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How Do We Know When Ramadan Starts? – Shaykh Rami Nsour

Shaykh Rami Nsour discusses how one determines when the month of Ramadan enters and the differences of opinions on the matter.

He brings up the debate concerning actual sightings versus calculation, and mentions that the discussion has a long history, but emphasizes that disagreements concerning these methods should not cause harsh words or the breaking of bonds.

Shaykh Nsour reminds us that the spirit of our faith is to accept differences of opinion in a broad range of subjects and to always seek conciliation and grace.

Our focus should be on the point of Ramadan which is to get closer to Allah through our worship.


With gratitude to Shakyh Rami Nsour and Tayba Foundation.


Making the Most of Ramadan – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib & Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this reminder, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib advises how to take advantage of sacred times of the year where blessings are multiplied. He especially emphasizes making righteous intentions for righteous works to gain their reward if circumstances change. He illustrates how to use religious understanding to make the most of such blessed opportunities in both righteous works and obligatory duties. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, who translates throughout, closes by highlighting key points related to intention and completing the Qur’an.

Get Ready for Ramadan: Constructing a Plan – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin gives some key pointers on the importance of constructing a plan for Ramadan, in order to make the most of it, and how to do so. He also explains that fasting is not just abstaining from food and drink in the daytime, it is abstaining from all prohibited actions of the limbs. Ustadh Amjad urges everyone to use Ramadan as a school and training for upholding righteous character and deeds, so that it lasts throughout the whole year.

The Ethical Treatment of Animals

Cori Mancuso reflects on the Islamic moral and theological approach towards the treatment of animals, the controversial practices of industrial animal farming, and provides practical advice and recommendations on ethical consumerism in the Muslim community.

 

What are the Rights of Animals in the Modern World?  

Animals are part of our everyday lives and environment; whether one owns a pet, keeps livestock, or eats meat. Yet few Muslims today are aware of Islam’s rulings regarding ethical animal treatment and consumption, or the centuries’ worth of scholarly literature on the topic. This literature reflects our scholars’ profound understanding of the rights and responsibilities that come with our relationship with animals. Modern agricultural and farming practices such as intensive animal farming, machine slaughtering, and animal experimentation, are among a few of the most controversial trends which directly oppose the Islamic moral and ethical treatment of animals.

As consumers and participants in the global world, it is essential that Muslims make every effort in aligning their actions and attitude towards a greater awareness of the proper treatment of animals in their everyday lives.

 

What Does the Qur’an Say About Our Relationship With Animals?

The Qur’an and Hadith outline the moral and theological significance of animals and their relationship with mankind. Allah Most High says in the Qu’ran “It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth.” (Surah al Baqarah 2:29) Human beings were given permission to make use of animals in terms of transportation, clothing, shelter, warfare, hunting, food, and drink. (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals) The Qu’ran honors several types of animals, including livestock, camels, birds, cows, sheep, and fish. There are three chapters of the Qur’an named after specific animals, such as The Bee (Surah an Nahl 16), The Ant (Surah an Naml 27), The Spider (Surah al Ankabut 29) and The Elephant (Surah al Fil 105). We are encouraged to reflect upon animals and created beings as a means of gratefulness and appreciation towards The Creator. One’s treatment towards animals reflects one’s state of guidance; ethical treatment of animals is a sign of guidance and appreciation, while one’s mistreatment of animals is a sign of misguidance and ungratefulness towards the Creator and His creation. (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals) Our state of guidance is reflected in our behavior towards animals, making it of utmost priority to realign our behavior towards that which we were commanded and created to uphold.

 

Treatment of Animals in the Hadith Literature

As the Qur’an clearly outlines the proper moral and theological approach towards animals, the Hadith specifies how one should properly interact with and keep animals. The Hadith collections emphasize the overall necessity of mercy, avoidance of harm, and proper care towards animals. For those who mistreat animals, this is a major sin worthy of Allah’s punishment (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals). In a well-known hadith, reported from Ibn Umar, Allah be pleased with him, says “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘A woman was tormented because of a cat she had confined until it died and for this she entered Hellfire. She did not provide it with food or drink as it was confined, nor did she free it so that is might eat the vermin of the earth.’” (Muslim ibn al-hajjaj; al-Musnad al-sahih) For those who treat animals with mercy and compassion, there is a great reward with Allah Most High. The companions of the Prophet, Allah be pleased with them, asked the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace “O Messenger of Allah, is there a reward for us even for serving these animals?” He said ‘Yes, there is a reward for rendering service to every living animal.’” (Bukhari; al-Sahih)

 

Injunction of Eating Halal and Tayyib

In the modern global economy, there is a veil between humans and animals in terms of meat and dairy production. Although there is a growing movement towards farm to table, organic, and humane certified products, the vast majority of people participate in the industrialized agricultural system of slaughter, production, and consumption. Animals living under these conditions have little to no movement, are raised in inappropriate housing without sunlight or air, and face regular trauma and injury (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming). All of these practices violate Islamic law and our religious principles. Animals cannot be raised under these conditions for the mere purpose of economic gain or efficiency. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, warned the believers that committing unlawful acts affects the acceptance of our deeds.

Allah has enjoined us to avoid the doubtful and unlawful matters. This alone should be enough to concern us regarding our direct and indirect involvement in industrial animal farming production and consumption. As individuals and as a community, we must strive to prevent, alleviate, and offer alternatives to industrial animal farming.

 

Practical Advice on Ethical Consumerism  

Muslims are commanded to eat of the halal and tayyib, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan.” (Surah al Baqarah 2:168) We are reminded to do all things in the most excellent manner and with ihsan. This includes making conscious decisions surrounding our purchases and consumption of animal products and goods. How does one go about acquiring halal and tayyib products?

For starters, Muslims should purchase halal-certified meat products, preferably from local farmers and butchers. When inquiring about the farming and production practices of a halal farmer or business, one should be asking the following questions “Is the animal raised in a wholesome and humane environment? Is the animal distressed or mishandled during transportation? Are the animals slaughtered in an ethical and merciful manner? Are the animals killed away from the view of other animals?” (Ezra Ereckson; Animals in Islam).

This is easier to recognize when one purchases locally or as a group from a local halal butcher. In cases where this is not applicable or accessible, there are other options such as inquiring into the specific halal certification on the label and purchasing meat and animal products online. There is no standard government sanctioned or internationally recognized halal certification, so we must be cautious about this labelling. Most halal certifications regulate the slaughter of the animal, not the conditions in which they are kept or how they are raised. In terms of halal and tayyib meat and dairy products, Beyond Halal.org offers an online directory of farmers and businesses around the world which are providing quality halal meats and dairy products.

Mufti Musa Furber, offers several recommendations for individuals, communities, and scholars to address the inhumane production and consumption of animals. (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming) Although Vegetarianism and Veganism are on the rise, these are not viable options for most of the Muslim community given that Islam still requires animal sacrifice for specific religious rites. Also, they do not address or counteract the mainstream practice of industrial animal farming. It is among the sunnah of our Prophet, and all the Prophets, Allah bless and give peace on all of them, to eat meat in moderation. It would be beneficial to reduce the amount of meat in one’s diet, or to adopt more healthy alternatives to meat products.

As a Muslim community, we must create alternative farming initiatives which raise animals in a lawful manner and provide permissible and nourishing products to the community. As consumers, we must strive to find lawful sources of meat and dairy, even at the expense of paying higher prices. Lastly, many animal products can be substituted by alternative materials and consumable goods. Furber challenges the scholars and religious leaders of our time to address many of these controversial legal issues related to industrial animal farming and halal certification standards. (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming)

 

As believers, we are called to be an example to humanity and stewards on this earth. This is a great honor and responsibility. We must be willing to start with ourselves and address our own individual lifestyles. Then we can begin to work as a community to adopt and promote the ethical treatment of animals according to our tradition. We have been commanded to be stewards of the earth, to eat of lawful and nourishing bounty, to perfect our character and actions, and to treat all animals with compassion and mercy.


Cori Mancuso is a graduate in Religious Studies at Lycoming College. While seeking sacred knowledge, she develops content for SeekersGuidance and Sabeel Community.


 

What is the Etiquette in Warning Others from Slandering?

