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Our Lady Fatima al Zahra

Sister Nurulain Wolhuter has written a moving, concise, and loving portrait in praise of our Lady Fatima al Zahra, highlighting her flawless and noble character.

She is Fatima al Batul, al Zahra, the radiant Lady of Paradise, the daughter of the Beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace. She is the mother of the prophetic progeny, Allah be pleased with her. She is also called al Siddiqa, the truthful; al Tahira, the pure; and al Zakiyya, the flawless.

She has become my mother, due to the love between her and the followers of her beloved father. Through her I have come to know him more intimately, and to strive to tread his path more faithfully, Allah bless him and give him peace. Encountering her changed my life from one dominated by worldly things to one focused on the hereafter. Her way is a sword of protection and a rope of victory. It is my bastion in times of difficulty and my strength in times of need.

The Essence of the Sunna

She is our role-model as Muslim women. Our beloved Prophet said: “Fatima is part of me. So whoever angers her, angers me.” (Bukhari) Al Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf says this means Fatima is a piece of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, not separate from him. So, if a Muslim woman emulates Fatima, she is emulating “the essence of the Sunnah” of Allah’s Messenger. (Our Liege Lady Fatimah the Resplendent)

Our lady Fatima was known for her utmost modesty. She covered herself completely. Her outer clothes were the abaya, a loose long dress; the khimar, a garment covering the head and upper body; and the niqab, a face veil. She always wore black. On the day of judgment she will receive the highest of commendations for her modesty.

It is narrated that our master Ali, Allah be pleased with him, said he heard the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, say that on the day of judgment an announcer will call upon the people to lower their gazes until Fatima has passed. (Hakim)

Worldly Matters Were Meaningless to Her

However, our lady was also the bearer of other noble attributes, such as asceticism and generosity, to which men, as well as women, should aspire. Fatima is called al Batul because she was devoted to worship, and this to the extent that all worldly matters were meaningless to her. She lived in the simplest of houses, with the barest of essentials.

Her bed was a thin mat and her only covering was a short blanket that, if it covered her feet, left her upper body open and, if it covered her upper body, left her feet exposed. Her beloved father, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged her to abstain from worldly things. Once he refused to enter her house because he saw a colorful decorated curtain on her door, saying “I am not interested in worldly things.” Fatima immediately dispensed with it. (Bukhari)

Our lady Fatima was generous to the point of self-sacrifice. She and her family once fasted for three days, breaking their fast on water, because they gave the only food they had to the needy. Allah Most High praised this nobility of spirit in the holy Qur’an:

They fulfill their vows. They fear a day of widespread woes. They give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of God alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you. We fear the Day of our Lord – a woefully grim Day. (Sura al Insan 76:7-10)

So our lady Fatima is truly a part of her beloved father. She has bequeathed us the best, and most faithful, way of following him, Allah bless him and give him peace. May Allah grant us the grace to emulate even the smallest part of her pure and flawless way.


Deaf, Mute, and Blind – Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an I

Shaykh Jamir Meah discusses the parable of the deaf, mute, and blind who reject the truth of revelation in this first part of his series on Parables and Similitudes in the Qur’an.

There are various ways a human being gains knowledge. For a special few among humanity, chosen by God, revelation or spiritual inspiration can descend upon them, be transmitted, or cast into the heart. The other paths to knowledge are more general. Through the process of reflection and thinking, being informed, and via the outwards senses. From the five senses, two are crucial in understanding the world around us and our existence: hearing and seeing.

Without these two senses, gaining any meaningful knowledge and understanding is near impossible without further aid. Without these two senses, one cannot learn human speech. If we do not have the faculty of vision to witness and observe, nor hearing to receive information, then the only way to acquire knowledge is through the limited senses of touch, smell and taste. In terms of gaining religious and spiritual understanding, these restricted senses do not suffice. For this reason, there is no outward responsibility for a person who is both blind and deaf to have faith.

In Sura al Baqara, God begins the chapter by describing the God-fearing believers. Next, our attention is turned to the description of the disbelievers. And then to the description of the hypocrites: those who feigned their faith from the start, or those who first believed and then rejected the truth. In the description of these two latter groups, Allah Most High highlights the faculties of hearing and seeing, as well as the capacity of the heart to understand and believe, because it is through these faculties that understanding is achieved and faith is made possible.

Similitude

The human faculties possess not only physical forms, but spiritual dimensions as well. And it is by using the external and internal meaning of vision, hearing, and the heart, that Allah Most High furnishes us with a similitude of those who reject faith.

They are the ones who trade guidance for misguidance. But this trade is profitless, and they are not [rightly] guided. Their example is that of someone who kindles a fire, but when it lights up all around them, Allah takes away their light, leaving them in darknesses, unable to see. They are [willfully] deaf, dumb, and blind, so they will never return [to the Right Path]. (Sura al Baqara 16:18)

Spiritually Deaf, Mute, and Blind

Those who reject the truth, although they may have the physical organs and faculties for believing, seeing and hearing, are akin to the blind and deaf person, only worse, because “seals” are placed over the spiritual insight of the heart, eyes and ears, due to their obstinate rejection of the truth. As Allah Most High tells us in a preceding verse, “Allah has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and their sight is covered. They will suffer a tremendous punishment.” (Sura al Baqara 2:7)

Unlike the physically born blind and deaf person who is not held into account for not having faith, the spiritually blind and deaf person is held accountable on the Day of Reckoning and is subject to the most grievous of punishments, as testified in the above verse. On that Day, the rejecter’s eyes, ears, heart and even skin, will testify against him for what he saw and heard to be true, yet stubbornly denied. Indignantly, he will desperately cry out to his body parts: “‘Why have you testified against us?’ They will say, ‘We have been made to speak by Allah, Who causes all things to speak.’” (Sura Fussilat 41:21)

In this similitude of the hypocrites, God gives us the image of a people who light a fire in the dark. The light of the fire affords them the ability to see, to ward away danger, and the fire provides warmth and protection against the elements. They take comfort from it and find safety in it – able to see any approaching danger beforehand. Then all of a sudden, the light is totally extinguished! They are left in pitch-black and fearing for their lives. They have no recourse to restart the fire, nor any other source of light, so they remain there, in darkness, in the cold, and vulnerable to imminent danger.

