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Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an – Intro

Shaykh Jamir Meah introduces his new series: Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an. It begins this Friday with the first post: Deaf, Mute, and Blind.

Many religious scriptures share the common characteristic of deploying similitudes and parables to convey their message and as a means of illustrating profound, divine truths. The Qur’an does not differ in this sense, and Allah Most High uses many similitudes and parables in His final revelation to mankind.

Parables Are Linguistic Memes

Before mass communication and technology, the oral tradition was an integral part of many societies. Poetry and storytelling were the media of the day and a means to preserve the history of a people. Parables were a common form of teaching, particularly, in matters of belief and morals.

Never before has man been so aware of the power and influence of images on the human mind. The mnemonic power of visualization was recognized by past nations. However, images were set up in the mind by far subtler uses than we have today; using language to create graphic analogies of common things, familiar to all, in order to drive home a particular message. Parables convey spiritual and moral knowledge and can say things symbolically that we humans cannot always say using the spoken word.

Parables and similitudes function as narratives, and everybody enjoys and remembers a good story. Because it creates a visualization in the mind, we learn and retain information better because the subject is associated with something we already know, understand within a familiar context. Because we understand and remember better, there is more chance that we will reflect upon it.

Seeing What You Hear

In the Qur’an, parables and similitudes are used extensively, in a variety of forms and they cover many themes. The lessons in these, which are to be taken away and reflected upon, is the universal message contained with them, so the characters, place, or time, mentioned in them are of minor significance.

In many cases, Allah uses in the Qur’an those things that would have been familiar to the desert Arab folk who were chosen to be the people from whom the final Prophet would arise, and the centre from which Islam would go forth and spread across the earth. Hence, we find many similitudes and parables concerning agriculture, livestock, the sun, the moon and the stars, rain and water, wealth in children, trade, etc.

In this series we will be exploring some of the beautiful similitudes and parables in the Qur’an, with the purpose of reminding ourselves of the lessons to be taken from them and reflect upon them. We will also do this with the intention to reconnect our minds and hearts to the universal message of our Book, for Allah has told us:

We set forth these parables to men that they may reflect. (Sura al Hashr 59:21)


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.


The Blessings of Suhur – Shaykh Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah gives us all a simple reminder of the blessings of the pre-dawn meal or Suhur.

Opportunities to obtain benefit (worldly, spiritual, or both) present themselves with every passing breath of our lives. Even in the smallest moments of spare time, or in the seemingly easiest and mundane of acts, we find opportunities that carry tremendous blessings and moments of spiritual profit.

The pre-dawn meal (suhur) during Ramadan is one such easy, golden opportunity to effortlessly reap manifold blessings and rewards. Numerous Traditions have reached us in regards the blessings of the pre-dawn meal. Such as:

“Take the morning meal. Verily, there is blessing in the morning meal.” (Bukhari)

“You must take the morning meal. Verily, it is a blessed meal.” (Nisa’i)

“Indeed Allah and His angels send blessings upon those who have the pre-dawn meal.” (Al Tabarani)

While not obligatory, it was from the immense love and desire for good for his Umma that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, urged us to observe the sunna of suhur. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, himself would invite others to partake in the pre-dawn meal with him, saying “Come to the blessed breakfast!” (Abu Dawud)

Two Sunnas of Suhur

There are two sunnas: the sunna of the actual suhur and the sunna of delaying the suhur as much as possible.

The time for the pre-dawn meal enters in the middle of the night (not meaning midnight, rather, the night must be calculated in hours to find the middle). Anything eaten before the middle of the night is not considered suhur, while anything eaten after this time receives the reward of the sunna of suhur.

However, it is a separate and confirmed sunna to delay the pre-dawn meal as late as possible (opposite to breaking the fast), unless one becomes uncertain if Fajr has come in or not. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Eat and drink and let not the ascending white light stop you, so continue to eat and drink until redness appears on the horizon.”

The length of time between when the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stopped eating and stood for the Dawn prayer was said to be “time enough to recite 50 verses” ( Bukhari) which is only a few minutes or so.

