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Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 5: The Higher Aims of Fasting: Patience | Ustadh Tayssir Safi

 

It is important for us contemplate why outward devotional acts were legislated, and what are some of the key aims and wisdoms. Ustadh Mohammed Safi explains how one of the central aims of the fast is to help foster the virtue of patience. The outward struggle to refrain from the very key human desire to be satiated is a means of teaching us patience and helping us foster this central virtue of our faith.

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Ramadan: A Time for Spiritual Nourishment – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, provides scholarly insights and spiritual reflections through a collection of essays on how we can make the most of Ramadan.

The Fellowship of Rayyan

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who have faith! Fasting is prescribed upon you in as much as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness.” (Q, 2: 183).

This verse makes it quite clear that fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligation on every Muslim who has reached the age of legal responsibility (taklif/mukallaf). The key phrase in this verse, however, is the one that declares “so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness”; or, in the original Arabic “la’allakum tattaqun”. This phrase – and similar ones occur with great frequency throughout the Quran – also demonstrates how eminently practical the Quranic commands are. There is no promise that the mere act of fasting would result in taqwa. The reason for this is captured in numerous hadiths that speak about the spirit of Ramadan. While the “letter” is important in the form of the law, there can be little doubt that without an awareness, an understanding and an internalisation of this spirit, that no legal rules would be able to secure the benefits of fasting. While we may argue that knowledge of the legal rulings is a platitudinous necessity; we need to argue with even greater force that knowledge of the spirit of Ramadan is essential to the actualization of ourselves as people who fast.

Amongst the prophetic sayings that clearly point to this are the following:

 “How many a person fasts without gaining anything except hunger and thirst?” (Nisa’i and Ibn Majah).

This hadith is elaborated upon and explained by the following hadith:

“Those who refuse to renounce preaching and spreading falsehood and then acting upon such falsities, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink.” (Bukhari).


In another narration the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Fasting (siyam) is a fortress. Therefore, if the day of fasting arrives for any of you, then refrain from any obscene behaviour and any acts of rage. And if one is insulted or physically abused then respond with the words ‘Inni Sa’im’ – I am fasting!” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Those who have the capacity to exercise such discipline, patience and restraint while fasting, will certainly be amongst the Companions and Fellowship of Rayyan. Said the Prophet – and narrated by Sa’ad ibn Sahl:

“Indeed in Paradise there is a door called Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection those who have truly fasted shall qualify to enter that door. None other than them shall enter it. Once they have entered, the door shall be locked and barred, and none shall ever leave it.” (Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Khuzaymah).

We can only strive and qualify for entry into this illuminated Fellowship of Rayyan if we are able to fulfil the exacting tasks of the moral and spiritual demands of the month of Ramadan.

Sacrifice and Sincerity

 

وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
For men who fast and women who fast; for men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity; for men who remember Allah abundantly and women who remember Allah abundantly – for them Allah has set aside forgiveness and a great reward. (Q, 33: 35)

The Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said that Allah says:

“‘The reward for every deed of a person is multiplied by ten till seven hundred, except for fasting. Fasting is solely for My sake and I shall personally grant the reward. The fasting person abandons all desire and food for my sake.’ There are two occasions of joy for the one who fasts. The joy one experiences when breaking one’s fast and the joy one will experience when one meets one’s Lord.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Nisai, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

Two vital aspects of the condition of the fasting person are highlighted here. The first is the question of sincerity (ikhlas) and the second, that of sacrifice. The first will be dealt with here; the second in the next segment.

Unlike most sacred rituals, such as the salah for example, the act of fasting is not visible to anyone. It is almost impossible to determine whether a person is fasting or not. It is a matter entirely between the individual and Allah. In other words, it is an act of pure renunciation. As an act of pure renunciation, it brings us face-to-face with our basic human limitations and needs. And in exposing these needs – these limitations – we are in fact reminded that the normal and natural human condition ought to be one of humility and sincerity. It is only the Divine Condition that is exclusively and uniquely independent. Allah, stands alone and inimitable in His Lordship. We – as a composition of human beings, and often arrogantly so – are both dependent on and defenceless in the face of Allah’s Rububiyyah (Lordship). Allah is Rabb; the human is ‘abd. In other words, one of our defining conditions is ‘ubudiyyah (bondsmanship) and not Rububiyyah. It is in the recognition and acceptance of this state of ‘ubudiyyah that the paradox of the potential for a merciful coexistence with our fellow human beings reside – the male of us and the female of us. For it is in the recognition of this state of ‘bondsmanship’ that we discover the liberating rhythms of sincerity and humility. Humility is neither slavery nor subservience. It is a deferential state that finds its life in the hearts of the sincere and that bursts into a reverential song that celebrates the humanity, the diversity and the humanness of another. It is in this song – this song of humility and sincerity; this song of the heart – that we come to discover the meaning of respect. Hence the Prophetic command to avoid any form of obscenities (rafath) and raging (sakhab) during the month of Ramadan. No amount of hunger and thirst can either undo or even legitimise the iniquitous results of the latter two conditions.

