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Spiritual Activism: Uniting Soul, Mind and Body

There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic spirituality and social or political activism. In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism, says Shaykh Riad Saloojee.

Islam provides a view of human reality that is cogent, holistic and practical. This view is always sensitive to both the constant and changing needs of the human experience. It is from the remarkable and miraculous beauty of Islam that all elements of the human identity are fused together seamlessly.

The spiritual heart

The spiritual heart, with its need for timeless truths and values; the intellect, with its need to conceive and chart a course for a life of freedom and happiness; the senses and limbs, with their energetic need to do, to affect, to change – all have their place.

Heartless spirituality, runaway reason, and barren, mechanistic action have no place in Islam.

Allah says:

By the passage of time. Surely, mankind is in loss. Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (Qur’an 103:1-3)

The fire of belief

The seat of belief is the heart. The heart is the locus of normative perception, experience and will. It is the fire of belief that sparks all movement and action.

The overflow of belief with its normative ordering of our world – the experience (and not mere rational conceptualization) of Divine oneness (tawhid), and the desire, momentum and resolution generated by this – gives birth to action.

That action, the work of goodness, is the emotional and physical manifestation of the exigencies of tawhid and its values of justice, equity, kindness, moderation, love and generosity. This work is first manifested within me, in my worship and my relationships.

If I do not change, I cannot be an agent of meaningful change in others and the world around me.

Each of us is key

This goodness, if true, must ripple outwards, touching my most intimate circles and then further, to affect my environment – family, neighborhood and community; the social, economic or political.

I seek to impact my surroundings for the better for I am one thread in the social fabric. I need and am needed. I affect and am affected. Each of us is a key in the door of another.

And thus I counsel to, with, and for truth and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Majesty (jalaliyya); and I counsel to, with, and for patience and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Beauty (jamaliyya).

Spirituality and activism

At every level, we cannot conceive of a spirituality that does not necessitate action. We can not fathom action barren of spirituality. The relationship is integral. Our faith is a unity of the belief of Iman, the action of Islam and the spiritual excellence of Ihsan.

This is how we are meant to live: in active spirituality and spiritual action, and for those engaged in more public advocacy, spiritual activism.

In the next article, “Bleeding Heart”, we will take a closer look at the locus of spirituality, the spiritual heart, insha’llah.


About the Series

This written series will pair with a new, forthcoming podcast, Spiritual Activism by Shaykh Riad Saloojee. He will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism that is what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.  

This series will comprise of seven discussions that explore the foundations of Islamic spirituality, the spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism, the ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality, and an application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.

The Content of Character #54: Two Qualities That Are Never Coupled in a Believer

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.

Two Qualities That Are Never Coupled in a Believer

Welcome to episode 54 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today, we will be looking at qualities [that are] never coupled in a believer. It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Two qualities are never coupled in a believer: miserliness and immorality.” This is the hadith related by Imam al-Bukhari in Adab al-Mufrad, if we look at some of the other narrations (riwayat), we have a riwaya in the collection of [Imam] al-Nasa’i that states “Miserliness and faith are never gathered in the heart of a servant, ever.” And in another narration from [Imam] al-Tirmidhi, “There are two qualities that are never coupled in a hypocrite: carrying oneself in a good way and understanding of the religion.” These different riwayat tell a little bit about the believer, and they tell us also about the hypocrite and the different traits they will have [or] not have.

As for the believer, our Prophet is teaching us (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) in this hadith that this trait of miserliness (bukhul) and a good character, in general, are never gathered in the believer. What is meant here is that the believer has complete faith (kamil al-iman). [This is not to say] these traits are never [found] in a believer and that this person that has these traits, then they’re not a believer. No, what it means is that the stronger that our faith becomes, the more antithetical [these traits] will be to the reality of that faith. The stronger the faith, the less that we will have of these terrible traits.

What is also meant by this is that bad character, in general, sums up all of the different things that we are supposed to eliminate from our being, and that miserliness is undoubtedly one aspect of bad character. The Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), as the commentators have said of this hadith, mentioned miserliness in particular because it is one of the very worst of character traits; it is one of those traits that if you have it, it will lead to a long list of other bad traits.

