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Don’t Take the Devil’s Side Against Your Brother – Shaykh Abdurrahim Reasat

What Got Him To This Stage?

I was driving down White Abbey Road in Bradford in the direction of a famous old restaurant, probably with samosas – it’s speciality – on my mind. The car in front of me slowed down and eventually stopped to allow some pedestrians – no doubt on their way to invade the local clothes shops – to cross the road. I too stopped.

 

When the traffic started moving, I noticed that there was a crowd gathered on the left. It was some young men who had been playing football in an all-weather pitch by the side of the road. They were loosely following an older man, probably in his fifties. Clean shaven, and raggedly dressed in western clothing, he walked clumsily away from them. He was clearly drunk, and probably holding a bottle of alcohol in his hand at that moment too.

 

The youths were jeering and hurling abusive comments at him. He simply walked away and left them. Perhaps he had said something foolish, or inflammatory to them. Maybe he was a someone who was always treated that way by local miscreants because of his ‘sinful’ lifestyle. I don’t know. What I do know is that there was a look on his face which betrayed feelings of extreme anguish, pain, turmoil, sadness, and rejection.

 

As I started to move along with the rest of the traffic I felt a deep sadness for the plight of this man. Was he committing a haram act by drinking? Undoubtedly! That is something we wish that he didn’t do – as it is harmful for him on many levels.

 

Why the sadness, then? Well, I began to wonder ‘What got him to this stage?’ Nothing happens in a vacuum. Allah told us, ‘God brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers not knowing anything…’ (16:78). Sins, addictions, destructive habits and actions are not pre-programmed into us. What led him to this lifestyle, then? It’s not something most Pakistani men of a comparable age would do.

 

So I prayed for him. Perhaps he’s lived through circumstances which have pushed him into this corner. Allah will judge him and the rest of us; and that judgement will be based on Allah’s knowledge of this man’s collective life experiences – not just a solitary incident. Our role is to advise according to the standards of the Shariʿa: to enjoin the good and forbid the evil – but with wisdom.

 

Wisdom – The Best Course of Action

Wisdom entails doing this properly, appropriately, and with the appropriate level of firmness or gentleness. Look at the Qurʾanic Firʿawn, who was most likely the historical figure Ramses II. A tyrant; a slave-monger; a child-killer; a genocidal maniac who convinced himself and the Egyptian populace that He was their god most high. When Allah sent Musa and Harun to him, what instructions did they recieve? ‘Go and beat him over the head with your admonishment!’? No.

 

Allah said, ‘Go [you two] to Pharaoh for indeed he has crossed all limits, and speak to him ever so gently!’ (20:44). Gently? To him? Yes. Going in guns blazing would have been contrary to wisdom.

 

Only after his repeated, stubborn refusals was he addressed with sternness in the hope that he would be shaken into realising his mistakes. All the prophets do this. In many places in the Qurʾan they are described as givers of good news (mubash-shirun) first and then as warners (mundhirun).

 

Sometimes, when seeing someone openly committing sins, or is in a destructive cycle, or in a drug or alcohol addiction, many people forget the above. Yes, hating the sin is part of faith – but not hating the sinner. How many of the companions went from being idolaters to the elite of the saints of Islam? What happened? They left the disbelief and the sins – but they remained the same individuals.

 

Seeing a sinner – someone who is wronging himself – should bring out the gentle, merciful nature in a believer. Did Allah not say to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, ‘Is it the case that you will kill yourself over them out of pure sadness if they don’t believe in this great discourse?’ (18:7).

 

Many people are broken internally and this may not show outwardly. Perhaps the guilt they feel for their sin is pain enough to expiate that sin. Maybe they are in a situation beyond their control, which they cannot escape try as they might.

 

Was Adam not forbidden to eat from the tree? Of course he was – but he ended up doing it because he was meant to leave Paradise and come to Earth for the real test. In the afterlife, Musa had some firm words to say to him about that, to which Adam responded with a justification based on what had been decreed for him. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said Adam won that argument (Bukhari).

 

Does this mean that people can commit any sin and say ‘I can’t help it. It’s decreed for me’? No, and that’s not the point of the hadith.