Severing our ties with the material world during this month is merely an aid to accomplishing these elevated states of spirituality and morality. In essence, fasting is an act of self-extinction. Those, therefore, who fast the month of Ramadan with faith “(imanan) and with selfless anticipation of Allah’s generosity and reward in the hereafter (ihtisaban)” [Bukhari and Muslim] will find their reward inexpressibly immeasurable. It is for this reason – as mentioned earlier – that only Allah as opposed to any other sacred and divine reward – knows the measure of the reward of the one who truly fasts for His sake alone.

Sabr: Patience, Endurance and Perseverance

 

Sabr (patience and endurance) is mentioned in the Quran more than 90 times.

Amongst these verses is the following:

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Obey Allah and His messenger. And do not fall into disputation amongst yourselves; for in such disputation you will lose your strength. So be patient, for indeed, Allah is with those who patiently endure (sabr). (Q, 8: 46).

Apart from the Divine rewards for this sacred human quality there are also earthly rewards. Very few things of worth come without a struggle. The joy a mother feels at giving birth is a result of nine months of patience and endurance. Likewise, the joy of graduating, of having completed a successful assignment at work, of completing a brilliant work of art, and so on, are all the fruits of sabr.

The month of Ramadan is also referred to as the Shahr as-Sabr (The Month of Patience and Endurance). On the other hand, as the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Clemency is from Allah and haste is from satan.” (Tirmidhi).

Things done in haste, unthinkingly, impulsively and rashly are invariably bereft of barakah (divine grace). Even our struggles against the worst of oppression need to be conducted with wisdom and deliberation. One of the most touching hadiths dealing with the overzealous and reckless nature of haste is the following narrated by Khabbab ibn al-Aratt (May Allah be pleased with him) in Sahih Bukhari. The Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) were distressed by the persecution of Muslims in Makkah and – close to despair – they turned to the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) for help.

The narration is as follows:

We raised a complaint with the Messenger of Allah while he was reclining on a shawl spread out in the shade of the Ka’ba. We said: “Do you not seek assistance for us? Do you not pray for us?
The Prophet (saw) then said: “There was a time before you when a man would be taken and partially placed and buried in the earth. They would then approach him with a saw, place it on his head and slice him in two. He would then be lacerated – both flesh and bones – with rakes of steel so that he may stop pursuing his beliefs. But I swear by Allah, that Allah desires your freedom to worship to the point where one may travel from Sana’a to Hadramawt fearing none other than Allah, even while a wolf is stalking his flock. But you…you are impatient!” (Bukhari).

However, to some, the question of sabr can be an elusive matter. What we need to understand first is that this world which we inhabit is a Dar al-Bala’ (An Abode of Appraisal). We will be tested, and our attitudes and responses evaluated. The best of us would be those whose attitudes and responses most closely approximate to that of the Prophetic standard and the Quranic ethos. Allah says:

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُور
Blessed is He in Whose Hands lie all dominion. And He has power over all things.
The One who has created Death and Life so that He may test those who are best in deeds. (Q, 67: 1-2).

In the sacred order of things, nihilism is absent. In this passage of the Quran, Death and Life are personified aspects of a real existence – aspects through and by which we will be tested. Those who pass this test are the people of ihsan – those whose thoughts, conduct and behaviour are marked by excellence, both outwardly and inwardly.

In three striking passages of the Quran Allah (swt) reveals three blessings of which the sabirin will be the fortunate beneficiaries. Says Allah:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

We shall indeed test you with something of fear and hunger, and some loss in wealth and life and the fruits (of your labour). But give the Good News to those who patiently endure.

Those who say – when afflicted by a calamity – “To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.”

They are those on whom the blessings of Allah descend and upon whom the Mercy of Allah is; and they are the truly guided. (Q, 2: 155-7)

It is clear from these verses that those who patiently endure are the recipients of the following three unique rewards:
1) The Grace and Blessings of Allah (Salawat)
2) His Mercy (Rahmah) and
3) The beneficiaries and recipients of His direct guidance (Huda).

Nonetheless it is important to understand – as so many mistakenly do – that sabr does not include all forms of tests and hardships, regardless of the nature. This is a seriously incorrect understanding.

Sabr eminently belongs to a domain of testing and suffering that is largely out of our reach. Such as, for example, being diagnosed with a deadly illness, the loss of a loved one or an economic crisis for which there is no immediate solution etc.

Other than the above, such as abusive husbands, tyrannical rulers, discrimination and injustice which are all within our reach to change, these are all conditions that demand, as our Islamic duty, that we attempt to try and change. Said the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him):

Those of you who witness an abomination, let him change it with his hands; if he is unable to do so, then let him speak out against it; and if he cannot do even that, then let him reject it in his heart – and this latter is the lowest form of Iman. (Muslim).

May Allah cast us all in the mould of those who are able to patiently endure those vicissitudes of life that are often not within our reach to change or alter. But let Allah also provide us with the moral strength and courage to change those forms of unwarranted tyranny, abuse and injustice, all of which are nothing less than a reprehensible slap in the face of Islam.