A Mark of This Umma

This delaying of the pre-dawn meal is a specific characteristic of this Umma, setting it apart from previous nations. It is narrated that past nations would eat their meal before they slept, and some would forbid eating or drinking after sleep, or even after late evening, and these practices were still prevalent in the early days if Islam. (Hashiyat al Bajuri)

This is why the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “My nation will not cease to be upon goodness so long as they hasten to break their fasting and delay the morning meal.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Other scholars have stated that the pre-dawn meal inculcates piety, taqwa. (Bushra al Karim)

Many people find eating the pre-dawn meal difficult, and unfortunately miss out on the blessings that come with eating the meal at its time. As if speaking to those people directly, the beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, urged us to still partake of the suhur, by saying, “Do not abandon it, even if you take only a sip of water.” (Musnad Ahmad)

The Minimum Sunna

For those who really struggle with taking the suhur, one could simply put a glass of water next to one’s bed or anywhere near one, and take a few sips before Fajr, with the intention of it being suhur.

The order of recommended food is the same as when breaking the fast, namely, fresh dates, then dry dates, then water. If one is going to eat more than this, one should start with these first. Any amount of food or drink suffices to fulfill the sunna.

Imam Ibn Hajr stated that one should partake in the pre-dawn meal even if one is already full-up. (Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Bushra al Karim) And yes, even just that (essential) cup of tea or coffee will fulfill the minimum sunna!

Measure in All Things

One should eat well at suhur times, but not go to excess, which also applies to the iftar (the evening meal), for Allah says:

إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

Verily, He likes not those who commit excess. (Sura al A‘raf 7:31)

It is easy after a day of abstinence to instinctively want to indulge and make up for “missed” meals throughout the night! However, though the physical day’s fast is broken (and hopefully our ego and desires a little too), the spirit of Ramadan is still present in every moment of the blessed month.

It is for us to try to override the urges of our lower self as much as possible for the next four weeks, and instead, explore the opportunities and secrets that are there for those who seek them. Suhur is certainly one of these moments.

May Allah grant us all a blessed and accepted Ramadan.


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Forgotten Sunnas: Healthy Relationships Through Visiting the Sick

The Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Every Muslim has five rights over another Muslim: to return the greetings, to visit the sick, to accompany funeral processions, to accept an invitation, to respond to the one who sneezes.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]

When in good health, we visit each other and hang out. If we have a need to do so, we make time to meet up and speak to one another; through such interactions we form friendships and bonds. If this is the case when we are well, moreover it should be that these ties are strengthened while visiting someone when they are sick, when there is no need or tangible benefit other than pure love, concern, and care.

The sunna of visiting the sick applies to not only people we know, but also people we don’t know, as there is always room for forming new friendships.

When we share the suffering of others, even if the suffering be mild, and we take the time out to offer comfort and support in times of weakness and sickness, whether physical or emotional, we can truly begin to grasp some of the meanings behind the words of the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) when he said:

The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, and camaraderie is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever. [Muslim]

And,

Indeed, Allah would say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘Where are those who have mutual love for My Glory’s sake? Today I shall shelter them in My shade when there is no other shade but Mine.’ [Muslim]

The recommendation to visit the sick not only apply to believers, but extends towards non-Muslims. The Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) would visit non-Muslims when they were sick, such as the hadith of the young Jewish boy as narrated by Imam al-Bukhari.

Moreover, in visiting the sick, there is something in it for the one visiting: reminders and rewards.

Rewards for Visiting the Sick

There are many ahadith concerning the merits of visiting the sick. Among them, the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is recorded to have said:

When the Muslim visits his [sick] Muslim brother, he is harvesting the fruits of Paradise until he returns. [Muslim]

Whoever visits a sick person or visits a brother in Islam, a caller cries out to him, ‘May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you occupy a dignified position in Paradise.’ [al-Tirmidhi]

There is no Muslim who visits a [sick] Muslim early in the morning but that seventy-thousand angels send blessings upon him until evening comes, and if he visits him in the evening, seventy thousand angels send blessings upon him until morning comes, and he will have a garden in Paradise. [al Tirmidhi]

Etiquettes of Visiting the Sick

Make an intention: We are told that “Acts are according to their intentions” by the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) [Muslim]. Therefore, one should make noble intentions such as:

  1. Fulfilling the right of a fellow Muslim
  2. To follow the sunna of the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him)
  3. To pray for their recovery and health
  4. To recite the sunna supplications when visiting
  5. To bring joy and happiness to the visited
  6. To help fulfil the needs of another person
  7. In case of a non-Muslim, to guide them to Islam by showing mercy and excellent manners
  8. To remind oneself of the blessings of good health

Timing: It is important to consider what time one visits the sick. Very early morning, very late in the evening, or common nap and meal times should be avoided. One should enquire first what a good time to visit for both the sick person and their family.

