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Ask in the Presence of Allah – Dr Shadee Elmasry

Dr Shadee Elmasry recounts the narration on the reduction of prayers from fifty to five and lists nine things we can learn from this.

In the Isra and Miraj, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us:

Then the prayers were enjoined on me: they were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses, who asked: “What have you been ordered to do?” I replied: “I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.” Moses said: “Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah I have tested people before you, and I have tried my best with Bani Israel (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers’ burden.” So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah, and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses he said the same. I went back to Allah, and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day. He told me to go for a further reduction, but I was ashamed to ask for more.

Why did Allah go through all of this when he knew what the final number would be? Why not just ordain five from the start? What is this supposed to teach us?

Nine Points of Learning

1. It is supposed to teach us the approachability of Allah. That he is approachable with our dua. That we should never stop returning to Him asking for ease and mercy even if over and over again.

2. It also demonstrates the importance of the prayer, for we were asked for fifty a day, a very large number.

3. It also puts on display the importance of asking those who have experience. In this case, the prophet who is about to lead a nation, asking the prophet who already led a nation.

4. It also shows the compassion the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had for his umma, for he went back and forth quite a number of times, all for his concern with our well being.

5. It also shows the generosity of Allah with the umma of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, for even though we are doing only five, we are getting the reward of fifty, since one good deed is rewarded ten times over.

6. It shows that things unfold slowly, for the decrease did not go from 50 to 5 right away, but rather through steps and stages, for which we need diligence and patience.

7. So that the believers can feel the blessing of the reduction. If a mu’min feels the burden of five prayers a day, he feels relief knowing that it was originally fifty.

8. It is a gift to Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, that he was given the opportunity to show his concern for us and decrease the burden from off of Allah’s most beloved umma. Every individual Muslim is now indebted to him for this great ease which we experience daily. Our payment of that debt is recognizing his favor and increasing in our love for him.

9. It shows that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, could enter the Divine presence at will.

And Allah knows best.


Dr Shadee Elmasry was born and raised in New Jersey. He began studying at the age of eighteen, traveling to a number of countries including Egypt, KSA, Yemen and Morocco.

In addition to traditional learning, Dr Elmasry has received has an MA from The George Washington University and a PhD from the University of London SOAS.

Dr Elmasry went on to teach at several universities including Yale University, University of London SOAS, Trinity College, Hartford Seminary, and Manhattanville College.

Currently, he serves as Scholar in Residence at the New Brunswick Islamic Center in New Jersey. He is also the founder and head of Safina Society — an institution dedicated to the cause of traditional Islamic education in the West.


The Science of the Heart – Safina Society Podcast

The Safina Society team is joined by Mufti Niaz Hannan and Yusuf Hussain to discuss Tasawwuf, what it is, why it is needed, and how to recognize it.

With these two final episodes, the Safina Society team close out their season on a wonderful, warm, engaging, and lively discussion of Tasawwuf.

What it is. What it isn’t. Its sources, roots, methods, proofs, and fruits. Why we need this knowledge. How to understand this “science of the heart.”

They also give concrete and heart-awakening examples of common people in our communities who, knowingly or not, “truly [are] what we would call, the people of Tasawwuf.”

 

With gratitude to Safina Society.


Sin, Forgiveness, and Repentance in Islam – Dr Shadee Elmasry

Dr Shadee Elmasry writes on the concepts of sin, forgiveness, and repentance in Islam, and how they form a part of our daily lives.

A lot of times people entertain doubts and even disbelief because of some wrong they did and because they can’t live with themselves having done it. Maybe they’re now mired in an addiction. Their conscience won’t let them sleep at night.

To escape this misery, they search for a way to change the rules of the game. “Well, who said this or that is haram anyway?” And that’s where whim and doubt start taking over.

The reality however, is that none of that is really necessary. Islam’s doctrine on sin is so different from anything the Western world has known that it’s actually refreshing.

When in Doubt, Check the Manual

Before I explain, let me take you back to the 1990’s. Roller blades came out then. And I remember that when you bought a pair there was a little instruction manual with illustrations of how to fall. Not how to skate. How to fall. Think about that.

On blades you’re only three or four inches off the ground, but if you fall at those speeds and try to land on your wrists, you’re done. Wrist injuries suddenly became common occurrences back then. And they were gruesome. You have to fall on your shoulder ideally or at least your fore-arm.

So likewise in today’s world, every Muslim has to learn how to fall. “What should I be thinking after falling into a gruesome act of disobedience?” It’s even more important than learning how to advance. That’s because a sin can dig so deep into your psyche it’ll make you go crazy and one can even lose their iman. That’s Shaytan’s real goal.

Islam’s Doctrine of Sin

As for Islam’s “Doctrine of Sin” it begins firstly with something I don’t think exists in any other religion. That is, to commit sins is built into our system as human beings, and to get forgiven is one of the purposes of our creation:

By the One who controls my soul, if you did not sin, Allah I would have done away with you and brought a creation that sinned, so they could repent and He could forgive them.

