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Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on Seeking Beneficial Knowledge

In this series of five videos, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers some common questions people ask about seeking knowledge.

 

1. Why study Islam?
2. Don’t I know enough already?
3. What should I prioritize in my study?
4. Who should I study with?
5. When reconnecting or considering Islam, where do I begin?

Resources for Seekers

The Blessed Experience of Seeking Knowledge, by Shaykh Faiz Qureshy
Ten Adab of Seekers of Knowledge
Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge
10 Steps to Firm-Footedness in Seeking Knowledge of Fiqh

10 Steps to Firm-Footedness in Seeking Knowledge of Fiqh

In this brief podcast, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides 10 genuinely useful tips on gaining and retaining a firm grasp of your knowledge of fiqh.

See also:

“From knowing nothing to becoming a student of knowledge”
Advice from Habib Ali Al-Jifri for Seekers of Knowledge
The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge

Habib Umar’s Advice to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge
Shaykh Áwwamah’s advice for Students of Sacred Knowledge
Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge

 

The Blessing of Knowledge, by Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said

Allah has promised that He will facilitate the path to Jannah for anyone who embarks on the journey to seeking knowledge. Imagine being in the company of the “pious ones” in the Eternal Garden. Can you afford to lose out on this opportunity? Listen to Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said explain how clear and easy Allah has made this choice for us and start today by taking a free course with SeekersHub from the comfort of your own home.

Feeling Discouraged about Marriage

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil answers concerns about not feeling acceptable as a potential spouse.

I am an American college student trying to finish half my din. I have maintained haya all my life and avoided speaking unnecessarily with men, so I asked my parents to help me search. Unfortunately I’ve been met with rejection before I’ve even been introduced as a prospect.

Men have remarked on how they don’t want a hijabi, they don’t want someone with such dark skin, they are only attracted to Europeans, I am too religious, I am not religious enough, I am too educated, I am not educated enough etc.

I see girls much younger than me marrying remarkable men with ease. I feel like there is something wrong with me. How do I keep my head up? I always dreamed of being a wife and mother in my early twenties but it seems this is no longer possible.

I am not willing to stray from the din or remove my hijab to please a man, nor can I change the way I look and my race. Should I even continue to think of marriage? It seems I am unwanted.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Self-doubt Trap

“And whoever submits his self to Allah and is good in deeds, he in fact holds on to the strongest ring. Towards Allah is the ultimate end of all matters.” (Sura Luqman 31:22)

Dear sister, please know that there is nothing wrong with you. You sound intelligent, kind, and most of all, God-fearing. Your future husband will be so blessed to have you as his wife, and the mother of his children.

Please do not allow the comments of ignorant men get you down. You are a believer, and worthy of every good.

Unfortunately, many traumatized Muslim families produce sons who carry deep-seated feelings of post-colonial shame. They feel that lighter-skinned women who are not in hijab make better wife material. This is their baggage speaking, and it is not your burden to bear. This is not the kind of family you want to marry into.

Keep your heart focused on what pleases Allah, and know that He will never let you down.

Breaking Our Attachments

Many of us get attached to different ideas, and when they do not happen, we become heartbroken. I encourage you to let go of your hope to be a mother and a wife in your twenties, and instead, hold onto the fact that Allah will bless you with marriage and children when He deems best.

If this gives you any comfort, please know that I married my husband at 28. I had my first child when I was 31, and my second when I was 34. I would have been a terrible mother in my twenties even though I really wanted kids. Allah needed me to work through my issues before blessing me with my two little daughters. AlhamduliLlah, His Wisdom eclipsed my own short-sightedness.

Of course, this is my story. You have your own. Instead of wondering if there is something wrong with you, perhaps you can ask yourself a different question. What is Allah trying to teach you? What are some character traits you can improve? What are some gaps in your knowledge that you can fill in?

Preparing for Marriage

I encourage you to complete this course, while you have the time and energy. Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages.

Please perform the Prayer of Need in the last third of the night, every night, for a loving husband who has both din and good character.

Please read Sura al-Waqi‘a as regularly as you can, with the intention of increasing your rizq, namely, husband and children.