Do Bad Thoughts Make Me A Bad Person?

So let’s look at some of these meanings and start first by understanding: what is bad character (su’u al-khuluq)?

Bad character, at its essence, is really about having the ego (nafs) and/or shaytan overcome us at the level of [our] thoughts. We know that thoughts can be of one of four sources, but three in particular [are useful here]. They can be of an angelic, demonic, or egotistical source. And if we set aside the angelic thought for now, because that can only lead to good, and we talk about the thoughts of the shaytan and the nafs; when a thought comes from the nafs and it overcomes us, and we don’t deal with that thought according to the direction of the Sacred Law and proper thinking (i.e. intellect), we end up responding to that thought.

Likewise, the shaytan can put a thought in our hearts to lead us astray, and we may not catch it and respond in a way that is pleasing to Allah the Exalted outwardly. That is the essence of what bad character is. It’s having those thoughts overcome us.

The essence of good character is its opposite. For instance, [if] you are angry and you want to lash out, [but] you restrain and hold yourself back, even though you know that you have that desire and it is something that is impermissible in the Sacred Law, that is the essence of what good character is. And that the more and more you do this, then good character eventually flows freely from you. In general, all bad character stems from being overcome by the thoughts of the nafs and the thoughts of the shaytan.

Miserliness is a Sickness

If we look at miserliness in particular, our Prophet informed us [of] three things that are destructive (muhlikat): avarice that is obeyed, desire that is followed, and a man being impressed with himself. Notice here when our Prophet said shuhhun, which is one of the [synonyms] for that miserliness. We might have that in our heart, but the key is that we don’t obey it [and] that we get ourselves used to going against it.

And our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) sought refuge from miserliness. And a hadith in [Sahih] al-Bukhari, our Prophet made a supplication, “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from miserliness and I seek refuge in you from cowardice…” And it’s interesting here that our Prophet, at least in this narration, coupled and associated cowardice with miserliness. This is one of the manifestations of cowardice is being stingy and miserly. And then the hadith goes on to say, “…and I seek refuge with You from being returned to the worst of years, and I seek refuge from the affliction of this world, and the punishment of the grave.”

What Does It Mean To Be “Miserly”?

So what then is miserliness (bukhul), if we wanted to offer some type of definition? People might think that there’s a degree of relativity here. Someone might think that they’re being generous and someone else might think that they’re being stingy. How do we define it, and how do we know whether or not someone really is miserly or not?

Scholars have said that [miserliness] is when you do not give out from your wealth at a time where it is an obligation for you to do so. We can obviously see that this definition is limited, because there are certain things that are not obligations for us that, if someone would not do them, surely they were not considered to be miserly. And an example of this is if someone [is] taking care of their family, their legal (shar’i) requirement is to [provide] the very basics or absolute necessities. They have the ability to do [more], but they don’t give their family anything more than the basic necessities. We would surely consider that person to be miserly.

And other scholars have said that the the miserly one (bakhil) is the one who finds it hard to give. Again, [this definition] is not fully sufficient, because everyone, to a certain degree, finds that giving is hard. It just depends on how much we’re giving. People differ in that regard. Some people find small things hard to give. And [for] other people, small things are easy to give, but the larger things or a good percentage of their wealth, they find it more difficult to [give].

When we talk about bukhul, we’re talking about two things: refraining from giving out our wealth in relation to obligations, [and additionally] things that are part of our legal respectability; things where we really know that this is something that we should be giving. If a guest comes over to our house, customarily you’re going to honor that guest by serving them tea, or some type of sweets or food or something like that. To not give that person proper hospitality when you have the ability to do so, even though it might not necessarily be an obligation, would surely be considered miserly, because customarily [withholding] is not something that people do.

