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The Honoured Guests of Ibrahim–Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

In this article, Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat explores the theme of Karam, or honouring. He uses the example of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, who is mentioned in the Qur’an as honouring his guests.

What is Karam?

Karam. A very rich and nuanced word of the Arabic language. Qurʾanic philologists, after deep analysis, tell us that its true meaning lies somewhere near ‘for something to be precious, valued, honoured, refined, esteemed and noble’. Meanings such as generosity, and being forgiving – which are common usages for karam in Arabic – are derivative, and not the root meaning itself.

Allah has informed us in the Qurʿan that ‘[By Allah] We have permanently honoured the children of Adam’ (17:70); that is to say, He has elevated the rank of humanity from amongst His creation. This is through various means, such as intelligence, articulate and eloquent speech, religion, morality, responsibility, knowledge, and the ability to traverse all the terrains of the planet – to name a few. The verb in the verse above (kar-ram-nā) indicates that this is something engrained within us, and permanent. It is from the karam of Allah, and so we may feel some of what it is like to have this quality, and to manifest it onto others.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) commanded us, ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour (yukrim) his guest’ (Bukhari). The initial part of this statement is a beautiful usage of the rhetorical device employed to spark within a believer a desire to implement the instructions given after it, almost as though he has cause to prove that he believes in Allah and the Last Day.

Coming from the context of Arab generosity where bedouins would light bonfires at night to invite the desert travellers to their hospitality, this hadith took this beautiful trait of the Arabs and combined it with the qualities faith promotes and nourishes within a believer. In short, to make one’s guest feel precious, valued, honoured and noble is something desired in Islam and a mark of nobility itself. It also has far-reaching effects on one’s relationships, friendships, and society as a whole.

In order to see how it is done let us look at one of the most noble and generous men ever to walk the earth, and see how he was with his guests.

The Example of Ibrahim

‘Has the important account (ḥadith) of the honoured guests of Ibrahim come to you? [It was] when they entered his [house] and greeted him. He replied with a better greeting saying ‘[You are] a people completely unknown [to us]’ (51:24-25).

The verses start with an address to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant peace) asking if this particular story had been recounted to him. This serves to draw one’s attention to the story mentioned, and to prepare the listener for the wisdom and guidance it will impart.

Part of this wisdom is for one to spend on worthy causes knowing that one’s provision lies in the generous hand of Allah, which, incidentally, is one of the themes of Sura al-Dhariyat.

The event is referred to as a ‘ḥadith’, which means an event so significant that it should be regarded with due importance and made a frequent topic of conversation. This was, of course, the event when the people of the Prophet Lut were punished – may Allah protect us from His wrath.

The angels sent to them were first told to visit Ibrahim and give him the good news of the birth of his second son, Isḥaq. Allah referred to them as the honoured guests of Ibrahim. Exegetes have differed on the nature of this honouring: were they described as being honoured simply because all angels are honoured by Allah, or was it through the hospitality of Ibrahim? Both interpretations are possible in this situation. Their role as angelic messengers meant that they were honoured by Allah- yet, unaware of them being angels, Ibrahim honoured them to the best of His capacity too.

The verse then states that they entered his home without asking permission. This indicates that his great generosity and immaculate hospitality were known of far and wide, and that guests knew that they were free to enter without asking for permission. This fact alone speaks volumes about the generosity of Ibrahim.

Once inside they greeted him with the familiar greeting of Islam, which he, in turn, replied to. The grammatical state used to express their cordial greeting is weaker than the one used to express his greeting, which shows that he responded to their greeting with warmer and more welcoming words. In short, his reputation of being an impeccable host was immediately apparent.

Without delay, he started to make conversation with them, lest they feel like they were unwanted or intruding. Their being unknown to him was not a cause of frustration, or him not wanting to serve them with the best he had. Rather, he saw them as people sent to him by Allah as a means for him to draw closer to Allah through hospitality. He was not yet aware that they were angels.

‘Immediately, he quickly and quietly slipped away to his household, and soon brought a plump [roasted] calf’ (51:26)

Next, after making them comfortable, he slipped away. The word ‘rāgha’ in the verse implies that he was quick in departing, and that it was imperceptible and unceremonious. From this we can infer that he did not want to keep his guests waiting. Travelling is tiring, so feeding one’s guests immediately is a sign on good hospitality.