Shaykh Farid Dingle outlines the approach and etiquette that one should adopt when advising others to stop slandering.

 

Question:

As-salaam alaikum,

If someone is being slandered by someone else and I defend them saying that what the person who’s slandering is saying is wrong by way of insulting the words that they used to refer to the person slandered. Does that mean I slandered that person by insulting what they said?

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

An even keel

The believer sees the world and other people from a certain vista that prevents him from lowering his standards to harsh words or insults.

Allah Most High has described his slaves:

‘And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk lightly upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say, ‘Peace!’ ‘ [25: 63]

And the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘The believer  neither curses, nor backstabs, nor is he immoral in words, nor foul.’ [Tirmidhi and Hakim]

In light of this, the believer does not respond in an insulting, demeaning, or pontifical way to anyone, be they on the right or wrong. The believers hatred to directly solely to the actions or words that are being done or said, no the person who is saying or doing them.

The case at hand

If one were to hear, for example, some say, ‘Zayd is an idiot.’ and then you defended him by saying, for example, ‘No, you are the idiot,’ that would be verbal abuse and it would not be halal. If you were to say, ‘These are stupid words,’ or ‘That is a stupid thing to say,’ you are attacking the action (the initial insult), and what you are saying is true.

If what you said was clearly condescending or vulgar, then it would be a different kettle of fish.

I pray this helps,
Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

How Should We Treat Wild Animals?

Shaykh Jamir Meah advises on how we should treat wild animals such as lions and tigers.

 

Question:

As-salaam alaikum,

We know that our prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) loved cats, and thus we as Muslims are to treat cats with kindness and respect. Does this apply to larger cats like lions and tigers? To what extent?

Thank you

 

Answer:

Wa’alaykum assalam, 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) showed mercy to all of God’s creation and encouraged others to follow example. This extended to animals, plants and trees, and the earth in general. As such, it is unlawful to abuse, hurt, or mistreat, animals, plants, other organisms, or earthly resources without a valid excuse sanctioned by the shariah.

An example of the Prophet’s concern for animals is when he (peace and blessings be upon him) saw a camel which was burdened with a huge load, and he said, ‘Fear Allah when you deal with these beasts of burden.’ [Abu Dawud]

Cats were not particularly singled out, rather they are treated with the same compassion and respect as other created beings with souls, though the companion Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) did have a personal fondness of cats.

Warmest salams,
Jamir

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

Two Hadiths about ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt

Shaykh Jamir Meah clarifies two hadiths concerning the fate of ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt and his children, ‘Umarah and Yazid.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I just read the account of the battle of Badr in Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. He records the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, telling ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt that Hell will take care of his children before his execution. Also, below is a hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud. Ibrahim said, “Al-Dahhak ibn Qays intended to appoint Masruq as governor. Thereupon Umarah ibn Uqbah said to him: Are you appointing a man from the remnants of the murderers of Uthman? Masruq said to him, ‘Ibn Mas‘ud narrated to us, and he was trustworthy in respect of traditions, that when the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, intended to kill your father, he said: Who will look after my children?’ He replied: ‘Fire. I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you.’”

What is the authenticity of these two reports? Why would the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, utter such harsh words? And how can we reconcile them with his character, blessings and peace be upon him, as a mercy to the worlds? Need help.

Your brother in faith.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Thank you for your question.

The event of Uqbah bin Mu’ayt’s execution is one of many incidents that those seeking to undermine Islam and skew the perfect character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, choose to focus upon. When read objectively, these narrations do not present any issues, nor contradict the noble rank of the Prophet or his being a mercy to the worlds, blessings and peace be upon him.

Uqbah bin Mu’ayt

Uqbah bin Mu’ayt was one of the fiercest and vilest antagonists of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and the Muslims. Despite being a neighbor to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, his acts of hatred towards the Prophet include; insults, mockery, throwing the entrails, blood, and waste of a camel on the Prophet as he prayed at the Kaba. Stepping on the Prophet’s neck while he was in prostration, spitting in the Prophet’s face, attempted murder of the Prophet by strangulation, blessings and peace be upon him, rejoicing at the death of the Prophet’s son Abdullah, and much more.

As you rightly said, the death of Uqbah is mentioned in the books of Prophetic biography, such as Ibn Ishaq. After the Muslims won at Badr, the enemy soldiers were taken captive. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, ordered that two of these captives were to be executed; Uqbah being one of them. This is absolutely understandable given his vitriol towards the Muslims and the suffering he had caused.

When about to be put to death, ‘Uqbah said, “Who will look after my children?” to which the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, answered, “The Fire.” Then he was executed. (Sunan Abu Dawud. The hadith has a sound chain of transmission.)

The Fire

The scholars have commentated on what the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had meant by his answer “The Fire,” and it suffices us to quote what they have said as an explanation:

There are two opinions to his answer ‘The Fire,’ blessings and peace be upon him. The first is that the Fire will be their [‘Uqbah’s children’s] destruction, meaning if the Fire is to apply to them then so will it be [i.e if they die as disbelievers, then that will also be their fate].

The second possibility is that he, blessings and peace be upon him, was using a specific style of speech [uslub al hakim – in Arabic rhetoric, when one addresses a person with words that are not anticipated by the addressee, and which goes against the outward understanding of the word, in order to make it known that the import of the words are directed specifically to the person addressed], so the meaning is, ‘For you is the Fire,’ i.e. ‘Concern yourself with yourself and what is destined for you in the Fire, and leave the affairs of your children alone, for Allah is their Provider … and this [second opinion] is the correct opinion.
(Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih)

Perhaps the Prophet’s words “The Fire,” blessings and peace be upon him, were meant as additional castigation and punishment [of ‘Uqbah], not that he, blessings and peace be upon him, was stating that his [‘Uqbah’s] children will be in the Fire, for Walid and Umarah became Muslims on the Conquest of Mecca, and Allah is pleased with all the Companions. (Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud li Ibn Raslan)

In regards this event, we should note the following:

    1. 1. The plea of ‘Uqbah, “What about my children?” was a desperate attempt to escape the deserving death penalty and to be taken instead as a slave.

2. At least one of his sons, Yazid was legally an adult and a disbeliever at the time, who assisted the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr. Both he and his brother Umarah later became Muslims.

3. ‘Uqbah had done everything in his power to hurt and destroy the Muslims, who up until Badr, had not fought with the Quraysh at all. ‘Uqbah was well aware of what the loss at Badr would mean for him. Additionally, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had previously warned him that he would execute him one day for his oppression and aggression, but since ‘Uqbah was in a position of power, he mocked the warning.

Harshness

The response of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, to ‘Uqbah’s plea was deserved and just. If the response seems harsh to some, then it is important to know that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, never took personal revenge or acted out of spitefulness for the sake of his own person and grievances.

The person of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is an intrinsic part of the the religion, and abuse and attack on his person is abuse of Allah, the religion of Islam, and the Muslims in general. And it is for their relentless and vehement crimes against Allah, his religion, and the Muslims, that certain figures such as ‘Uqbah were put to death and given harsh treatment. This is the context in which the answer of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is correctly understood.

This is made clear by the fact that Allah revealed a verse mentioning the death of ‘Uqbah, “On the day when the wrong-doer gnaws his hands, he will say: ‘Ah, would that I had chosen a way together with the messenger!’” (Sura al-Furqan 25:27)

If critics take exception at the Prophet’s words, blessings and peace be upon him, and use it as a proof of a lack of his mercy and an example of a barbaric “medieval” nature (particularly compared to the false “meek-as-a-lamb” image put forward in regards the personality of Christ) they need only to look at the New Testament to find similar “harsh” expressions reportedly expressed by Christ, such as when he addresses the scribes and Pharisees and their evil designs against him and his followers: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Mathew 23:33) In other words, Hellfire has now become your fate.

Perspective

Given what we have mentioned above, it’s important to now put the death of ‘Uqbah in perspective. Out of seventy something captives taken at Badr, only two were executed: ‘Uqbah being one of them. And this was due to their unrelenting persecution of the Muslims.