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Gentleness – The Door to All Good

When someone in this unfortunate situation approaches a religious person, be he a scholar or a layman, he usually does so with a degree of reverence for this individual. A cruel or harsh approach to this person can have disastrous consequences. You could chase him away from the din, or worse – out of it!

 

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, has many beautiful and important saying on this matter: ‘Truly, whenever gentleness is in a matter it beautifies it; and whenever it is purged from something that thing becomes flawed.’ (Muslim). ‘O Allah, whoever governs any affair of the believers and then makes things hard for them, make things hard for him; and whoever is gentle to them, be gentle to him.’ (Muslim).

 

He also said, ‘Whoever is made bereft of gentleness he is made bereft of good itself.’ (Muslim) and ‘O ʿAʾisha, be gentle; because, when Allah wants great good for a family, He points them to the door of gentleness.’ (Muslim).

 

This is the approach which needs to be taken.

 

Saints and Sinners

Abu al ʿAbbas al Mursi, the famous Egyptian saint, was said to be kinder and gentler to the morally corrupt than he was to his righteous students – not to mean that he wasn’t kind to them. He saw who was more in need of the kind treatment. We see that this has its roots in the sunna of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace.

 

ʿAmr b. al ʿAs – after fighting the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, for years –  accepted Islam just before the conquest of Mecca. He later noted that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would give special attention to the ‘worst’ of the people with him, and go out of his way to make conversation with them. Why? To aid them in their development in Islam. So much so, that ʿAmr ended up convincing himself that he was better than Abu Bakr and ʿUmar, until he realised what was going on.

 

But wasn’t the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, firm with people at times? Didn’t he get angry at times? Yes, but this was always a drop in the oceans of his loving and kind dealings with people. Never did he repeatedly, and persistently, be harsh to anyone. How could he, when he prayed for those who had tried to assassinate him at the battle of Uhud? This does not mean that he was meek, or that he could not stand up for himself. On the contrary – he was the bravest of men!

 

What it means is that the gentle side greatly outweighed the occasions where he had to be firm. Even with Kaʿb b. Malik, who, along with two other companions, didn’t take part in the military campaign against the Romans to Tubuk – despite the great need for every available man to go. Out of laziness they didn’t end up going, so, the sin was expiated by a period of them not being actively included in the community. The companions were told not to communicate with them for what eventually ended up as fifty days.

 

Even during this intense period Kaʿb would notice that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, kindly look at him whist Kaʿb was praying, but then avert his gaze when he finished his prayer. This brought solace to Kaʿb, and counterbalanced the difficulty he was experiencing.

 

He even received a letter from one of the enemies of Islam inviting him to leave Madina to go to him with the promise of looking after him generously. What role did those glances from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, play in him resisting that temptation?

 

People are not always as them seem. Someone could come across as confident, smiling, and joking, but internally they could be carrying many wounds accumulated over the years. If this person then receives repeated harsh treatment from those he looks up to as being righteous, or from teachers, elders, respected community members, then the door to righteousness becomes less and less appealing. Which other door remains for him, then?

 

Inspire People With Hope

Turning away from bad actions – if possible – becomes less appealing, as they become a sure barrier to keep away those who treated him harshly despite him wanting and needing their help, support, and approval.

 

Such people should be directed to what’s best for them with kindness, and never should they be made to feel like there is no hope for them. A perfect example of this is the hadith in Sahih al Bukhari which mentions the mass murdered who killed ninety-nine people. He went to a worshipper wanting to know if he could repent somehow. When he was told ‘no’ he killed him and made the tally one hundred.

 

He then went to a scholar with the same question. The scholar filled him with hope, and showed him the way to repent and attain forgiveness with kindness, mercy, and wisdom. He was advised to get out of the places which he kept committing those sins in and to go to another city where there were righteous people living. He died on the way, closer to his hometown.

 

When the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment disputed over him, Allah told them to measure the spot where he died in relation to his hometown and his destination. If he was closer to the former he would be punished, otherwise, he would be shown mercy. He was in fact closer to home, but Allah caused the ground to expand and contract such that he ended up closer to his destination! Compare how Allah treated him to what the first man told him!