Reflections on Seasons in Life

Dear sister, I remember being a single student of knowledge in Amman, ten years ago. I was in my twenties, and really wanted to get married.

A wise older friend told me that life comes in seasons. This season of your life may feel like a winter, when you so want it to be spring. So, make the most of your winter. Buckle down, and nourish yourself with the courses and podcasts on SeekersGuidance. May the good seeds you plant now come to fruition when the time is right.

Use the time and energy that you have now to be of service to your family and wider community. One day, I pray that you will be a wife and a mother. You will exhausted beyond imagination, but you will be content too, insha Allah.

In the meantime, everything you are learning now will help you in those roles. Trust in Allah’s timing, and in His Mercy. He knows exactly what you need, even if it may not be what you want.

I pray that Allah blesses you with the gift of marriage, motherhood, patience, and contentment.

Please see Love, Marriage and Relationships in Islam: All Your Questions Answered.

Raidah

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Why Muslim Youth Need Guiding Mentorship

In this memoir, a student speaks about how having knowledgeable, concerned mentorship in his teenage years helped him take the right path.

My Two Mentors

One day in my late teens, I remember being out all day with my brothers and younger cousins. We engaged in all kinds of activities, such as football, laser tag, and then going to a restaurant to eat.

We had fun all day. My father simply took us to where we wanted to go and would watch us have fun, until we were ready to go to the next one. When we got home that evening, I began talking to my cousins about the next activity my dad could take us to.

At this, my two older cousins, Umar and Ali, approached me. They both pointed out quite bluntly that I needed to be more grateful to my parents and appreciate how much effort and sacrifice they’d made for me. Only then did I realize how much I was taking them for granted.

I benefitted a lot through Umar and Ali, who served as my mentors through my teenage years. Both about ten years older than me, they had been through the same education system as me, and had been brought up in the West just like me. They’d seen the same challenges to their faith that I was going through. I knew I could speak to them whenever I needed.

I didn’t have the benefit of having learnt sacred knowledge from a young age. As a result, for the first twenty years of my life, my knowledge of Islam was quite basic. Like the other Muslims in my school, I had to figure it out largely on my own. I remember being in school at age 12, where the teacher was asking the students how many of them believed in God. Despite their age, many answered that they did not.

In most subjects there was either an anti-God, anti-religious, or anti-Islamic narrative. In history classes, the Islamic nations were always the bad guys, whether it was the Ottoman armies or the successful “kicking out” of the Muslims from Spain. Religious study lessons would include philosophical challenges to the existence of God, such as the so-called “Problem of Evil,” without mentioning the vast contributions and proofs of the great Muslim thinkers.

And of course, biology lessons always featured evolution in biased ways. When speaking about animals that were well adapted to their environments, the teacher would attribute it to the genius of evolution. But when there were apparent biological flaws in an animal, the teacher would say that a Creator would not have let that flaw to exist.

This environment impacted me greatly. I felt very insecure about not having clear answers. I’d find myself around the age of 14 and 15 lying in bed at night for hours thinking about how the universe began, whether evolution existed, and everything else.

By the grace of Allah, I always remained a Muslim in belief. However, I had fundamental questions that needed answering. During this period, I benefited immensely from Umar and Ali, who would answer my questions. They would explain how there is no problem believing in the Big Bang as long one believes it is God that caused it to happen. They explained the problems with evolution from a scientific perspective, and that explaining how science and Islam are compatible. Their mentorship was so effective because they had gone through the same journey that I had. Because of this, they were able to help me in a way that parents, aunties and uncles were not.

Battling Ideology

But my troubles weren’t over. When I began university I got involved with the Muslim student groups. Their arguments seemed logical and straightforward, and I got caught up in them. After all, why did we need to follow a school of thought, if we had the Qur’an and sunna? And why were we introducing innovations if our religion was already clear?

Alhamdulillah, yet again, there were Umar and Ali. They tried their best to gently explain the issues with textual literalism, and the importance of schools of thought and following traditional Islam. It wasn’t an overnight process, nor was it an easy one.

They would patiently tolerate me debating with them on religious issues, but would not argue with me. “Don’t worry,” I heard Umar say to Ali. “He’ll figure it out for himself one day.” With wisdom and kindness, they gave me the space to explore for myself, while also advising me at the right moments when I most needed it.