We can also see that he did not ask them whether they wanted anything to eat or drink. Many people would simply refuse due to their modesty, despite actually desiring some food. Ibrahim did not place them in this situation, nor did he give them a choice between foods; because many people would either refuse or simply choose what would be the least taxing on the host, even if they desired otherwise.

We then see that he went to his household – his wife, and their servants, if they had any. This indicates that the role of hospitality was a shared one, and each of them saw they great opportunity to please Allah the guests had brought with them.

To add to this, exegetes have mentioned that the particles mentioned in the verse indicate quick succession, which means that they hurried to honour their guests, and that it is almost as if the food was half prepared waiting for some guests to pass by. This is tremendous reflection of his generosity and reliance on Allah in matters of provision.

It can also be inferred that the host should serve what is easily available to him, whether it is a meal, some nuts, or a cup of tea. Guests in Ibrahim’s scenario were travellers through the desert; all the food a traveller had was what he could carry with him, so being someone’s guest was an opportunity to have a good meal which may not present itself again soon. Therefore, you do not have to serve a three course meal every time the neighbour comes over to pick up a parcel she had missed in the post.

Serving what is easily available also means that one does not have to sneak out of the back door for a secret trip to the supermarket to get some food for the guest. What is available is sufficient, and the host’s company is more important.

After a short space of time he took a plump roasted calf to the guests. Cows were the best food they could provide for a guest, as well as being very expensive. A fully grown cow can provide a lot of meat which can be eaten, shared or preserved. Yet, he chose to slaughter a calf.

A calf would have been quicker to cook, and its meat would have been more tender, but there would not have been much excess meat. Ibrahim’s prioritising of his guests in choosing the best and tastiest food, quick service, and selflessness here is nothing short of admirable.

‘He then placed it very close to them, and said, ‘Will you not eat?’ (51:27)

Ibrahim served his guests himself, and this is not a flaw; rather, it is the height of nobility for a man to serve his guests himself. This is a practice I noticed amongst the scholars and the righteous in the middle-east. For a man of distinction to place food in your plate – despite his rank and virtues – is an honour to say the least.

Not only that, Ibrahim gently requested them to eat. It was not a command. It was nothing but a warm and gentle word of encouragement to eat, posed in the form of a question.

Many guests feel shy, and it may not be easy for them start eating of their own accord. This gentle reminder once again shows that Ibrahim did everything he could to honour his guests, who, as far as he knew until this point, were normal people, beneath him in rank.

The food was also placed very close to them in order to prevent them from being too shy to eat anything served, and to have everything within easy reach. The guests of Ibrahim really were honoured.

We ask Allah – who, more than any, deserves to be described with the meanings of the word karam – to bestow His karam on us, and the believers, in this life and the next. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), upon receiving the opening verses of Sura al-Muʾminun, asked for this when he said,

اللَّهُمَّ زِدْنَا وَلَا تَنْقُصْنَا، وَأَكْرِمْنَا وَلَا تُهِنَّا، وَأَعْطِنَا وَلَا تَحْرِمْنَا، وَآثِرْنَا وَلَا تُؤْثِرْ عَلَيْنَا، وَأرْضِنَا وَارْضَ عَنَّا

‘O Allah, give us an increase, and not a decrease; honour us and do not abase us; give us and do not debar us; prefer us and do not prefer [others] to us; and please us and be pleased with us’ (Tirmidhi).


Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. He moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time, such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies in Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.


Resources for Seekers

Day 2: Cooking for Neighbors – 30 Deeds 30 Days

Day 2: Cooking for Others

We know that we get immense rewards for giving a person food with which to break their fast. We also know that Allah commanded us to be good to our neighbours. We live in a time where tall buildings are filled with people so close to each other, but who don’t even talk to each other.

So why not break that mold? Whether you happen to be cooking soup, cake or brownies, make a little extra. Pack them into a nice container and give it to your neighbours. Maybe they are Muslims, maybe they are not. Maybe they are friendly, or maybe they are not. It doesn’t matter; you’re only doing it for Allah. Just try, and see what happens!


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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.

Allah’s Deal With The Poor – What It Means For you, by Shaykh Faid Said

When you give to the poor and needy from the wealth you have been blessed with, there is a promise from Allah that is beyond imagination and comparison. Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said tells us more.