 


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim 500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

Is COVID-19 a Divine Punishment? – Shaykh Ahmed El Azhary

“Is COVID-19 a punishment from Allah?” is definitely a repeated question these days. I know of many Muslims who are asking themselves as they see all the mosques around the world, especially al-Haram al-Makki and al-Masjid al-Nabawi, closed: Is this a sign that Allah is angry at us? Are we being punished from Allah for all of our wrong-doings and short-comings as Muslims? 

Well, the closure of mosques – and also the shutdown of life as we knew it just few months ago – is certainly a “reminder” from Allah that we are after all not in control of things. It is a reminder of all the bounties that we had and never were appreciative or grateful for. Praying in mosques, or I should rather say “The Mosque-life,” was a gigantic blessing that deserved and required from us more care, gratitude, and respect. The closure of mosques is perhaps a reminder that we as Muslims cannot be turning the houses of worship into arenas for egos to battle and for greed to manifest.

And while the closure of mosques is a reminder from Allah of how we should value the houses of worship, staying at home is also a reminder of how we ought to carry our family lives. It is a reminder that our homes require our absolute attention; that our families deserve that we invest more time in them; and that our children need our direct effort in educating and teaching them about both religion and life. 

So, COVID-19 is absolutely a reminder of all of these things and many more, but is it really a “punishment” from Allah? Allah the Most High has told us clearly in the Qur’an that we shall be tested. He said in verse (155) of Surat al-Baqarah: “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits but give good tidings to the patient.” And He said in verse (31) of Surat Muhammad: “And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you and the patient, and We will test your affairs.” So, we were told in the Qur’an that there will be “tests” that shall bring to the surface what is hidden in our hearts and minds. For this reason, amongst others, we can say that such tests are in actuality blessings, because they provide us with inner illumination. They inform us about ourselves and give us opportunity to understand ourselves better. Hence, they help us to improve and develop ourselves spiritually, as Imam Ibn `Ata’ Allah (may Allah be pleased with him) said in his Aphorisms: “States of need are gift-laden carpets.” However, it is our response to these difficulties that defines whether or not they are punishments, because if one responds to such states of need with anger, irritation and annoyance that would imply that they are punishments, because obviously that would mean the person has failed the test. On the other hand, if one responds to such turbulences with patience and resilience that would suggest that these events were sent as means for expiation of sins and salvation from past misdeeds. Better than this, if one responds to these dire circumstances with acceptance, good-will and content, then that would be an indicator that one’s spiritual rank has elevated, and it is a sign of one’s closeness to Allah the Most High. So, in these regards, COVID-19 is one event – one test – that means different things and brings different results for different people. And Allah knows best.

May Allah grant us wisdom and awareness; keep us away from foolishness and pretension; and protect us from both the diseases of the body and the diseases of the heart. 


Biography of Shaykh Ahmed Hussein El Azhary:

Shaykh Ahmed El Azhary is a researcher in Islamic intellectual history and a teacher of Islamic traditional sciences. He’s currently a teacher of Hadith, Usūl, Logic, and Kalam at Rawdatul-Na`īm under the supervision of Habib `Ali al-Jifrī; and at Madyafat Shaykh Ismaīl Sadiq al-`Adawī (RA), a prominent learning center by al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.

Formerly, Shaykh Ahmed worked as a Lead Researcher at Tabah Foundation. He was appointed by Habib `Ali al-Jifrī to architect the philosophical framework of Suaal initiative – an initiative concerned with modeling an Islamic philosophical response to contemporary existential questions, supervised by Shaykh `Ali Jumu`ah, Habib `Umar and Shaykh Usama al-Azhary. Shaykh Ahmed continues to participate in Suaal initiative through essays, public lectures, and workshops.

Shaykh Ahmed studied Anthropology at American University in Cairo and received his training in Leadership Communication from Tulane University and The University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also a life-long learner. He holds a diversified portfolio of almost 50 certificates in a variety of subjects – extending from Teaching Character and Clinical Psychology of Children and Young People to Complexity Theory, Model Thinking and Conflict Analysis.

Shaykh Ahmed began his journey of studying traditional sciences about 20 years ago. In addition to studying with scholars from al-Azhar, he had the privilege of studying with visiting scholars from Algeria and India in a one-on-one format and was thus given an exceptional opportunity to study and discuss advanced-level texts of different sorts and over a long period of time. Shaykh Ahmed has more than 70 Ijazas from scholars from all over the Muslim world.


 

The Prophetic Paradigm of Dealing With Problems – Shaykh Amin Kholwadia

* Courtesy of Darul Qasim

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Amin Kholwadia reminds the congregation that the absence of problems in society are not a sign of communal success or well being. Human nature and society is inextricably bounded to problems and challenges. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to deal with problems and challenges on a daily basis. Furthermore, Islamic history is replete with events and episodes of turmoil and issues. Therefore, instead of rebelling against human nature, Muslims should adopt the approach and methodology of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in dealing with problems. He (peace be upon him) showed us through his blessed life that Islam teaches us how to navigate through human complexity. It is time that we realize this and embrace the Prophetic qualities of patience, forbearance, struggle, compassion and generosity in dealing with life and others. We should do our best in providing ease and assistance to those who are suffering from the challenges of life, and try to create a peaceful society by following the Prophetic model.