A few years later, when I was ready, Ali very generously paid for me to study some Sunni Path courses (now Qibla), including an Aqida al-Tahawi course taught by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, and a course that covered the sources of Islamic law, taught by Shaykh Farid Dingle.

I remembered how I told a brother from university that I was about to take these classes. “Be careful,” he warned. “They may be Asharis!” “What are Asharis?” I asked. “They interpret some parts of the Qur’an figuratively,” he replied. “For example, when the Qur’an refers to ‘Allah’s hand,’ they say it’s a metaphor for His power, because He does not resemble created things.”

I personally couldn’t see what was wrong with that. He gave me a CD and told me to listen to it instead. I tried, but the speaker was just bashing the other methodologies without actually proving his own points.

I decided to go ahead with the Sunni Path courses. They were detailed and well-taught, and confirmed to me the truth of traditional Sunni Islam in a clear, factual manner. The Aqida course included some articles written by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller about the Sunni Aqida. I sent them to the brother from university.
When he finally responded, he told me that the articles were not backed up by sources from the Qur’an and Sunna.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “The whole article is based on hadith!” “Yes, but they need to be verified.” “They are sahih, what more do you want?” I was frustrated with the lack of response. Learning from Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Farid gave me the inspiration to study more. Alhamdulillah, Ali also introduced me to the spiritual teachings of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who I now learn from and do not ever want to look back.

However, their work was not yet over. When the time came for me to start searching for a spouse, it was time for them to help me again, as some of my family members, although they wanted nothing but the best for me, weren’t on the same page as me when it came to what to look for in a spouse. My cousins themselves had gone through the same challenges while looking for a spouse. By now, they were both married and starting families, and through their advice I eventually did find a wife who had the same religious perspective and goals as me.

To this day, Umar and Ali continue to guide me with their calm influence, wisdom and life experience. To me, my story is an example of the importance of Muslim youth having role models, who are older than them but not too old, and well-grounded in their own faith.

By Amjad Shaykh


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.


Adab 07: The Proprieties of Earning a Living

Ustadh Tabraze Azam dives deep into the proprieties of earning a lawful income, its virtues, and its rewards in this life and in the life to come.

The trustworthy, honest trader will be with the prophets, the truthful, and the martyrs [on the Day of Judgement], said the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. (Tirmidhi)

When we live up to the ideals and deep, moral standards of the religion, we can be hopeful of something tremendous from Allah in the hereafter. After all, this life is merely a means to the next, and not an end-goal in and of itself. Earning a livelihood is something that most of us can probably relate to, but our fast-paced lives, however, can sometimes hinder our ability to simply pause for a moment and review our trajectory into eternity. Seldom is a moment of contemplation void of any lasting benefit when it is for Allah.

As we try to reconnect with our faith and live it more faithfully, with propriety, we should recall the words of Allah in which He informs us that He “made the day for livelihood.” (Sura al Naba’ 78:11) Thus, it is Allah’s favor upon us by which we are blessed with days in which we can fulfill the purpose of that time. A believer is a “son of his moment,” namely, somebody concerned with being in the right places at the right times, and doing what will be most pleasing to Allah therein. With gratitude, we can come to appreciate the most menial of tasks, and with gratitude, Allah increases us in ways we couldn’t otherwise imagine.

With this in mind, let us now turn our attention to some of the proper manners to be upheld in seeking a living for Allah.

Righteous Intentions (Niyya Saliha)

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, reminded us that a believer’s intention is better than his action or work itself (Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman). Accordingly, getting our intentions right will ensure that we receive a splendid, unspeakable reward from Allah Most High even if we’re not prosperous, even if we don’t fulfil our hopes and dreams and even if it simply wasn’t meant to be. This is a huge mercy.

What, then, should we intend? Above all, to seek the pleasure of Allah Most High as this is the point of life itself. When you have such a noble intention, the most mundane of tasks can transform into something sacred. But given the difficulty of maintaining such a lofty state, the scholars recommend having secondary intentions which act as the pathways to the central intention.