 

What Is Not Visible On The Surface

I once attended a Wing Chun class with a friend. There was a Muslim man there with his young sons; he had been learning for a few years, and was quite skilled.

 

During the practice element of the lesson, he raised his shorts quite high, exposing most of his thigh to everyone whilst making some point. One of those present said something like, ‘Bro, I don’t think you should be showing that.’ The comment wasn’t harsh, but it might have been better said in private afterwards. The lesson was held in the basement of a masjid, so perhaps this person assumed everyone there was religious.

 

The man who lifted the shorts got incredibly upset. To me it seemed like he was overreacting. He was quite emotional, and wanting to leave.

 

It later transpired that he was abused as a child by the teacher who he memorised the Qurʾan with. When he told his father he was told to be quiet, and when he told his mother she had the issue brushed under the carpet. This hafiz then ended up leaving Islam. He eventually returned thanks to the efforts of the martial arts instructor, but was left very scarred and sensitive to religious criticism.

 

How many people are pushed away from religion – partially or fully – due to harshness from those who they admire and expect leniency from?

 

One of the Companions who would regularly make the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, laugh had a drinking problem. Yes, a drinking problem! And, yes; he was a Companion. His name was ʿAbdullah, but was usually loving referred as ‘the Donkey’ – probably due to him humorous antics.

 

After wine had been prohibited, and the punishment for being caught drunk was in place, he ended getting punished for this on a number of occasions. This was his particular test that Allah had chosen for him. Allah had also chosen him for the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace.

 

Being someone with a drinking problem did not mean that he had no virtue or standing before Allah. The drinking was a problem, but it didn’t mean that all the good he had ever done was worthless – that he was worthless.

 

After one public punishment, one of the Companions said, ‘May Allah completely humiliate you!’ In another narration he said, ‘O Allah curse him! How many a time is he brought [for punishment for this crime]!’ This was probably as a result of the disgust he felt for the sin – after all hating sins is a part of faith.

 

Yet, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not allow this sort of statement. He said to him, ‘Do not take the Devil’s side against your brother!’. What? Taking the Devil’s side? Helping him? Yes! The Devil wants all the descendants of Adam in Hell. Closing the door of warm, affectionate support for this person, such that it would prevent him from wanting to associate with the Muslims, is akin to helping the Devil lead him to Hell.

 

Not only that, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, ‘Do not curse him! [I swear] By Allah, all I know of him is that he loves Allah and His Messenger!’ (Bukhari).

 

What was that again? He loves Allah and His Messenger? That’s no small feat! And this statement came from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, himself too! This internal act made him deserving of kindness and compassion, just like he got the flogging for publicly drinking.

 

Perhaps there are some similarities between him and the man swaying and staggering up White Abbey Road…

 

Something merely broken can usually be fixed without much difficulty; but something severely shattered is not at all easily fixed…

Husn Dhann and Social Media – Saad Razi Shaikh

How a Prophetic virtue can allow us to have a more positive internet experience.

During one of the GRE Verbal Classes, the tutor threw an interesting question at the students. “Say, you enter my living room, and see the fish bowl smashed, the goldfish not in sight, and the fat cat relaxing on the couch, happily licking its paws. Picture this scenario. What can you infer from it?” The overwhelming response was that the cat ate the fish. The tutor said no. What if actually one of my friends had come, taken the fish to a larger tank, and had thrown some cookies for the cat? Did you consider that scenario? Do we have any evidence the cat ate the fish? No. Do we have any evidence the fish is dead? No. All that we know for sure is that the fish is not in its bowl.

The tutor then gave us some sound advice. Don’t assume anything that you don’t see. Don’t add up stuff. Don’t use your imagination. Take what’s in front of you at face value.

Even for non-GRE folks, this is sound advice. Here, allow me to repeat an example Shaykh Walead Mosaad used in one of his talks. Say, you see a religious scholar walking down the street. At the local pub, he stops and walks in. He then emerges a little while later, walking funnily. Do we assume that our scholar got drunk at the pub, and consider the worst about him? Or do we count for the possibility of something else? For example, he could have walked into the pub as he wished to use a restroom. A few Islamophobic guys, seeing him in, may have attacked him. Injured and shaken, he walked out, with his bruises, although hidden from view, painful enough for him to stumble. Did we consider this possibility?