There are layers of meaning in the picture. These are those who “trade guidance for misguidance” (2:175), who after seeing the light and security of truth and believing in that which was revealed to them in the Qur’an and through the blessed Prophet, turned away, preferring social standing, the status quo, personal gain and interest, and other worldly benefits. They turned from belief to disbelief, from spiritual insight to spiritual blindness, from guidance to misguidance, from safety to peril, and from light to darkness.

The light which the fire afforded, and that they took for granted, is symbolic of the light they were given by the Qur’an, the noble Prophet sent to them, Allah bless him and give him peace,and of the light of faith ignited in hearts.

Darkness, cold and danger represent the evil which comes from rejection of the truth, and the misguidance and confusion that ensues. What path to safety in the wilderness can a person in pitch black find? How different is the person who bears a bright torch to see the way and the one who gropes and stumbles blindfolded in the dark?

Yet, it is such a person who extinguishes the light by their own hands and willfully chooses darkness over light, so “They are [wilfully] deaf, dumb, and blind.” Deaf because they can no longer hear the good, mute because they cannot say that which would benefit them nor call for help, and blind because they are unable to see the straight path and follow it.

While fire provides light and warmth, it is also a tremendous destructive force and serves as a reminder of the great Fire that awaits all persistent rebels and sinners.

Ibn Qayyim extracts a few gems of understanding in the similitude worth mentioning. “Notice the words of God Most High ‘Allah takes away their light’ and not ‘their fire.’ Fire consists within it light and burning, so Allah causes only the ‘light’ of the fire to be taken away and what is left is only burning! … And notice how He says ‘Allah takes away their light;’ ‘light’ being in the singular, and then He says ‘leaving them in darknesses.’ ‘Darknesses’ being in the plural. This is because truth is only one and it is the straight path of Allah, of which no path arrives except it, in contrast to erroneous paths, for they are many and divergent.’”

Lesson

Fire is a physical element and only affords physical light. It flickers and flames, dances and blazes for a time, but eventually, as is inevitable with all temporalities, it must die. Like the fleeting fire, all worldly gains and success will inescapably fade away, and each person is left alone, both in the darkness of the grave and on the Day of Resurrection, when one will have no helper. In these “moments of truth,” those who rejected the truth will remain in their abject state, never knowing what awaits them next, groping in the dark; deaf, dumb, and blind.

The light of truth, on the other hand, is very different. Far from being a physical light, it is a spiritual force, and with every word and deed that confirms the truth, it grows and rises until the whole person is imbued with the light of truth and encompassed by the Divine Love and Mercy, at which point God becomes, in a sense, his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks.’ (Bukhari)

While the similitude discusses the sorry state of the hypocrites, believers can also reflect upon it. Believers come in many states and levels of faith and practice. Even to the most heedless or sinful believer, God often inspires in the heart the urge to reconnect with Him, to repent from bad habits and heedlessness, and instills in him a desire for change.

This inspiration is a light that should never be ignored, suppressed, or put out, for one does not know when or if ever, God will cast it into the heart again, in the same way, one does not know if one will live to see tomorrow.

Instead, when the believer becomes aware of this light within them, and the inclination to change and turn towards God arises in his consciousness, he must nurture it through shunning bad thoughts, acts, and deeds, and turning to good works with sincerity. The one who earnestly continues on such a path becomes overtaken by the light until it guides him to see, hear, speak, and do, only that which is pleasing to God. The light grows in the heart until it becomes a flame, and the flame grows into a fire which burns and yearns for God, and the heavenly abode.

In contrast to those who turned away from the light of truth, those who let their hearts sincerely be guided by it are never alone nor despair. When dark times occur, whether in the tumults of earthly life or the darkness and loneliness of the grave, they are guided by the very same light of truth they held firm to previously.

It is this light that will keep the believer safe and comforted when all other lights go out.


Mercy, the Stamp of Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

God: The All-Merciful

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

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

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

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

The Prophet of Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Command to be Merciful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Law of Universal Reciprocity

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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


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


Adab 05: The Adab of the Mosque Pt I

Ustadh Tabraze Azam reminds us of the honor Allah has bestowed upon the mosque as a place of worship and the importance of right conduct in it.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:

The most beloved of places to Allah are the mosques. (Muslim)

Indeed, the greatest of places on the face of the earth in the sight of Allah Most High is the mosque. What does it mean for a place to beloved to Allah? It means that He inscribes tremendous good for the people therein. And why are they beloved? Because they are places where the most supreme form of worship occurs, namely, scores of believing men and women planting their faces humbly in the ground before their All-Powerful Lord.

In another hadith, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stated that the meadows of Paradise are the mosques themselves because they are the places where sincere, worshipful devotion occurs – the kind of devotion which leads to ultimate felicity.

The Centrality of the Mosque

The centrality of the mosque to everyday life for a Muslim can be ascertained from one of the first matters the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, engaged in upon reaching Madina, specifically, the founding and subsequent building of Masjid Quba’, and thereafter his own mosque, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The mosque, then, should be a beacon of light for the community: a haven in times of religious and worldly need, a shelter and refuge for the underprivileged and needy, a gathering-place for worship and devotion, a means of strengthening community ties and a place to beseech and long for the Divine.

As we continue to strive to put Allah first in our lives and become people grounded in Islam, inwardly and outwardly, we turn now to the proper manners and sunnas of the mosque. If we cannot make Islam work fully elsewhere just yet, then at the very least we can certainly strive our utmost in the place most beloved to Him.

There are a number of matters here which are worth highlighting, and accordingly, this first post will outline the first set of issues and a subsequent post will discuss the remainder.