As for the remaining prisoners of war, we will allow the words of William Muir, who we should note was a Christian evangelic orientalist, and held very biased and unfair criticisms of Islam, to describe for us the treatment of the remaining captives from the Battle of Badr, so we may draw our own conclusions as to the mercy and character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him:

In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands, the citizens of Medina, and such of the refugees as possessed houses, received the prisoners, and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina!’ said one of these prisoners in later days; ‘they made us ride, while they themselves walked: they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates. (The Life of Mahomet)

Turning the Other Cheek

From the above, it is clear that these is not the cold-hearted acts of a callous leader, nor the principles of a barbaric religion, as some would have people believe to be the case.

For mercy to be attributed to a person, it does not mean that the person is obliged to always turn the other cheek or pardon, nor to refrain from exacting just punishment. This is a false notion. In the same way, God’s punishing those who deserve punishment does not inhibit His being attributed by Mercy or being deserving of the Names Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim: the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate.

Merciful Not Weak

In worldly affairs, particularly affairs of the state, every situation must be assessed on merit, and sometimes it is necessary to exact the law or bring people to justice. To not do so in situations which demand it can be considered a weakness and dangerous.

It is well known that in war, there are times when certain individuals must be put to death. For not only are they deserving of such a fate for their heinous crimes, but it also serves the purpose of putting a final end to the threat they pose (and thereby bringing justice and peace), sending a clear warning to enemies that such aggression will not be tolerated, as well as showing a sign of strength.

We see a similar incident concerning Salahuddin al-Ayyubi and Reginald (Reynald) of Chatillon when the former regained Jerusalem from the crusaders. Salahuddin had captured King Guy of Jerusalem and Reginald, and chose to spare the life of the King, yet did not extend the pardon to Reginald, who was a particularly lawless crusader who had robbed, killed, and enslaved Muslim civilians, as well attempting to dig up and kidnap the body of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him!

Reginald was executed shortly after being captured by Salahuddin. Yet despite this, Salahuddin remains a revered figure who was and still is acknowledged and praised a great deal in the West for his chivalry, generosity, and mercy. Salahuddin’s decision to execute Reginald is generally accepted as an expected and normal decision of a military leader in that situation.

Hadith of Masruq

You mentioned the hadith that, “Al-Dahhak ibn Qays intended to appoint Masruq as governor. Thereupon Umarah ibn Uqbah said to him, ‘Are you appointing a man from the remnants of the murderers of Uthman?’ Masruq said to him: ‘Ibn Mas‘ud narrated to us, and he was trustworthy in respect of traditions, that when the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, intended to kill your father, he said, “Who will look after my children?” He replied, “The Fire.” I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

This hadith has a fair chain of transmission. What is apparent from the narration is that the words of Masruq: “I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you,” was a bitter retaliation to Umarah opposing his appointment as governor and connecting his name with assassination of Sayyidna Uthman. It is not to be understood as something the Prophet actually meant, as discussed above. And Allah knows best.

I hope this clarifies the matter.

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Mercy, the Stamp of Creation

Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah examines the role of mercy and eternal salvation in the Islamic tradition, and its imprint on all affairs of the universe.

Although Islam is often proclaimed as the “religion of peace,” theologically, it is more accurate to refer to it as the “religion of mercy.” God has designated mercy as his primary relation to the universe and sent his greatest prophet, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, as its emissary.

Following this, Muslims are commanded to be vanguards of mercy to the world in fostering benefit and averting harm. Islam enjoins a healthy and spiritually alive heart and teaches a law of universal reciprocity by which God shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from the unmerciful.

The explicit link between the Arabic words Islam, literally “entering into peace,” and salam, “peace” or “perfect peace” has been frequently highlighted of late. It is mainly because of this etymological connection that many Muslims and others advance the claim that Islam is a religion of peace, just as Christianity is customarily called a religion of love. Certainly, in terms of their creed and the historical record, Muslims are no less justified in equating Islam with peace than Christians are in identifying their faith with love. From a theological perspective, however, it would be more precise to describe Islam as the religion of mercy.

Islamic revelation designates the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, as “the prophet of mercy,” and Islam’s scriptural sources stress that mercy — above other divine attributions — is God’s hallmark in creation and constitutes his primary relation to the world from its inception through eternity, in this world and the next. Islam enjoins its followers to be merciful to themselves, to others, and the whole of creation, teaching a karma-like law of universal reciprocity by which God shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from those who hold it back from others.

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “People who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi) Because these words epitomize Islam’s fundamental ethos, it was called “the Tradition of Primacy” and, for generations of Classical Muslim teachers, constituted the first text that many of them handed down to their students and required them to commit to memory with a full chain of transmitters going back to the Prophet Muhammad.

God: The All-Merciful

In Arabic, God is called by many names, but his primary and most beautiful name, embracing all others, is Allah (God, the true God). Allah is a derivative of the same Semitic root as the Biblical Elohim (God) and ha-Eloh (the true God) of Moses and the Hebrew prophets or the Aramaic Alaha (God, the true God) of Jesus and John the Baptist. The formula “In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving” (bismi Allah al Rahman al Rahim), occurs one hundred and fourteen times in the Qur’an — Islam’s holy book — at the beginning of all but one chapter and twice in another. The phrase is central to Islamic ritual.

In Islam, the All-Merciful (al Rahman) and the Mercy-Giving (al Rahim) may be said to be the greatest names of God after Allah. Of all his names, they are most descriptive of his relation to the world and emphasize his will in salvation history and throughout eternity to benefit creation and ultimately bring about the triumph of supreme good over evil.The Qur’an states: “It is the All-Merciful who assumed the Throne,” (Sura Ta Ha 20:5) meaning that God designs the world and rules the universe in his aspect as the All-Merciful.

Consequently, mercy is the stamp of creation and the ontological thread that runs through everything. All that transpires — even temporal deprivation, harm, and evil – will, in due course, fall under the rubric of cosmic mercy. One Islamic luminary maintained: “If God had revealed instead that ‘the Overpowering (al Jabbar) [another of God’s ninety-nine principal names] had assumed the throne,’ creation would melt” Another verse reads: “God ordained mercy upon himself,” (Sura al An‘am 6:12) again emphasizing that mercy is a universal law (sunna), the dominant theme of the cosmos, and the fundamental purpose of the creative act.

Two prophetic Traditions reveal God as saying: “My mercy has vanquished my wrath,” and in the second: “My mercy takes precedence over my wrath.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Because we live in a universe bearing mercy’s imprint, harmony and beauty permeate all things: “Our Lord, you have embraced all things in mercy and knowledge.” (Sura al Ghafir 40:7) In the verse, mercy — technically an attribute of act— is given priority of reference over knowledge — an attribute of essence — again emphasizing mercy’s predominance in the universal plan.

The Prophet of Mercy

According to Islamic revelation, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the last and greatest of God’s messengers, fulfilling the legacy of the Biblical and extra-Biblical prophets and confirming the teachings of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. As the All-Merciful’s chief emissary, he was fittingly called the “prophet of mercy” (nabi al rahma . The Qur’an says of him: “We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds.” (Sura al Anbiya 21:107) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stated: “In certainty, I was not sent to bring down curses; I was only sent as a special mercy.” (Muslim)

As in English, “mercy” in Arabic is tied to compassion and closely linked with the act of forgiveness and pardon. Theologically, Islamic tradition defines mercy as the intent to bring good to others and cause them benefit. As such, being merciful implies the desire to avert evil and harm. When associated with acts of pardon and forgiveness, mercy is retroactive and after the fact. But as it relates to the intent to bring about good or avert evil, mercy assumes an elemental and proactive dimension and is often before the fact, evincing a forward-looking quality that seeks to set things right, make a break with the past, and foster new beginnings where goodness and benefit can thrive.

The thread of proactive mercy ran throughout the fabric of the Prophet’s life and was the key to his phenomenal, hard-earned, and lasting success, Allah bless him and give him peace. The loyalty and love of his followers and the awe and respect he evoked among his enemies were the fruits of such magnanimity. He said: “The closest of you to me on the Day of Judgment will be the best of you in character.”

Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, jested with children, showed a kindly humor toward adults, and even gave his followers friendly nicknames. He visited the sick, inquired after the welfare of neighbors, friends, followers, and even those who disbelieved in him. He was a warm egalitarian and shared everything with those around him, including their poverty. He was always willing to forgive, rarely chastising those who disobeyed him.