* Originally published on the 21st of October 2019

Cultivating Patience Through Your Small Children – Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil explores how having small children can build patience and help you get closer to Allah.patience

When you are a mother to small children, one crucial virtue is developed over the slow and inexorable passage of time – patience.

With little ones, everything is slowed down. They need so much support, from the minute they are born, to many years after that.

Gratitude

Having little children also gives me so many things to feel grateful for. Basic acts that I once took for granted are suddenly so precious. Sleeping for long stretches at night, eating a meal or drinking hot tea without interruption – these are the small blessings that I didn’t even realise were blessings, until I had one baby, and then another.

I became a mother upon the arrival of my first daughter, in June 2015. I have been either pregnant, breastfeeding, or both, ever since. Because of this, I have been living in a very different, almost altered, state of reality. The potent combination of oxytocin, broken sleep, cuddles and tantrums have been the ultimate crucible for the straitening of my nafs.

I will surface out of this, some day, and I pray that the version of myself will be kinder, more patient, more resilient, and more grateful. Most of all, I hope I will sleep better.

Losing Control

Before I had children, I was impatient. I liked to feel in control. I liked life to go ‘to plan’. I was a meticulous planner, and I realised now how much I relied on external calm to help me attain some measure of internal calm. It would never last, of course. Allah Most High always sent me something to knock the wind out of me – again.

Now I’ve come to realise that with raising little ones, there is no control. There is only surrender, and embracing the chaos.

Babies Without Schedules

While I was a fresh-faced undergrad, I knew a mother who smiled at my carefully curated study timetables. She smiled, chuckled, then said, “Babies have their own schedule.” I had no idea what she meant. Ten years later, and I finally do.

Resistance to Reality Causes Stress

Stress is resistance to reality. And I can make a tough afternoon with my girls even harder by wishing I were somewhere else. What actually helps is taking a deep breath, exhaling, and accepting that this is hard, and asking myself – what do I need to nourish myself, right now? Often, everything feels worse when I’ve forgotten to eat, in the rush of feeding my kids. Filling my own self-care cup is the best way for me to meet the needs of my small children.

Accept the Untouched Planner

I don’t have a planner anymore. Actually, I do, but I rarely get the chance to use it. My eldest daughter draws cats on the mostly untouched pages, and she was so excited to see how I had circled her birth date in June, and wrote “My baby turns 4!”. She insisted that I write it again, so I did.

Something so unremarkable to me – writing words on paper – utterly enthrals her. And that’s one of the many gifts of having such little children. There are so many firsts, and everything is a marvel. They slow us down, and bring us the gift of the present moment. Babies and small children are masters of mindfulness. It’s up to us to choose to be open to what they have to teach us, every day.


Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.


 

Being Patient Despite Financial Hardship

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat advises on how to bear the trials and hardships that one faces with patience and acceptance.

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I’m a young adult and it seems my family and I have never ending financial difficulties. I feel we are all doing our best, yet we struggle even with meeting our daily needs sometimes. The fact that money controls a lot in your life is taking a toll on me.

This question can go much deeper because everyone has different circumstances but what I”m trying to get at is how do I make sure I’m being patient, pleased with, and grateful when I feel so beaten down by life.

Is there a specific dua you would recommend? At times I do get angry and discontented with my situation. and often at myself because I feel like I’m not helping out in my family financially as much as I should. What limits me is my mental illness, I can’t really function due to it. Any advice will be appreciated.

Thank you.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

Everyone is tested in life. The tests are not necessarily a bad thing. Allah changes us through the tests for the better. Sometimes we feel pain because others hurt us, and sometimes our situation in general pushes us to the limit of what we can bear.

Throughout all of this one should remember the words of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, “[I am truly] amazed at the affair of the believer. Everything that happens to him is the best for him – and that is not the case for anyone except the believer! If good times come to him He is grateful and that is best for him. And if difficulties come to him he is patient and that is better for him.”

It is important to note that the one expressing wonder here in this hadith is the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. He was granted more knowledge of the reality of things than anyone else created by Allah. If he was amazed by the great consequences of the tests a believer faces in life, then we should realize that everything that happens to a believer is a gift from our Loving Lord.

Allah Makes Us Grow Through Trials

Our difficulties do not leave us as the people we were before we were tested with them. This growth is on many levels – but most importantly, it is a means of drawing closer to Allah. The key to it is patience.

Patience (Sabr), in many prophetic narrations, is connected to expecting a reward from Allah (Ihtisab). This means that one of the means to getting through a difficulty is to keep your focus on the rewards Allah has promised His believing servants. This will help you look beyond your immediate difficulties and see the bigger picture.

Maryam – the Mother of Isa

It is possible to become overwhelmed with emotions when in very difficult situations, as was the case with Sayyidi Maryam when she was giving birth the prophet Isa, Allah bless them and our Messenger, and give them all peace.

She was from a family of righteous people with prophets as relatives and ancestors. She had been known for righteousness, and had been pledged to worship in the synagogue by her mother from before her birth. She was the paragon on virtue, religiousness, and chastity. And suddenly she found herself all alone, giving birth to a child who had no father.