Keep visits short: Visits should generally be kept short, so as not to overburden the sick person. It maybe that they are tired or have a need that they are too embarrassed to do with visitors around. Talking may also be undesirable to them. However, if the patient clearly wants one to stay, then there is no harm in staying. There is no need to visit more than once, and one should avoid repeated visits unless the patient requests so or it is known that they will be happy if one does so.

Take a simple gift that will cheer the ill person: Receiving gifts is always nice, but particularly so when a person is feeling low-spirited. Simple, heartfelt gifts that the person will like are always the best, and could be anything from fruits, juice, broth, chocolates, flowers etc. However, a gift is not necessary, and one should not be put off visiting a sick person without a gift. The best gift is to make du’a for the person.

Du’a: There are various supplications that can be made for the sick person:

  1. Imam al-Bukhari narrated that whenever the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) would visit a sick person, he would say, “No harm will befall you. It is purification, if Allah wills.” (la ba’sa tahurun insha’llah)
  2. Imam al-Tirmidhi narrated that he (peaceful prayers and blessing be upon him) said, “O Allah, make the harm go away, Lord of mankind, and heal him, You are the Healer, there is no healing except your healing, a healing that does not leave any sickness.” (Allahumma adh-hibi‘l-ba’sa rabb an-nasi wash-fi fa-ant ash-shafi la shifa-a illa shifa-uka shifa-un la yugha-diru saqqama)
  3. Imam al-Tirmidhi also narrated that the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “He who visits a sick person who is not at the point of death and supplicates seven times, ‘I beseech Allah the Great, the Lord of the Great Throne, to heal you (as-alu’llah al-azeemu rabbu’l-’arsh al-azeema in yashfika)’, Allah will certainly heal him from that sickness.”

Ask for du’a: One should also ask the ill person to make du’a for them, as the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “If you enter upon a sick person, then ask him to supplicate for you, for his supplication is like the supplications of the angels.” [Ibn Maja]

Fulfill a need for the sick person: One should ask the person whether there is anything they desire or need. It is said that the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) visited an ill person and asked, “Do you long for anything? Do you long for sweet bread (ka’k)?” The man replied, “Yes.” So they sent someone to bring some Ka’k for him. [Ibn Maja]

Make conversation: One should make light-hearted and positive conversation. Related by Ibn Maja with a weak chain, the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “When you enter upon one who is sick, cheer him up.” Therefore, the visitor should be upbeat, encourage the patient to have hope, and make easy conversation.

At the same time, one should avoid joking too much or talking loudly. One should also avoid asking too many questions about the illness, or causing any type of anxiety in the person, such as telling them how bad they look, or that the illness can become serious! Similarly, one should not speak about bad news or events. Nor should one enter and draw the person into prohibited speech such as backbiting (ghiba) and tale-bearing during the visit.

Reminder Against Avoiding the Sunna of Visiting the Sick

One hadith should be sufficient as a stern warning against avoiding the visitation of those who are sick and shut-in:

Imam Muslim narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah the Exalted will say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit me.’ He will say, ‘My Lord, how can I visit you when you are the Lord of the worlds?’ Allah will say, ‘Did you not know that my servant was sick and you did not visit him, and had you visited him you would have found Me with him?’”

Build Genuine Relationships by Visiting the Sick

Insha’Allah, the above ahadith of the sunna of the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) encourages us all to do our best to visit the sick when possible, and thereby sharing in the tremendous rewards offered by such simple acts, acts which not only benefit us in the Afterlife, but build and fortify our relationships with those around us.

In a world of frenzied social media networking and online ‘friends’, the only real and meaningful social networking is in real life, with the people around us; those in need of help and support, those who need a kind word or smile to make that difference to their world, or simply widening our circle of good friends and company.

This is the way of our beloved Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him). Despite his many and varied responsibilities in the community and at home, he (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) would always make time to visit people, keep the ties of kinship and bonds of friendship strong, and this was even more so when people were unwell.

So, let us try to follow his way, for Allah Most High has told us, “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day,” [Qur’an 33:21].

And Allah knows best.


About “Forgotten Sunan” by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In this series of articles, Shaykh Jamir Meah presents simple, everyday practices of the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that are either often neglected or go unbeknownst by many of us. Like many subtleties in life, these practices carry great reward with the least amount of effort.