Psychology points towards an interesting observation. If the uncharitable behavior belongs to others, we tend to explain it in terms of their personality, their choices. If however, it belongs to us, we tend to explain it in terms of the situation. We look for the nuances, the missing details that will somehow excuse us. A friend with whom I discussed this denied this, saying truth is truth. I then dug out two pieces of information about him, and asked him if they were true. The first was a time during university, when he was passing by the gates of the mosque. A brother called him to prayers, he however didn’t go inside, but kept walking ahead. I asked him, was this true? He said yes. Another incident happened during university, when he walked into the girls hostel, even as the watchman tried to stop him. I asked him, if I introduced you to everyone using these two incidents, would it be okay? He protested, saying that while what I said was true, it was not complete.

He didn’t stop at the mosque because he had already prayed at another mosque where prayers were held earlier. He had walked into the girl’s hostel as a university function was happening at the common hall there, where he was appointed a volunteer, a fact the watchman didn’t know. This was the complete picture.

If this is the state of the ‘real’ world, how does the virtual one fare? Not any better, and in all probability, much worse. Non-verbal communication constitutes as much as sixty-five percent of our communication, it includes our facial expressions, our body language, our cues and gestures. In the virtual world, it is well, virtually lost. And so with little facts in hand but much clutter in our heads, it is easy to fall for the wrong picture.

It’s necessary then, that we realize that communication via the internet is even more imperfect than the one in real life. Huss Dhann allow us to remedy this. What is Husn Dhann? It is having a good opinion of others. It’s a simple command, yet one we’re most prone to overlook. Measure the chatter in your head for an entire day, and you’ll see husn dhann being traded for su dhann (ill opinion of others) all too often.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), one of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Husn Dhann works at three levels. The first is having a good opinion of  ourselves, to not self-flagellate, to not have waswasa over our actions. The second works at the level of others, how we judge and measure the actions of others. The third works at the level of our relationship with Allah. Do we have a good opinion of our Creator? Do we accept the truth that we know little and worry much, and often fall into despair? Husn Dhann allows us to correct this.

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”[Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Here’s one way to understand this. Say, you’re given glasses you normally don’t wear. You are then asked to read what’s in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to. Does that mean the text in front of you is blurry? Or is it the case that you have put the wrong glasses on? We need to be honest and accept when the latter is the case, as it often is. As wondrous the world of the social media is, it is a makeshift reality. It is not a complete picture, and we should not assume it to be.

Much of the acrimony and bad taste can be avoided if we pepper our usage with a little husn dhann. We’re not at the other end, we don’t know what’s it like, we don’t know what place the other person is coming from. We’re not yet adept at decoding the nuances of language over the internet. Worse, the rage from the everyday is pumped into the virtual world, where it only rebounds. We need to calm ourselves, before we enter a place where the accountability is little, but the consequences real. Both as an antidote to the misinformation of our times, and as a way to follow the Prophetic character, husn dhann is a virtue we need now more than ever.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

"He Came With a Blanket that Smelt Like Baby Urine"

Why did Habib Umar bin Hafiz give his students a blanket that smelt like baby urine? Habib Mundhir al-Musawa gives the answer and talks about his relationship with Habib Umar in an interview given shortly before his death. With genuine humility, he describes his early days seeking knowledge and then his first steps in calling to Allah.

He talks about the key to his success, his immense attachment to his Shaykh, Habib Umar bin Hafiz. The film is interspersed with footage of Majelis Rasulullah, the intense gathering which he established in Jakarta, Indonesia.
This short film titled ‘The Shaykh and the Murid’ gives a unique insight into the life of one of the heroes of our times, Habib Mundhir al-Musawa, may Allah have mercy upon him. In his short life, Habib Mundhir had a huge impact on thousands, if not millions of people and was a cause of many people returning to Allah.  Our thanks to Muwasala for this video.

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blanketsCover Photo by Daniel Orth

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Speak Only Good Of Others (30 Deeds, 30 Days), By Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

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Speak Only Good Of Others, By Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

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: David Amsler