Imagine all her feelings, her pain, her worry, her fear of people leveling accusations against her out of ignorance, and what her family must endure because of it. All of this, combined with the difficulties of labor made her say, “O how I wish that I had died long before this, or that I was some worthless object, forgotten.” (Sura Maryam 19:23).

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ajiba, when commenting on this verse said that it is possible to say something unbecoming when overwhelmed by a situation, but one should not stay in such a state. How? By looking at those before us, and how their trials ended up being the means of them being raised above others.

She gave birth to one of the greatest of the prophets, and someone through whom Allah will give the ultimate victory to the Muslims through at the End of Times. She attained the highest rank of iman a believer can be blessed with and was used as a role model for believing women in the Qur’an. She is fortunate to be the mother of Isa, and he is also blessed to be her son.

Where are all these virtues, and where is the pain she experienced in those fleeting moments?

Practical Steps

Keep reminding yourself that Allah – the All-Merciful – is using this test as a means of making you draw closer to Him. He has been giving you blessings all your life. In reality, if we think about matters, we live better than many kings did in the past. Just the blessing of being able to flush your waste down the toilet, and not having to haul it outside to dispose of it is something many people could not do without.

Shaykh Ahmad b. Ataʾillah advised us, “Let the pain of your tribulation be lightened by your knowing that it is He – Transcendent beyond imperfections is He  – who is the one testing you. The one from whom the blows of fate have come is the very same being who has accustomed you to Him choosing the best for you.” (Ibn Ataʾillah, al-Hikam).

If he has granted you priceless gifts such as faith, He certainly has a plan for you. Watch it unfold.

Seek Treatment

You mental issues clearly play a part in your difficulties. Seek medical treatment and try to keep the company of people who will inspire and support you. This is critical. You cannot rise if you spend time with people who kick you down.

One Day at a Time

Don’t worry about the next week, month, or year. Live each day with your concern being the five prayers, and thanking Allah for what you do have in them. Worrying about the long term leads to anxiety.

Part of the trick here is letting things unfold as they do. Resisting leads to pain. Let things happen. Allah will take care of you. Remembrance of Allah helps a great deal with this. Send blessings on the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, with the focus on Allah raising His rank and giving him more blessings. This will help avert your focus on your own pain.

Ask Allah

Whatever the difficulty is – financial or otherwise – the only one who can fix things in reality is Allah. Turn to Him, pray for others in a similar situation, and you’ll see a response. Even if it takes a while to come. It will come.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

Abdul-Rahim.

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

 


 

How to Be Consistent

Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat gives advice on how to overcome doubts about one’s faith, and to seek help against self-sabotage.

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I have a question about consistency in my ibada. Honestly, sometimes I feel like not being honest in them because I’m not consistent like in my prayers. I’ll pray for example my five daily prayers for six months and then suddenly stop even though a week ago I just felt like I “refreshed” my iman. I feel like a munafiq and I want to solve this problem by the root.

When I started to pray at the age of eleven, I did it consistently for one year then stopped then started again and so on. There must be something wrong. Now I’m trying again but still having difficulties. I don’t have this desire. I feel like I have to do this and don’t want it – thinking in my soul of being somewhere else when I pray. I’m at the end of choosing what to study in university and finishing school and therefore have a desire to return to Allah because I feel like I’m unsafe without Allah guiding me in making these decisions.

I’m praying istikhara and there is no feeling or any kind of thing I might interpret as a sign to choose option A or B. Therefore I am really feeling like a hypocrite Allah doesn’t care about. There are times I cry out of sadness about my situation but there is always a voice in my head telling me: “Stop crying! You’re just acting. Tomorrow you’ll do it again. Who do you think are you fooling?” And I sincerely believe this voice. Because I am weak.

I think this might be Shaytan or my self-doubt but still, I feel like a munafiq even though I make “tawba.” Something in my iman must be wrong something in the root of my din and I don’t know what it us or how to deal with it. I watched a lecture by Mufti Menk where a man had the same situation and said you are not making your tawba correctly, so what might I do wrong? Please help me I am hoping for an answer that could show me the real problem.

I reflected upon my sins and if I started a new sin that I didn”t do when I prayed but there wasn’t anything “new” or a change in number either. I don’t feel like a real Muslim because of my lack in my prayers. Somehow I can’t establish the importance of my prayers in my heart or mentally meaning there must be something wrong with my heart. What can I do? I visited lectures. I went and still go to the mosque. I have more friends practicing Islam than ever.

Did I maybe just pray when I was eleven because as a child my heart was cleaner? How can I clean my heart? How can I make sincere tawba? Did Allah already seal my heart? Am I already lost? May Allah protect scholars and Islamic websites like these they helped me a lot insha Allah. Allah will reward you for this crucial work.

May Allah protect you from all evil.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

Therapy

It seems to me that you have unresolved emotional problems from your past which are affecting your understanding and practice of the din. Usually, a telltale sign on this is a repeated pattern of behavior which tends to resurface from time to time with no apparent reason. There are reasons, however; it’s just that they are not connected to the symptoms on a conscious level.