Everything that the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) did was for our benefit; to teach and guide us to that which is more beneficial in this life and the next. This not only applies to the licit (halal) and illicit (haram), or the ‘big’ questions in life, but he also urged us to seek the blessings and rewards in the ‘small’ aspects of everyday life.

When done sincerely, it is the attention to these detailed Prophetic etiquettes that embellishes our worship, breathes spirit into our day, and keeps us in the remembrance of God and his Messenger (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) as our days and nights pass.

Other articles in this series:

Can Holistic Medicines Practically Help Someone In The Religion? by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In his last article, Shaykh Jamir Meah discussed the concepts of health and disease within an Islamic framework. He also looked at the law of vibration. In the final article of this series, Shaykh Jamir looks at how holistic treatment and its principles practically benefits the believer and can help in their relationship with Allah Most High.

As we’ve mentioned previously, true health occurs when the whole person is functioning harmoniously on all levels, and is able to fulfil his or herself socially and spiritually. The goal of every true physician should be to guide each patient to this point as much as is possible through medicine.

How can holistic medicines help someone in their religion?

Holistic therapies such as homeopathy and traditional Chinese acupuncture reach the dynamic level of the human being, the level of pure energy, the Vital Force or Qi in Chinese Medicine. The Vital Force or Qi is where the real disturbance is, and when healing takes place on this level, the curative effect ripples throughout the whole organism, from centre outwards.

Given the above, it is natural to ask, how can holistic medicines practically help someone in the religion?

There is a strong connection between medicine and religious practice, and both are obviously invaluable in our lives. Just as we need this world in order to succeed in the next, we need medicine to grant us the ability to have mental and physical health to be able to fulfil our religious objectives.

This is why Imam al Shafi’i (May Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘Indeed, knowledge is of two types: knowledge of the religion and knowledge of the world. The knowledge of religion is to achieve understanding (fiqh) and the knowledge of the world is medicine.’ [Adab al Shafi’i].

Holistic medicine can greatly assist someone in the religion and in spirituality, or even someone who may not be particularly spiritual, but seeking more profound or alternative meanings in an overwhelmingly materialistic world.

A basic example from a real life case

Mr Ahmad comes for treatment for multiple sclerosis. During the consultation we find that since childhood he has always had a fear of poverty. During his twenties, he developed a tendency to buy useless items and hoard them. He has a fear of the dark and is terrified of death. He describes himself as religious though very materialistic. He finds it a struggle to progress in the religion in the way he feels he should. He finds faults with others very easily, has a very suspicious nature, and admits that he backbites people all the time. At the same time, he never desires to be alone and needs company. He feels an inner restlessness but doesn’t know why. This has caused many difficulties his personal and work.

After the 5 weeks of treatment, the patient reports in the first month an inner sense of calm as opposed to his restlessness. Over the course of treatment, the improvement steadily continues and Mr. Ahmad doesn’t feel the fear of poverty so intensely, though it is still there and can be quite crippling. The MS is still there but not as intense. At the eight month follow up he declares that he has started to get rid of some of his hoarded goods, and genuinely feels much more energetic and positive. Others have also noticed a change in his character, describing him as more affable and cynical.

Just over a year later, he states that he no longer senses a fear of poverty, and any thoughts of darkness and death are few and far between, and almost negligible. This has made a big difference in his whole outlook to life, work and his relationships, and most importantly his religious aspirations. He states that whereas reading the Qu’ran previously felt like a chore, he now was eager to read it daily, and he has started feeling some of the old zeal for the religion slowly coming back. His MS has disappeared completely.

These types of cases are very common. What happened is that the treatment affected the patient’s deepest being, and this in turn created an awareness within him of his diseased state. By becoming inwardly aware that his fears, delusions, and reactions, were disproportionate to real life, he was able to subconsciously let go, so that he no longer feared poverty, and was no longer terrified of the dark and of death, which was no doubt in this case a fear of losing material wealth, after all what is death but a step into the unknown, the dark, and a parting from the worldly possessions?

The treatment had an effect on all levels of his being, healing the physical manifestation of the inner disease (MS in this case), and changed his whole perception and dealings with everything and everyone around him.

One may view the role of such treatment as a ‘clearing out,’ ‘getting rid of unwanted baggage’ and ‘putting things in order.’ This is usually very difficult for people to do on their own. You can tell a person to get over an abnormal fear, to snap out of depression, or find ways to deal with chronic anxiety, but more often than not, they simply can’t. They just don’t have the will power or creativity to move forward, and so they remain stuck.