He did not restrict his mercy to his followers. One day in Medina, he was sitting with his Companions, who later related: “A funeral procession passed us by, and the Prophet, may God bless and keep him, stood up so we all stood up because he had. Then we said: ‘O Messenger of God, it is only the funeral procession of a Jew.’ He replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Like Moses and other Biblical prophets, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, took part in battle. He was victorious but not a “world-conqueror.” Although he engaged in war, he waged peace, and his inclination toward amnesty and diplomatic solutions is unmistakable. Above all it was the attitude of perpetual mercy that enabled him ultimately to forge for the first time in history a pax islamica in the Arabian Peninsula.

That same attitude combined with masterly statesmanship enabled him not only to rescue the city of Medina — which had invited him for that purpose — from generations of civil war between its feuding clans but to create an island of stability in a sea of chaos and then extend that island gradually until it claimed the sea.

Those who died in the Prophet’s battles were relatively few, Allah bless him and give him peace, and, according to some estimates, numbered around two hundred on both sides. He laid down rules of engagement and parameters of war that became a central part of Islamic law, forbidding the predation of civilian populations, the wanton destruction of lands and livestock, and the use of fire, flooding, and poisons that kill indiscriminately.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, accepted people at their word and forgave them easily. He harbored no desire for vengeance and rejected the pagan custom of blood feuds and revenge. There was nothing mindless or fanatic about his piety. He was never intransigent or bent on war.

Men who had been numbered among his most relentless and unforgiving enemies — like Abu Sufyan ibn Ḥarb, ʿIkrima ibn Abi Jahl, and Safwan ibn Umayya — ultimately came not only to accept and follow the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, but, during the last years of their lives, devoted themselves heroically to his mission with a passion surpassing the enmity that had driven them before.

Even in the midst of bitter war, the Prophet inclined toward peaceful solutions. The Armistice of Hudaybiyya exemplified this spirit and his desire for the ultimate welfare of his enemies, in this case the pagans of Mecca. It was reached at a time when Muslim strength was reaching a high point and the power of the Prophet’s pagan opponents — now in irreversible decline—was vulnerable and could have been ruthlessly crushed.

Yet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, accepted without hesitation conciliatory concessions which initially appeared so humiliating that they bewildered his followers. The Qur’anic revelation proclaimed the armistice a “manifest victory,” and within weeks it was clear that it had set the stage for winning the hearts of the Prophet’s harshest enemies, Allah bless him and give him peace, and opening doors of reconciliation, which for years had been stubbornly shut.

In due course, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, “conquered” Mecca peacefully. As he approached the city with the largest army ever assembled on the Arabian Peninsula till that time, he noticed a wild dog on the roadside nursing her litter and posted one of his Companions, Juʿayl al Damari, to stand guard near her so that the entire contingent could pass without disturbing her or the pups.

After years of bitter conflict, some of the Prophet’s Companions — in keeping with the ancient Arabian code of revenge — were sure that the day they took Mecca would be the hour of vengeance. One of Medina’s tribal chieftains, Saʿd ibn ʿUbada, noticed Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, former leader of pagan Mecca, standing near the Prophet and told Abu Sufyan ominously: “This will be a day of slaughter.” Saʿd was proudly bearing his tribal banner. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, took it from him, handed it to Saʿd’s son, and declared: “What Saʿd has said is wrong. No, this will be the day that God glorifies his House (the temple of Abraham in Mecca) and decorates it with a new covering.”

By any measure, it was a day of mercy. In Mecca, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gathered his former enemies at the House of Abraham and asked them: “What do you think I am about to do with you?” They replied: “You are a magnanimous brother, the son of a magnanimous brother.” He answered: “Go to your houses. You have been set free.” It was this merciful and forgiving nature that finally established the Prophet’s authority in Mecca after its peaceful conquest, fostered mutual understanding, and forged new bonds. In the end, it was above all this proactive mercy that spelled the death of idolatry and paganism in Mecca and throughout Arabia and prepared the way for Islam’s unparalleled triumph in the world beyond.

The Command to be Merciful

In imitation of the Prophet, Muslims are expected to be merciful, to bring good, and to seek the benefit of others — all others — not wish them harm or rejoice in the evil that befalls them. Indeed, the Tradition of Primacy promotes a doctrine of universal, all-embracing mercy. Commentators emphasize this point, clarifying that the mercy Muslims are commanded to show is not exclusively for themselves or the righteous among them.

It extends to all human beings: Jews, Christians, the believing and unbelieving, the upright and the immoral, and it goes beyond the human family to include both the animate and inanimate: birds and animals, even plants and trees. In English, “be merciful to those on earth” tends to imply human beings. Translated here as “those,” the Arabic word man is broad and inclusive. Its primary reference is to rational beings, but it includes, by secondary reference, non-rational ones also: animals, plants, and, by extension, what today would be termed the environment.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told an anecdote of a sinful man suffering from thirst one oppressively hot day who came across a well. He went down into it — (Middle Eastern wells are often open and with deep, winding staircases) — drew water, and drank. (Bukhari) When he came back up, he noticed a dog, panting from thirst and eating the clay around the well for moisture. The man said to himself: “This dog is suffering from thirst like I was.” He went down into the well a second time, filled his shoe with water, and let the dog drink. God loved the man’s humane act, showed him mercy, and forgave all his sins. When Muḥammad’s Companions heard the story, they asked: “O Messenger of God, will we be rewarded for being good to animals?” He answered: “Yes, there is reward in showing good to every living creature.” In another Tradition, the Prophet emphasized the atrociousness of merciless behavior in God’s eyes and told of a woman condemned to hell for intentionally starving a cat to death.

Mercy begins with the individual by taking care of the self physically, emotionally, and spiritually and includes exercise and diet, pursuing education, and keeping good company. It also means having a good opinion of oneself — without being arrogant or blind to one’s faults — living in constant anticipation of God’s help and mercy along with other Islamic corollaries of behavior like the categorical prohibition of suicide and despair. From the individual, concentric rings of mercy extend outward, taking in parents, spouse, children, family, neighbors, community, and the world. Part of being merciful toward others is having a good opinion of them, defending their good name, and doing whatever makes their lives better and averts harm.

The Qur’an looks upon marital life as a primary locus of mercy and, consequently, exalts the institution of marriage as one of creation’s marvels and chief proofs of God, next to the creation of the heavens and the earth and of humankind itself. Marriage is not just the basic mode of human generation, manifesting the biological continuity of divine creation, but forms the primary social nucleus of love: “Among God’s signs is his creating for you partners in marriage from yourselves so that you find happiness in them and his putting between you bonds of affection and mercy. Certainly in that there are signs for people who think.” (Sura al Rum 30:21)

The Arabic words for “affection” and “mercy” in the verse are mawadda and raḥma. Matrimonial “mercy” means that both husband and wife seek to make each other happy, desiring what is good, prosperous, and beneficial for each. It implies that each spouse treat the other honorably and that neither be content with evil or harm as the other’s lot.

Mawadda — translated above as “affection” but more frequently as “love” — precedes raḥma in the verse, implying that love is mercy’s spiritual bedrock. While Arabic has many words for love, mawadda represents a special type. One of the ninety-nine principal names of God in Arabic — Al Wadud, “the Loving” — is derived from the same linguistic root.

Mawadda does not refer to physical love but to an active, emotive love that is direct and personal, involving affectionate care and abiding attention to others’ needs. With regard to God, al Wadud (the Loving), mawadda refers to his providential care for creation and the personal bounty and protection that he grants those he loves. With regard to human interaction, both in a general and marital context — as in the above-quoted verse — mawadda refers to loving involvement in the life of another, not simply through care or concern for that person’s well-being but also by personal faithfulness, emotional support, good counsel, and a general regard for that person’s interests.