The Prayer of Greeting the Mosque

In reality, this is a prayer of greeting the Lord of the mosque, and not merely the mosque itself, as places themselves aren’t greeted. The point is that you pray in the mosque in order to fulfill this right (haqq). The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If you enter a mosque, then don’t sit until you have prayed two cycles.” (Bukhari)

Accordingly, any prayer prayed, whether specifically intended as the Prayer of Greeting the Mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid), a sunna prayer associated with the obligatory prayers, or even the obligatory, prescribed prayer itself, would fulfill this sunna. But remember that you cannot pray it during sunrise, midday and sunset, nor can you pray it after the obligatory dawn (fajr) or the mid-afternoon (‘asr) prayers.

If you enter the mosque, practically speaking, right before the midday (zuhr) or sunset (maghrib) prayers, you should instead recite some forms of remembrances (adhkar), such as glorification (tasbih), praise (tahmid) and utterances affirming the oneness of Allah Most High (tahlil). By the blessing (baraka) of such words and utterances, and the Grace of Allah Most High, you will attain the reward of the prayer and much more.

As an aside, note that the manner of greeting the Mosque of the Sacred Precinct (masjid al-haram) is to perform seven circuits of circumambulation (tawaf) around the Ka‘ba for the upon whom this is due or intends to perform it. This is a ruling specific to this blessed mosque partly because one of the greatest acts of worship a visitor can do there is the circumambulation.

The Sunna of I’tikaf

From the established sunna practices of our religion is to remain in the mosque for the spiritual retreat (i’tikaf). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would engage in this personal act of devotion yearly in the month of Ramadan. What the scholars have deduced is that this is an emphasised sunna (sunna mu’akkada) upon each and every community, namely, that they ensure there is at least one person performing the sunna spiritual retreat (i’tikaf) in the month of Ramadan.

The scholars explain that spiritual retreats can occur any time you enter the mosque. By merely intending it, you can obtain the reward for the retreat by merely being present in the mosque. This is a greater reward and station than someone who enters with the sole intention of prayer because you are engaged in a greater number of acts of devotion in every moment.

While in the retreat, the reward of all your acts of devotion are multiplied. Women can attain the same reward by intending the retreat as they enter their prayer areas at home- needless to say, they also attain the reward upon entry into a mosque.

Joining Congregations and Second Congregations

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us regarding something of the meritorious nature of the prayer of those who join the imam at the opening takbir when he said that they will be written as those saved from the Fire of Hell. (Tirmidhi) If you join within the first cycle, yet after this point, it is effectively as if you caught the imam at the beginning. Joining after the opening takbir entails that the imam may have begun reciting, and as such, you would avoid reciting the opening invocation (thana’) as the duty when the imam is reciting aloud is to listen, and when quietly, to remain silent.

Next, you are only considered to have caught the cycle (rak’a) if you catch the imam whilst he is in the bowing position. In this, you can use your reasonable judgement to determine whether or not he was still minimally bowing – namely, closer to bowing than standing – when you joined him in the prayer. Thereafter, you would make up the cycles you missed after the imam’s final and closing salams, beginning with the opening invocation (thana’) just as you would normally begin a prayer.

As for formal second congregations, these are generally considered to be unwise, wrong and disliked. Rather, you would pray individually if you missed the congregational prayer. However, other scholars maintained that a second congregation is in fact acceptable if it is performed distinctly from the first, such as by praying away from the main prayer niche (mihrab) and without a call to prayer (adhan) and the like.

Similarly, you should use your common sense in deciding where to pray and how loud to pray. If there are other events occurring in the mosque at the same time, you should be courteous and respectful, given that you were late, and pray in lowered tones in a corner or outside the main hall.

Praying the Sunna Prayers

Usually, what is superior is to pray the sunna prayers before their respective obligatory, prescribed prayers at home. Excuses such as greater focus and less distraction may entail praying them in the mosque. In doing so, it is important to remember that if the imam has begun the congregational prayer, you should forfeit the sunna to join the congregation.

After the congregational prayer, you may make up the sunna of the midday (zuhr) prayer alone. The dawn (fajr) and midday (zuhr) prayers are the only times in which there is an emphasised sunna prayer before the obligatory prayer (‘asr and ‘isha have a recommended sunna respectively). Sunnas, generally speaking, aren’t made up except in exceptional circumstances.

The exception to the rule above is the sunna prayer connected to the obligatory dawn (fajr) prayer. In such a case, you would pray the sunna prayer, despite the ongoing congregation, as long as you will be able to catch the congregation before the imam says the closing salams. There is, however, an important, oft-forgotten sunna here, namely, that you should ensure to pray this prayer in a somewhat secluded spot, well away from the congregation itself.

There is a strong emphasis on unity and the mere resemblance of disunity (even though the person is doing something tremendous) is wrong, so much so, that if you cannot find an appropriate place to pray, the jurists informed us that the sunna prayer should be left altogether. Warding off harm takes precedence over the attainment of benefits, and this is something that we would all do well to take some time to consider.

We ask Allah Most High to grant us true openings and foresight by which we can perceive what will ultimately benefit us in this life and the next, and the ability to sincerely work righteous deeds in seeking Him, the Lord of Mercy, alone.

And Allah alone gives success.


In this series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.


Ghazali’s Science of the Soul – Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf

This is the third part of a talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf on approaches to depression and anxiety in Classical Islam. Here he talks about Imam Ghazali and his science of the soul.

Imam Ghazali [in contrast to Abu Zayd al Balkhi] is not a physician. He is a philosopher. He is a theologian. He is a jurist. And in each of those things at the first rank. He wrote the greatest works in all of these fields for 200 years on either side of him. But above all else he was a spiritual master.

The sum total of his of his life’s work is contained in the Ihya Ulum al Din, The Revival of the Knowledge of the Religion, of which it has been said, numerous times by scholars in his time and after, that were all the works of Islam to be lost, including the Qur’an and the books of hadith, and only this work remain, by itself it would be sufficient to renew the religion. It would bring back the religion from the brink.

The Biochemistry of Happiness

Why is that? Because the subject of that work is the human soul. And it is about the human soul attaining a state of felicity. This is most well and most precisely explained in the Persian equivalent. The Ihya is in Arabic. The Persian equivalent, written in a quite different way, is called the Kimiya al Sa‘ada.

