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Talk about Islam with Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Episode 2 continued) – What is the Purpose of Life?

Dear readers, welcome back to the continuation of our second episode of our periodic conversations with Shaykh Hamza Karamali as part of the “Talk About Islam” series. Shaykh Hamza Karamali is the Dean of Academics at SeekersGuidance, and is one of our senior teachers.

continued…

 

Osama: You have forwarded the idea that Islam is an enlightened religion because it has the light of true revelation that other religions like Christianity and Judaism don’t possess. I would like to discuss this point in greater detail with you in another conversation, but for now, how do you respond to those who argue that, in reality, what Islam is lacking is an Enlightenment similar to one that Christianity went through?

What is your take on this?

 

Shaykh Hamza: The reason why people say that Islam needs an Enlightenment is that they look at the Muslim world and they see congestion on the roads, litter in public spaces, pollution in the air, grime on buildings, and rust and dents on cars.

They compare this image with the image of a modern Western city with fast-moving highways, clean streets, fresh air, tall steel skyscrapers, and shiny new cars.

When they think of the Muslim world, they think of unemployment, no industry, no science or technology, and when they look at the modern Western city, they think of the opposite.

So you have this contrast, and when people in the media say that Islam needs to be enlightened, what they are really looking for is the worldly prosperity that is associated with the Western world.

This worldliness is, after all, the lens of the Enlightenment (or as we decided to call it, the Age of Escape from Oppressive Religion) because when in this age people moved away from oppressive religion, which used the idea of afterlife, God, and spirituality to oppress other people, they also turned away from the ideas of afterlife, God, and spirituality that were associated with oppression, and focussed instead on the here-and-now.

Their goal is for us to use our full human potential in this life. That is the lens that they look through when they bring the two opposite images to mind. The idea of the Muslim world needing an enlightenment is driven by a desire to have these things in the here-and-now, and that is really the question that is being asked.

We have two responses to this question.

The first is that, whereas in the case of Europe, there was a collusion between an established Church and a corrupt government to oppress people in the name of religion, that is not the case in the Muslim world today, nor has it ever been the case in our history.

Oppression in the Muslim world in recent times has not happened because of religion, but because of socialist dictatorships, and socialism is a child of the Enlightenment, not a child of Islam.

The corruption that has beset many Muslim countries, too, is a child of the Enlightenment because it comes from worldliness, a focus on the here-and-now, even at the expense of religious principles. If Muslim societies were religious, there wouldn’t be any corruption–corruption is religiously forbidden in the strongest of terms.

If Muslim societies were religious, we wouldn’t litter and we would be conscious of pollution–cleanliness, as we all know, is a part of our faith.

If Muslim societies were religious, they would excel in everything they did, in industry, in science, in technology, everything–the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is narrated to have said that Allah loves for us to perfect everything that we do.

So even if we look through the lens of the here-and-now, the way to achieve it is to become more religious, not to become more worldly under the false pretext of an enlightenment that seeks to overthrow a nonexistent oppressive religiousness.

The second response is that being Muslim means that we look at the world through a different lens. For example, an illiterate old woman in the middle of Africa who lives in a small mud hut, who wakes up at night to prostrates to her Creator, who adores Him, loves Him, reveres Him, and cries before Him in prostration every night, but who is not surrounded by skyscrapers, nor does she have a shiny car, nor does she know anything about science or technology — from our lens, this woman is enlightened because she has found the purpose of her life, whereas someone who has all of the trappings of modern life and is pursuing the pleasures of this world while forgetting about God, forgetting about their soul, forgetting about the afterlife, forgetting about the purpose of their existence — they are not enlightened.

Being Muslim means that your whole perspective changes. And if you look at the world from this perspective, if you look at the congested city with old cars and dirty streets, and then, in the middle of all of this, you hear the adhan (call to prayer) from mosques all over the city, then that adhan drowns out the negativity associated with the congested city and old cars and dirty streets because the adhan drives us to the purpose of our lives.

This is not to say that streets shouldn’t be clean; they should be clean.

It is not to say that traffic shouldn’t be regulated; it should be regulated.

It is not to say that there should be no prosperity in this world; that is something that Allah gives us when we  turn to Him sincerely. That’s not the point.

The point is: is our purpose the here-and-now, as those who ask this question imagine, or is our purpose with Him and with the afterlife? It’s with Him and with the afterlife.

 

Osama: Great, now I’d like to request of you to summarise for us, how do Muslims understand the term purpose when asking the question: what is the purpose of life?

I ask this question now because we have discussed in a lot of detail what the presuppositions of pre-enlightenment Christian intellectuals influenced by Aristotelianism were, and what the presuppositions of post-enlightenment modernist and post-modernist intellectuals influenced by scientism were, about the use of the term purpose, and would now like to know what the presuppositions of Muslim scholars would be about the use of this term.

 

Shaykh Hamza: We believe based on evidence that God exists and that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is His final messenger. Based on this evidence-based belief, we see that this universe is created by a doer, a volitional agent, that is God.

God created this universe for a purpose. Everything in the universe is created for a purpose. He tells us these purposes in the Quran.

The locus of the entire universe is the human being, and the human being stands out because the purposes of everything else are found in relation to the human being, and the purpose of the human being is found in his relation to God.

Allah tells us why He created us in the Quran:

“I only created jinn-kind and mankind is so that they might worship me.” Qur’an, 51:56

The original Arabic of this verse has the letter lam before the verb, “to worship” — illa li ya‘budun. This lam is normally translated as “because”. With this translation, the verse would mean, “I created jinn-kind and mankind because I wanted them to worship me.” This is an incorrect translation here and it is not what this verse means.

Let me explain.

Allah created the universe with wisdom. The idea of purpose in the universe, for us, returns to the wisdom of Allah.

Allah’s wisdom is something that He creates in the universe.

To say that He creates everything with a wisdom is different than saying that He created everything with some motive. This is important to understand.

What’s the difference?

Well, when I explained Aristotle’s idea of the final cause, I gave you the example of the coat that I wear in order to become warm. The final cause, in this case–in order for me to become warm–is my motive. It is, in other words, a need that drives me to do something to fulfill that need–I need to become warm, so I wear my coat.

Behind every motive lies a need.

Needs move us, motivate us, to undertake certain actions.

This is how human beings work, and this is how Aristotle formulated his thought.