This is in Sahih Muslim, the second most reliable canonical source in Islam after Sahih Bukhari. Not even second, it’s more like 1a and 1b. The scholars say, from the Divine attributes is The Forgiver, The Patient, The Merciful, and thus in the creation there will manifest those to whom these attributes can apply.

Secondly, moral failings are considered in Islam to be the beginning of advancement in a way: “Verily the believers, if they are touched by a demon, they remember, and lo, they quickly become more insightful” (Sura al A‘raf 7:201). Like all advancements, spiritual advancement is born out of a failing of some sort, which makes us dig deep and search for ways to avoid it or wash it away.

Allah’s View of Repentance

In light of this, the forgiveness of a moral failing is actually an easy thing. “Don’t they know that Allah accepts repentance from His slaves.” (Sura al Tawba 9:104) It is a general and absolute statement. Tawba has four parts:

    1. 1. Admission of wrong.

 

    1. 2. Uttering any expression of repentance (astaghfirullah)

 

    1. 3. Committing never to do it again.

 

    4. Regretting having done it.

If it’s truly in the heart, then it’s that simple.

Can One Forgive Again and Again?

Ok, I can understand easy forgiveness once, but what if it happens again? And again. And again. If it was your child you would say, Ok there’s either something wrong with you or you have no respect for me. Either way, I have to start treating you differently now. But Allah does not do this with us. “The one who repents is never considered persistently sinful, even if he repeats it seventy times a day.” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Tabarani)

Given this, we as parents should be very patient with our kids, as Allah is patient with us, when our kids repeat the same mistake over and over even though, “I told you a thousand times!” In another hadith Allah says: “Son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the height of the skies, but you sought My forgiveness, I would forgive you with ease.” (Tirmidhi)

The best indicator of sincerity in repentance is charity. And by the way, giving someone your time, or being in a good mood with people are also forms of charity in case you don’t have much money.

What About the Victims of One’s Sins?

Here’s the real bad part: If your sins have victims. Oh that’s deadly. A scholar of Bani Isra‘il used to give rulings for the elite all the time and reap the benefits of being their scholar. In old age he wanted to repent. Allah told the prophet of that time: “I will readily forgive him, but what about all the people he led astray?”

If your sins are victimless, you’re very fortunate. If not, you have your work cut out for you. If you cannot ever make it up in this life, then pray Allah covers your back in the Afterlife with large payouts to your victims in exchange for their pardoning you.

And the Blackening of the Heart?

3. The last point is between the two, neither very easy nor very hard. It’s the effect of the sin. Sins black out the heart like smoke. Akin to how nicotine totally brutalizes the pure pink tissue of the lungs. Those ashes have to be washed away. The effect of sins make a person miserable and shuts out their inner eye from seeing the truth clearly. It’s cleaned away easily though, but takes time and effort. It is a lot of dhikr and ibada. We should be listening to Qur’an all the time.

This is why I think public dhikr is important. Most people are lazy to sit and do dhikr, or they don’t know how. But public dhikr is easy. You sit and read what the people are reading, and make dua as the people make dua. Dhikr is nur and it will enter your heart and clean out all that gunk. But you need alot of it to take effect.

Gatherings of washing away our sins should be a norm that occurs on a routine basis in our homes and masajid. Our hearts thus become like rivers, the faster the water keeps moving, the harder it is to stain. But if there’s no movement at all, it becomes stagnant and collects rot.

Sin, Forgiveness, and Repentance

The doctrines of sins, forgiveness and the understanding of the effect of sins and how to wipe it away is so important to us. This is life for all of us on a daily basis. It’s Lesson #1 in spirituality, and I hope you as readers pass this on and give the downtrodden hope and motivation.

May Allah accept from us, forgive us and make our wrongs a way for us to be stronger. Ameen.


Dr Shadee Elmasry was born and raised in New Jersey. He began studying at the age of eighteen, traveling to a number of countries including Egypt, KSA, Yemen and Morocco.

In addition to traditional learning, Dr Elmasry has received has an MA from The George Washington University and a PhD from the University of London SOAS.

Dr Elmasry went on to teach at several universities including Yale University, University of London SOAS, Trinity College, Hartford Seminary, and Manhattanville College.

Currently, he serves as Scholar in Residence at the New Brunswick Islamic Center in New Jersey. He is also the founder and head of Safina Society — an institution dedicated to the cause of traditional Islamic education in the West.

His courses can be found at Safina-Online.Teachable.com.


 

Hard Work and Mercy – Dr Shadee Elmasry

Yes, Allah has mercy, but you have to get moving too. It’s a question that pops up in the back of our minds all the time: When do we give up and when do we keep fighting? writes Dr Shadee Elmasry.

For believers, there’s a potential to really confuse some key concepts related to this. “Giving up” can be dressed up in tawakkul (توكُّل), reliance on Allah. It can be a ploy from Iblis to get people to stop striving. It can be done intentionally to justify our laziness or desires. Or it can just be an honest mistake rooted in ignorance.