Now given that this is a work about the human being and it’s called Kimiya al Sa‘ada, I think a perfectly fair translation for this is The Biochemistry of Happiness. Kimiya is chemistry. Sa‘ada is happiness. And it means ultimate happiness. Abu Zayd al Balkhi mentioned this. He said if the root cause of all mental distress is anxiety, the root cause of all mental health is happiness. That is to say, happiness is not merely the result of good mental health. It is also the cause of good mental health.

Ghazali focused on this point, taking from the philosophical traditions of Islam as well as from the more theological approaches to Islam. Ghazali, especially in the Persian equivalent of his work, focuses on something that always has been, from Greek times, a central theme in philosophy. Now when you ask today, what is the central theme of philosophy? People don’t really know because it’s kind of all gone a bit weird.

Happiness and Care for the Self

If you ask people in the 1700s, the 1800s, during the Enlightenment, what is the central theme of classical psychology? [sic] They would say, Know thyself. But one of the central themes, when you go back to Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and so forth, one of the central themes of the philosophers of those times was actually not simply know thyself, but take care of thyself; look after thyself.

There was a focus on care of the self. One of the things Ghazali borrowed from that tradition, but which he also found in the tradition of classical Islamic thinking, of which he was of course the foremost representative, is that happiness is something that is to be sought, not only in the Hereafter but in this life as well.

Happiness is not, however, in external things. Happiness is in your internal reaction to those things. As an example of this a student of mine came to me after one of my religious classes and said, I want to talk to you. I want to ask you a question. I said, Yes, what’s the question? I’ve got 15 minutes before the next class starts. She said, I want to ask you about locus of control. I said, Okay. In 15 minutes? She said, Yes.

The Locus of Control

What’s a locus of control? A locus of control is: Where’s your happiness button? That’s what locus of control means. If my happiness button is there. [Places phone in front of him and points.] Then that means my sadness button or my anger button is there. You can come along and go [presses button], and I’ll get sad or anxious or angry or whatever it happens to be.

If my button is here [puts phone close to himself] I can protect it. You can’t come along and press it. This is an internal locus of control. [Phone is close.] That’s an external locus of control. [Phone is further away.] People don’t come and press your buttons unless they’re not very nice. They don’t generally come and press your buttons. What presses your buttons? Circumstances, situations, press your buttons.

I’m driving down here knowing that Sophie and Mark are going to be wondering, Where is this guy? Is he going to do his usual thing and come late? And I hit traffic and I think, Oh my God. What has happened? Now this is a circumstance that is tailor-made to provoke anxiety in me. I know that I am going to have to look at Samina and she’s going to say, How do I get out of this traffic? It’s a circumstance, it’s a situation, that presses the button.

God Is The Root Cause

Why does it press the button? I said to my student: Look. You see this? [Raises phone.] Is this the button or is this the situation? She says, I don’t know. I said, It’s both. The problem with the external locus of control is you don’t realize that this is actually two separate things. There is the event. [Phone cover.] And there’s the reaction to it. [Phone.] These are separate from each other. You can’t control this. [The event.] But you can control this. [The reaction.] Simply put, you can’t stop it raining, but you can carry an umbrella.

Alright. What’s the problem that people who have an external locus of control have? It is that when it’s raining they go outside and they say, Stop raining! Stop! And it doesn’t stop raining. Eventually you get so tired of shouting at the clouds to stop raining that you give up and you say I can’t stop it raining. It’s trying to have control over something you can’t have control over. Why? Because you’ve linked these two things [the event and the reaction] together. They are one and the same.

She said, I did an online survey and I have an external locus of control. How do I deal with it? I said, Separate the emotional reaction from the event. Now what do you do? I said now you need to recognize that this event is not caused by the outside world. It’s caused by God. this is caused by God. It’s not caused by your nosy neighbor. It’s not caused by your troublesome mother-in-law. It’s not caused by the weather or the traffic or anything like that.

It is caused by God. A benevolent God, mind you. A benevolent and all-powerful God. So if you recognize that everything that happens to you in your life comes to you from God, and that God will send you sweetness and bitterness, both of which are there to teach you something about yourself, you can keep this button to yourself.

Surrendering the Locus to God

You can keep that button to yourself and you can control how you press it. What you’ll then find is that there is nothing on the table. The table is the world. There is nothing on this table. There is God and there is you. There’s God and you and everything else is simply an instrument. Once you understand that you have a completely external locus of control because now you actually say, Do you know what God? I’m gonna leave the button to You as well.

That is the beginnings of a religious approach to dealing with the questions that bring about distress, anxiety, and so forth. It is the beginning of an indigenous psychotherapy. A psychotherapy that is founded on the fundamental beliefs that you have. This is something that can be de-theologized. It is something that doesn’t need to necessarily be about your relation to a person or God.

It is a way of looking at how things happen and what things mean when they happen, and what you can learn from it. [It is] the difference between approaching something as a lesson by which you can learn more about yourself, and the alternative, which is that you are a leaf being blown on a wind, being taken wherever the wind leads you.

States, Traits, and Character

Abu Zayd Balkhi distinguishes between fixed human traits and emotional states which come and go. Recognizing at the same time that if you have a particular temperament and a particular state, it can sometimes become chronic, it can become part of your personality. However, he focuses primarily on states.

What Imam Ghazali focuses on is the development of internal character traits. God talks about the soul that will eventually return to Him and He describes that soul as the tranquil soul. (Sura al Fajr 83:27-28) The soul that is at peace with itself, as opposed to a struggling soul, which God describes as self-accusing. (Sura al Qiyama 75:2)

There’s an enormous difference between the emotional states of someone who has internalized external trauma, grief, sadness, and has started to accuse themselves, or to become their own abuser, and a person who has, by whatever means, broken free of that and is left in a state of tranquility.

The Ihya is a 6,000 page book, but that’s what it’s about. It’s about attaining tranquility. I’ll leave it at that. I hope what I’ve done here is give you a little bit of insight into two very different ways of approaching the question of mental distress that are nonetheless things that we would recognize as being valuable and beneficial today.

 


This talk by Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf was given at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University, entitled “Approaches to Depression and Anxiety in Classical Islam.” This is not a transcript but an edited post based on the third part of the talk. The first and second parts can be read below.