A Time to Give, A Time to Withhold

When we talk about the ideal of where we want to be, ultimately it’s in the middle. Generosity (sakkha) is a balance between two extremes. It’s a balance between miserliness on one side, and between extravagance on another. Allah the Exalted says, “And those, when they give out from their wealth they’re not extravagant nor are they miserly, and they are in a state of moderation between the two.” (Qur’an 25:67) This is really where we want to be. The ideal is that, at the heart-level, we want to detach ourselves from our wealth. When we know that it’s better for us to give, we give; and when we know it is better for us to not give, [that] we don’t give. Everything that we do, we put in perfect balance outwardly and inwardly. There could be times where we think that we just want to freely give, but there’s actually a better place for us to put our wealth; or that it’s not the right time for us to give out our wealth, or [perhaps] it’s not the right person or cause for us to give our wealth to.

So what we’re really looking for is balance, between absolute miserliness and the virtues of its opposite, which is munificence (jud); and there are various degrees of giving, and the highest giving of all is that we prefer others over ourselves (ithar). But here, our Prophet is warning us of bukhul, and that is to know that it is an obligation for us to give our wealth. The greatest of obligations is zakat and then zakat al-fitr. The worst type of miserliness is to not to give [to these obligations].

In relation to customary things we should give freely, opening our heart(s) by [opening] our wealth, and then hopefully we’re protected from this horrible trait of miserliness and we move up in degrees of generosity. The stronger that our faith becomes, the easier that it will be for us to give because we [will] become detached from this world that we see. The whole purpose of Allah the Exalted giving us wealth is for us to be able to use it in a way that is pleasing to Him in this world.

May Allah the Exalted give us tawfiq and bless us in all of our affairs and to remove from us this horrible vice of miserliness, and bless us with good character and to protect us from all manifestations of bad character.

Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions; and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.


The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

SeekersHub’s Top 5 Podcasts of 2017

What a year for our podcasts. SeekersHub’s scholars and teachers made a wide array of topics on Islam fresh and relevant, discussing everything from getting along with neighbors and improving personal interactions to community engagement and setting new leadership standards.

All of these high-quality recordings and more are powered by SeekersHub and available on iTunes, Android, and other platforms. 2017 was all about providing you with every means of beneficial Islamic knowledge for free, and 2018 will bring you so much more insha’llah.

Check out the top five podcasts from 2017:

1. The Content of Character by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Featured Episode: “Directing Others to Good

content character rhodus

Shaykh Yahya explains what it means for the one who points to good is as the one who did it. It is from the bounty of Allah that one gets rewarded without actually acting on the deed. He also clarifies the distinction between worldly good and good in the hereafter, and calls us to be people of good who bring about benefit to our societies and wherever we may be.

If people around us, even if they disagree with us, saw us as being beneficial to their societies, and we’re trying to bring about khayr at every single level, in the worldly and the religious sense, […] they will respect us. And this will be the greatest way for us to be able to point others to this great good that lies in the teachings of our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him).

2. The Rawha by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Featured Episode: “Loving the Prophet ﷺ and Loving Good for Others from the Qualities of Faith”

rawha farazIn this episode, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers hadith seven and eight from Imam Nabahani’s eighth set of hadiths on the virtues of loving for the sake of Allah and hating for the sake of Allah. In the seventh hadith, we learn about how loving for others what one loves for themselves is from the qualities of faith. In the eighth hadith, we learn about how loving the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) more than ourselves is also from the qualities of faith.

The great commentators of hadith, including Imam al-Nawawi and Imam al-Qurtubi, said that the brotherhood (ukhuwwa) mentioned [in this hadith] is the brotherhood of humanity. And there are other narrations similar to this one in which the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said explicitly that “one loves for people what one loves for themselves”. A brother (akh) is someone with which you have a common ascription, such as through family, faith, country or humanity. So the ulama’ say that this hadith means that one loves for all other people… because you want good for them in this life and in the hereafter.

3. Insights on Islam by Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Featured Episode: “Civic Engagement and Concern: Muslims as Torchbearers” 

insights ingrid

Dr. Mattson discussed submitting to the will of Allah and reminding us that our religion is the main lens by which we should view our relationships with our communities and the bodies that govern them.

