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On Mosques, Companionship, & Knowledge: Zackary King in conversation

When Zackary King decided to become Muslim after three long years of contemplation, he did it alone in his room. The time that followed, he compared to being at a track meet. There was a general sense of belonging, yet a very deep, painful sense of individuality, to the point of loneliness.

However, after a longtime friend admitted to him that he had also become Muslim, Zackary decided to visit a mosque. There, during a short conversation with a fellow Muslim, he got all his questions answered…and realized the importance of companionship and community.

“It’s not just one person plus one person equals two. As you add each person, it has its own spirit. The group has a spirit all of its own. And for me, that’s one the of key aspects of Islam.”

He also learned a lot about the importance of knowledge. “If you’ve ever done any sort of procedure, knowing how to do it yourself gives you a sense of security and confidence that nothing else really can.”

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We are thankful to Safina Society for this recording.

On the Journey through the Grave, by Shaykh Samir al-Nass

Death and the afterlife is something extremely difficult to think about, not because it’s a fearful subject but because it’s so hard to imagine the journey through the afterlife. In this world, we are connected to the people around us. However, after death, we will be cut off from everyone around us. Listen to Shaykh Samir al-Nass talk about the soul’s journey through the grave and afterlife.

We are grateful to the Ha Meem Foundation for this recording.

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Why Muslim Women Must Return To The Forefront Of The Islamic sciences – Dr. Rania Awaad

As a woman in a hijab, Dr. Rania Awaad gets funny looks in the hospital ward where she is a Muslim psychiatrist but few people know that at the age of fourteen she hopped on a plane and went to Damascus to formally study Islam.

The experience of studying scripture that was neither bound by culture nor politics inspired her so much that she decided to go back. After convincing her parents, she went back in her senior year. In the post-colonial era, women were no longer put at the forefront of the Islamic sciences as they had historically. After her perseverance, she was awarded ijazah, or permission to teach the proper recitation of the Quran.

Dr. Awaad takes us on a fascinating journey through her travels to Damascus and the making of a deeply rooted society that didn’t separate between secularism and religion, that empowered women.

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Our thanks so Muslim Student Union at Stanford.

 

What is Spirituality, and Who Are Sufis? by Yusuf Latif

The concept of spirituality is rather vague and is used to describe any number of views and practices among peoples. Whether it has always been this way is a question that is difficult to answer, especially as it is posed, argues Yusuf Lateef Zanella.

When the question is general in nature, as if spirituality were one concrete thing among other things, like chairs, dresses, automobiles, and so on. It is not at easy to answer as, say, a question like: Has the use of ankle-length skirts among women of a certain background become more or less widespread?

When we talk of spirituality in relation to Islam, in order to make sense of it, we need to be more specific as to what we mean by the word. Here the word is meant to cover what is traditionally known as Tassawwuf. Now many will not find that distinction to be very helpful, for what is Tassawwuf? The answer that Tassawwuf is merely Islamic spirituality, more commonly known as Sufism, leaves us treading the same water while trying to get a grip on the rope of understanding. It does not answer the question. Because, as we said, there are many views and opinions on what Tassawwuf is. Its use, though not as common, is almost as diverse and wide-ranging as that of the word spirituality. So, whose view should be taken into serious consideration when seeking an answer to that question?

In his concise yet profound article “The Place of Tasswwuf among the Islamic Sciences” (1995) Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller makes it clear that, in order to answer the question: What is Tassawwuf? one must ask those who know, namely, traditional Muslim scholars who are knowledgeable in the science itself and practice it. Justification for this is found in the Qur’anic verse: “Ask those who know if you know not” (16:43). But is this also not, as Shaykh Nuh himself alludes to in recounting his own search for knowledge, what one would do in any matter of great importance?

One Who Knows the Object and the Science

To draw a material analogy, one could say that if one wanted to know what a combustion engine is one would ask a person who not only knows how to repair certain builds or types of engine, but also the principles of combustion and the science behind engine construction. Not only that, the person must have an understanding of the point of combustions engines, their purpose, and the roles these play in human life. For no one (for the sake of argument) wants a combustion engine in and of itself, rather it is a means toward some goal, toward something one wants to attain.