The Law of Universal Reciprocity

As discussed at the beginning of this essay and as the Traditions above concerning kindness to animals indicate, mercy — God’s signature in creation — is linked to a law of universal reciprocity: Mercy will be shown to the merciful, and it will be withdrawn from the merciless. The positive side of this universal law is reflected in the words of the Tradition of Primacy: “Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you,” a lesson often repeated in the Islamic scriptures.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught: “Truly, God only shows mercy to those of his servants who are themselves merciful.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Here the complementary side of the law of mercy is clarified. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said elsewhere: “Whoever shows no mercy will be shown no mercy.” (Bukhari and Muslim) In the same authoritative collections, we find: “God will show no mercy to those who show no mercy to humankind.”

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, warned his community: “Being merciful is only stripped away from the damned,” (Tirmidhi) implying that mercy is the natural condition of the human soul and is only stripped away and exchanged for mercilessness in people with callous, unnatural hearts that can no longer receive it. A heart that no longer has the capacity to feel mercy cannot be a receptacle of salvation either or a container of true faith; to become ruthless and void of compassion is to carry the mark of divine wrath and bear the brand of damnation and is the sure sign of an evil end.

Thus, the reciprocity inherent in the universal law of mercy embodies another dimension: the fact that mercy is linked with faith and opens the door of salvation, while mercilessness is linked with the rejection of God and invites damnation. Classical commentators explain that mercy springs from a healthy heart, one that is spiritually alive and suitable for sincere faith. Utter lack of mercy, on the other hand, reflects a heart that is spiritually dead. The implications are profound: Mercy and true belief do not cohabit hearts where hatred and the utter disregard for others reign.

Conclusion

The imperative to be merciful — to bring benefit to the world and avert harm — must underlie a Muslim’s understanding of reality and attitude toward society. Islam was not intended to create a chosen people, fostering exclusive claims for themselves, while looking down upon the rest of humanity like a sea of untouchables or regarding the animate and inanimate worlds around them as fields readied for wanton exploitation. Wherever Muslims find themselves, they are called upon to be actively and positively engaged as vanguards of mercy, welfare, and well-being.

Islam’s call to mercy should not render Muslims incapable of a wise and measured response to transgression, oppression, or injustice, which in some cases can only be checked by force. Islam is not a pacifist religion, although it commands its followers to incline toward merciful solutions and seek peace, while always remaining within dignified bounds and proper parameters consistent with Islam’s overarching doctrine of mercy. In a faith like Islam, which teaches that a person may be condemned to hell for starving a cat, it goes without saying that acts of ruthless barbarity must be rejected and never given the aura of religious sanctity.

The merciless heart abides in the spirit of the damned, while the healthy heart is instinctively humane and comprehends the pricelessness of mercy. It is to people who are not “damaged goods” but humanly intact and spiritually alive that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directed his admonition: “Take an informed opinion (literally, fatwa) from your heart. What is good puts your self and your heart at rest. What is wrong is never fully acceptable to your self and wavers in your heart, even if people give you a different opinion (fatwa) and keep on giving it to you.” (Ahmad, Tabarani, and Darimi)


The above article was originally published by The Oasis Initiative. This edited version conforms to SHG Style and is printed with gratitude to the author and The Oasis Initiative.


Transcend This World – Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir expounds on the crises of despair in society, its impact on the Muslim community, and Islam as the cure for this disease.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Our praises due to Allah who has revealed the scripture unto his servant and has made no crookedness therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)

Allah Most High has blessed us to live in interesting times, as they say. One of the characteristics of our time, speaking specifically of this land that we reside in, is the despair that we see. That despair can be measured by what collectively are referred to as the diseases of despair: drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, depression.

In terms of drug addiction, just discarding other forms of drugs, every day in this country, there are 170 fatal overdoses from opioids alone – heroin, morphine, percocet, oxycontin – the whole family of opioids. One hundred and seventy.

Were it not for Narcan which revives overdose victims, maybe it would be eight hundred a day, because for every one who fatally overdoses seven or eight are revived who would otherwise fatally overdose.

The Ravages of Despair

There are 241 alcohol consumption related deaths every day in this country. Just consumption. Excluding alcohol-related deaths, most fatal fatalities from auto accidents, the majority are alcohol-related. Most killings in domestic violence are alcohol-related. Maybe not most. A large percentage. But excluding all of that, 241 who die from overconsumption of alcohol every day.

There are 123 suicides every day. Almost 4,000 suicide attempts every day, which means that there are far more, because a lot of suicide attempts aren’t reported to the authorities. Increasingly large numbers of our children who should be the most hopeful find themselves dead as a result of suicide. Diseases of despair.

You see Muslims increasingly falling into many of these categories which indicates two things. One is a ignorance of our religion, because one who has knowledge of this religion understands that this is the antidote to despair: the anti-despair medicine.

The other is weakness of faith, which means there might be knowledge of the religion, but that knowledge hasn’t penetrated to the depths of the heart, so that it affects the hearts in ways that insulate the individual from the ravages of despair.

Understanding of Religion

We should understand. Understanding is very important. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: “The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion.” We can mention a balance of the hadith because it has benefit in it.

It was related from Mu‘awiya, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: ‘The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion. I dispense the Revelation, it is Allah who gives understanding.’”

So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gives it freely to everyone but Allah causes those seeds that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, spreads out to take root in some hearts. “And there will always remain from this community of believers a party, a group, who will establish their affair on the basis of the commandment of Allah.” (Bukhari)

What the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is telling us is that understanding translates into action. The foundation of our action is establishing our affair on the commandment of Allah. People are rejecting their traditional religious teachings. As people increasingly turn to atheism and that’s part and parcel of the crisis of despair.

Atheism and Meaninglessness

There’s no coincidence that as atheism goes up suicide goes up, because atheism is telling a human being that you’re no different from this […] this minbar I’m standing on. You are no different than these walls. You’re no different than a fly. You’re no different then feces or urine. You’re just physical stuff.

If a human being comes to believe that he or she is just physical stuff, there’s no relationship to a higher power, there’s nothing to hope for beyond the demise of this physical body, why not commit suicide? Why not end it all? There’s nothing beyond this to hope for. That’s one of the reasons you see this upward trajectory.

The believers must hold on to the commandment of Allah. The believers must hold as lawful that which our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has declared to be lawful. And the believer must maintain and hold on to what our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directly from Revelation, which came through the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or through his Sunna, have declared to be unlawful.

The lawful is unambiguously clear. The unlawful is unambiguously clear. Between those two are doubtful matters. Most people don’t know their rulings. There are people who want to make that which is unambiguously clear from the mutashabihat in terms of its lawfulness, and that which is unambiguously clear in terms of its unlawfulness, amongst the doubtful matters.

Adhere to The Book and The Sunna

Well, we need to reassess this. 1,400 years of Islam and scholarship from some of the most brilliant minds to ever walk this planet couldn’t figure out how Muslims are supposed to dress? 1,400 years of scholarship with clear unambiguous evidence, scriptural evidence, couldn’t figure out who Muslims should go to bed with?

We need to reassess? No, we need to adhere to the Book of Allah and the Sunna of his Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and die upon that and pass it on to our descendants. If we do that, we’ve done our job. If we fail to do that, there’s going to be more suicides. There’s going to be more alcoholism. There’s going to be more drug overdoses, because people will be lost.

The prophets were sent to guide people. And this Umma, the scholars of this Umma are the heirs of the prophets. And their communities are the community of believers in this world. They will establish their affair on the commandment of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the command of Allah.

Some scholars say [the command] is the emergence of the dajjal. Some scholars say it is the wind that will blow at the end of time and take the souls of the believers. Most scholars say it is Doomsday. They won’t be harmed.

Hold on to Your Inheritance

Our task, brothers and sisters, if you want to be safe and you want to be sound, make sure you’re in that group. Ibn Hajar al Askalani says it could be one group in one place, but most likely it is many groups. There’s some here, there’s some there. Some in America. Some in Africa. There’s some in Asia. There’s some in Europe.

This is a source of mercy, not just for us but for the world. As we said, the world, this country and the world in general, is being besieged by despair and hopelessness. We are the people of hope. Not foolish optimism, but the people of Hope.

We are the people of prophetic guidance and prophetic guidance brings clarity. We are the people of mercy. One of the reasons a lot of Muslims are so downcast and gloom-struck in our day and times is because they believe the lives of people who profit from their being no source of hope for people.