Obituary: Shaykh Abd al Rahman Ba ‘Abbad

Shaykh Abd al Rahman ibn Abdullah Ba ‘Abbad hails from a tribe which has long been known for knowledge and piety in Hadramawt. The Ba ‘Abbad tribe trace its lineage to our master Uthman bin Affan, may Allah be pleased with him.

 

His first teacher was his father, Shaykh Abdullah, who later directed him to Habib Umar ibn Hafiz to complete his spiritual instruction. His in depth legal training came at the hands of Habib Abd al Qadir ibn Salim Rawsh al Saqqaf, Mufti of Hadramawat. He also took knowledge from Habib ‘Abd al Qadir ibn Ahmad al Saqqaf and the other great scholars of his time.

Although still young in years, many people benefited from his wisdom and witnessed his beautiful character both in his home town of Al Ghurfah and in Yemen, the Middle East and South East Asia.

He contributed significantly to the renewal of traditional Islam in Hadramawt and students came from far and wide to study in the institute which he established and directed, Ribat al Is’ad, in his hometown, Al Ghurfah.

Those who attended the annual visit to the Prophet Hud, peace be upon him, will remember his powerful speeches in the mosque established by his illustrious ancestors, Masjid Ba ‘Abbad. He was always a voice of reason and moderation and helped to maintain unity among the tribes of Hadramawt. He expended all his efforts to prevent bloodshed during the current conflict in Yemen.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman was killed in a car crash in Oman on 12 Muharram 1440 (22 September 2018). May Allah raise his station and the station of Hasan ibn Muhammad Ba ‘Abbad who died alongside him and bless their loved ones with patience and contentment. His loss comes after the loss of his younger brother, Shaykh Muhammad, also a promising young scholar, in recent years.

May Allah enable his youngest brother, Shaykh Ma‘ruf to continue to carry the banner of the Prophetic legacy.

[Al Fatiha]


Reposted with gratitude to Muwasala.org.

Obituary: Habib Abbas al Saqqaf

As the year 1439 came to a close, the Ummah lost one of its great men, Habib Abbas ibn Muhammad ibn Ali al Saqqaf, the most senior of the Ba Alawi scholars in Singapore.

Habib Abbas al Saqqaf

Habib Abbas was born in Singapore in 1923. He studied the Islamic sciences with the principal scholars of the city, including two great jurists: Shaykh Umar bin Abdullah al Khatib and Qadi al Shihr Habib Shaykh bin Abdullah al Habashi. He then taught at a variety of places around Singapore.

The great caller to Allah, Habib Abd al Qadir al Saqqaf, indicated that Habib Abbas should establish gatherings of knowledge in his house and it duly became a focal point where the scholars and students of Singapore would gather.

The most frequented and well known of these gatherings was on Saturday morning in which the mawlid of Habib Ali al Habashi, Simt al Durar, was recited and a lesson in tasawwuf would be delivered. Any scholar visiting Singapore would make a point of visiting Habib Abbas. He passed away on 29th Dhu’l Hijjah 1439 (10th September 2018).

Let us heed his oft-given advice: always be humble, show respect to your elders and show respect to all, regardless of whether they rich or poor, beggars or government ministers.

May Allah raise Habib Abbas to the highest of stations and allow his legacy to live on.

[Al Fatiha]


Reposted with gratitude to Muwasala.org.

Forgotten Sunnas: Greetings of Peace – Shaykh Jamir Meah

In this final article of the series, Shaykh Jamir Meah discusses one of the simplest yet most important everyday sunnas that is sometimes neglected; greeting each other with salam, the greeting of peace.

Many Muslims, both in the East and West, are not accustomed to saying salam to family and friends, and even more so to strangers. For others, salams are given multiple times throughout the day, however, it is often restricted to people we know, or only when returning greetings.

When we pass a fellow Muslim on the street, or sit next to each other on the train or bus, we are often hesitant to give salam. This could be for many reasons. However, it is important to try to overcome this barrier and be as free and generous with our greetings of peace with one another as possible, and ideally, stretch ourselves to even smile or look pleased to see another Muslim!

The salam is universal to all Muslims, so does not require translation. Everywhere you go it is understood. Spreading the salam among ourselves is not only affirmed in the Qur’an and Sunna, but as we’ll see from the prophetic traditions. It has a positive affect for both the people engaged, and potentially, the entire Muslim community.

The Effect of A Simple Greeting

Moreover, we all know what the effect of a simple smile can have on a person’s day, even from a stranger, smiling being a sunna in its own right. Sometimes, little unexpected gestures of kindness and sincerity are enough to lift the mood of a person’s otherwise negative or depressive moods. It is often the start to positive energy being released. When a person is genuinely greeted with a warm, smiley, and sincere salam, it can impart a real sense of reassurance and belonging.

This is ever more essential today as so many people feel insecure and detached in modern society. How many a group of Muslims youths have we walked by, religions far from their mind, but when a person says salam to them, they all immediately return the salam with unexpected fervor and pride?

How many an old person do we pass by, coming and going to and from the local mosque as if invisible, but when the greeting of salam is given to them, their eyes light up with all the intensity and vibrancy of youth? Likewise, many more people, whose private circumstances we can never know, can be touched and uplifted by an honest and simple greeting of peace from a stranger.

Peace

One of the Names of Allah is As Salam, the One Who gives Peace. God is the source of all peace. This is why we say after prayer (which itself concludes with the greetings of salam to those on ones right and to those on ones left):

Allahumma antas salam wa minkas salam tabarakta ya dhal Jalali wal ikram.

O Allah, You are peace, and peace comes from You. Blessed are You, O Possessor of Glory and Honor.

The universal greeting of peace is fundamentally a supplication to God for that person. If we truly mean God’s peace to be upon that person, and they return the same greeting, and we all do this throughout the day to different people, then we can expect Allah Most High to answer these prayers, showering His mercy, blessing and peace upon each person, and then the Umma at large.