Thus, intend to:

    1. 1) abstain from begging,

 

    1. 2) abstain from coveting what others have,

 

    1. 3) become financially strong and independent,

 

    1. 4) provide for your dependants,

 

    1. 5) uphold the values and ethics of the Sacred Law of integrity, commanding the good and otherwise,

 

    1. 6) fulfil a personal and a communal obligation (fard ‘ayn/kifaya),

 

    1. 7) make regular charitable donations,

 

    8) be of service to Allah’s creation, and similarly any other intention that comes to mind of virtuous matters.

Reliance (Tawakkul) upon Allah Most High

Our Master ‘Umar, Allah be pleased with him, reported that Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If you relied upon Allah as He should be relied upon, He would give you sustenance just as the birds are given sustenance: they leave hungry in the morning, and return satiated in the evening.” (Tirmidhi) He, Allah bless him and give him peace, also told the Bedouin man who asked about the manner of true reliance (tawakkul) to “tie the camel, and then rely upon Allah.” (Tirmidhi)

Reliance, as defined by Jurjani in his Ta‘rifat, is confidence and contentment with what is Allah’s, and despair with respect to what is in the hands of people. Namely, realising that Allah alone is the sole doer, and consequently, that it is not people who will prevent your livelihood from reaching you as they are intrinsically incapable and needy. Rather, He is the Sufficer (al-Wakil), and He alone gives and constricts as He wills. So what’s the point of taking the means? Because the lawgiver commanded it.

True reliance upon Allah isn’t negated by taking the means as the two matters are distinct. Reliance upon Allah is a state of the heart whereas taking the means (asbab) is an action of the limbs. When the two are conjoined, the fullest and truest meaning of reliance is realised. And this is why Imam Birgivi wrote, “Taking the outward means which normally lead to the outcomes desired doesn’t negate reliance at all, and this is why earning a living is an obligation.” (Al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya)

Practizing a Lawful and Dignified Trade

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed us, “No one eats any food better than the one who eats from what he earns by work of his own hands. The Prophet of Allah, Dawud, peace be upon him, used to eat from what he earned by the work of his own hands.” (Bukhari) Note that this is a metaphor for earning a living and not that the best line of work is carpentry, baking or any other work in which the hands are directly used! Moreover, the Prophet Dawud, Allah bless him and give him peace, wasn’t in need of such work and wealth as he was the Caliph of the entire earth at the time. However, the tradition (hadith) informs us of the nobility of the rank of working and his desire to do what was superior and more pleasing to Allah Most High.

When choosing a line of work, look for the kind of opportunities which you are deeply interested in, and also allow you to fulfill your potential, yet at the same time, don’t infringe upon any of your religious obligations. Primarily, this latter point entails that your very line of work needs to be lawful. Engaging in, encouraging or abetting sin is destructive to your hereafter. Keep such lines of work at a healthy distance so that you don’t have to explain yourself, or worse, bear the consequences, later. If you’re unsure regarding the legality or otherwise of your work, you should consult a reliable scholar before making any serious decisions.

Avoiding the Unlawful (Haram) and Offensive (Makruh)

The basis in transactions is the verse of the Qur’an, “You who believe, do not wrongfully consume each other’s wealth but trade by mutual consent.” (Sura al Nisa’ 4:29) The masterful Ottoman Qur’anic exegete, Abu al-Su‘ud Effendi, clarified that “wrongfully” means anything that is contrary to the Sacred Law, whether that is by way of theft, misappropriation, deception, gambling, engaging in usurious dealings, or anything else that the Sacred Law interdicted.

Our religion encourages us to engage in trade, but it is imperative that we avoid the kind of unethical behavior that many, unfortunately, fall into, let alone sin. The recognition that lack of clarity in transactions leads to unnecessary disputes and argumentation, for example, should move us to do something about it. Appreciate that things sometimes go wrong so be clear with one another about the terms of your agreement so that you don’t lose each other in mere worldliness. The way out, then, is to be grounded in sufficient law, or fiqh, which will ensure that you don’t fall into the religiously blameworthy or unlawful altogether.