Because correct treatment reaches the higher planes of a person, it instigates the person to rouse up from the rut they find themselves in and see the reality of their situation. The person’s perceptions and reactions change, and they find themselves with a new inner strength and self-confidence, which enables them to think and decide with new found clarity, far-sightedness and purpose. When his takes place, the person starts to make the necessary changes in life they need in order to move towards their goal, productively and creatively.

In summary, it frees up the person to be open to, as Samuel Hahnemann said, ‘the higher purpose of our existence’.

Hering’s Law

Hering’s Law, named after Constantine Hering, the physician who observed and formulated the law, refers to the direction in which the symptoms of the patient will disappear during a cure under natural treatment. It is indispensable in practice. The Law states that real cure takes place:

From within outwards.
From above downwards.
From a more important organ to a less important one.
In the reverse order of their coming.

There’s a lot that can be said in regards this Law and how it aligns one’s natural vibration (discussed previously), however what is worth deducing from it for our benefit here is that it is applicable in the cure of us as individual believers and as an Ummah.

Allah Most High tells us in the oft quoted verse, ‘God changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves’ [13:11]. In order for change to occur, it has to start within. As individuals and as a nation, we have to look at the ills that we have as a community and work towards improving and finding solutions to those issues. When we change as individuals, as communities, and as an ummah, then this will have an effect on everything around us. Inner order leads to outward order, healing is from within outwards.

Likewise, a just leader who takes himself into account and sets a good example, instils goodness into his subjects and guides them to goodness in both worlds, and in this way, whole nations are healed and guided. Like a father and mother guiding their children, from above downwards, the more senior figures set the standard in their own lives and through their own behaviour, and this has a rippling effect on those under their care. Such were the leaderships and guidance of the Prophets, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the pious leaders of our communities.

Why can families, communities and nations grow so strong when pulling together in the same direction? Because everyone’s vibration is in tandem. And when this harmony occurs, ‘The similitude of believers, in their love, mercy, and compassion for each other, are like one body.’ [Muslim]

Allah is the Healer

Finally, we should end this series with the reminder that while discussing the many benefits and wonders of natural holistic medicine, it is ultimately Allah alone that heals, and not through any power of the medicine, nor any ability of the physician.

Just like fire does not have the intrinsic power to burn, nor the knife the inherent ability to cut, it is our belief that no substance has healing properties in of themselves, but rather, it is Allah who creates the relationship between the medicine and the healing effect through his Will and Power.

O Lord of the people! Remove the difficulty and bring about healing as You are the Healer. There is no healing but Your Healing, a healing that will leave no ailment.’ [Sahih al Bukhari]

[cwa id=’cta’]

Concepts of Health and Disease within an Islamic Framework, by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In Shaykh Jamir Meah’s first article in this series, he discussed the importance of holistic healing for believers in the treatment of chronic disease. In this article, he specifically looks at the concept of health and disease, and how this understanding relates to our own religious states and practice.

 

The Concepts of Oneness, Duality, and Plurality

One of the first thing that attracted me to homeopathy was that every single homeopath that I had ever read about, or met, believes in a Creator. The reason for this is that homeopathy demands the practitioner to observe not only the world around one, but also the inner world within one. The only conclusion any sincere seeker can come to, is that the universe, with its intricate order and balance, can only exist through a single Creator.

God created man, and from him, He created his pair, and from this pair, multiples were created. Allah tell us that, ‘All things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect,’ and the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.’ [al Bukhari]. Disease and cure are a pair, and it is the task of medicine to search the vast creation of Allah to look for the remedy to each disease in each person.

Traditional therapies hold that there is only ever one disease in the body at one given time. It is not possible to have two diseases in one body. Despite plurality of symptoms manifesting in the one body, whether on the psychological or physical level, these are merely manifestations of the one root disease, or central disturbance.

 

The Concept of Health

Ask a physician to explain the concept of health, and you’ll probably get an answer like, ‘feeling well in both mind and body’, or ‘being free from illness or injury,’ etc. which are all fine and true. However, it falls short of the concept of real health.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a magnificent description of health, when he wrote, ‘In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force, the dynamis that animates the material body, rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation … so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.’ [Aphorism 9, The Organon].

This vital force that Hahnemann speaks of, the dynamis that animates the material body, is another name for the Qi, the energy force in Chinese Medicine. They are one and the same thing.