Now, when we ask about the purpose of the universe, then we have to look at the question in a different manner because Allah doesn’t need anything.

Everything needs Him; He doesn’t need anything.

That, in fact, is the meaning of the Qur’anic verse that all of us know: Allahu al-Samad (Qur’an, 112:2).  This means that Allah is al-Samad, which means that He is the one who everything needs but who Himself needs no one.

Allah Most High exists necessarily; everything else is contingent. He doesn’t need anything; everything needs Him. He is the absolute King and Master. He is the Sustainer and Lord of everything.

Since He doesn’t need anything, He cannot be driven by motives.

But everything that He creates has a purpose.

But that purpose is not a motive that drives Him to create that thing.

So the purposes that He creates in the universe aren’t things that drive Him.

If you return to the verse I cited above–”I only created jinn-kind and mankind so that they might worship me,”–you will notice that I translated the lam before the verb, “to worship” as “so that they might…” If I had translated it as “because he wanted ..” then it would mean that Allah Most High needs jinn and humans to worship Him. But that is not what the verse means.

The verse does not mean that Allah Most High needs us to worship Him.

He created us to worship Him?–Yes.

He created us because He needs us to worship Him?–No.

He tells us many times in the Qur’an that no one who disbelieves in Him does Him any harm whatsoever because, “Allah is completely free of needing anything in the universe.” (Qur’an, 3:57) He tells us many times in the Qur’an that, “whoever does good only benefits himself, and whoever does good only harms himself.” (Qur’an, 41:46) And the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us that Allah Most High says, “O My servants! You will never be able to harm Me, nor will you ever be able to benefit Me. O My servants! Were every single one of you, humans and jinn, to be as Godfearing as the one with the most Godfearing heart among you, that would not increase My Kingdom in the slightest. O My servants! Were every single one of you, humans and jinn, to be as wicket as the one with the most wicked heart among you, that would not decrease My Kingdom in the slightest.” (Muslim)

So Allah Most High doesn’t need our worship.

When He says that He created us in order to worship Him, He doesn’t mean that He needs our worship; He means that the purpose for which He has created us–our purpose that lies within us, the purpose of our lives, in other words–is for us to worship Him.

Let me give you an example.

If I were to take your cell phone and try and play baseball with it, I may or may not do well. I may hit a home run with it (unlikely!), or I might break your phone in my attempt to hit a home run (likely!). If it works, however, it is not going to work that well. Pretty soon, I will give up using the cell phone as a baseball bat, and go find an actual bat whose purpose is to be played baseball with.

Why doesn’t a cell phone work like a baseball bat? It doesn’t work because that is not the reason, the purpose that the maker of the cell phone made it for.

Similarly, Allah created us for the purpose of worshipping Him. That means that if We worship Allah, then it’s like we are playing baseball with a baseball bat, but if we turn away from that and stop worshipping Allah, then it’s like playing baseball with a cell-phone — life won’t seem to work for us because that is not what we were meant to do.

You might break, just like the cell-phone if it is used to play baseball.

You are going to find frustration, you are going to find depression, the world won’t make sense, the world will be pointless, and you will have all of these feelings because you are not fulfilling your purpose.

You will have a spiritual void, a sense of meaninglessness, a sense that things are right and that you aren’t doing what you should be doing. Much of what we discussed in our previous conversation, the spiritual void that people feel in their lives as a result of a lack of genuine religious company and practise, it stemmed from this lack of purpose.

But when you do what you were created for, when you worship Him in prostration, when you cry, when you recite the Quran, when you give charity, you will find within yourself a happiness that a million dollars won’t give you.

That’s what we mean by “purpose”.

 

Osama: Okay, it seems that we are now done with our discussion about the meaning of the term purpose when the question what is the purpose of life is asked by following three groups of people:

 

  1. Pre-enlightenment Christian scholars who were influenced by Aristotelianism: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded within Aristotle’s conception of the four causes, in specific the final cause.
  2. Post-enlightenment atheist scholars who were influenced by Scientism, which grew as a response to the dogmatic teachings of the Church: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded in a rejection of Christian theology and Aristotelian thought, which was used to justify those Christian teachings.
  3. Muslim scholars, who believe in the truth of the revelation of the Quran: we discussed that the meanings that they gave to the term purpose were grounded in the Quranic view that the wisdom behind the creation of mankind and jinnkind was that they may prosper and attain happiness as a result of their adoration, love, and worship of their Creator, Allah.

Now that we have gained a deep and strong appreciation of what the meanings of the term purpose are of these various groups of scholars, I’d like to turn your attention toward the second term that was used in the question, life.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Sure, though I would like to remind you that you haven’t shared your definition of the term life with me yet (smiles).

 

Osama: Thank you for reminding me to define my terms (smiles).

If I were to put on the hat of a pre-Enlightenment Aristotelian thinker, then I would most likely define life as being a term that refers to the existence of an individual human being or animal.

If I were to put on the hat of a post-enlightenment scientistic thinker, then I would most likely define life as the condition that distinguishes “living things” [animals and plants] from “non-living things”.

I am interested to know how you, as a Muslim, define the term life?

 

Shaykh Hamza: I don’t like your definition of life (laughs), and I don’t think that that is what people mean when they ask “what is the purpose of life?”.

I would like to say two things here.

The first is that the idea of “life” is related to the idea of “purpose”.

There is a field in science called biochemistry. Biochemists study the chemical processes of life. The emergence of biochemistry was very exciting for people who wanted to explain the world without any reference to God because it contains the idea that life can be explained through a series of chemical reactions.

Now, chemical reactions do have a relation to life. That they are related to life is undeniable–all of modern medicine is based on this. But is life a series of chemical reactions? No it is not. And anybody who asks the question “what is the purpose of life” knows deep down within them that life is more than a series of chemical reactions, it is more than what the biochemists say.

Animal life (we’ll put plant life aside for a moment) is historically associated with the idea of voluntary movement. An animal is anything that moves voluntarily. When a lion roars, it roars voluntarily. There is some sort of volition involved: he can roar or not roar. Likewise, I, as a human being, when I speak, my speech is voluntary–I can choose to speak or not speak.

Animal life thus  is associated with voluntary action.

Note that this is a very different kind of definition of “life” that you will get in biology because biology examines life from the perspective of efficient causes, from the perspective of chemical reactions, not from the perspective that I am bringing, which was there in the Christian tradition as well as the Muslim one, and it probably has its roots in Aristotle.