There are people that profit from that and say, “Oh, you Muslims, you have no mercy and compassion in your heart.” And Muslims start believing that. You want to know no compassion? No compassion are people who would sell nine million narcotic pills in a small town in Appalachia.

The Invention of Falsehoods

Prescribe nine million knowing this is going to addicting entire population. Where is the mercy in that? Then the people are dropping like flies from overdoses. Where is the mercy in that? Where is the mercy in fabricating enemies for the sole purpose of feeding a war machine that’s financed by 700 billion dollars of our tax money to keep the factories making bombs?

Inventing enemies in this country to keep this a machine of Islamic hate going. They’re stealth jihad. They’re taking over. Taking over what? “The Muslim Brotherhood’s taking over Congress and the Senate and our institutions.” Well, they’re doing a terrible job. there are 535 congressmen and 100 senators; 435 representatives.

There are zero Muslim senators and one Muslim congressman. Zero out of 100 and one out of 435 and that’s stealth jihad. That’s a merciless scheme to demoralize the community, to villainize and demonize the community, for the sole purpose of making money. They’re financed by tens hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an industry.

Where is the mercy? Right now, this hurricane, the winds died down, but the rain is coming. And they have open lagoons of pig manure and pig fetuses and pig blood from these hog farms next to African-American communities. Poor people who can’t go anywhere. They’re going to flood over. Even without flooding the spraying in the air coats their houses. They can’t breathe the air. People have respiratory problems. They have to breathe that garbage.

And the North Carolina legislature banned a bill that would even declare this a harmful practice. Where’s the mercy in that? You go up and down the ledger, there’s no mercy. There’s total exploitation of people.

Industrialized Despair

They won’t even give you a meal. You can fly on Ethiopian Airlines – one of the poorest countries in the world – you can fly from Addis Ababa to […]; they give you a hot meal, a hot towel to clean your hands with, for a two-hour flight. You fly from New York City to Los Angeles, five and a half hours, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels.

When you got on the plane, the sky cab, the company is going to take their tips. Where is the mercy in all that? And they’ll tell you, “Muslim, you’re not merciful.” And then you believe it and get all demoralized. Stand up! Be proud to be a Muslim. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give those people the satisfaction of demoralizing you. Thieves and killers.

A lady, Beth Macy, wrote a book about this whole opioid epidemic recently [Dopesick] and the subtitle: “[…] the [drug] company that addicted America.” Purdue Pharma, responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans and no one went to jail. Tens of thousands of dead people, millions of addicts, and to misdemeanor charges for false advertisement, because they said this stuff isn’t abusive.

Pure morphine repackaged is not abusive. So when the abuse rate was almost a hundred percent, “Oh, we’re guilty.” Misdemeanor on two of their executives. No one goes to jail. But all these little people, not selling heroin, selling marijuana on the street corner, are going to jail feeding this prison industrial complex. Where is the mercy in that?

Never Despair of Allah’s Mercy

And you, demoralized, believe your religion has no mercy. “Oh, my servants who are going to excess in terms of abusing the rights of their soul.” This is addressed of people who are idolaters. What does Allah say about the idolator? Allah doesn’t forgive that partners are joined with him, but he forgives any sin other than that to whomsoever he pleases. But if that idolator repents, then Allah says, even if you are an idolater, “do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.” (Sura al Zamar 39:53)

Allah forgives the idolater. Allah forgave the man who killed 100 people. Allah forgives people. One man came, long story short, and mention his sin and he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that to atone. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he started laughing and said, “Just scram. Get out of here.” Allah bless him and give him peace.

Your sin is one against you. You do a good deed and it’s immediately multiplied ten times. Seven thousand. Seventy thousand. Seven million. Allah is Rahim and Karim. How hard do you have to work to go to hell, if that’s how things are reckoned? One sin is one against you.

The Reason for Hope

Even if you conspire to sin and then you leave it, then it’s credited as a good deed. Leaving a bad deed is a good deed. You know, I’m gonna do this and that, masha Allah. I get home, get dressed, go call up someone. I’m gonna go visit and we’re gonna go out and … “astaghfir Allah, that’s totally haram.” That’s the good.

You left the bad deed, it’s a good deed. Don’t you say you’re a sinner. Leaving the bad deed is a good deed and so the cycle kicks in. How hard does one have to work to go to hell? This is the mercy of Allah Most High. Allah forgives all sins. What did you do? Just repent to Allah and Allah will forgive you.

Why do you have no hope? Why are you despairing of Allah’s mercy. If those are the odds and if this is the mercy of Allah, then it’s rightfully said, “It is only a disbelieving people that despair of Allah’s mercy.” (Sura Yusuf 12:87)

So believers, never despair of Allah’s mercy. Don’t walk around here in a state of doom and gloom. Lift up your head, smile in the face of your your fellow believer. Smile in the face of everybody: the ordinary people. Spread peace, spread greetings of peace to people. Feed people.

“Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is the best manifestation of Islam, the most virtuous manifestation of Islam?” “That you feed people and greet people, those you know and those you don’t know.” Our sister, in the Rainbow Rec Center, just feeding people for 20-something years. Every Saturday. It’s one of the best manifestations of Islam.

And greet people those you know and those you know not. You should be a greeting machine. Everyone you pass:

– Assalam alaykum, how you doing? Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban.
– What does that mean?
– That means, Hey, you’re welcome. You’re like my family.
– Really? No one ever said that to me.
– We Muslims. That’s how we roll.

Islam Is The Beautiful Religion

Pick your head up. This is a beautiful religion. Don’t despair. It’s not a believing characteristic. It’s a characteristic, as we said, of people who have no faith. Those are the people, unfortunately, falling into drugs, falling into despair, falling into suicide, falling into alcoholism. We’re the antidote. We should be going to people.

That’s why they want to demoralize the Muslims, so we don’t believe we have anything to offer anybody. “Who wants to listen to us? They all think we‘re a bunch of terrorists.” I’ll tell you who wants to listen to you, those hundreds of people every day who are taking their Shahada, all over this country. They don’t want to see that.

We have to organize ourselves to serve them. And to serve those people who aren’t Muslim. The sister feeding the people at the Rainbow Rec in East Oakland, most of those people aren’t Muslim, but they’re human beings and they have human needs.

We should be rising up and organizing ourselves to meet their needs and don’t let them politicize our religion. They’re willing to politicize it so they can frame the discussion and frame the way that they present Islam to people. No, we have to we have to spiritualize it. It’s not a political struggle.

This Is Not a Game

We. as Muslims, we do a disservice when we frame it like that, because we’re playing into their hands. It’s a spiritual struggle. It’s a struggle between truth and falsehood. It’s a struggle between people who want to victimize and exploit and destroy people, and people who want to give them life, and to give them hope, and to give them direction.

That’s the struggle and we have to keep it at that level, because that’s our strength. Everything else will take care of itself. The politics, the economics, will take care of themselves.

But if we become wrapped up into this political struggle the parameters of which have been defined by the enemies of Islam, we’ll never get to the spiritual and the people will never get the hope, because in their mind they’re looking at Islam through a frame that we as Muslims sometimes help to reinforce.

We have to frame the issue along the lines that play into our strengths. When you have one congressman and zero senators, politics is not our strength. I hope you understand that. You can hoop and holler all you want. But when those are the odds, I’m not saying there’s no politics in Islam, I’m saying that our struggle is a grassroots struggle.

Our struggle as a struggle to save people. Our struggle as a struggle to give people hope. Our struggle is a struggle to inspire people. Our struggle is a struggle to put people back in touch with their humanity. And when that happens to tens and hundreds of thousands of people, to millions of people, everything else will take care of itself. May Allah give us tawfiq.

We Are a Joyous People

Let me leave you with this verse, brothers and sisters. Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say, [O Muhammad]: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy let them rejoice. It is better than anything they can gather [from this world.] (Sura Yunus 10:58)

We should be a joyous people. All this stuff has happened out there. Islamophobia and all this other stuff is happening. Depression, suicide, we went through the whole gamut and the first khutba. We still should be a joyous people, because we have faith in our heart, because we have belief in the Hereafter, because we know no matter how bad things get in this world, if we patiently persevere, if we struggle and we forge on, then we’re opening the gates for unimaginable bliss for the rest of eternity.

