Shaykh al-Amin ibn Ali Mazru’i] includes additional aspects to this hadith. There are different narrations, of course, as we oftentimes find in the blessed ahadith of our Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him).

In one of them, someone asked our master Hasan ibn Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both), “What have you memorized from the Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him)?” And then he said, “I memorize from him,” and he quoted the aforementioned hadith, “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not.”

In another hadith of the Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), he said, “Leave that which causes you doubt for that which does not cause you doubt, because indeed truthfulness is tranquility, and lying is disturbance.” In yet another narration, the Prophet advises to once again to set aside what causes you doubt for what does not, “…because indeed truthfulness will save you.” These are very profound meanings.

And finally, in another narration, which the scholars considered to be from the signs of prophecy (dala’il al-nubuwwa) and from the miracles of our Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him):

A man came to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), who knew what was already in [the man’s] heart. And so he comes to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), [the man said] “O Prophet of God, inform me.” And the Prophet responded by saying, “If you want, I will tell you that which you came to ask about. Otherwise, you can just ask.” And he said, “Rather inform me, O Messenger of Allah, because it is more delightful to me.” And then the Prophet said, “You have come to ask about certainty and doubt.” And then the man said, “That’s right, O Messenger of Allah.” And then the Prophet described him, “Certainty is that which resides in the heart and the heart finds tranquility therein, even if the legist give you their fatwa.” And then the Prophet said, (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), “Set aside what causes you doubt for what does not…”

Undoubtedly Certain

All of these different narrations are pointing to a very fundamental meaning of the religion (din), because this hadith is teaching us about scrupulousness. It is teaching us how to be religiously cautious, which is of the utmost importance especially for people that are taking the Afterlife seriously.

So let’s analyze this hadith a little bit closer. When the Prophet says da’wi, translate that here as ‘set aside’, or ‘to leave’. Da’ma yuribuk… it is perfectly fine to say yaribuk or yuribuk; both of them are valid in the Arabic language, but the first one (yaribuk) is more commonly used verb, derived from the noun rayb, which is the same as shakk, which both mean ‘doubt’.

Our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us that anything that we doubt, whether it is good to do or not, be it legal or illegal, whether it relates to things that we say or things that we do, we have enough from what we know is clearly permissible for us to focus on such that we don’t even need to. [We can] direct our hearts and our minds towards things that we know there is no question about. And so what our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us is to build our religion upon certainty.

From the dominant [Islamic] legal perspective among scholars, it’s not an obligation (wajib) to leave doubtful matters (shubuhat), although some among a minority say that it is. But what our Prophet is teaching us, is that we need to build our din upon certainty.

Seeing With Certain Eyes

As we live our lives, there will be a number of things that will come our way. It could be because of a lack of learning that we don’t know what the right thing to do is at any given moment, and we thus need to constantly increase in learning. Should we or should we not say that? Should we or should we not do that? We need to implement this in a balanced way. But the more certainty that we can build our religion upon, the better that it will be for us in this world and in the next, because we know that the end result ultimately is for the pious (muttaqin). It’s for the people of God-consciousness (taqwa). And in this regard, you will be tested.

It might be that you have a job opportunity and there is a very nice salary in that, but it’s doubtful. Is this what you should be doing, or should you not be doing? Is it really permissible, or is it not? And even if someone gives you fatwa that says it is permissible; if it doesn’t sit well in your heart, then it’s probably best for you to not do that thing.

Peace of Heart, Peace of Mind

But again, scrupulousness is a balance between neglect and between falling to the insinuations (waswasa) of Shaytan. Our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is teaching us in one of those narrations is that that tranquility in our heart is a sign that that thing is true. And disturbance in the heart is a sign that the thing we are thinking about doing should not be done. Of course, that is a very difficult standard to apply because it’s something internal and intangible. The more pure the heart becomes, the more clarity we’ll have in relation to the tranquility of the heart.

If you find your heart disturbed about something, even if people are telling you it’s permissible, it’s probably better not to do or say that thing. And know that if you fear some type of loss by not taking that job or not doing that particular thing, if you leave something for the sake of Allah, you have to have absolute certainty that Allah will provide you with something that is better… even if it takes a little bit of time. It might require you to be a little bit detached and be patient in the process. But know for certain that Allah the Exalted will replace that which you thought was good for you was something that definitely is better for you.

Go With What You Know

And so, the meaning of this hadith is very, very important. It’s foundational to the din, and that we hope we want to build our din upon certainty, so that when we meet our Lord the Exalted, we meet Him with acts that we know will be pleasing to Him (Glory be to Him), and [knowing] that we worked hard. This, of course, requires that we learn to detach from this world and to be truthful people… not only in terms of what we say, but also the things that we do, and ultimately truthful in all of our different states.

May Allah the Exalted bless us to implement this blessed hadith of our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), and may we leave everything that we think is not good for that which is that clearly good, and may we leave all of the doubt from others for that which we know is that unquestionably permissible. May Allah the Exalted give us resolve in all of our different affairs.

Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions; and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.


The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.