Any sensible human being would look at things like this. And so I guess that when I say “any sensible human being would look at things like this”, this is a jab in the ribs of scientists who want to do away with a God-centered perspective of the world, life, and everything. Because when they say that life is just a series of chemical reactions, they are not sensible.

Just look inside and ask yourself: if they were to publish volumes and volumes of books with chemical reactions and tell you that this is life, would you believe it? No you won’t!

Life has to do with volition and voluntary movement.

That is life with respect to animals but with respect to human beings, it is something more.

Why?

Because human beings have a mind and a soul, and they can use their minds to reflect on the universe to see that it was created by God, and they can see that they are responsible to God, and they can see that their life has a purpose and that the purpose of their life is to worship Allah (Glorified is He) so that when we are resurrected and we meet Him on the Day of Judgement that we will be successful forever in our life to come. These are things that we as human beings can see. (Remember, this is all based on evidence because we have evidence-based belief in our religion.)

So human life is characterized not just by voluntary motion, but by voluntary motion that is governed by mind rather than instinct.

Animals act, however, is based on instinct.

Human beings, on the other hand, can reflect, decide to go one particular way or another, discern right from wrong, and they can choose to do the right, and choose to turn away from the wrong.

I would say that somebody who asks, “What is the purpose of life?”, they are not asking about the purpose of some bacterium, but they are asking about the purpose of human life, because they are searching for purpose, we are searching for purpose, and we feel that we know that there is a greater purpose for which we are created.

So I will rephrase your question: Instead of asking, “What is the purpose of life?” we should ask, “ “What is the purpose of my life?” or we should ask,  “What is the purpose of the life of human beings?”

In these questions, life is not a chemical reaction. In these questions, “life” means the choices that we make to do things based on our mind.

This question is revealing; it is actually asking: “what kinds of choices should I make?” or “what kinds of things should I do in my life?

That’s the question, and that what I think is being asked.

 

Osama: I must say that I truly admire what you have said with regards to life, and how the human mind and soul is what differentiates human life from animal life.

I have an important question though; considering that we live in a world dominated by materialistic and scientistic thought, how is one able to prove the existence of the soul, which seems to be an abstract and immaterial reality?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Well, the Enlightenment has created a materialistic worldview. It has created, along with modern science, a way of looking at the world in terms of matter–things that you can touch, feel, sense, measure, and do experiments.

It seeks to understand everything through this lens, including the human being.

The human being is not matter, the human being is more than matter. Matter makes up the body of the human being. What makes the human being alive, what gives the human being life, what makes the human being who he is, is not the matter that we can sense. What makes the human being who he is, is his soul.

If you were to ask me, “How do we know that the soul exists?” I would say that the soul is “you” — it is known through introspection. All of us know that there is an “I”.

If you were to ask me, “What is “I”?” I would say that “I” am not the cells in my body. The cells die and they are regenerated. After so many years, almost every cell in your body is replaced with a new one. This means that you are not your cells, that is not who you are — that comes and goes.

If you were to ask me: “Who are “you”?” I would say that the physical “you” changes. You were a child, and then you grew up to become an adult. You grow old and everything about you changes but you are “you”, you remain “you”, and you know that “you” haven’t changed.

If you were to ask me: “What is the “you”, the “I”, the thing that gives you your identity, the thing that makes you alive by virtue of which you have volition, and gives you the ability to choose?”

I would say that this is your soul.

We all know that it is there.

It is the unchanging “I” as the physical and material aspects of the body change but the “I” aspect doesn’t.

Science is materialistic, so it doesn’t explain things using the soul, it explains things using biochemistry, chemical reactions, electrical impulses — that is how it explains the phenomenon of life.

Science explains life with reference to reproduction and metabolism but it doesn’t actually explain what life is — life is consciousness.

There is a problem that philosophers and scientists grapple with and it hasn’t been answered yet, it is called the problem of consciousness.

The problem of consciousness is that none of these things explain what it means to be conscious. When we are conscious, we feel pain, happiness, sadness, and we make choices — we have experiences. These experiences, we know, they are not chemical reactions. My happiness is not a chemical reaction, my sight is not a chemical reaction — this is consciousness. I am conscious of something, I know, I choose, and I do.

If you were to ask me: “What’s the locus of consciousness and all of these experiences?” I would say that the locus is the human soul.

It is the human soul that feels happy, pained, sad, and that has love, and it is the human soul that knows God. Empirical observations don’t take you there.

Finally, if you were to ask me to summarise in exact terms: “What is the reality of the soul — what is it exactly?” I would say, well, we don’t know (smiles).

We know it is there but we don’t know what it is.

Allah tells the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) that:

قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوْتِيْتُم مِنَ العِلْمِ اِلَّا قَلِيْلًا

Say: The spirit is from the tremendous affair of my Lord, and you’ve only been given a little bit of knowledge.

 

In other words, the soul shows human weakness and incapacity, and that is who we are. We are incapable and weak and so we need Allah. The fact that the very thing that we are — the “I” — we can’t fathom it, it shows how weak and incapable we are.

The fact that we can’t fathom it, however, doesn’t mean that it is not there.

We can’t fathom God, but we know that He is there, we have evidence that He is there.

How can we fathom God when we can’t even fathom ourselves?

The ruh, or the human soul, is a tremendous creation of God, He swears by it in the Quran:

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا

By the great soul, and the tremendous One who fashioned it.

 

Whenever Allah swears an oath by something, it means that it is tremendous, and this is one of the greatest creations of Allah.

This is the soul and that is how we know that it exists.

 

Osama: That seems to be a fair explanation of the soul though I’d be very interested to talk about in detail with you in one of our future conversations. You said that the soul is what feels love, happiness, and  sadness etc. I’d be interested to find out how this ties in with our purpose, which is to love God. I wonder how the soul “loves” God? I won’t ask you to answer this question now, let’s leave it for another conversation because we have had a pretty long conversation thus far (smile).

Let’s conclude Shaykh Hamza, if I were to ask you to please answer the question “what is the purpose of life?” directly after having considered the meanings of the individual terms purpose and life, how would you answer this question?

 

Shaykh Hamza: Well, the first step towards answering this is to understand the concept of life, which we discussed in great detail just now, and in order to understand that concept, we need to understand who you are. The question of what life is revolves around who you are, and as we discussed, you are your soul.