As part of a longer tradition, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Do not be resentfully envious of one another, do not artificially inflate prices against one another, do not loathe one another, do not give a cold shoulder to one another, do not undercut one another in business transactions, but be, servants of Allah, brothers.” (Muslim)

Learning A Trade Well (Itqan) and Doing A Good Job (Ihsan)

Allah Most High says, “Indeed, We granted David a great privilege from Us, commanding: ‘O mountains! Echo his hymns! And the birds as well.’ We made iron mouldable for him, instructing: ‘Make full-length armor, perfectly balancing the links. And work righteousness O family of David! Indeed, I am All-Seeing of what you do.’” (Sura Saba 34:10-11) Something we can take away from this latter verse is the Divine injunction to the Prophet Dawud, Allah bless him and give him peace, to perfect his trade and not simply to produce something that others couldn’t.

Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, continually guiding us to what Allah loves, is reported to have once stated, “Allah is pleased when any of you does some action and perfects it.” (Tabarani) One of the hallmarks of believers is that they work, not only to produce, but to beautify. The trait of excellence, or ihsan, is deeply rooted in tradition and a foundational principle of the prophetic way. Practically, if you’re doing something, do it well. Don’t sell yourself short, and be an example to others in the trade, particularly when you are noticeably religious in societies where Islam is something unfamiliar.

Exhibiting Mercy (Rahma) and Other Praiseworthy Traits in Dealings

Whether you run your own business or work for another, you should always try to keep your heart in the right place, and at the same time, exhibit what you can of lofty, prophetic character traits. Taking it easy with people, particularly with those of lesser means, is a sure way of attaining the great good foretold by the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah reported that Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “May Allah show mercy to a man who is generous and easy-going when he sells, when he buys and when he asks for settlement.” (Bukhari)

Use the opportunity of work to remember your Lord and reset your intentions. Imam Sha‘rani related that his teacher and guide, ‘Ali al-Khawass, used to supplicate to Allah upon opening his store every morning, “O Lord, make this a means of benefiting your creation.”

Likewise, there is great virtue in remembering Allah in the marketplaces or in places of general heedlessness. Make it a point to say the takbir (Allahu akbar), tahmid (Alhamdu li Llah), tahlil (La ilaha illa Llah) and tasbih (Subhana Llah) at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon in seeking the closeness of Allah Most High. If you have more motivation, you can recite the blessed words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, “There is no god but Allah. He is alone and has no partner. To Him belongs sovereignty and to Him belongs all praise. He gives life and He gives death. He is alive and does not die. In His hand is all good, and He has power over all things.” (Tirmidhi)

Giving from What You Love: Charity (Sadaqa) and the Afterlife

Allah Most High says, “You will never achieve righteousness until you donate some of what you cherish. And whatever you give is certainly well known to Allah.” (Sura Al-‘Imran, 3:92) Further, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that charity is a “proof.” (Muslim) A proof of what? Faith. When you give, you are showing your deep certitude and faith in Allah Most High, in the truth of the prophetic message, in the veracity of the hereafter and everything that entails.

The best of giving is when it is selfless, sincerely for Allah and swiftly forgotten. Consistent donations, even if only slight, are superior to sporadic payments, even if large. Charity wards off calamities, wipes out sins, cleanses and purifies wealth and draws you nearer to your Ever-Merciful Lord.

Finally, it behooves us to recognize that the reality of earning a living is that it is Allah Most High who is the Provider (al-Razzaq). The wage which you earn is merely a means which He has created, and, at the end of the day, He is the one who creates sustenance (rizq) through it. So although wealth may sometimes come and go, know that it doesn’t intrinsically aid one.

The ultimate objective is to be ever-cognizant of the Divine, and to travel toward Him with a deep desire to live an ethical, pleasing life: the kind of life the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) directed us towards. “Say, O Prophet, ‘If you sincerely love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive your sins. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’” (Sura Aal ‘Imran, 3:31)

And Allah alone gives success.


Intention for Seeking Knowledge by Imam Haddad

In this article, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides commentary on Imam Haddad’s famous “Intention for Seeking Knowledge.” Text and translation of this supplication is also provided.