Another equally sound explanation of health is given by professor G. Vithoulkas, when he says, ‘Health is freedom from pain in the physical body, having attained a state of well-being; freedom from passion on the emotional level, having as a result a dynamic state of serenity and calm; and freedom from selfishness in the mental sphere, having as a result total unification with Truth‘. [The Science of Homeopathy]

We can see then that the two (homeopathic) definitions of health, though differing in words, carry the same meaning. The body is an instrument to help one fulfil their ‘higher purpose’ in life, which is of course explained by Allah Most High in his words, ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.’ [51:56].

Before we move onto the concept of disease, it would be useful to briefly understand something about the Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration.

 

The Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration

Science, through the field of Quantum Physics, is showing us that everything in our universe is energy.

Everything has its own vibrational frequency, whether animate or inanimate, governed by The Law of Vibration. A chair may look solid and still, but in reality, there are millions of subatomic particles in motion, all moving with energy. Everything that appears solid is the frequency of the vibration of the energy that makes it up.

Everything, even our thoughts, feelings, and sounds have their own vibrational frequency. These vibrations set up resonance with whatever possesses identical frequency. This gives the phrases such as ‘good vibes’ or ‘negative vibes’ some basis. In other words, your thoughts are inseparably connected to the rest of the universe.

The Mantra preceding meditation for Hindus and many Buddhists is the word, ‘Om’. This word is believed by these religions to be representative of the ‘universal sound’, referring to an ultimate reality, or truth.

For Muslims, we have a much clearer, unambiguous and direct understanding of the focus of our thoughts and meditations, which is only Allah, Exalted is He. Allah tells us, ‘The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!’ [17:44].

Everything in the universe is in remembrance and glorification of the Creator, whether it be from the kingdoms of plant, animal, or mineral, or the naturals elements of water, air, earth and fire. Everything praises Him, and it is only men who do not perceive this, and who chooses to praise Allah or be heedless of Him.

This praise of everything in the Universe for the Creator can be viewed in the context of the Law of Vibration. Given the above verse, it would not be far-fetched to say the universal ‘sound’ or ‘vibration’ of the created universe is one of remembrance of Allah.

In many chronic cases of disease (though obviously not all cases, especially when there is a clear reason for emotional or physical pathology), there is an inner turmoil within the human heart and psyche, which is usually a precursor to emotional and physical sickness, as we discussed in our first article.

From whence does this inner turmoil begin? Quite often, it occurs when the will of a person is not fully aligned to the Divine Will. For many people, inner conflict occurs because their desires, hopes, and thoughts are in contrast to the Divine Commandment and Decree, either desiring that which is not permitted, neglecting that which is commanded, or being discontent with Allah’s Decree.

In this conflicted state, there is usually inner restlessness and agitation in the heart, for it looks for inner peace and repose in that which Allah has not placed peace and repose in, namely created things. Two inconsistent attitudes cannot exist in one person without conflict, because ‘God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast’ [33:4]

Looked at in another way, man is a part of creation, not separate to it (were we not created from earth?). If man’s will is ill-directed will and he is in state of heedlessness (ghafla), then man’s frequency of vibration is out of sync with the natural vibration of the universe, which as we mentioned is in constant praise of Allah. When this occurs, man is in a state of agitation.

When a person aligns his will to the Will of God, and relinquishes the desires and opinions of his ego, fulfilling His commands, and keeping away from His prohibitions, and remembering and thanking Him, the inner turmoil disappears and one finds contentment and peace, even if the world around them is in turmoil. ‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.’ [13:28].

The goal then, is to return to a pure state, the fitrah, where the heart is attached and submits to, and is in praise of Allah Most High. This gives real meaning to the idea of ‘being as one with the universe’. In this pure state, man can truly take his place as God’s khalifah (viceroy) on earth.

This is one of the reasons why spiritual training is so important and why it works. In the course of training, the true spiritual guide is redirecting the disciple’s will to the Will of the Divine.

If inner conflict and restlessness is neglected for a long period of time and left unresolved, like a toxin, it spreads in the heart, the mind and the body, and disease occurs.

 

The Concept of Disease

Once we have understood the concept of true health, it’s easy to understand disease. In contrast to health, we may define disease as simply ‘bondage.’ Physical pain creates the bondage of the body, lower desires and passions leads to the bondage of the emotions, and the selfishness of the ego creates the bondage of the spirit. All of which prevents one from moving forward and fulfilling the ‘higher purpose’ of one’s existence.