A great Muslim poet, an early Afghan Shafi’i called Abul Fath al-Busti, who lived almost a thousand years ago wrote:

يَا خَادِمَ الجِسْمِ كَمْ تَشْقَى بِخِدْمَتِهِ

أَتَطْلُبُ الرِّبْحَ فِي مَا فِيْهِ خُسْرَانُ

أَقْبِلْ عَلَى النَّفسِ وَاسْتَكْمِلْ فَضَائِلَهَا

فَأَنْتَ بِالنَّفْسٍ لَا بِالْجِسْمِ اِنْسَانُ

O servant of the body, how miserable will you be by serving your body?

Do you seek profit in that in which there is loss?

Turn to the soul and complete its perfections,

for it is by virtue of your soul that you are a human being, not by virtue of your body.

So, what is the purpose of your existence as a soul?

 

As a soul that has the capacity to discern the fact that Allah created it, and sent messengers who it can discern are genuine, to call you to the worship of Allah?

Allah created souls before He created bodies.

We had a life before the life of this world — it was called the universe of souls (‘alam al-arwah).

Allah mentions in the Quran:

وَاِذْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَنِيْ آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُوْرِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوْا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا

Allah brought out all of the souls that would ever exist, He then addressed them: Am I not your Lord? They said, Indeed we witness [your Lordship].

We know Allah, we knew Him before we came into this world, we spoke to Him and recognized Him, and remnants of this conversation are imprinted in us. As we come into adulthood from childhood, this yearning for the knowledge of Allah, which is the purpose of our existence, drives us as we search for our purpose in life, and we find that purpose when we use our mind that is enlightened by the light of revelation to discern our Creator and what He wants from us by listening to the messengers, and living our lives according to what they convey from Allah — worshipping Allah and making Him our sole goal in our lives.

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الجِنَّ وَالاِنْسَ اِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوْنَ

I only created jinn-kind and mankind so that they might worship me.

 

This is the purpose and wisdom for which Allah created us, and then He placed within us a recognition of this wisdom. This is why when we incline towards this world for the fulfilment of our desires, we do not find within ourselves happiness and we don’t find within ourselves that we are living a purposeful and meaningful life.

Our purpose is realised by looking beyond this world into the world through which we, through our soul, will persist. If we worship Allah in this life, it gives us eternal felicity in the next life and we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

All of this is not because Allah needs something — because there is a difference between a motive and wisdom — and purposes with respect to Allah are wisdoms not motives.

Allah did this out of sheer generosity so that we could be happy in this world and attain to eternal felicity in the next world, and that is the purpose of our existence and life.

 

Osama: I ask God to increase you, to grant you the best of both worlds, and to grant all of us, all human beings, the ability to be able to fulfill their real purpose for being alive in the most resplendent of ways that pleases the One who made them the way they are.

Thank you, and I look forward to our next conversation.

al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

 

Shaykh Hamza: Amin!

Wa ‘alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

 


Osama Hassan is an Australian of Pakistani descent who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Curtin University. He is currently pursuing studies in the Islamic sciences and Arabic in Amman.


https://seekersguidance.org/articles/is-religion-relevant-in-the-21st-century-interview-with-shaykh-hamza-karamali/

 

Exploring Tawhid: Islam as a Universal Civilization

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks reflects on the profound meanings and realities of the concept of tawhid, beginning with the words: La ilaha illa Allah.

The defining statement of Islam “La ilaha illa Allah” (there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah), captures the inherent civilization of oneness and unicity upon which Islam is built. This unicity is accompanied with a sense of the sacred ontology of spirituality; that is, the very nature of our reality and our being – when viewed through the lens of tawhid – is that our essence is sacred. It mirrors tawhid. One of our shortcomings is that we have externalized spirituality and abandoned its internalization. There is therefore a dire need to re-inject Islam with this awareness of inner spirituality – a need that demands the re-exploration of the very notion of tawhid.

Allah says:

The one who has indeed succeeded is the one who purifies himself, remembers his Lord and prays. But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring. Indeed, this is in the former scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses. (Sura al-A‘la 87:14-19)

The Qur’an promotes purification and tazkiya (cleansing) of the self through dhikr (spiritual remembrance) and du’a (invocation), and states categorically that the Akhira (the afterlife) is better for us than the Dunya (material existence). Yet we as human beings have come to prefer and prioritize the Dunya – some to the point of abandoning the Akhira altogether. The Qur’an then reinforces the universality of this message by stating that it is one that has been confirmed in the earlier scriptures.

However, the “self-image” of the Qur’an is highly pragmatic in that it deals with realities, emotions, people and communities. It recognizes the palpable context of the Dunya – whilst the message is clear that the Akhira is better, it does not condemn the Dunya. On the contrary, it views our earthly existence as a “Dar al-Balah” – as an abode of trials in which we will be tested.

Furthermore, Allah declares:

He who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving. (Sura al Mulk 67:2)

The sequence of this verse (ayat) places “death” before “life”, reminding us firstly that death is both a creation of Allah and a transition to the next life, and not merely a lifeless condition of absolute nothingness. But in its pragmatism, the Qur’an also reminds us of our earthly responsibilities:

Do not forget your portion in the Dunya. (Sura al-Qasas 28:77)

And thus we recognize the profoundness of one of our most oft-repeated supplications:

Our Lord, grant us the best of this Dunya [world] and the best of the Akhira [the hereafter]. (Sura al-Baqara 2:201)

It is in this reflective state of the believers, who ask and seek for the best of both “worlds”, that we find ourselves as an “ummatan wasatan”, a balanced community … a community dynamically located in this world but with a supremacy of focus on the world to come. In this regard, all of us, as men and as women, have two roles to play: that of Ubudiyyah (being the bondsmen of Allah) and that of Khilafa (being representatives/vicegerents of Allah) in this world.