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Raheem.

None of us could have ever wished to come to this world, as none of us even knew that this world exists, and we did not even know that we existed ourselves!

Allah (The Most High) invited us to this existence, and He is the One who invites, provides and takes responsibility for all those He has invited! As He is the Provider, He established the rules that govern this existence, and included in those rules is the principle that those who are fortunate will give to those who are less fortunate; and Allah (The Most High) made this exchange a deal that is in actuality between Him and the fortunate ones!

Generally speaking, there are two types of people:

  1. those whom Allah (The Most High) has given in abundance and
  2. those who are poor and needy.

So when Allah (The Most High) invited us to this existence, He took responsibility for all those who are in need, and at the same time, He does not take the abundance He has provided to the fortunate ones; what has been given to them is their own.

[cwa id=’cta’]

“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan…” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 245)

Hence, when those who are fortunate give to those who are in need, Allah (The Most High) creates a deal between the fortunate ones and Him!  It is as if Allah (The Most High) is saying: that which you give to others I invited to this existence, will be a debt between you and Me!

The Mercy of Allah (The Most High) manifests in His giving and not taking away from the fortunate ones, and His asking on behalf of His other invitees!

In contemplating this, we recall the narration when the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) entered the house of Syeda Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her), and upon entering he (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) saw that she was polishing the rust off of some dirhams. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) inquired as to why she was meticulously polishing the dirhams, to which she replied that she was going to give the dirhams as charity. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) further asked that if she was going to give the dirhams as charity, she could give them as is; Syeda Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) responded:  

These dirhams, before going into the hands of the miskeen, will be placed into the hands of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!

Allahumma salli alaa Syedina Muhammad wa alaa Ahli Syedina Muhammad!

Resources for seekers

Photo by Rui Duarte.

Spend, Even When You’re Destitute – Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes

What is the benefit of giving charity and spending on others even when you’re destitute and dirt poor? When you can’t pay your rent, when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel… We revisit some of the gems from Shaykh Muhammad Mendes when he was at SeekersHub Toronto.


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Resources for seekers:

Give Meaningful Gifts (30 Deeds, 30 Days), by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Gift Meaningful Gifts, by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

30 Days, 30 Deeds
Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

Every night, our scholars in residence explore one simple deed that could have far reaching spiritual impact on our lives – and the lives of others. Every day we’ll make the intention to put that teaching into practice. Whether it’s forgiving someone who’s wronged us or putting service to others at the top of our list of priorities, these powerful lessons will remind us of the great gift the Prophet ﷺ‎  gave us: the best of character.

Daily at 8:10 pm EST. Attend in person at SeekersHub Toronto or watch live.

 

Let’s #GiveLight to Millions More

We envision a world in which no one is cut off from the beauty, mercy and light of the Prophetic ﷺ example. A world where the dark ideology of a few is dwarfed by radiant example of the many who follow the way of the Prophet ﷺ. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support. This Ramadan, we need you to help us #GiveLight to millions more. Here’s how.

Photo credit: Matthew G

Cook Food For Others (30 Days, 30 Deeds), by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Cook Food For Others, by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

30 Days, 30 Deeds
Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

Every night, our scholars in residence explore one simple deed that could have far reaching spiritual impact on our lives – and the lives of others. Every day we’ll make the intention to put that teaching into practice. Whether it’s forgiving someone who’s wronged us or share a meal with a neighbour, these powerful lessons will remind us of the great gift the Prophet ﷺ‎  gave us: the best of character.

Daily at 8:10 pm EST. Attend in person at SeekersHub Toronto or watch live. 

 

Let’s #GiveLight to Millions More

We envision a world in which no one is cut off from the beauty, mercy and light of the Prophetic ﷺ example. A world where the dark ideology of a few is dwarfed by radiant example of the many who follow the way of the Prophet ﷺ. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support. This Ramadan, we need you to help us #GiveLight to millions more. Here’s how.

An Unwavering Moral Compass

A woman once had something that was more valuable than all her worldly posessions. Imam Khalid Latif reveals what it is, and shows us how, by looking at the world within the heart, we can change the world around us.


Put it in to practice by taking a free course on Ghazali’s book “The Marvels of the Heart.”

Our thanks to the ICNYU for this recording. Cover photo by Andrea Deeley.

Resources on Having An Unwavering Moral Compass