From your question it is very clear that you suffer from dysfunctional guilt. This sort of guilt leaves people unable to do anything positive. Usually guilt can lead one to repent and change, but in your situation it is overwhelming such that your repentance isn’t ‘good enough’.

Self-Sabotage

Very often, people with issues of this nature do certain things which eventually cause them further problems later. This is known as self-sabotage. It seems like your missing your prayers is of this nature. You pray, and when something triggers problematic emotions or memories, you miss your prayers. This then leads you to beating yourself up for missing the prayers and the guilt.

Voices in Your Head

If you are hearing voices in your head you need to seek professional help immediately. These matters are serious, and if left unchecked, can develop into worse conditions later on. Seek help, and tell your loved one and friends so they can support you through this trial. Don’t try to do it alone.

Ask Allah for Help

Allah sees your situation, and He knows what you are going through. Have a good opinion of Him; believe that Allah will bring the best results for you through this trial, and know that every difficulty the believer faces is a means for drawing closer to Allah, and for sins to be forgiven.

Ask Allah to strengthen you to deal with this trial – no matter how long it lasts. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us, “Whoever tries to be patient, Allah makes him patient. And no one has been given a gift better or wider [in its scope] than patience.” (Bukhari).

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

Abdul-Rahim

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

 


 

 

 

The Elements of Gratitude

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani takes a very close look at the meaning of gratitude in Sura Ibrahim 14:7 and how gratitude can be shown in every moment of our lives.

Why do we obey Allah? Out of gratitude. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?” If we look at the Qur’an, Allah tells us in Sura Ibrahim 14:7. There’s a context to this which, is our master Musa’s proclamation to Bani Israel and so on. You can read the tafsir of the context. There’s a specific context to this verse. It’s one of the marvels of the Qur’an.

If a friend of mine and I are having conversation and you strip it of its context, what will happen? It won’t make sense. But the Qur’an has a specific context either within the text of the Qur’an itself or the context of Revelation. That gives insight into the meaning, but the general meaning of the words is not affected by the context, in so far as the general meaning still applies.

If someone asked me: “All right have you had lunch?” And I say: “No. I haven’t. I’m hungry.” If I say I am hungry, it doesn’t apply for all the time. It just applies in this context. But the guidance of the Qur’an, though there’s a specific context here related to Bani Israel. This is what our master Musa is told to tell them: “When your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, surely, My punishment is severe.’”

A Serious Proclamation

There are a number of things related to this verse. Ibn Ajiba in his tafsir, Al-Bahr al-Madid, mentioned that the first thing is: This is a proclamation from Allah. An adhan is a public announcement is a public announcement. So it’s much more emphatic than simply saying something. You are announcing it widely.

But it’s not just that. It says: “wa idh ta’adhdhana Rabbukum.” The tafa‘‘ala pattern in the Arabic language conveys active effort. That is, your Lord fully proclaims – fully proclaims. This is meant like, “Get it!” It’s not just an announcement. This is in bold, red, capital letters. A major proclamation. This is not just something Allah is telling you. He’s proclaiming. Pay attention.

It’s difficult to to translate the Qur’an. It’s impossible to translate the Qur’an because to catch the eloquence you have to be brief, but to convey the meaning you’d have to be very wordy. So “When your Lord openly proclaims, widely, demanding full attention for the proclamation.” Then comes a conditional statement. “If you are grateful then We shall surely grant you increase.”

The Elements of Gratitude

How are you grateful? The scholars of tafsir say, the believers’ gratitude is to respond to the gift of life with recognition of the Bestower of gifts through having faith. Because if you recognize that your life is a gift, who is it a gift from? It’s a gift from the Creator. So, believe in Him! That’s the first element of gratitude.

Then if you recognize that Allah has granted you health, has blessed you with these limbs, what is the recognition for your physical blessings? It is righteous deeds. Each limb has blessings that are due for them.

Literally if you translate the verse, you say, if you have been grateful. It’s put in the past tense. In the Arabic language when you put something in the past tense meaning: “If you are fully grateful,” that gratitude is a standard. It’s not just something you do. It’s done with. You have full gratitude.

The response to your gratitude, Allah emphasizes this several fold in saying “la’azidannakum.” The letter lam here is for emphasis. The letter nun is also for emphasis. The fact that is formed as a conditional sentence, “If you are grateful, then I will grant you increase,” is also for emphasis.

The Promised Increase

It’s fascinating, because what will you be granted an increase in? Normally someone says, e.g. if you clear the snow from the driveway, I’ll give you…” and you mention what you will give. But Allah Most High says: “I will grant you increase.” But the increase is not specified. Meaning it’s unconditional.

The gratitude is a condition. What are you grateful for? Whatever you’re grateful for you’ll be granted increase beyond measure. Beyond measure. Now this increase is both of the good of this life and the good of the next as we know from the Qur’an. So gratitude secures increase in worldly terms but there is also the eternal increase of reward.

The basic increase of any good deed is that Allah rewards it tenfold. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us: “A good deed is rewarded tenfold, up to 700 times, to many times thereof.” One of the things that takes the good deed from having ten rewards to having 700 or beyond measure is if you do the same thing with gratitude Allah will reward it far more than doing the same deed with sincerity but lacking in gratitude.