Wasatiyyah thus becomes a balancing act between these two functions, because if we prioritize our Khilafa and forget that we are the servants of Allah, we may become tyrannical. On the other hand, if we immerse ourselves only in Ubudiyyah, then we forget our social responsibilities towards our communities; or even collapse into form of servility unbecoming of our dignity as human beings. To embody these two roles and become communities of equilibrium and justice, we must locate ourselves within a spirituo-moral locus of Islam as a “Way of Being” before our conception of it as “a Way of Life” – which is a somewhat externalised way of viewing and practising the Deen (Religion as a “way of being” and “becoming” in consonance with the Divine Principle of tawhid). As a ‘Way of Being’, it presents us with the potential to change and to transform internally. This perspective finds a powerful resonance within the Qur’an where it states:

Allah will not change the external conditions of a people until they change that which is within themselves. (Sura al-Ra‘ad 13:11)

We often focus excessively on changing the conditions outside of ourselves – and those of others. Immersed in our dunyawi (worldly) delusions, we have externalized and exteriorized change and transformation to our detriment. This attitude constitutes the “heart” of self-righteousness. And so it is that we fail to realize that it is only when we change that which resides within ourselves – within the very core of our hearts and minds and souls – that Allah will change our external conditions and allow us to be the vessels of that social change.

Further emphasizing the importance of our internal realities, Allah says:

Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. (Sura al-Fussilat 41:53)

We will only be able to read these ayaat ­- these symbols and signs of Allah – through the process of tazkiyatu n–nafs (purification of the Self). Attempting to recognize and understand the signs and symbols of Allah is what forms the foundation of interacting with the Divine – it is what links us with spirituality. Herein lays our “identity” as Muslims. Ours is an internal, spiritually focussed and centred identity. “Identity” in Islamic Spirituality encompasses an ontology of being. It is an existential condition. To fully realise this demands a number of things: that we interrogate ourselves both spiritually and ethically; that we reflect upon and modify our conduct and comportment where necessary; and that we ask ourselves to what degree we are prepared to undergo the requisite transformation. From this point of departure, we may trace the trajectory of our Islamic “identity” along the oft-mentioned triad of the Nafs: from the Nafs al–Ammarah Bi s-Su’ (the Inciting Self) through the Nafs al-Lawwama (the Reproachful Self) to the Nafs al-Mutma’inna (Tranquil self/self at rest). It is only after we have cultivated the ability to objectively criticize ourselves (the Lawwama of the Self) that we are able to attain that serenity and inner peace – that Itmi’nan. Without this tranquillity there can be no peace between ourselves and Allah, ourselves and creation, or that sublime condition of inner peace.

It is therefore necessary that we ask ourselves important questions about the state of our Islamic education – referenced in Arabic as Tarbiyyah (to nurture, enrich, refine and cultivate). It is imperative, too, that we identify the points of reference for such a process. How – in more specific terms – and in a holistic manner, we are able to connect the idea of tawhid with Islam as a universal Din. Allah says,

The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will). (Sura Aal Imran 3:19)

How do we translate this into our educational models. What are the principles that underlie our educational processes?

There are three important aspects to consider:

The individual – how, for example, are individuals and individuality constituted?
Society – how do we understand the histories, the values and the norms of societies?
The content of reality – namely, its relation to both the material and spiritual contexts?

Moreover, and on the one hand, the tensions that may arise between “individuality” and “individualism” (particularly as they are often-times embraced in the contemporary world as ruthless and necessary forms of competitiveness – the corporate world providing just one of the spaces for some of its worst manifestations), and our notions of “collectivity” on the other, need to be urgently addressed. These tensions are fraught with the potential to lead to unrest and wars.

With a view to more fully grasping these complexities we need to understand that the aims and purposes (maqasid) of education are both intrinsically and intimately linked to our ultimate convictions.

We, as Muslims, need to ask ourselves and critically examine what our ultimate convictions are about human nature and society. What Quranic or Sunnic template do we need to foreground in order to express and actualize those ultimate convictions? Again it needs to be re-emphasized that as Muslims we are governed by spirituo-ethical values. These values form the foundation of the concept of adab (right and fair conduct – or virtuosity) and is far more important than ilm (knowledge), without diminishing the exalted station of knowledge in Islam in any way. As the Arabic proverb goes, “al–adab fawq al-ilm”, (adab is above knowledge), because without good conduct and virtuosity, knowledge reduces to mere information. One can be a tyrant and yet be the most learned and informed of people.

We come to realize that Islam is thus based on unity of knowledge and servitude to Allah through service to the creation, as well as the centrality of revelation, because we view the cosmos itself as reflective and symbolic of higher realities.

Islam and tawhid as our aqidah (belief and theological system), are thus synthetic in nature. It is an approach that builds towards a dynamic and regenerative concept of unity (as opposed to being merely deconstructive or reductionist). It continuously strives to inform us of the interconnectedness and wholeness of all things, of the intimacy and meaningfulness of the created order, so that we can transform both ourselves and the world within which we live. This we cannot do without the characteristics of justice, fairness and equality (for example, between males and females). In addition, if we cannot do justice to ourselves how can we do justice to others? If we cannot forgive, how can we expect to be forgiven; if we show no mercy, how can we expect mercy to be shown to us; if we cannot love, how can we expect to be loved? Even more so, the blameworthy attribute “malicious envy” (hasad), for example, is not condemned so much for the pain it causes others, but for its horrific potential to bring spiritual ruin and destruction upon the soul guilty of such envy. Allah cares for all His creation! Said the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him:

Malicious envy (hasad) destroys the goodness (hasanaat) in us in as much as fire devours wood. (Abu Dawud: Hadith 2653).

There ought to be, therefore, several natural consequences for societies who embrace and build themselves on tawhid:

1. Tawhid forces us to embrace and look to the essence of being human rather than the happenstances of our creation in which we played no part. It relegates race, ethnicity, nationality, gender and language – those things for which we are not responsible and have not come by way of acquisition. If we really internalize tawhid, it marginalizes secondary qualities and forces us to recognize the essentials of our existence and obliterate the contingencies.

2. Tawhid engenders love and mutual respect; it urges us to respect all human beings, to argue in the best of ways, and to invite to the way of Allah in the most excellent manner and with wisdom. The Quran is emphatic about this.

3. Tawhid demands from us that we both verify and establish truth. Whenever we view tawhid as an Ultimate Truth, everyday truthfulness becomes symbolic of this higher truth.) This matter of faithfulness to the truth plagues us as an ummah (community of believers). Allah says,

O you who believe! if an evil-doer comes to you with information, then first verify it, lest you harm a people in ignorance. (Sura al-Hujarat 49:6)

This is a Divine imperative, and so if we embrace tawhid we will not be easy victims of falsehood and malicious speculation; and herein lies the safeguards and protection for societies and communities that have the potential to be both wholesome and fructifying.