Eternal bliss. When we understand what eternity means, and we understand that everyone’s life in this world will end, young or old, rich or poor, black or white.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Sura Aal Imran 3:185)

Life Begins in The Hereafter

Everyone is going to die. Everybody’s going to die and so our life really begins when we die – in the big scheme of things, in the greater scheme of things – and once we die the gate is opened to eternity. This world is finite. Paradise and Hell are eternal.

خالدين فيها
dwelling therein forever

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
dwelling therein forever and ever

Either Hellfire. Not forever and ever for believers, but who wants to experience a second of that? Or Janna [The Garden]. That’s what it’s all about. And Allah Most High, in giving us faith, has blessed us and placed us on a path to Janna.

We have to nurture our faith, and cultivate our faith, and rejoice in our faith. “Let them rejoice in this. I is better than anything anyone could gather from the world.” What does it mean that someone gets all the cars? They have the whole collection. They have the 1965 Mustang all the way up to their 2018 Tesla. They have them and everything in between. They got the Rolls Royce, they got the Lamborghini, you name it. They even got the Bugatti.

They got the whole lineup. They have the whole residential lineup. They have the condo at Lake Merritt. They have their chateau in the Rocky Mountains, in Aspen. They have their home in the Hamptons that they never get to. They have the whole line up from the condo to the chateau to the the house in the Hamptons. Check everything on the list. They got it.

Wardrobe. They have it all. From the alligator shoes to whatever you’re supposed, if you have money. They got it. In the house in the Hamptons they have horses they never ride. Because they never get over there. But they got the horses, too. They got the house and they got the horse.

Faith Is Proof of Allah’s Love

What does it mean if they don’t have faith? What does it mean that as soon as they get the house with the horses and they’ve checked the final check the final box on the list, they die? People are deceived into thinking all this means something.

“If this world meant to Allah as much as a gnat’s wing,” do you know how small a gnat is? If it meant a gnat’s wing “He wouldn’t have given an arrogant rejecter a single drop of water to drink.” (Tirmidhi) Allah gives it freely to whomsoever He pleases.

He gives it to the Muslim. He gives it to the person who’s not a Muslim. He gives it to the rich. He gives it to the black. He gives it to the white. He gives it to those who come who inherit it and those who get it because they can throw a ball in a basket. He gives it freely to whomever He pleases.

But He only gives faith to those He loves. That’s why the believer rejoices. May Allah give us faith that leads us to rejoice no matter what is happening in the world, because we can look beyond the world. We can look at something that transcends the world. We can look at something more valuable than the world and everything in it.


What Makes A Marriage Work – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf talks about some of the challenges of married life and how to overcome them in a manner that is pleasing to Allah.

In terms of what engenders and facilitates these relationships, one is really important: Islamic etiquette. It’s very important to remember that just like your brother, you’re supposed to greet them with a smile. These things you do with people outside, sometimes we forget that the people we’re living with have more right than other people to those same etiquettes.

Also, doing things for each other. Preferring the other to the self. This idea – the thing about it is that men have to be very careful, because there are many women where that is their nature. In other words, a man can get into a very exploitative relationship with his wife, because his wife by her nature – especially women that were born and raised in a more Eastern tradition, where there’s a lot of double standards with the male and the female children.

You can get into an exploitative relationship with the wife where you’re allowing her to do everything, and she says, “Oh, well, I love to do it.” That doesn’t mean that she should be doing everything because she loves to do it. She’s getting all the reward first of all. And second of all, no matter what she says, she’s going to appreciate it when you help her out and do things for her. She will appreciate it because that’s human nature.

Marriage and Spirituality

A wife should not allow domestic concerns [to overwhelm her] so that she forgets her own husband and then becomes like a domestic servant, too. That can happen. A woman can become so preoccupied she becomes more like a domestic servant. Not realizing that there’s a whole sakina – there should be a spiritual relationship, a spiritual growth between the two.

The thing about life, the challenge for everybody, is not to fall asleep. It’s really easy to just get into these patterns of perfunctory behavior and to forget what life is about. You can really forget that this is it. Your life is an aggregate of moments. When you’re with your wife or your husband, it can either be a horrible experience, it can be a wonderful experience, or it can be a missed experience.

John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. There’s a lot of truth in that. You can get so caught up in these day-to-day concerns that life passes you by and you missed it. Family is like that. Your children are like that. It’s very easy to lose sight of them.

Remind Each Other of The Good

It’s good to remind each other [about things]. A husband should not get upset if a wife reminds him about Allah, about his duties, and things like that, and vice versa. It should be done in a nice way with nasiha and everything. It shouldn’t be anger. It’s very bad to do that.

It was probably much more common in the Muslim world, doing too much ibada and one forgets the rights of the family. That comes from Abd Allah ibn Amr ibn al As, who used to fast all the time. Our lady Aisha told the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, about the neglect of the wife. And he the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, met Abd Allah ibn Amr, he said to him, “Is that true.” And he said.“Yes.”

And the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “If that’s the case don’t do it.” He said, “Sleep and pray, fast and eat, because that’s my Sunna.” Then he said,“Your body has a right. Your wife has a right. Your family has a right.” They are rights! There’s a huqquq. The right of your wife is that you spend time with her. That is a haqq.

The Principles of Forgiveness

Another important thing is adhering to the principles of forgiveness. Really forgiving and just letting it go. One of the things that people in relationships will do is they’ll hold on to these things. It’s really infantile behavior. You have to see it for what it is. You’re a pouting little child and you’re trying to make the other person miserable for doing something to you.

You need to snap out of it. Remind yourself and if the other person reminds you of it take the reminder. Don’t make your life miserable for yourself and for others, because that’s all it is. In the end of the day it doesn’t matter. If something happens that upsets you just let it go. It will happen. It’ll happen many, many times throughout your life. But just let it go. Don’t hold on to it.

The danger is not that it happens. That’s going to happen. It’s a given. The danger is that you never learn to overcome the desire to hold on to it. And some people derive perverse pleasure in that. So that happens. You start get pleasure in making somebody feel miserable.

Cheerfulness Is Contagious

They’ve done studies on cheerfulness and such. And cheerfulness and good nature is very contagious. If somebody is in a cheerful and a good nature they can actually affect other people much more powerfully than irritability. Although irritability is also contagious it doesn’t spread as easily as good nature.

Depression is difficult, very difficult to actually be transferred to somebody. It can happen. If you live with a depressed person you can become depressed. It’s actually difficult for that to happen. It’s quite unusual. But well-being: you can actually transform someone’s state quite easily, if you’re up and they’re down.

You can see this with children. If children pout and do these things you can, just with silly faces and things, get them to break a smile. And once you got them there they know. They can’t hold on to it. It’s interesting. Just breaking that infantile desire.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was an absolute master in everything he did. He was [also] a master of breaking that state that people got into. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t have difficult periods, but generally that was what he did.

Focus on The Good Traits

It’s important to keep in mind that marital life, due to the constant interaction and to psycho-emotional states that people go through – we go through different psycho-emotional states throughout the day or the week or the month – that there are situations where discontent or displeasure occur. These are normal occurrences.

Even for the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. He, blessings and peace be upon him, said to Aisha, “I know when you’re upset with me” She said, “How do you know that?” He said, “Because when when you’re pleased with me you say, “By the Lord of Muhammad (wa Rabbi Muhammad), but when you’re upset with me you say, “By the Lord of Ibrahim (wa Rabbi Ibrahim).” And Aisha laughed and said, “That’s true. By Allah, It’s true. I would never abandon anything but your name.”

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, also said, “A believer (mu’min) should never dislike a believer. If he likes if he dislikes one quality, he should focus on the qualities he likes.” So, every person is going to have things that bother you and things that you like about them. The thing about your spouse is that you should look at those qualities that are pleasing.

Shortcomings Can Be Overcome

One thing that you can do is you can talk about things that bother about the other person, and then the person tries to work on those things. Especially if they relate to things that are shortcomings Islamically – like anger, short temper, things like that. Those things you need to deal with, because there’s no reason why they should continue. Those are things that people can overcome.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “The most perfect of believers in faith are those with the most excellent character. And the best of you are the best of you to your women.” And there’s a beautiful poem by Jalal al Din al Rumi where he said:

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “That women totally dominate men of intellect and possessors of hearts. But ignorant men dominate women, for they are shackled by an animal ferocity. They have no kindness, gentleness, or love, since animality dominates their nature. Love and kindness are human attributes. Anger and sensuality belong to the animals.