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Actions are by their intentions, and each person shall have whatsoever they intended.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The reality of our actions is not merely what we do, but also why we do it. As Ibn Ata’illah explained, “Actions are lifeless forms, whose soul is the subtle reality of sincerity within them.” (Hikam al Ata’iyya)

Seeking Knowledge as a Spiritual Work

Seeking sacred knowledge (talab al-ilm) has been described in the Qur’an and Sunna as one of the highest of spiritual works. Thus, a sincere intention is particularly important.

Seeking knowledge can also be a source of honor and recognition in this world. This can be dangerous, as it can result in sinful inward traits such as pride, conceit, and arrogance. Only sincere intentions can protect a person, and fulfill the spiritual potential of seeking knowledge.

What is an Intention?

The scholars explain that an intention (niyya) is, “The resolve to (a) perform an act of obedience to Allah, (b) drawing closer to Allah thereby, (c) at the beginning of one’s action.” (Taftazani, quoted by Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar)

This has three components:
(a) “The resolve to perform an act of obedience” entails mindful, purposeful action. Bring to mind what are you doing, and that you are doing it as an act of obedience.
(b)“ … drawing closer to Allah…” entails bringing to mind that you are acting for the sake of Allah alone – seeking His Closeness, Love, Good Pleasure, and reward.
(c) “… at the beginning of the action,” entails pausing for a moment before you begin any action, at any time, in order to renew your resolve.

What is Sincerity?

Sincerity, or ikhlas, is the heart of Islam. It is defined by the scholars as, “Seeking to draw closer to Allah with one’s actions, without any ulterior motive.” (Qushayri)

Sahl ibn Abd Allah said, “The intelligent looked at sincerity, and the best description they found is that it is for one’s motions and rest – in private and in public – to be for Allah alone without partner, without anything being mixed into one’s motives. Not one’s ego, nor one’s whims, nor any merely worldly aspirations.” (Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman)

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Knowledge: A Practical Means for Making High Intentions

Part of having sincere intentions (al-niyya al-saliha) is to reflect deeply on all the multiple ways one is seeking the Pleasure of Allah through one’s actions. This is called “multiplying one’s intention,” or ta’addud al-niyya.

Because such deep reflection is rare for most of us, the scholars compiled statements of intention to help us make high, transformative intentions before we act.

One such powerful statement of intention for seeking knowledge is Imam Abd Allah ibn Alawi al-Haddad’s “Intention for Seeking Sacred Knowledge.”

This intention defines both the ultimate purpose of seeking knowledge – “seeking Allah Himself, His Good Pleasure, Closeness, and Reward” –  as well as the multiple ways one can make one’s knowledge sincerely for Allah.

The scholars encourage making it a deliberate, purposeful habit to make such a statement of intention – in one’s heart or uttered – every time one begins studying, teaching, reading, or listening to Islamic knowledge.

Imam Haddad’s Intention for Seeking Knowledge


 

Adab 06: The Adab of the Mosque Pt II

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

Allah Most High says:

Light upon light! Allah guides whoever He wills to His light. And Allah sets forth parables for humanity. For Allah has perfect knowledge of all things. That light shines through houses of worship which Allah has ordered to be raised, and where His Name is mentioned. He is glorified there morning and evening. (Sura al Nur 24:35-36)

Proper manners take time to inculcate. But the more sacred the space or setting, the greater the emphasis is in maintaining a high bar. Each time we display something of a higher level of religion, and thank Allah for it, He increases us out of His generosity. Each time we apply ourselves to a deeper level of excellence, it only shows Allah Most High that we truly care and that His religion is certainly something very dear to us.

“And whoever honours the symbols of Allah, it is certainly out of the piety of the heart.” (Sura al Hajj 22:32) A heart stationed between regular gratitude for Allah’s blessings and a look to the eternal life is the kind of heart that is moved to work righteous deeds, even if only seemingly slight.

With this in mind, let us now turn to the remainder of the proper manners (adab) and sunnas relating to mosques, the houses of Allah Most High.

Sanctity: Physical and Spiritual

One matter which must be remembered at all times is that the mosque has a sanctity (hurma). Upholding this entails that we keep it not only physically clean, which is obvious, but spiritually clean too, namely, from distractions and matters which disturb the stillness and serenity therein. Accordingly, young children who don’t understand the concept of what a mosque or prayer is should be left at home. If there is a need for them to be present, they should be kept beside you so that they can be reminded to remain quiet.