4. Maintaining purity and clemency in our societies – without clemency we can never establish truth and justice. Only when we internalize kindness, compassion and generosity, will we naturally strive to free ourselves from fitnah, scandals, divisiveness and arrogance. Also included here is the elimination of poverty, as poverty militates against the stability and unicity of our societies, so we should strive to empower the incapacitated and disadvantaged.

5. Respecting the freedom and the dignity of all human beings, including both personal and intellectual freedoms.

6. Implementing consultation (shura), co-operation and mutual assistance.

7. Striving for justice that is vitally alive in valuing both the rights of Allah and the rights of people and the rights owing to ourselves.

Without understanding the inherent diversity that goes along with tawhid, our aqidah becomes another form of totalitarianism and tyranny. Even those people who call themselves “muwahidun” (proponents of the Oneness of Allah) have failed to embrace the importance of diversity.

Allah says,

O humakind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may come to know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah are those of you with taqwa. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Sura al-Hujarat 49:13)

We need to realize that in this context Allah speaks to “humankind” and not just “believers”. That which are ultimately important are not the properties with which we are born and in which we have had no hand, but what we acquire (as mentioned earlier). The best of us and most honored of us therefore – and according to the Quran – are those who have taqwa. Taqwa is that form of higher consciousness of Allah that enables us to become both “personifications” of the highest values enunciated by the Qur’an and representatives of the most endearing qualities of Prophethood.

The most worthy qualities are those which we can acquire, not those which are the accidents of our creation (like the colors of our skins, languages, gender or nationalities). Taqwa is eminently attainable and open to all, from the poorest to the richest – it a kind of spiritual democracy, which, when we align ourselves with tawhid – we may discover and realise within ourselves that spiritual station of becoming muttaqin.

However, we cannot achieve this if we cannot embrace and live with diversity. Taqwa is available to those who are able to both live with and be enriched by diversity. Only in this way can we become the vehicles of tawhid, and hopefully align ourselves with the Will of Allah, the Most High. Unrealized (including crass modes of literalism) and superficial understandings avail nought, no matter how stringently we enact the externals of our ‘ibadah. If we cannot embrace diversity, we cannot fulfil our roles as khulafa and be true practitioners of tawhid. Says Allah, the Most High,

Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring forth produce of various colors. And among the mountains are tracts white and red, of various hues, and (others) raven-black. And so amongst people, and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colors. Those truly fear Allah among His servants who have knowledge, for Allah is exalted in Might, oft forgiving. (Sura al-Fajr 35:27-8)

And yet again,

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours. Indeed herein are signs for those who have knowledge. (Sura al-Rum 30:22)

Islam is the last of the Revealed Faiths. If we cannot see beyond the walls of our ghettoized cultures; if we cannot see beyond our dress codes (which in essence form a part of the beauty within a ubiquitous diversity). If we cannot see beyond our stubborn social codes (particularly the gendered ones). If we cannot see beyond the many fossilized features of our increasingly regressive religious mindscapes, then we call a lie upon our claim to have embraced the liberating beauty of Islamic universality. We would have called a lie upon our much-professed tawhid that constitutes that axis of Divine unicity around which the many-hued and kaleidoscopic beauty of Allah’s Creation rotates. And we would have called a lie upon ourselves in the face of the verse in the Quran,

And we shall reveal to them our Signs along the horizons and within their own souls until it becomes manifest to them that He is the Truth. (Sura al-Fussilat 41:53)

From the distant edges of our visual perceptions to the very core of our souls, we are called upon to bear witness to the wondrous nature of tawhid encapsulated within the equally wondrous nature of multiplicity. Islam is a universal civilization of Oneness within a universe of diversity. To those who reject or scorn this we say, as the Quran does:

To you your Way and Religion and to me mine. (Sura al-Kafirun 109: 6)

What more need be said?

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

September 2014.


Day 27: Benefit Your Body–30 Deeds 30 Days

Day 27: Benefit Your Body

Our bodies are a trust from Allah, given to us for a short period of time. Our bodies enable us to live a fulfilling lifestyle, as well as perform various types of worship. These could be anything from ritual prayers to helping others.

Moving forward, why not make a commitment to benefit your body? It could be in the form of taking a few minutes out of your day to go for a short walk or get some exercise. You could also choose to make an effort to eat some healthy meals, or take some vitamins that you may be lacking. Do this with the intention of keeping your body strong for a life of health and wellbeing in the service of Allah.


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Was Life Present on Earth Before Humanity?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

The Quran states: “And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know.'”

Does it mean that there was life before humans on earth?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

There is nothing clear and decisive on this matter.

Some of the major Quranic commentaries mention that the Jinn were present on earth prior to human beings. This is narrated by al-Tabari from Ibn Abbas who states, “The first to reside on earth were the Jinn. They spread corruption and bloodshed in it and killed one another. So, God sent Iblis with an army of angels and he fought them until they were forced to settle on islands and mountain tops. God then created Adam and placed him on earth. Thus, God said, ‘I will place upon earth a successor.’

There are a few other narrations in this regard. At the same time, some narrations mention that there was no creation present on earth prior to Adam.

Ultimately, the existence of beings before Adam is a possibility but its knowledge is known only to God.

[al-Tabari, Jami al-Bayan (2:455-56)]

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

Is the Purpose of Life Entertainment?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I recently became committed to Islam however before this and for much of my life I spent alot of time with people who strongly believed that the purpose of life was entertainment.

How do you get through to someone who believes life has no greater purpose and how can I break this within myself?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your question.

Modern culture is aggressively geared towards entertainment and making the most of this life in terms of worldly matters. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of the true meaning of the temporal life on earth, which is a mere test and a bridge to the real life in the Hereafter.

This World

Life on earth is not for entertainment, but rather it has been created with Divine Wisdom and for great and sublime purposes. Allah Most High says ‘And We created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, for mere play.’ [44:38].

Yet, at the same time this worldly life has also been created as a place of distraction in order to test us, and to differentiate between those who seek the truth and those who ignore it.

Allah the Exalted has said, ‘Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion. Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in Allah and His messengers.’ [57: 21- 22]

The Purpose of Life

The purpose of life, as you rightly mention, is to worship Allah, for Allah Most High has said, ‘And I created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me’ [51:56]. However, this is not because Allah has any need of our worship, but rather, He ‘Has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deed.’[67:2]

Ultimately then, God has created us to worship Him because He has made it the means to for our success, to gain His Mercy, and that He may bestow his infinite Generosity and Bounty on us. It is us then who benefit and are in need of worshipping Him.