The greeting of peace is not restricted to this world, for it will be the greeting not only from the angels to those who enter Paradise: “Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured. And excellent is the final home.” (Sura al Ra‘d 13:24) But more importantly, from God Himself: “And ‘Peace!’ will be [their] greeting from the Merciful Lord.” (Sura Ya Sin 36:57)

Spreading the Salam in the Qur’an and Sunna

Allah Most High tells us in many places in the Qur’an about the importance of spreading greetings among ourselves, ‘And when you are greeted with a greeting, meet it with a greeting better than it, or equal to it. Allah takes account of all things.’ (Sura al Nisa 4:86)

Likewise, the are many traditions of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, which stressed the passing the salam between us, too many to mention in this article. Among the most useful for our purposes are;

Abu Hurairah, Allah be pleased with him, narrated, “You cannot enter Paradise until you are a believer and your belief cannot be complete until you love each other. Should I not guide you to something, which, if you practice it, it will establish bonds of love among you all? Make salam a common practice among yourselves.” (Muslim) Through this simple act, love is implanted in the heart and the sense of unity and brotherhood is given life. Small acts can have tremendous impact on our states.

Abu Umamah, Allah be pleased with him, narrated, The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him,, commanded us to spread the salam.’ (Ibn Majah)

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr bin al ‘As, Allah be pleased with them both, narrated, “A man asked the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him, ‘Which practice of Islam is the best?’ He, blessings and peace be upon him, replied, ‘Give food, and relate the salam to those whom you know and those who you do not know.’”

Methods and Etiquette of Giving Salam

The minimum salam necessary to fulfill the sunna, is to say “Assalamu alaykum” (Peace be upon you). The optimal is to say, “Assalamu alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu” (Peace be upon you and the Mercy of Allah and His blessings).

Note here that one says the plural attached pronoun “kum” at the end of “alaykum” even if the person being greeted is only one or two people.

The person returns the greeting by saying “Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu” (And upon you be peace and the mercy and blessings of Allah).

This full reply is sunna regardless of whether the person was greeted with a simple “Assalam alaykum,” or the optimal “Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.” In the first case, one has fulfilled the words of Allah we mentioned, “meet it with a greeting better than it,” while in the second case one has fulfilled the words of Allah, “or equal to it.”

As mentioned, it is sunna to be genuine, friendly, and cheerful (bashasha) when giving salam and when returning it. One should look the person directly in the face when greeting them.

The salam and its return should be said loud enough so the person it is intended for can hear it. The return should be given straight away, and not delayed.

If a person enters his house, it is sunna to give salam, even if no one is home. The same applies to entering into another’s home, or entering a mosque.

Make It the First and Be the First

One should be eager to offer the greeting first, for the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “The best of the two is the one who begins with the salam.” (Bukhari) Therefore, although it may sometime feel awkward, or we hesitate to say salam to strangers, we should strive to overcome any concerns and be eager to say it first, without fear that the person may not respond. Each person is responsible or rewarded for what is in his capacity.

Likewise, the greeting of peace should be the first thing said before any other talk. This applies to between two people or when addressing a group.

Rulings on Giving and Returning Salam

Giving salam: It is sunna to give the salam. The sunna to give the salam is a communal sunna (sunna kifayah), which means it is disliked not to perform without an excuse. It also means that if there is a group of people, it suffices that one of them offers the salam to fulfill the sunna, although optimal if all say salam.

Returning the salam: In regards returning the salam, it is obligatory. If the salam is said to one person, then it is personally obligatory (fard ‘ayn) for that person to return the salam, while if the salam is said to a group of people, the returning of the salam is communally obligatory. So, if one of them returns it, it suffices for the rest, while if none return the salam, they all incur a sin. The optimal again, is for all to return the salam.

There are times, however, when the salam or returning it is not sunna, but rather, disliked or prohibited. Among them it is disliked to give the salam to a person who is relieving themselves, making love, sleeping, very drowsy, in prayer, saying the adhan or iqama. Likewise, it is disliked to say it to a person who has food in his mouth.

As for returning the salam in these situations, it is disliked to return it whilst relieving oneself or making love, and sunna for the one with food in his mouth, or at least when he has swallowed the food. It is prohibited to return the salam verbally during prayer, but sunna to gesture the return with the hands.

For the mu‘adhdhin, it is permissible (not disliked) to return the salam verbally between the words of the adhan. The muqim, the person who says the iqama, should not return it, but rather gesture or return it afterwards, as the iqama is meant to be swift.

As for saying salam to a person reciting the Qur’an, the sounder opinion is that it is still recommended to give salam and mandatory to return it verbally.

Common Scenarios

One of the reasons why fiqh is so captivating (for some anyway!) is because it enters into the everyday, practical aspects of life. Every human act, from the most significant to the most trivial, falls under a legal ruling. Below are a few common, useful, or just interesting, fiqh rulings related to spreading the greetings of peace:

It is a sunna to send salam to people who are not present via a third person. Among the greatest honor of our Lady Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her and shower her with abundant mercy and favor, was that Allah himself sent His Salam upon her via our master Jibril, may Allah be pleased with him. It is narrated that “Jibril came to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! This is Khadija coming to you with a dish of soup (or some food or drink). When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord and on my behalf.’” (Bukhari)

If a person sends his salam to a person via a third person, such as the third person saying, “So and so sends his salam,” then it is obligatory for the receiver of the message to return the salam verbally. It is also sunna to return the salam to the third person, by saying, “Wa ‘alayka wa ‘alayhi assalam,” (And upon you and him be peace.”)

If one is greeting a deaf person, one should still say the words of the greeting verbally as well as gesture with the hands in a way that the person can understand and is able to return the salam. Likewise, if a deaf person says salam to a person, then one answers by mouth and gesture.

If a person greets a pre-pubescent child, it is not obligatory for the child to return the salam, but it is proper manners and highly recommended for them to do so. If a pre-pubescent child gives salam to an adult, it is obligatory for the adult to return the salam.

If two people greet each other with the salam, and then see each other again very soon after, it is still sunna to greet each other with the salam, and even a third, fifth, sixth time and so on.