The Sunna of Action

The sunna of action is that anything that you do should have two qualities. One is sincerity. That will secure you some multiplication for your reward. But the other key to increase the spiritual impact and the eternal rewards is gratitude. That’s the prophetic way. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?”

The scholars mention that if you look at prophetic teachings; if you are grateful, Allah does not say, If you are grateful for the things that are pleasing to you. That is the obvious gratitude. If there’s something pleasing to you be grateful. That is the common person’s gratitude. But the true believers’ gratitude – the gratitude of the righteous believer is in pleasing things but also in difficulty and distress, because the distress is also from Allah Most High.

This is why Ibn Ata’illah in his Hikam says: “If f you can see Allah’s giving when He withholds from you then Allah’s withholding becomes from His giving itself.” Why? Our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, says in a sahih hadith: “How strange are the affairs of the believer, because their affair is all for their good. That’s for no one but the believer. Pleasing things happen to them, they are grateful and that is for their good. Distressful things happen to them, they are contentedly patient, and that too is for their good.”

The Meaning of True Patience

Contented patience is a branch of gratitude, because the patience of the believer is not a begrudging patience. “What can I do about, you know? Just grit my teeth and deal with it.” That’s not gratitude. That’s not patience. They say that the beginning of true patience is leaving complaints.

There is a level below patience which is making yourself be patient. Which is take a breath, don’t complain, but you feel complaint within. That’s not patience. That’s not steadfastness. That is what is called “making yourself be patient.”

True patience has gratitude in it. True gratitude is to see everything as a blessing from Allah. Allah Most High tells us: “Say, it is all from Allah.” Gratitude in one sense has an action and a response. The action is Allah’s, which is, it is all from Allah. Whatever comes to you is from Allah, so you see everything as from Allah.

Your response is to respond in the way pleasing to Allah. That is gratitude. Divine action–human response. The human response is the response that Allah has called you to have. And the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation.

What is the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation? That’s a sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. In any situation there is an outward sunna and an inward sunna. It’s action and attitude. That’s basically life.


Leaving Sins, Both Manifest and Hidden

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani expands on Sura al-An‘am 6:120, detailing what it means to leave manifest and hidden sins, and to find contentment in Allah.

One of the times when people really hurt themselves is in trials, because outwardly the trial itself doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. Whatever happens outwardly doesn’t harm you in any way whatsoever. What harms you is how you respond to what happens to you.

If you drown in a tsunami you’re not harmed in any way. If you respond to it right; you accept that you die. You die a martyr. You’re eternally in paradise. You weren’t harmed. Someone beats you up, but you were patient. It’s not the outward that harms you. It is how you respond to it.

So in trials, knowing how you turn to Allah Most High, how you respond, is one of the greatest of possibilities, because if Allah loves the servant He sends them trials.

Whoever Is Content Shall Find Contentment

If you respond to the trial in the way that is pleasing to Allah, you are the beloved of Allah Most High. At the same time the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, told us that Allah sends us trials. Whoever is content with Allah shall find contentment. Whoever is angered, whoever is upset, shall find anger and upset.

Whoever is content shall find contentment, meaning that they’ll find Allah’s contentment and Allah will place contentment in their hearts. Whoever is angered and upset will find the anger and upset of Allah upon them. And they will find a heart state of anger and upset.

This is one of the hidden sins. No one sees it. And it’s subtle because it is not simply what you claim, but actually how you are. One way of looking at leaving outward and inward sin. Leaving outward sin is leaving disobedience to Allah Most High. Leaving inward sin is leaving objection to Allah Most High.

That is integral to faith. One of the pillars of faith is that you believe, that you have conviction in, and accept and submit and surrender to the reality of divine decree. That it’s good and it’s bad are from Allah Most High.

Trials Are Tremendous Opportunities

This is why trials are a tremendous opportunity from Allah Most High. The righteous would rejoice more in trials then the common person rejoices in blessings. As the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him said: “The people most tested are the prophets, and then the righteous, and there were those from the people before you who would rejoice more in tribulations than you rejoice in blessings.”

Why? Because they saw the trials, the tribulations, the difficulties as being opportunities of expressing one’s love of Allah. Of expressing the true thankfulness to Allah. Of expressing one’s slave-hood to Allah. Of expressing one’s recognition of the Lordship of Allah Most High.

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shagouri said: “The slaps of the beloved, how sweet they are.” Because the lover realizes that everything is from the Beloved, and everything that is from the Beloved is beloved.

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said: “Let your knowing that it is He who is trying you diminish the pain of trials.” And are you accustomed to anything from Him except excellence and has He has he made you habituated to anything but what is good for you? You just need to learn how to turn in each situation in the way that is entailed by that situation.

What Is Entailed by Leaving Sin

Part of what is entailed by leaving sin that is hidden his contentment and surrender to Allah Most High. This is from hidden sin and from the sin that a lot of people are in. “Why is a lot doing this to me?” You are married you wanted a happy marriage. That’s not the way of the believer.