When Tawakkul Is Misused

When tawakkul is misused it’s called tawaakul (تواكُل) (with an alif and no shadda). It’s false reliance. Here are a few stories to illustrate that until there is physically no rock left unturned, we are expected to muster every ounce of our will power.

A man came to the Prophet ﷺ complaining of being abused by another, shrugging his shoulders saying “Hasbi Allah wa ni‘m al-wakil, Allah is my protector.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “No. Go and get your rights, and after you have done everything possible, then say hasbi Allah wa ni‘m al-wakil.”

Very similar to this is the nomad who asked, “Should I tie my camel or rely on Allah?” The Prophet ﷺ said tie it and rely.

Using Public Opinion Against Your Abuser

In another incident, a Companion came in looking sullen. “My neighbor keeps abusing me,” he complained. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Take your furniture and place it all in front of the road. When people pass by asking what you’re doing, say, ‘My neighbor is abusing me.’” The man did so and the neighbor saw all the people making dua against him and hating him for his abuse, so he ran outside and said, “Enough, I will stop if you just go inside.” (Tirmidhi) – Was this a solo protest march? When weak, use public opinion against your abuser.

There’s another dimension. Who is the most dangerous enemy? “Your worst enemy is the one between your two sides.” (Bayhaqi) The same attitude we take against the enemy, we have to take against our own desires, temptations, ego, arrogance, selfishness.

The Deen Is Not a Pair of Jeans

Just because we feel that some parts of the deen are hard (really hard) that isn’t a reason to downgrade the ruling, or worse, eliminate it altogether. It’s not a pair of jeans that when they don’t fit perfectly snug, we throw it back on the rack. It’s more like a wedding dress: you go lose the weight to make yourself fit in it.

A mistake we often make is to cite the verse, “My mercy expands over all things.” It’s a sound piece of evidence used for the wrong reason (كلمة حق أُريدَ به باطل). Allah’s mercy is not for our unsatisfied desires. It’s for pious hard workers. Read the rest of the verse: “But I shall ordain it upon those who…

  1. • have piety (taqwa)
    • give charity
    • fully trust in Our Book
    • follow the Prophet ﷺ in what he permitted and prohibited
    • honor him [the Prophet ﷺ]
    • give him [and his religion] victory
    • follow the Qur’an that he transmitted to us (A‘raf 7:156).

You Have to Fight for Mercy

Allah’s mercy is not a free hand out. It’s not a kids’ soccer trophy that you get just for showing up. You have to fight for it. Muslims of the modern world: we have to be gritty or else we’re going to get devoured by all the darknesses (shubuhaat) and temptations (shahawat) out there. The Muslim today has to be the ultimate scrapper. In both beliefs and morals – no less politically, economically, militarily – we are the underdog.

There is no time, no room to feel sorry for ourselves and misuse the concepts of mercy and destiny when the going gets tough. A man tried this on Sayyidna Umar. Big mistake. He was arrested and found guilty of a crime. Umar sentenced him to a punishment. The man tried to be clever and said, “Do you have me lashed me for something I was predestined to do?” Umar replied, “Yes, because I was also predestined to punish you.”

In society today you’ll notice that many bad habits – vices – have been rebranded as “diseases.” People can be prone and have weaknesses sure, but tell me: how is an action that someone did with their own hands and feet be treated as equivalent to a disease that is a pure tragedy of no doing on the part of the diagnosee.

The Beautiful Struggle

This outlook appears nice at the outset. It’s a sympathetic and merciful, but in reality, it strips people of their agency. It completely undermines the belief that you can control your own behavior. It’s funny, because whenever we do something good we take credit, but when something bad happens we want to create a myth of how it was out of our power.

Struggle is beautiful. Even when you fail, it leaves you with gifts. When coffee was discovered in Yemen, the Ottomans conquered north Yemen, the residents of which were Zaydi Shi‘ites. They didn’t stand a chance against the Ottomans. But they fought anyway. For ninety-eight years, they fought and were suppressed every time. Then the Ottomans left.

But what the struggle did to the Zaydis is what made all the difference. They became ten times as strong as they were before, and the moment the Ottomans departed, the Zaydis swept Yemen and ruled over all of it for eighty-eight years (Imam al-Haddad lived in Tarim under Zaydi rule).

We can learn a thing or two from dogs, how gritty they are. Big or small, they don’t give up. Certain breeds will fight til the death for their owners. For what wisdom did Allah put this noble quality in dogs? Perhaps to show us, that if this four-legged creature can do it, then you should be ashamed not to.


With Gratitude to Dr Shadee Elmasry.


Hajj 2018 with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus and Dr. Shadee Elmasry

Ihya Tours are giving you the opportunity to perform Hajj under the guidance of Shaykh Yahya Rhodus and Dr. Shadee Elmasry. 

Ihya Tours began with the idea that Hajj should be more than just ‘Packages’. It should be more than hotels, buffet meals and luxuries. Their intent is to provide you with a Hajj experience that lets you focus on the spirit of the Hajj. Allow them to serve you in your endeavor to fulfill your religious obligation. You can browse all the details of the special package by heading to their website.