That comes from a hadith in which the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was talking to some women and he said, “I’ve never seen a creature that has more possession over a man of intellect (lubdin) than you so.”

Rumi was taking that to another level of understanding. The reason that they have so much power is because these are people that have conquered their animal soul. So they’re not people that are going to dominate women. They’re not people that are going to oppress. They’re actually people that, because of the love and kindness, have overcome their souls.

They actually allow the women their shortcomings without demanding change. And that’s what Ibn Abbas, Allah be pleased with them, said about the verse in the Qur’an:

وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ

Allah said that, “Men have one degree over women.” (Sura al Baqara 2:228)

He said [that one degree] was relinquishing the right of a man for the woman (tanazul ‘an al haqq). Whereas he would not relinquish her rights. In other words he would fulfill all of her rights, but he would not demand of her all of his rights. That is the degree that men have over women, and that’s Ibn Abbas, Allah be pleased with him, who’s the translator of the Qur’an.

The Path of Least Resistance

One of the things also is just going the path of least resistance. Water puts out fire. Fire increases fire. If you look at the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, that was his strategy with people. Umar, Allah be pleased with him, said I once roared at my wife and she answered back. I rebuked her for bandying words with me. She then said, “Why should you rebuke me for answering you back? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, dispute with him and even ignore him for a night in a day.”

So, she was saying, “Who do you think you are?” Basically. The wives of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, do this to the Prophet and he is the best example. And Umar went and indeed found that from Hafsa. He went and asked Hafsa, who was his daughter, “Do you do that?” And he was shocked, but it changed his attitude.

When he was Khalifa, a man came to his house, knocked on the door, and then he heard Umar’s wife yelling at him. And he left. And Umar came out and said to him, “What happened?” The man said, “Nothing.” Umar said, “No, you came and knocked on my door. What you want?” He said, “I didn’t want anything.” Umar said, “By Allah, what do you want?” He said, “Well, I was going to come complain about my wife, but when I heard your wife I said there was no point in complaining to you.”

And Umar, Allah be pleased with him, said, “This is my wife. The mother of my children. She maintains my house. Cooks my food. Shouldn’t I have patience with her if she gets upset with me?” There’s the man who roared. That’s the change that occurred in him. That’s the point. People can change.

Ingratitude and Boasting

Another reminder, and this is to the women in particular, although it goes to both, is that the idea of ingratitude and boasting about things which haven’t been given. These are two problems that are more predominant in women than in men. The idea is the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “One of the worst qualities of women is that you can do a great deal for them for a lifetime and then one time you do something wrong and the woman will say, you’ve never done anything for me.”

And again this is important to note that when the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, speaks like this, it’s a generalization. It does not apply to everybody. It’s a reminder to women. The point of that is is that it’s important to keep in mind that even though people have shortcomings you have to look at the overall context. I think part of that is because women tend to move into the moment because of that emotional component that in many women is stronger than men.

When they move into that they’re in the moment completely. I think that’s what that is about. It’s part of the nature of many women and it was just a warning from the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, to be careful of becoming ungrateful to a husband.

The other thing is to claim to have been given things that she wasn’t given. This is in some superficial people but it’s a warning to women. It can be both in men and women. The idea of saying my husband did this for me or my husband did that for me to other women as a way of boasting. That should not be done.

The Right to Intimacy

Another mutual right is istimta‘ (intimacy). I mentioned this earlier with the women, the men’s right of haqq al istimta‘. But it’s a mutual right. The reason why it’s more emphasized in the man is 1) because the men are weaker in that area and 2) because it’s the haqq of a man if he calls his wife for that reason that she should respond.

For the woman generally that is not the case. But she is entitled to that how in the relationship, and it’s grounds for divorce if that haqq is not fulfilled. The ulama differ in that. In the Maliki madhhab, the haqq is that he sleep with her once every four nights. That is derived from the portion of legal entitlement. So if a man has other than one wife then that’s what happens. If there are four wives then it’s once every four nights.

Now just one thing about this. According to Sacred Law, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said in a hadith, “Why didn’t you marry a virgin, so you could play with her, and she with you?” That is part of the Maqasid al Shari‘a in marriage, which is mula‘aban muda‘aba – having that type of intimacy.

Obviously for a man who’s marrying for the first time it’s easier for that if he marries a virgin. When the man told the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, that the reason that he was marrying a non-virgin was because he had children, and he did not want to bring somebody that was inexperienced,” the Prophet praised him for that.

The Qur’an says:

وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

Man is created weak.(Sura al Nisa 4:28)

Most of the commentators say it’s relation is sexual desire of women. If passion overcomes a man he becomes incapable of reasoning and often of controlling the animal urges. So the spouse is a husn and that’s why the Arabic word for married is muhsan, which literally means fortified. It’s through your spouse that you’re protected. It becomes a fortification for your private parts. It is guarding you from doing something which is haram.

Marriage Is A Fortress

It’s not simply the sexual discharge. That’s one aspect but it’s not simply that. One of the things about when people come together is that there is an effect in the other realms. Angels are pleased about a man and a wife in their relationship. One of the things about the Sakina that comes out of that: the Arabs call it nawma al a‘rus, which is the sleep that occurs after people have intimacy.

It is a sleep that results from that Sakina. In other words, it’s a deep type of sleep, and it’s a blessing from Allah, Exalted and Most High. That’s why Imam al Ghazali said that “sensual pleasure is really an indication of the delight of akhirah.” That’s what he said it was. That Allah was giving the human being a glimpse of the delights of the akhirah. That’s why in the Qur’an those delights are often described in those terms.

One of the scholars of Andalusia said that “some have considered marriage and animal appetite: shahwa haywaniyya.’ He said, “and they declare themselves beyond it.” In the Christian religion it’s seen as a low thing, and so the priest or the monk says, I’m above this. And he continues, “Yet they call it with the noblest of names: haywan because haya is an attribute of God.

Legal Intimacy Is Nobility

It’s the same in our language. You say “animus.” Animal comes from animus, which is the soul. “Anima” is life. “Animated person” is a lively person. That noble quality of life. And he says, “What is more noble than life? What they believe to be an ugliness in their eyes is actually the opposite with people who have knowledge of Allah.” That is why Imam Nawawi, Allah be pleased with him, said, “All of the appetites harden the heart when indulged in, except sexual intimacy in a legal relationship. It has the opposite effect. It softens the heart.”

You will see often, especially with men, that if somebody is not married they can actually become hard. And you’ll see a transformation when they get married. They actually become more gentle and more patient – less angry. That’s why the Muslim world is very problematic now, because there are so many young men under 25 that aren’t married. And it’s not a good thing.

Traditionally people got married early. So actually marriage does have an effect on your psychological state, and that’s important to know. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “That all of life is a pleasure and the highest pleasure in life is a righteous wife.” And for a woman is that it’s a righteous husband.

Intimacy and Praiseworthy Modesty

Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al Arabi, who’s a great Maliki scholar from Andalusia, said, “A woman’s demand for sexual intercourse from her husband in no way negates praiseworthy modesty.” So it’s not from haya if she is desirous of that. “Nor does it negate virtuous dignity, because it is an essential goal of marriage.” In other words, is one of the reasons why people get married. “Thus if he was being difficult than she is permitted to demand it on religious grounds, and this is completely dignified demand on her part. So going to a qadi to complain to him about that is not seen as a breach of her modesty, because it’s a haqq of hers.

And obviously it could lead to problems – psychological problems. I was with Shaykh Khatari and he did some marriage counseling and and there was somebody who had a lot of psychological trouble. When we finished, the woman wasn’t in the room, he said to the man, “Why aren’t you sleeping with your wife?” And the man was really shocked. He said, “How did you know that?

The shaykh said, “Because of her state: the state she was in. It’s very common. I’ve seen it in my own people a lot. If a woman’s not having intimacy with her husband she goes into a state that has those same symptoms.” It can lead to psychological problems. People should be aware of that.