The Heart’s Desire

Anyone who professes Islam will, upon reflection, know that the ultimate goal in the life of a Muslim is Allah Most High. He, alone, is the true heart’s desire. For what, really, could be more rewarding, more awesome in the truest sense of the word, than to stand in His presence. Can one truly imagine being more alert, more awake, more present and aware other than in the presence of one’s Lord and Maker? Common synonyms of the word awesome as can be found in any reputable dictionary are words such as wonder, reverence, and dread. It is for the purpose of awakening this sense of awe that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the Hadith of Muslim stated that “the perfection of faith” (ihsan) is “to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.” The presence of mind in worship entailed here lies in realising that one is always in the Presence of one’s Lord. For instance, when one stands in prayer, but not only then, for worship is not limited to prayer.

In a related Hadith of Muslim, which precedes the one mentioned above in Imam Nawawi’s Arba‘in, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) says that “Actions are according to intention. And every man shall have what he intended. So whoever’s emigration (hijra) is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), his emigration is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). And whoever’s emigration is for worldly gains or for a woman to marry, his emigration is for the sake of that for which he emigrated.” It is clear that the question of intentions and acts spoken of here can be generalised to include all acts and states in the life of any one Muslim—that any one of our acts with the proper intention is an act of worship.

This state of presence in all acts is also alluded to in the Qur’an, where Allah Most High says: “Truly, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the variation of night and day there are signs for the people of understanding” (3:190). The people of understanding Allah Most High goes on to define as “Those who mind Allah while standing, sitting and lying down” (3:191). The word “mind” here is a translation of yadhkurun, from the verb dhakara (to remember) in the sense of keeping something or someone in mind. They strive to be or are constantly in and aware of His presence. For they know that although they do not see Him, He nevertheless sees them.

To Strive Is No Easy Thing…

This state of presence before Allah Most High is something one can experience or come to an awareness of at any moment. From my own experience I can definitely say that there is a difference, in taste almost, between a prayer prayed alone or behind someone when  in Allah’s presence, that is when mindful of Him, and a prayer in which this is not the case. This is not meant as a slight to anyone or to myself, but rather to say that to strive towards this state is no easy thing. That, however, does not mean it is something one should not strive towards. A sure way of attaining this state, as Shaykh Nuh emphasises, is by keeping the company of the people of understanding mentioned by Allah. That is, the people of the spiritual path.

This Desert Life: Not Even Shoes

In Islam (in Arabic) the word for the Sacred Law is al-Shari‘a and is related to the noun shari‘a (without the definite article) which commonly means water hole or drinking place or the approach to it. Like many things in Islam it is derived from the context of life in the desert. This image of life in a desert, dependence upon water, and the trope of nomadic existence in this world permeates our religion through and through. The first line of the Hadith of Bukhari that rounds off Imam Nawawi’s Arba‘in reads: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger [foreigner] or a traveller on the way.”

In many cultures and languages the words “way” and “law” are often used interchangeably, in the sense of how one properly goes about things, or right conduct. What is sometimes lost sight of in our mode of life is the peril of not acting according to the law. In the context of life in a desert this becomes more apparent, for e.g. the way to water or sustenance is of vital importance for survival, and not acting in accordance with it can have grave consequences. Every word, indeed every action, is a matter of life and death. When viewed from this perspective what one says and does, the meanings of one’s words and actions, are not mere abstractions. The attention and care accorded to them must be commensurate with the situation at hand. To fall short here is not only to risk one’s own life but more importantly the lives of those is one’s care and protection. A true child of the desert will learn how to survive and thrive, where to find sustenance and safety, where to go and when, and to stay put and when, from those who know, through instruction and through imitation. Knowledge in this context is not book learning, but knowing what to day at any time of the day, in any place or situation. Books and diplomas and other things are useful, but as Imam Ghazali said: That which is of greatest value is what you will not lose in a shipwreck.

The point is that, being a traveller in this desert life is so much more that buying a train, boat, or plane ticket and having oneself transported from one point to another. It often means not even having the shoes on which to get through the day, much less the comfort of hot tea on the back of a camel. It also means that one’s goal is ever present to one’s mind, and that is Allah, Most High and Transcendent. We are only passing through this world that is not our “country of origin”. Finally it means that in order to get through this world safely, to make the best of this desert life, it is incumbent upon us to ask those who came before us and who have spent countless hours of their lives learning at the feet of those who came before them the best ways and means of crossing this empty quarter of creation and to make it back home to Allah Most High. To ask those who live this desert life.