One of the things I see in both [Canada and the United States] is the idea of conservative politics. And I do not mean any particular political party, but the idea of [conservation]. Sometimes I feel deceived in a way and distracted by certain words from politicians in our society. As Muslims, we think “Oh, I’m conservative as a Muslim. I’m conservative in terms of sexual mores or things like that. But what are [politicians] talking about in terms of conservation? Are they talking about conservation of the goals of Shari’a? Are they conserving religion?

4. Why Islam is True by Shaykh Hamza Karamali

Featured Episode: “God Exists” 

true hamza

If Islam is true, then it would make sense for Allah to have communicated evidence of His existence to us. In fact, He did. In this episode, Shaykh Karamali unpacks a key Qur’anic verse that argues that the contingency of the universe is evidence that God exists.

This fact shows us that the Universe’s existence is a contingent fact. Why is it a contingent fact? Because even though the Universe exists, it could have been otherwise and not exist.

 

5. Islam For Life by Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Featured Episode: “Giving Life to Surah Kahf “

life waleadShaykh Walead Mosaad gives a concise overview of some meanings and themes found in Surah al-Kahf. In Surah Kahf there are lessons and parables that contain guidance on how to deal with the trials and tribulations that are associated with the Dajjal, and to try to see things as they truly are and to beware of delusion.

In order to realize your humanity, you have to lessen your dependence, reliance and aggrandizing of your terrestrial body, [or] the things that are only known by senses (‘alam al-hissi). And these are some of the lessons of Surah al-Kahf. For example, Khidr (peace be upon him) does things in front of Moses that are reprehensible from the outward signs, such as killing the young boy, re-building the wall for the town that didn’t want to feed them, putting a hole in a sound boat… it [didn’t] seem right fro the outward aspect (shari’a). But from the inward aspect (haqiqa), neither of which contradict the other and [rather] compliment one another, if we go by the outward edifices of everything in life, then you will not know life.

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Content of Character #56: Directing Others to Good

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

 

Welcome to episode 56 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today we will be discussing the idea of directing others to good. The Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it, and assuredly Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed.”

Directing Others To Good

In the collection of the “Content of Character”, it mentions that this was related by Ibn Abi Dunya. This is just one of the many collections you find this hadith in. It is also found in the collection of Imam Ahmad, Abu Ya’la, Ibn ‘Adiy, and others.

The first part of this hadith, “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it” has been rigorously authenticated (sahih). The second half, “…and assuredly Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed”, has weakness in it. Nevertheless, the meaning is sound.

There is a similar hadith that points to the same meaning of the first part, with close wording, and that is found in the collection of Imam Muslim: “Whoever directs others to some form of good, he will have the same reward as the one who did it.”

In yet another hadith, we find a little bit of background about how this wording of the Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) came about. [It was related] that a man came to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) asking him to support him in going out on a military campaign, and the Prophet was unable to do so. So he then sent him to someone else. And when that other person that provided for that man, then the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said these famous words: “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it.”


What Does It Mean to Be “As the One Who Did It”?

Let’s look a little bit more closely to these blessed words of the Rasul (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) who is the imam of all of those who direct to khayr. ‘Khayr’ is something that is very precious and very important for us as believers. We want to live lives of good that ultimately manifest in the next world with not only entering into paradise, but attaining a gaze upon the noble countenance of our Lord (Glorified and Exalted is He).

This [first] word here, al-dalla, it could be translated as ‘indicate, direct to, point others to, lead others to’. All of these meanings are contained in this blessed word. And what is meant here is that when you direct and point others to good, and we’ll talk in a little bit about what we mean by “good”, you are like the one who does it (ka fa’ilah). And when we talk about being like the one who does it, what do the scholars say about this?

Some of them say it just means a basic level of receiving reward. Just as the one who does it receives reward, you also receive reward; even though the person who actually does the act, according to this opinion of the scholars, might actually receive more reward. So their deed might be multiplied, they might receive three, five, ten, even many times over the rewards that you receive, but you share in that fact that you both get reward. And those who are of this opinion quote the principle (qa’ida) that states the reward that you get for an act is in accordance of the difficulty that goes into that act. The more difficulty, the more reward.