It is disliked for a person to say salam to people during the Friday sermon. As for returning his salam, some scholars state that it should not be returned, while others held that it should be returned, but only one person should return it.

Related Issues when Greeting A Person

If a person gives salam to a person who holds religious honor, such as being known for the asceticism, uprightness, knowledge, noble lineage etc., then it is also sunna to kiss their hands, as was the practice of the Sahaba of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, who kissed his blessed hands and feet.

It is also recommended to kiss the hands or cheeks, or/and hug one’s loved ones, such as parents, siblings, or small children when greeting them, out of love, closeness, and mercy. This also applies to a friend who returns from travel.

As for other than these people or non-travelers, it is disliked to hug or kiss others when greeting them. Rather it is sunna to shake hands (same-gender only) when greeting each other and saying the salam. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is reported to have said, “There are no two servants who love each other for the sake of Allah, who meet each other and shake hands … that they do not depart except that their future and past sins are forgiven.” (Kitab Ibn Sunni)

Practical Challenge

I hope the above information has encouraged us all to eagerly spread the greetings of peace to one another each day. The final practical challenge to this series then, is to try to initiate the greeting of peace with as many people as possible each day, with those whom we know and those whom we don’t know.

It would of course be befitting for me to end this article, and this series, with a very warm (and smiley) farewell greeting of peace to you all,

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.


Adab 04: The Adab of Homes – Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Ustadh Tabraze Azam writes on the adab or etiquette of the home – a blessing from Allah and a place of joy, safety, privacy, and prayer.

Allah has made your homes a place to rest, and has given you tents from the hide of animals, light to handle when you travel and when you camp. And out of their wool, fur, and hair He has given you furnishings and goods for a while. (Sura al Nahl 16:80)

Homes are havens of serenity and comfort. They are a shelter from the heat and cold. They offer privacy from the gaze of others, safety for belongings, protection from harmful animals, insects and the like, and many other benefits. They are truly a blessing.

Allah Most High reminds us at the end of the subsequent verse, “This is how He perfects His favor upon you, so perhaps you will fully submit to Him.” (Sura al Nahl 16:81) Namely, acknowledge the one who blessed you with all that you have, and worship Him alone with sincerity as He fulfilled even your most basic human needs by His Grace.

The famed Egyptian master of the inward and outward sciences, Ibn ‘Ata Illah al Sakandari, stated in an aphorism (hikma):

Whosoever isn’t grateful for His blessings makes himself liable to losing them. And whosoever is grateful for them has tied them down by their reins.

We also know that gratitude is directing blessings toward that for which they were created. There is much guidance from Allah and His messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, regarding the standards of Muslim homes, and gratitude entails that we strive to adorn our homes with these matters as much as reasonably possible. Gratitude is more than mere words.

A home that is adorned with Islam is a home which reminds of the delights of Paradise. Allah Most High says, “But those mindful of their Lord will have elevated mansions, built one above the other, under which rivers flow. That is the promise of Allah. And Allah never fails in His promise.” (Sura al Zamar 39:20)

The condition, here, is that these people were “mindful” of Allah. They made meaningful life decisions, and put Allah before all else. In seeking to become of those genuine, beloved, people of adab, we’ll be looking at some of these matters in this post.

Supplicating During Entering and Exiting

The Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, told us that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to remember Allah “in all of his states.” (Muslim) It will probably take the rest of us a little practice to get to a stage where we are always remembering Allah, but we could do worse than recalling the blessed words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, upon entering and exiting our homes. An easy way to learn these supplications is to write them down and put them beside the door.

Abu Dawud recorded that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to say upon leaving the house: “O Allah, I seek Your protection from going astray or leading others astray; from slipping or letting others slip; from being oppressed or oppressing others; and from acting ignorantly or others acting ignorantly towards me.” (Abu Dawud)

بسم اللهِ ، توكّلتُ على اللهِ ، اللهم إنّي أعوذ بك أن أضِلّ أو أُضَلّ ، أو أَزِلّ أو أُزَلّ ، أو أَظْلِمَ أو أُظْلَمَ، أو أَجْهَل أو يُجْهَل عليّ

And when he would enter, Allah bless him and give him peace, he would say, “O Allah, I ask You for the best entrance and the best exit. In the Name of Allah do we enter and in the Name of Allah do we leave, and in Allah, our Lord, do we trust.” (Abu Dawud)

اللَّهمَّ إنِّي أسالكَ خيرَ المولجِ وخيرَ المخرجِ باسمِ اللَّهِ ولجنا وباسمِ اللَّهِ خرجنا وعلى ربِّنا توَكلنا

Making a Prayer Space in the Home

Abu Dawud recorded a tradition in which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed that prayer spaces be made, according to some scholars, within homes, and that they are kept clean and perfumed. This is particularly useful for women as they can get the reward of a spiritual retreat (i’tikaf) whenever they step into such an area with an intention of such. But it is generally praiseworthy for both men and women to have a prayer space (musalla) in the home. The spiritual light (nur) of such spaces can affect the state of the entire home.

This can be an area in a room, or a standalone room itself. Sacred spaces like this facilitate focus in prayer and other devotional acts. For men, they should be primarily used for the non-obligatory prayers (sunna/nawafil). As for obligatory prayers, men are generally expected to pray them in congregation at the mosque, if reasonably possible. When it is difficult to do so, this space can be used for congregational prayers too. Women, on the other hand, may perform all of their prayers in this designated space.

Personal Spaces and Avoiding Solitude

Allah Most High says, “Believers, your slaves and any who have not yet reached puberty should ask your permission to come in at three times of day: before the dawn prayer; when you lay your garments aside in the midday heat; and after the evening prayer. These are your three times for privacy; at other times, there is no blame on you or them if you move around each other freely.” (Sura al Nur 24:58)

This verse points to the proper adab of private spaces- spaces which aren’t communal except at certain times of day. This is because it aids in avoiding that which is harmful (such as seeing nakedness) and teaching children and others about privacy which is what homes are all about.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, one of the foremost of the Companions (sahaba) in stringently following the sunna of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, reported that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, interdicted “being alone and sleeping alone.” (Ahmad) Remaining with the group, or in good company, then, is a means of warding off feelings of loneliness or depression. Further, it can form the basis of uplifting support at home, as you’re less likely to engage in that which you wouldn’t otherwise do, and people who will help if you’re hit by hard times or sickness.