They are the people of understanding. The Masters of the Way. The one’s who know the Shari‘a like they know their own hearts. They are those about whom one can say: They have already departed. Their exemplar is of course none other than he “whose character was the Qur’an” (Muslim), who said of himself “I have been sent to perfect righteous character” (Musnad Ahmad), the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). They are the heirs not only of his knowledge (Allah bless him and give him peace) but also of his states. They are the Sufis.

About the Author

Yusuf Latif became Muslim in 1998 at the hands of Shaykh Abd al-Baqi al-Husayni al-Naqshband. The Shaykh sent him to Jordan to learn from Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 2001, from whom he took the Shadhili tariqa in 2003. He spent four years in Amman where he studied tasawwuf, fiqh and aqida, and worked for Islamica Magazine. Now, besides working for Seekers Hub, he writes childrens’ books that he one day hopes to see published. 

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Why Did The Prophet Love Madinah? by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

What was it about the city of Madinah that the Prophet Muhammed loved so much? Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said sheds some light.

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Raheem

“Allah Guides to His Light Whom He Wills.” (Surah An-Nur)

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has blessed everything with the Baraka and Nur of Rasulullah ﷺ, but from places, there is one city, one place, one piece of land that whenever we go back to it we become lost in its aja’ib (wonders):  Madinah!

Maybe it is because Rasulullah ﷺ make dua for Madinah more than double that of Ibrahim (alaih salam) for Makkah.

But why did Rasulullah  love Madinah?  Rasulullah  loved its people, its land, its sand and its fruits; but why Madinah?

Why did Rasulullah  make the sign of iman connected to loving the Ansar (the people of Madinah), and one of the biggest signs of nifaq (hypocrisy) in disliking or hating them?

Why did Rasulullah ﷺ threaten anyone who targets Madinah with any harm to be dissolved like salt in water?

Why did Rasulullah ﷺ curse the one who commits a crime in Madinah or the one who tries any evil design on Madinah or its people?

Why did Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) not make another  portion of Rawdat-ul Jannah (garden of paradise) for Rasulullah  in any place other than Madinah?

Why did Rasulullah tell us that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) made the ajwa of Madinah (a special date) a protection, shifa’a and cure from sihr (black magic) and poison?  Why not any other ajwa?  Why?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say that the land and the sand of Madinah isshifa’a?  Why did Rasulullahﷺ that even the dust is shifa’a!?  Rasulullah ﷺ upon his arrival of Madinah used to uncover his face to the dust of Madinah, as if it were the air-conditioning or freshening agents we enjoy in this time!

Why did Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) choose the people of Baqi to be the first to be resurrected?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say that he would be the intercessor for everyone who dies in Madinah?

Why did Heﷺ encourage people to die in Madinah?

Why does Madinah have more than one-hundred names?  It is said that the number of names that something possesses is a sign of its greatness!

Why did Rasulullahﷺ stay in Makkah for thirteen years and a numbered set of people became Muslim, but when he went to Madinah, the people of Madinah received him and believed in him?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say during the Battle of Hunan to Syedina Abbas (radiallah anhu) to call the Ansar, His Family, and the people of Bayt-ul Ridwan?  Why did Rasulullahﷺ call the Ansar?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say that if everyone was to go one direction and the Ansar were to take a different direction that He would take the direction of the Ansar?  Why?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say to the Ansar that should it not make you happy that others live with money, camels and sheep, but your life is with Rasulullahﷺ?

Why did Rasulullahﷺ say that Uhud is a mountain that He loves and Uhud loves Him?  Why Uhud and why not any other mountain?

Whenever we visit Madinah, we do not want to leave!  Every corner of every part of Madinah has attached with it emotions, feelings and things that can be seen that no one can imagine or dare describe.

In Madinah, you cry, read, smile and you even forget to rest!  Maybe because all of the barakat that was given to this City, and it is suffices that Rasulullahﷺcalled this city “Al Madinah”, “the City!”  When Rasulullahﷺ called it “the City” then that means after that there is no city other than Al Madinah, and that indeed that is the real city.

Al Madinah is a direction.  When Madinah is mentioned, the heart of the mu’min flutters to this City.