Other scholars like Imam al-Qurtubi, who said that this is not necessarily the case, is that outwardly this hadith indicates that there’s the same reward (musawa), meaning that the one who indicates and points someone to do some type of good, he gets the same reward as that person who actually does it. [al-Qurtubi] rationalizes the argument by saying that we know that Allah the Exalted gives by way of reward what he wills for all acts of goodness that we do.

So this is from the bounty (fadl) of Allah, even if the person who’s actually doing the act is putting in more effort by the fact that he’s doing the act, the one who indicates to him, from the bounty of Allah to do the act gets the same reward. And this is from the fadl of Allah who bestows His bounty upon whom He pleases, in any way He pleases, (Glorified and Exalted is He). So this second opinion means that it’s actually the same reward as the one who actually does it.

How Do We Understand “Good”?

So, if we look to this idea of directing and pointing towards good, how do we understand “good”? What is khayr? We translate khayr as good. And the true definition of khayr is that which will be of benefit in the next world. And so, any particular thing for any particular person, even if it be a bit bitter in this world, it’s difficult for them to go through that particular thing. They don’t like that particular thing.

If it leads to good in the next world, meaning that they will have benefitted by that thing in the next world, and it helps them in terms of the weighing of the scale of the good deeds preponderantly over the scale of the bad deeds, and helps them to enter into Paradise and to attain degrees of Paradise, that is considered to be good.

So in this world, there are certain things that might not appear to be good, but in reality they are good. This is how we truly understand khayr. In this hadith we can understand khayr in a more general way, in that there is worldly good and there is religious good. And so [as we see] here, any type of good that we are a means for, that we point people to, there is a reward that we get for that.

All Good in the ‘Hood

This is the way that we should approach life as believers. We should be people of benefit: meaning that we are always trying to benefit ourselves, but also trying to give benefit. We want to be people that are bringing benefit to our societies.

In many of the conversations that people are having nowadays about Muslim minorities and so forth, and how Islam relates to the modern world, the foundation of these discussions has to be rooted in our understanding of bringing about benefit. We should be contributors in our society. We should let [ourselves] be seen not for the sake of being seen, because this is the way that we are. [This is about] bringing benefit wherever we may be on the face of this Earth.

If people around us, even if they disagree with us, saw us as being beneficial to their societies, and we’re trying to bring about khayr at every single level, in the worldly and the religious sense, […] they will respect us. And this will be the greatest way for us to be able to point others to this great good that lies in the teachings of our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him).

Launch Good

So this should be our perspective: how can we bring about good and benefit for others in every possible way with the words that we say, being very careful about how we speak to every single person, young and old, friends and neighbors, people that we work with?

[How do we] make sure not to incite the lower tendencies in people by being able to control our our egos (nafs)… especially when we’re angry, when we’re driving, when we’re going into stores; [and] also with our actions.

Everything that we do, we want to bring about good. We want to be locks that close the doors of evil, and keys that open up the doors of good. Most important to us is [expressing good] with our state (hal). They are people by virtue of their state that they bring about good people. And we know the famous statement of one of the early Predecessors (salaf), “When the righteous are mentioned, mercy descends.” There are people that are so beneficial to others and that bring about so much good to others, that mercy from the Most High descends just by mentioning them.

I remember asking one of my teachers as we entered a land where Muslims are a minority what happens when a true inheritor of the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) goes to such a place. He paused very briefly and said one comprehensive word: mercy (rahma). [Mercy] is one of the greatest manifestations of all of good. This is the way believers should be; we should point to, indicate, and direct others towards good with words, our actions, and most importantly our state, [be it] at home, work, and with our friends.