Of those who ignore the worship and remembrance of Allah, He Most High says, ‘Then woe unto those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of Allah. Such are in plain error.’ [39:22], and ‘Leave them to eat and enjoy, and let them be preoccupied with [false] hope. They will come to know!’ [15:3]

How to Remember the Purpose of Earthly Life

Read Quran: Every believer should have an amount of Qur’an they read daily, even if little. The Qur’an is God’s direct words to man and contains the message that we need to succeed in both worlds. Reading it daily reminds us constantly of our purpose in life and that this life is just a passing phase, for this is the purpose of the revelation itself. As Allah says, ‘We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress, but only as a Reminder to those who fear [Allah]’ [20:1-2]

Reflect on Death: The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Remember often the destroyer of pleasures [meaning death]. Never does a servant remember it during hardship except that it will become easier for him, and never does he not remember it during ease except that it will become harder for him,’ [Ibn Hibban]. I would recommend reading Imam al Ghazali’s ‘The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife’ which has been translated by the Cambridge Text Society.

Knowledge: Seeking religious knowledge builds one certainty in the triviality of this world compared to the next. Please seek out local classes in sciences such as belief, fiqh, tafsir, and seerah. If you there are no local scholars available, then consider taking a course with us at SeekersHub. You can find our courses here.

Company: Seek out the company of people who are serious about their religious practice. However, being religious doesn’t mean not joking or not having fun at all. In fact, being playful and seeking out lawful entertainment can be recommended, within limits. Please read the following answer:

How Can I Find Balance in Religious Practice?

May Allah grant us all a life full of good deeds and accept it from us, and honour us with a good ending in life.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Why Is Everything Going Wrong in My Life?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I am very much upset about my life right now, my kids, their education, my marital relation, my health. I have been a good person. I do admit my prayers were on and off. People are suggesting we are affected by black magic. I think it’s punishment for not praying. How do I make it right?

Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate           

Thank you for sending in your question. As believers, when things don’t go right in our lives, the two most important steps in correcting things is first to ensure that our faith is sound and strong, and secondly, to check that all aspects of our life are in order. As such, a firm believer will always have the correct etiquette with Allah during good and bad times, and be more likely to find solutions when life presents with difficulties and tests.

PUTTING THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE

The relationship between good deeds and recompense

Our good deeds, and our being good human beings, are not a direct bartering system with God, in which an immediate exchange takes places between good deeds for an easy worldly life in return. On the other hand, Allah does not make the good deeds of any believer to be lost, as He Most High informs us that, ‘We shall not suffer to be lost the reward of anyone who does his (righteous) deeds in the most perfect manner’ [18:30]. So the way to understand this relationship of good works and recompense is that, while Allah will answer the prayers of a sincere person, it will be in the way He wishes and when He wishes.

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) informed us that Allah answers our supplications in three ways, ‘Either He will answer his Dua soon, or he will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him because of it.’ [Musnad Ahmad]

Although the hadith specifically mentions supplication, the same applies for all our good works and good character, and how to expect the recompense and reward for them. We should understand that our time of doing good works is limited to this life, whereas Allah’s rewarding us for those deeds are not constrained by time or place. All we need to do is roll up our sleeves and keep going, the result and payday to this struggling we leave to Allah.

We should also realise that our knowledge is limited whilst Allah’s knowledge is unlimited. What we feel we may need or want now is constrained by our knowledge of only the present. Indeed, we cannot even know what will happen in a few seconds or minutes from now. Allah Most High knows everything as it was, as it is, and as it will be. Therefore, He is better to know what is right for us and when it is right for us.

Do not tire of good works

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, ‘The supplication of every one of you is granted if he does not grow impatient and says: I supplicated but it was not granted.’ [Muslim]. As we mentioned above, the same principle applies to any good works. Think of it like this, ‘The virtuous works, struggles, and good character of any of us will be rewarded so long as we do not grow impatient and say, I am doing this and that but God is not making my life easy and happy.

Life is a Test vs Punishment

Allah sends us trials in life to test our faith. God tells us, ‘It is He who created death and life to test you as to which of you are best in deed, and He is the Almighty, the Forgiving.’ [67:2]. The very best of creation, the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all), as well as the companions of those Prophets, were all tested greatly, and in ways greater than most of us suffer. Our beloved Prophet himself (peace and blessing upon him) and his family and companions endured severe hardship through the loss of their homes, livelihood, children and family, and many other tragedies and hardships.

The test is in being patient and grateful during these times, even if it is a lifetime. Tests are not only a chance to strengthen your faith, but are an expiation from sin. The Prophet said, ‘Trials will continue for the believing man and the believing woman, in person, property and children, until they meet Allah free from sin.’ [al Tirmidhi].

We cannot say that someone is being punished for such and such action. Nor do we say that one’s children are being punished for the parent’s sins. Allah Most High tells us that, ‘And no burdened soul can bear another’s burden.’ [35:18]. Therefore, the only option is to realise that how we act, and how we are as individuals and as believers, has a direct effect on how things go in our lives and the effect our behaviour and actions (or lack of action) has on those around us.

PRIORITISING DUTIES

Worship

Imagine if an employee turns up to work whenever he felt like it, some days coming in, other days turning up late and going home early, whilst other day not turning up at all, perhaps a few days at a time. At the end of the month when he receives his wages, he gets a shock that he has not received his full wages! Even worse, he gets called into the board room and is fired on the spot! Does such a person have the right to be indignant or angry at his employers? Likewise, the observation of the prayer must be maintained, on time and each day. If we ‘don’t turn up’ to the prayer, then we are not in a position to turn around to our Lord, and complain that we’re not getting our due.

The prayer is the most important part of our daily life and a sign of the believer. It is a major sin to intentionally miss an obligatory prayer, and this is something that is unfortunately taken too lightly. It is akin to committing major sins a few times every day, for years on end for some people.  It is the first of the five pillars in our religion and without careful observation of it, both our life and next life are liable to ruin. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) informed us that ‘The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.’ [al Tabarani].