Al Madinah is also “Munawarah”.  For the people that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has opened the Nur for, they see this City belit!  Zaid ibn Thabit (radiallah anhu) said that when Rasulullahﷺ came to Madinah, every corner end every street became Nur, and when he departed, everything became dark.  These are the people that do not see except with the eyes of Nur and baseera(insight).  Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in Surah Al-Hajj (46):  “Indeed it is not the sight that goes blind, but rather it is the heart that goes blind.”  Zaid ibn Thabit (radiallah anhu) is telling us that the people of Madinah were the people who saw Nur, in each and every corner what they saw was Nur!

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make us from the people of Madinah, end our life in Madinah, and may He make us from the people of Baqi, from the people of the Rawdah, from the people of Uhud and the Shuhudah of Uhud.

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) fill us with the love of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam), the Ansar, the Muhajireen, the Ahlul Bayt, the Sahaba and all the Saliheen.

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make this a year of Rahma and hidayah (guidance).

2 Muharram 1438

Al Madinah Al Munawarah

 Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

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A Description of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ Bed – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What did the bedding of the Prophet ﷺ like, and why did he choose it? In this short but inspiring video, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani discusses how the choices of the Most Beloved indicated his ultimate choice: the hereafter.

Why did he choose a mat that didn’t cover his body if he was given the keys to the treasures of the whole earth? What did he choose instead? What were his priorities? 

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Rethinking Islamic Education – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Cambridge professor Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, an expert on Islamic education discusses the idea of intellect and its connection to religious thinking.

What is a good Islamic education? Is religion a series of beliefs simply memorized and passed down from generation to generation? Is it a Scripture and doctrine that is pliable and can be molded to our intellect and desires? What role does reasoning and intellect play in our religious practices? What role does practices and tradition play in our religious reasoning?

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The Impact of Our Choices – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Oftentimes we pass the hours away not realizing how many choices we are making. We also don’t realize how many opportunities we are missing out on, says Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said.

Syedina Abu Dharr (radiallah anhu), the great Sahabi of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam), in sharing his wisdom about the choices we make as humans, said:

“Good company is better than being lonely,

And being lonely is better than the corrupted.

The one that spreads khair is better than the one that is quiet,

And the one that is quiet is better than the one devoid of good words. “

The profundity of Abu Dharr’s (radiallah anhu) statement is that it recognizes that we as humans have wants, and as such he is framing those wants as within a set of impactful choices.

Choices that seem as mundane as eating and talking, can at moments be good and at others not be the choicest.

An example of such being when Imam Shafi (rehmatullah alaih) visited Imam Ahmad (rehmatullah alaih), and when the latter’s daughter commented on the amount of food Imam Shafi (rehmatullah alaih) was consuming, he explained that he had done so because of the blessings in the food that was spread before him!

As we tread through the choices that are spread before us, may Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) facilitate the choicest.

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In Peace: The Spread of Islam in Africa

“Islam spread through West Africa through nonviolent means.”

Our ideas of Africa nowadays consist of everything from famines, war, refugees fleeing their homeland, to the recent shootings of black people by police, and the Black Lives Matter movement.spread of Islam in Africa

But this race of beautiful, strong, and intelligent people surely had to have a noble history.

In this illuminating lecture, Dr Rudolph Bilal Ware takes us on a journey through history and gives us some lessons that we can learn from the history of the West African people.

Dr. Ware focuses on two characteristics of these people; firstly, that the spread of Islam through Africa was solely through peaceful means, and secondly, that there was less focus on convincing people and more focus on benefitting all humanity by doing good works.

Whether you’re looking for information on a history project or involved in campus dawah, or just feel the need to know more about the African people, this short talk will provide many answers to the questions in your mind.

Our thanks to Lamppost Education Initiative for this recording.

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spread of Islam in Africa

What You Need to Know About the Fiqh of Burial, by Imam Tahir Anwar

How much do you know about the fiqh of burial? Do you know what is the first call to make when someone dies? What sort of preparation do you need to make? Is there a religious significance to washing the shroud in Zamzam water? What sort of instructions should you give to your relatives? Is it really true that we must encourage a dying person to recite the testimony of faith? And is organ donation permissible?

In this video, Imam Tahir Anwar discusses what we possibly consider the most difficult subject to think about: death and dying. However, it’s also one of the most important subjects, not to mention a situation that we are all absolutely guaranteed to face, sooner or later.

“Life has no guarantees. A person could pass away at any time.”

 Resources for Seekers

We are thankful to Al-Maqasid for this recording.