Similarly, you should take a moment to ensure that your phone is muted or turned off as you enter the mosque. It is unbecoming to enter into a sacred space of worshipers and then disturb them with, sometimes, unfortunate ringtones. This is much more emphatic when it occurs during the prayer, so you should use slight movements to quiet down the phone if it happens.

If the phone is away from you, you may need to break the prayer lest it cause further annoyance to the other praying persons. Needless to say, the same would apply to an inconsolable child. Infringing upon the rights of others is a serious matter.

Public Lessons, Sermons, and Recitation

Generally, recitation is something which is a private matter. There is, however, benefit in louder recitation which has a more powerful effect on the heart, mind and soul as more limbs take part in the process. If you would like to recite aloud, you should choose an appropriate place to sit, away from those who are praying and others who may be engaged in worship. The basis is that the mosque is for private devotion so you should be careful that your recitation doesn’t unknowingly become something else.

The exception is when there are public events such as the weekly Friday sermon, or the occasional marriage ceremony (nikah) – depending on the time of year! – or the ‘eid sermon. When such sermons begin, it is not permitted to talk or pray until, depending on circumstance, the sermon or prayer ends. Other public lessons or events in appointed times are also exempted from the general rule and you should strive to give the speaker the respect due.

Worldly Activities

Part of maintaining the dignity of this sacred space is ensuring that we don’t violate what is was made for by engaging in worldly affairs in it. Buying and selling in the mosque is something that was interdicted by the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, as the mosque isn’t supposed to be a kind of marketplace, even if you entered to pray. (Abu Dawud) So that book you wanted from Amazon will have to wait some minutes!

In the same way, eating and drinking was generally inappropriate as it is distracting, brings in smells and affects the entire space. But this doesn’t negate the fact that the one who is engaged in a spiritual retreat (mu’takif) is in fact permitted to do these things because he is bound to stay in the mosque. Otherwise, activities other than prayer, remembrance, recitation and other devotion is best done elsewhere.

Obeying the Imam (Wali al Amr)

The basis is to obey those who have authority over one in a particular context. Putting aside the legal nuances, the general idea is that, for example, you should listen well to the host when he directs you, as the guest, to your seat or the food.

Similarly, the imam of the mosque is working within his capacity as the authority figure and he should be obeyed when he orders the rows to be straightened, gaps to be filled or appoints somebody to lead the prayer on his behalf, namely, those matters which are in the greater interests of everybody within the mosque and taking part in the congregational prayer.

All of these matters are within his domain and he has a right to choose as he sees fit. Nevertheless, when he is mistaken, he remains a fellow believer who deserves dignity, respect and sincere counsel (nasiha), so it should be afforded to him with full and proper decorum.

The Call to Prayer (Adhan)

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “When it is time for prayer, let one of you give the adhan.” (Bukhari) This is one of the strongest of the sunnas of our religion and a sign and marker of Islam itself. It is a means of reminding us of the pre-eternal call of the Divine and a reminder of the reality of life and the proximity of the Hereafter. So it behooves us to make it a point to become of those who “respond to Allah and His messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.” (Sura al Anfal 8:24)

The one giving the call to prayer (adhan) should know the prayer times, face the qibla, be in a state of ritual purification, beautify his voice, and elongate the words, yet without exaggerating such that the adhan becomes very long.

The sunna of the one listening is to respond to the adhan by repeating the words after the caller. Then one and all should send blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and supplicate for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be granted the Station of Mediation (wasila).

Supplication upon Entering and Exiting

It from the sunna to supplicate when entering and leaving mosques. Imam Nawawi writes in his Book of Remembrances (al-Adhkar) that a person can recite the following supplication, for example, upon entering: “O Allah, open for me the doors of Your mercy’ (allahumma iftah li abwab rahmatik).” And upon leaving, he would say, “O Allah, I ask of You from Your bounty’ (Allahumma inni as’aluka min fadlik).” (Muslim)

We ask Allah Most High to clothe us inwardly and outwardly in beauty so that our hearts and limbs fall into true submission at all times, and so that we genuinely become “masajid” ourselves, or vessels of sincere, humble, perpetual worship.

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.


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.


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.