One of the great examples of this we find in the story of our master, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. It was the end of his life as he’s on his deathbed, that he sees a young man that was wearing his pants a bit low. He indicates to him to pull up his pants. This shows the greatness of the society of the Companions. All the things that we are struggling with in terms of the basics were pretty much a given for the vast majority of them. If there’s something of this nature that relates to etiquette, this was the way that the Companions were. They want everybody to be better in any possible way. So what we need is to create environments that are uplifting so that people can better themselves and prepare for the meeting with their Lord (Glorified and Exalted is He).

Good Grief, Good Relief

In the hadith in the “Content of Character”, it ends by saying, “Surely Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed.” The lahfan is the one who is sad, remorseful, and who has gone or is going through a difficult state. Allah loves for the believer to help people that are troubled and distressed. This is one of the greatest manifestations of pointing other people to good is doing things that can help alleviate the pain of those that are going through trouble.

May Allah the Exalted bless us to implement these blessed teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), inwardly and outwardly and in all of our different states. When we meet people that direct others to good in all of its meanings, may we receive the blessings of that in this world in the next. And Allah knows best.

Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, and his Companions; and every praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.


The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

Beyond Hijab: Modesty Amongst Women in Islam

In this lecture, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives advice on reframing the question of Hijab from one of form (clothing) to one of essence (modesty) by using the Prophetic example and the example of the best of women: Khadijah, Fatima, Maryam, A’isha, and Asiya (may Allah, Most High, be pleased with them all).

SoulFood – Embark on a Journey Within – Ramadan Podcast with Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Soul FoodWe invite you to join us as we embark on a ‘journey within’ with the SoulFood FM daily Podcast. Each day we have been treated with a short but succinct podcast from Ustadh Amjad Tarsin.  The topics covered so far have been eye-opening and compelling. Ustadh has spoken about topics such as patience, character, anger and arrogance.
If you haven’t already tuned in, all the previous podcasts are available for you to listen to at your own pace, but you will be so hooked that you’ll be listening to them all straight up!
What is SoulFood?
“On the Day when... the only one who will be saved is the one who comes to God with a sound heart.” (Quran 26: 88-89)How do we achieve that? What does that mean?
SoulFood looks at the ways to refine the heart, seeking its virtues and ridding oneself of its vices.
Don’t forget to subscribe.
Who is Ustadh Amjad Tarsin?
Ustadh Amjad Tarsin was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He obtained his Bachelors of Arts at the University of Michigan in English Literature and Islamic Studies. It was during his university years that Amjad developed a deeper connection to his faith, becoming involved with the MSA, studying the Islamic sciences with teachers locally and internationally, and becoming actively involved in community service and interfaith work.
After spending a transformative year abroad, he returned to America to start his studies at University of Michigan Law School. Yearning to fulfill his calling to religious education and service, Amjad changed career paths and enrolled in Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy program. In 2012 he was selected as University of Toronto’s first full-time Muslim Chaplain.

SeekersHub Podcast Tops iTunes charts

The SeekersHub’s podcast has been busy, briefly topping the chart on iTunes’ Islam category and reaching Top 10 among all Religion & Spirituality podcasts.

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AUDIO: Fasting: a Practical Primer – Virtues, Fiqh, Common Questions – Faraz Rabbani

 

Fasting: a Practical Primer – Virtues, Fiqh, Common Questions – Faraz Rabbani

 

 

In this clear, concise yet comprehensive lesson, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the virtues and benefits of fasting; the laws (fiqh) of fasting; and addresses common questions and issues that arise in fasting.

He also touches upon the spiritual dimensions of fasting; key sunnas of fasting; and how to balance the social dimensions with the spiritual opportunities of fasting.

SeekersGuidance (www.SeekersGuidance.org) has great resources available on fasting, including:

A Comprehensive Reader on Fasting and Ramadan:
https://seekersguidance.org/ans-blog/2013/06/07/a-ramadan-reader-a-comprehensive-answers-guide-to-getting-the-most-out-of-ramadan/

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What is Intelligence? (Khutbah by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at Princeton University)

In this khutbah, delivered at Princeton University, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains that true intelligence is the capacity to seek ultimate benefit and to know God.

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Istikhara – A Powerful Prayer When In Need Of Guidance

What is the istikhara prayer and how does one perform it?