This is an important hadith. The most important aspect for us here are the words, ‘If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound.’ Without the prayer being sound, meaning on time and with attentiveness and sincerity, all our other acts of obedience and goods will be deficient. Moreover, we cannot expect, nor should we be surprised or complain that our lives are in disarray, when the very essential pillars of our religion are not being upheld. We can only ask ourselves, in whose hands is our lives being left to ruin?

If we are missing prayers, we must also look at what other fundamental aspects and pillars of our religion are we neglecting or being deficient in. This is necessary to finding solutions to our worldly problems.

HOW TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT?

Below is a brief list of things you can do to ensure things are in order:

  1. Start praying on time and do not miss any prayers. Likewise make sure that all your other obligations to God are fulfilled.
  1. Ensure that you are fulfilling other people’s rights, such as debts etc.
  1. Make Tawba. Pray two rakats tawba from all your sins in general, and ideally specifically for neglecting prayers. See the following link for more information.
  1. Be patient, and persistent in your supplication and good deeds. Do not give up and think God has abandoned you.
  1. Give charity if possible. Many of life’s problems on one’s life are solved through giving sadaqah to the needy.
  1. Make sure you are avoiding more overlooked sins such as back biting, tale bearing, and contempt for others.
  1. Look at the worldly solutions to your problem. These include, home life and environment, diet and nutrition, television and negative influences, how one spends their time and money, and the choices you make.

MAGIC

While it’s not impossible that black magic may be at work, it seems the case here is that it is not. Black magic, while real, is most often than not used as a scapegoat to avoid looking at ourselves, our own actions, and making a change. As you mentioned yourself, the answers lie closer to home and are of a more practical nature. Prioritise your life, correct your intentions, and be patient and steadfast. Insha’Allah you will find real solutions to the problems you are facing.

Warmest salams,

[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007 I travelled to Tarim, Yemen, where I spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with my main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, I moved to Amman, Jordan, where I continue advanced study in a range of sciences, as well as teaching. Away from the Islamic sciences, I am a qualified Homeopath, and run a private clinic in Amman.

What Happens When You Die? Shaykh Ahmed Abdo

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, encourages us to make a journey to the graveyards for verily when you visit this place it reminds you of the next life; and truly reminders benefit the believers. In this beautiful commentary of the Prophetic narration Shaykh Ahmed Abdo takes us on a journey of reflection on death, reality and the ultimate reunion.

What is death? Is it the end of life or the beginning of new one? Your soul lives in this earthly address and your home is your body; but the time will come when you will change addresses and move into a new home.

Are you ready for this move?

The extraction of the soul starts at the feet, moves up to your ankles, then your knees and along your lower body towards your upper body. During this process, the soul can turn to its Creator in repentance. When the soul reaches the throat, repentance is no longer accepted. Why? It’s because at this moment every disbeliever becomes a believer for the veil is removed from the eyes and Reality is perceived.

A life in the Grave

There is a life in the grave, and every person shall have their provisions availed to them and the best of provisions is the Quran which illuminates the abode. As a believing soul, you will be reciting Quran and there will be a window to the Garden of Bliss. Within this life, the souls are mobile, visiting one another, and they are received by their loved ones who departed before them. That is why the righteous predecessors would seek to be buried with their loved ones so that they may be reunited in the next life. Ultimately though, the greatest of companionship is with Allah.

Those who long to meet Allah; Allah longs to meet with them.

Death is a means of reuniting with your beloved. Death for the believing soul is a union and it was cemented by love and loyalty to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and to Allah, our Creator.

Sheer Gratitude

Allah, Mighty and Majestic, grants us gifts each day, and when we perceive this we no longer sees the gifts, we see the Giver. Allah gave us without asking in this life and in death and the greatest gift is His beloved and messenger, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. In life, we receive guidance through him and in death we receive his greatest concern, intercession and salvation. What is the response to such generosity? What can one truly do or say for these gifts?

Resources for the seeker:

We are grateful to Shaykh Ahmed Abdo for the video. Cover photo by Captain Nikon.

How do I find purpose in Life? 11-part class with Shaykh Walead Mosaad

This class was conducted by Shaykh Walead Mosaad as part of Sakina Collective’s Spring 2015 Semester roster of classes. The class caters to an American Muslim audience who seek to apply the Prophetic teachings in their daily lives. The topics and discussions were organic and were set as per the feedback received from the attendees. The topics discussed reflect the wide range of issues American Muslims contend with on a daily basis from spirituality to child-rearing to doubts about religion to finance.

The 11 parts are entitled

  1. Cultivating the inner life
  2. Addressing doubts about Islam
  3. Overcoming Obstacles to more consistent worship
  4. How do we deal with suffering
  5. He She is neither family or spouse – how de we deal with each other?
  6. How can I be friends with my neighbours and coworkers without compromising my deen?
  7. How do I tackle the responsibility of my children’s upbringing?
  8. Islam and finance
  9. How do I find purpose in Life?
  10. Anger Management
  11. Etiquette of discourse and disagreement

Listen to them all here

Resources for seekers

Why are we not in Heaven or Hell Already?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Salam alaykum,
Since Allah knows who will go in Heaven and who will go in Hell why He is putting us on Earth? Why not just throw us all into Heaven or Hell?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
This life is an opportunity.
Allah Most High said, “Exalted is He who holds all control in His hands; who has power over all things; who created death and life to test you [people] and reveal which of you does best––He is the Mighty, the Forgiving” [67.1-2]
He wants the believers to strive so that He can grant them the everlasting favour of Paradise according to the degree of their efforts.
There would be no appreciation in being created in Paradise– but toil, struggle, and pray for 80 years then see Paradise and you’ll be grateful for eternity.
And Allah alone gives success.
wassalam,
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Idris Watts “Praise Him!” // June 2010 // Radical Middle Way

Hamd – praise – is the cornerstone of our faith. We praise God for the gift of life, for guidance and for the opportunity to do good and spread mercy. Every breath we take and every step we make should be an occasion for joy and praise. Nobody praised God better than the most praiseworthy of human beings – the Prophet Muhammad. His life was all about praise – praise expressed through the best of character, the most generous of hearts, the way of service. In him we have a model of praise that we can follow. Our demonstrations must not only call attention to injustice and inequity, but we must at the same time demonstrate the example through which injustice can be remedied, inequity can be vanquished and mercy can be brought into the lives of the many. Shaykh Idris Watts’s has a simple message for us all: Praise Him by following the one who praised Him best!