What should the believer seek? “I consign my affair to my Lord. And Allah indeed knows well His servants.” He knows what they need. He knows what they’ll benefit from. He knows what’s good for them. Allah is telling us that He will test us both with good and with bad as a trial. And the trial of good is sometimes more intense than the trial of difficulty.

One of the great Imams of the spiritual path, Ibn Ajiba, in his dictionary of spiritual terms, says that rida (contentment) is to face destruction with a smiling face. Everything that’s coming to you is coming from Allah, so you face it with a heart that is smiling.

The Vision of the Believer

The believer sees with two eyes. One eye is the eye of faith. “Say, It is all from Allah.” At that level the believer is smiling regardless of what’s happening. It’s from Allah. This is the creating of Allah. If He is your beloved, the lover has no objection to their beloved.

Ibn al-Farid says: “Punish me with what You will other than distance from You. For You will find me the most loyal of lovers.” And this is love. This is how love is, otherwise it’s mere pretense.

Another definition of contentment is happiness that one finds in one’s heart as destiny (qada) descends. Qada refers to the blows of destiny. You lost your job and the heart should be smiling. It’s from Allah. You take the outward means because that is what slave-hood entails. You take the means but you see everything as being from Allah Most High.

Another definition of contentment is to leave your choice for the sake of Allah – in what Allah has chosen and made to pass. We make our plans, we take our means, but it is Allah’s choice that comes to pass and you surrender your choice to His.

Leaving Your Plan for His Plan

You are planning to do your PhD and you’ve saved for it and worked for it, and done this and that. Then something happened and your parents need you. They need you to work and not to do your PhD right now. So you leave what you planned for what Allah is pointing you towards.

Yet another definition of contentment is for one’s hard to find expansiveness and to leave all objection to what comes to one from the One and Overwhelming: Allah Most High. That’s contentment. Surrender.

This is a reality of Islam: it is taslim. To leave self-direction. That is that you try to force your preferences in life rather than submitting to what is from Allah and what Allah is pointing one too. Leaving your personal choice.

You take the means. This is what you’d like to do. This is what appears to be good. But as things unfold, if you are awake and conscious and reflective, other things are entailed. So as things unfold you leave your choice for what is preferable with Allah Most High. You leave what you would like to direct yourself to to what Allah is directing you to.

Consigning One’s Affairs to Allah

This is the meaning of consigning one’s affairs to Allah Most High. How do you attain this contentment in surrender? Ibn Ajiba says: “It begins with patience,” which is to hold yourself to what is pleasing to Allah. “And to struggle.” To force yourself to be content. To surrender. To say, “Okay, this is what is right. I’ll do it even though I don’t feel like it.” Fake it…

The first step is patience. The intermediate level of contentment and surrender is to find serenity and to hold yourself to serenity. When the thoughts of objection and dislike come, you don’t even listen to the whisperings of why. “The lover is death to those who deny love.” To be a believer you need to learn how to love.

The end of contentment and surrender – to be fully realized by contentment and surrender – is when you find rejoicing along with that serenity and no impulse towards objection or dislike. These are stations of believers, because in every moment you are in a state of being completely enveloped by divine bounty, and by divine mercy, and by divine blessings.

The Lover Moves by the Grace of the Beloved

Hence the divine command: “Say, in the bounty of Allah and His is blessing, in that let them rejoice,” (Sura Yunus 10:58) because the contentment and surrender is with Allah and to Allah, so that whatever comes from Allah is accepted. True contentment and true surrender is with Him, Most High.

This is a little of what can be mentioned regarding this great verse: “Leave sin, both manifest and hidden.” (Sura al-An‘am 6:120). One has to be careful that one not only leaves disobedience manifest and hidden, but also leaves objection to one’s Lord, Most High.

The first step on the path to Allah is to leave the thing that calls you to turn away from the path to Allah, or that holds you back on the path to Allah, which is what the essence of sin is. May Allah make us of those rush to Him and who draw close to Him. Amin.


Begin Right, Begin Light: New Year Message by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

As 2019 begins, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani encourages us to look forward positively and see everything around us as signs from Allah.

Much is going on in the world, much that can be considered stressful, disappointing and devastating However, the believer looks at the world as a sign of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, when he would wake up for night worship, would recite:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.  (Sura Ali Imran, 2: 190-191)

Signs in the creation point to the Creator. A believer looks from the eye of faith; everything in this world is from Allah. The struggle of servitude is figuring out how to turn to Allah in the moments where He manifests.

Life is about the Beloved, and there is one Beloved: Allah. The believer sees everything in their life as good, and reminds themselves about Allah’s call to seek Him and know Him.

When we begin something with Bismillah, we are saying, “I am doing this with Allah, for Allah, reliant upon Allah.” These are the keys to the beginning of guidance.

Let’s begin our year with light, and make our year a year of light. Let’s make everything for Allah, reliant on Allah, with Allah and conscious of Allah. If love for Allah is true, what is there to worry about? Everything else is mere dust.

However, there are things to do, so let us direct ourselves to the highest of matters in the best of ways, recognising our shortcomings.

May Allah grant us the most blessed of years, most blissful of years, a year of light, where we begin right and end right, beginning with Allah and ending with Allah. We are Allah’s and to Him we are ever returning.