The istikhara prayer is a very simple prayer of seeking guidance.

  • One prays two rakats at any time that is not disliked, after which one recites the supplication of istikhara.
  • It is best to recite it before sleeping, though in no way necessary.
  • Like other duas, it is recommended that one face the qibla.
  • It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara, with praise of Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet ﷺ and to close it in this manner, too.
  • It is disliked to ‘hasten’ in seeking the answer to one’s istikhara, like other duas, because the Prophet ﷺ said, “Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came.’”

The Prayer in Arabic

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي

Transliteration

Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadlikal-azimi, fa innaka taqdiru walâ aqdiru wa ta’lamu walâ a’lamu wa anta allamul ghuyubi. Allâhumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-ashi wa aqibati amri faqdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun li fi dini wa maâshi wa aqibati amri fasrifhu anni wasrifni anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardini.

Translation

“O Allah, verily I seek the better [of either choice] from You, by Your knowledge, and I seek ability from You, by Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty. For indeed You have power, and I am powerless; You have knowledge and I know not; You are the Knower of the unseen realms. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and grant me blessing in it. And if You know that this matter is bad for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then turn it away from me and me from it; and decree for me better than it, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”

Looking for signs

One should suspend one’s own judgement or inclination about the particular matter, and wait for Allah to show one a sign or to make things happen in a way that indicates what to do. When one is not clear about the result of the istikhara, the fuqaha mention that it is recommend to repeat it, up to 7 times if necessary (usually done on separate occasions). [cf: Radd al-Muhtar].

Shaykh Nuh Keller mentions that the more one prays the istikhara prayer, the clearer its answers become to one. He prays it for all matters, even things one would not imagine doing istikhara for.

It is not necessary that you get a dream or even a “feeling.” Rather, the istikhara is a prayer that Allah guide you towards that which is best (khayr) for you. If you do the prayer of guidance (istikhara) with the proper manners, the most important of which is to truly consign the matter to Allah and suspend your own inclinations, then Allah will make events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and next-worldly affairs.

When unable to offer salah

In general, when it is not possible to perform the istikhara prayer itself (such as when one is out on the road, or in one’s menstrual period), it is recommended to simply read the dua itself. [Radd al-Muhtar]

For even the smallest things

The great Hanafi scholar and hadith expert from Aleppo, Shaykh Abdullah Sirajal-Din mentions in his book on the virtues of prayer that it is the way of many Sufis, including Shaykh al-Akbar Muhiyyuddin Ibn al-Arabi (Allah sanctify his secret), to pray the istikhara prayer at the beginning of their day, after sunrise, asking Allah to guide them in general to all good and to keep away all evil from them.

Istikhara gives the best answer, for one’s worldly and religious life (not worldly life alone), when coupled with another essential sunna: istishara (seeking sound counsel) of those worthy of being consulted and taking the sound means of assessing the situation at hand.

Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, one should seek advice from those whose knowledge, wisdom, and concern one is confident. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and others mentioned that one of the benefits of this is to further distance oneself from the desires of one’s own egotistic inclinations.

The istikhara prayer may be made for a specific matter or be made for a general seeking of all that is best. Some scholars, including Imam Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha`rani and Ibn `Arafah before him saw this kind of istikhara prayer as being superior. Others, including Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi, recommended performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day, ideally at the time of the Duha prayer (after sunrise).

One should be pleased with what Allah chooses for one, and not seek to follow one’s whims after the answer to one’s supplication becomes clear. We ask Allah to give us beneficial knowledge, and the success to act upon it in the way most beloved to Him, on the footsteps of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Listen to Shaykh Faraz debunk common misconceptions about istikhara in this SeekersHub podcast, including

  • Misconception 1: Istikhara is a prayer in matters of marriage
  • Misconception 2: The signs come in the form of dreams
  • Misconception 3: A sinful person must ask a pious person to perform the prayer on his behalf
  • Misconception 4: Istikhara is only for the big decisions, not small matters

Resources on istikhara and other related matters