Family Time

One of the things the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught us is to have some moments together with the household. Abu Dawud reported that a group of people came to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, saying that they eat but don’t feel full. He responded, Allah bless him and give him peace, by stating, “Perhaps you’re eating separately?” to which they admitted as such.

“Gather together upon your food, mention the Name of Allah, and you will be blessed in it,” he replied, Allah bless him and give him peace, teaching us that there is a special secret of increase (baraka) in gathering for meals which facilitates righteous actions. Other traditions report that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The most beloved of food is that which has the most hands in it.”

Planting Trees and Other Greenery

Imam Nawawi called one of his famed works Riyad al Salihin, which can be roughly understood as: “The lush green, river-filled gardens of the righteous.” There is something, then, other-worldly about greenery and natural beauty. In one tradition (hadith), the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged beautifying the earth so much so that he encouraged planting your seedling even if the Final Hour arrives. (Bukhari, Al Adab al Mufrad)

Similarly, he, Allah bless him and give him peace, also said, “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a crop from which birds, man or beasts eat but that it is charity for him.”

There is also a Qur’anic imperative to cultivate the earth. Allah Most High says, “He is the One Who produced you from the earth and settled you on it.” (Sura Hud 11:61) “Settling” referring to the building on earth and cultivating its land with crops, trees and the like.

Beauty is the hallmark of a believer. Ao if you are able to adorn the garden of your home with greenery, or the inside your home if you don’t have a garden, in a dignified and manageable manner, then do so. Interestingly, studies have shown a positive correlation between greenery – essentially trees – and health. Thus, not only does such planting have a positive impact on yourself, it also impacts your neighbors and wider community.

Maintaining Cleanliness

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The smallest branch [of faith] is removing something harmful from the pathway,” (Muslim) If this is the case with walkways and roads, then the same should apply to our very homes. The emphasis on cleanliness in our religion is not lost on anybody. The places where we eat, drink, sleep and worship should be preserved from that which is unclean or unbecoming. Ensuring that the home is free from bad odors, filth and anything distasteful should be a priority as it can affect the entire state of the home and its people. Further, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us, “Indeed, the angels find foul what humans find foul.” (Muslim)

In the same vein, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also encouraged us to wash our hands after eating and to wipe our plates clean. (Abu Dawud) One of the wisdoms in this is that leaving such dishes in an unwashed state can attract harmful creatures such as pests. The general rule is that utensils should be taken care of before bed, except in cases where there is an excuse, need or benefit in doing otherwise.

Closing Doors, Turning off Appliances before Bed and Covering Food

Everything in the sunna has a benefit in both this life and the next. Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, ordered doors to be locked and children to be brought indoors when night falls because the “devils spread at that time.” (Bukhari) Children may often be too young to recite supplications of protection, and the devils are particularly active at this time, so they should be brought indoors until this time passes.

There is also an encouragement to cover food overnight. Bukhari related in the same tradition that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us to “cover our food containers and mention the Name of Allah.” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, was always watching out for his community (umma) out of love and concern for them, and that’s why he interdicted leaving an open flame running overnight. (Bukhari) In our times, this would apply to appliances and the like, unless there is reasonable surety of safety such as their being designed in such a manner.

Worship in the Home

Making the home a haven entails adorning it with that which Allah loves. When this happens, even the angels find tranquility in such a place. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, reminded us, “Don’t make your homes into graveyards. Indeed, the devil flees from a home in which Sura al Baqara is recited.” (Muslim) The traditions regarding daily litanies which are encouraged are too numerous to mention, but I’d advise getting a good book, memorizing a couple of supplications and bringing them into your daily routine.

Similarly, illuminating homes and bringing them to life is also a fulfillment of the prophetic encouragement where he, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Leave something of your prayers for your homes.” (Muslim) He also said, Allah bless him and give him peace, “The best of prayers is a person’s prayer in his home, except for the obligatory prayer.” (Bukhari) When worship is happening in the home, Islam is happening, and everybody, especially the children, see how we are supposed to return to Allah in our affairs and become pleasing servants.

Assisting in Good (Ta’awun)

Allah Most High said, “Bid your people to pray, and be diligent in observing it. We do not ask you to provide. It is We Who provide for you. And the ultimate outcome is only for the people of righteousness.” (Sura Ta Ha 20:132) And He Most High said regarding the Prophet Isma‘il (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he used to command “his household to pray and give alms, and his Lord was well pleased with him.” (Sura Maryam 19:55) The basis is that shepherds care about their respective flocks, and being religious begins at home.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was also at the “service of his family” whilst at home, as Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, informed us. (Bukhari) Undoubtedly, the nature of service within the home can be expressed in a multitude of ways, but the idea is that all are working together in their journey to Allah- here, by fulfilling the Divine Command to assist in the good.

A home is one of the greatest blessings of Allah Most High. Just ask somebody who lost one, was kicked out, or simply doesn’t have a roof over their head. We ask Allah Most High for protection, renewed resolve to follow the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and his way, and a state of deep belief and gratitude for His favors upon us. “Why should Allah punish you if you are grateful and faithful? Allah is ever Appreciative, All-Knowing.” (Sura al Nisa 4:147)

And Allah alone gives success.

 


In this series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.


 

What Makes A Marriage Work – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

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

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

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

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

Marriage and Spirituality

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

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

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

Remind Each Other of The Good

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

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

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

The Principles of Forgiveness

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

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

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

Cheerfulness Is Contagious

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

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

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

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

Focus on The Good Traits

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

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

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

Shortcomings Can Be Overcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ

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

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

The Path of Least Resistance

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

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

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

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

Ingratitude and Boasting

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

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

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

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

The Right to Intimacy

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

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

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

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

The Qur’an says:

وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

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

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

Marriage Is A Fortress

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

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

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

Legal Intimacy Is Nobility

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

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

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

Intimacy and Praiseworthy Modesty

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

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

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