In disease, one’s vibration is out of sync with the pure or natural order, as we have mentioned. This internal discord could have occurred during the person’s own life, or passed down through generations.

When inner disorder persists, it manifests in outward disorder. Inner chaos can lead to outward chaos. This can affect individuals, or whole societies. In a compensated state, inner chaos can make a person fastidious and leads to OCD and waswasa, as they try to control their outward environment in order to allay the inner disorder, which they are unable to control. Clinical experience shows that behind all of these states, there is almost always some underlying fear buried deep down, whether connected to worldly matters or religious matters, and these need to surface and be resolved.

Like a guitar that needs to be finely tuned, a person’s vibration, and in turn, their will, needs to be tweaked, altered and re-aligned. This is the job of two disciplines: 1) that of certain natural medicines, which align the individual’s vibration to the harmonious vibration of the natural universe, and 2) spiritual training at the hands of a genuine spiritual guide, which guides and enhances the individual’s will to submit to the Will of God.

For lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual health through the various stages of man’s life, to combine both natural therapy and spiritual guidance is ideal.

So far, we have been discussing the theoretical relationship between natural medicine and Islam. In our next, and final article, we will be looking at how the principles of natural medicine can be of practical benefit to people, as well as discussing the Law of Cure.

 

The Importance of Holistic Healing for Believers, by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In this series of articles, Shaykh Jamir Meah explores the importance of holistic and natural medicine in the treatment of chronic diseases, and how the principles and practice of natural therapies not only complement our Islamic values and aspirations, but can often promote our own religious practice and spiritual growth.

The Relationship between Mind, Body, and Spirit in Chronic Disease

Imam al Haddad tells us in The Book of Assistance, ‘God never mentioned the inward and the outward in His Book without beginning with the inward. And the Prophet used to pray (may blessings and peace be upon him), ‘O God! Make my inward better than my outward, and make my outward virtuous.

Mankind has been preoccupied with disease and healing since time immemorial. The ancients, and nearly all nations throughout history, right up to the last great native nations and tribes, understood the concept of man as a being with an inward and outward dimension. They understood the reality of man’s destiny, and because of this, their philosophies, discoveries, and even everyday life, bore the profundity of man’s existence in mind.

Medicine was no exception. The purpose of treating man at times of sickness meant promoting healing in both the body and spirit. It was Plato who said, ‘The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.’

We also acknowledge that the disbelief and rejection of God, the soul, and its final destiny, has also existed since ancient times. However, with the rise of brutal colonial powers, the horrors of the World Wars, the industrial revolution, increasing corporate capitalism, and most alarmingly, the rise of atheism, mankind, specifically ‘western’ man, entered into a new, unprecedented psychological posture, and with it, religious truths gave way to a new breed of science and an insatiable appetite for the material.

With man’s technological and scientific advances, increasingly secular agendas, and major shifts in world wealth and power, God, the hereafter, and the fate of man’s soul were consigned to the past.

Western medicine inevitably followed suit. Modern theories, advanced technological instruments and machines, supported by powerful chemical drugs, ensured that the role of the spirit, as well as the mental-emotional levels, were separated from the physical body, and no longer deemed necessary in the treatment of chronic disease. This is the reason why a depressed, suicidal patient with multiple sclerosis will be referred to two or more types of doctor rather than one, and given different medicines rather than one medicine, though the two symptoms are nothing but the same disease process.

Before the word ‘Medicine’ became monopolised and synonymous with only the western medical model (and everything else became ‘alternative’, ‘complementary’, or even ‘quackery’), and before ‘real science’ became the yardstick to measure and verify every human experience and observation (including the existence of God and religion), other nations, particularly those in the East, were healing people on deep and profound levels for thousands of years.

The Need for Holistic Medicine in Our Lives and in Our Communities

Modern medicine has many benefits, particularly in emergency situations and surgery. In these areas, it is invaluable, unsurpassed, and a blessing from God. Likewise, we should all appreciate and acknowledge the unquestionable sacrifice, devotion, and skill of many doctors around the world. However, it is true to say that modern medicine and its drugs struggle to deal effectively with the chronic diseases of man.

The simple reason for this is that humans are natural beings in a natural world, and treatment of such a being must not only follow the observed Laws of nature (we’ll talk about laws of nature in a later article), but the treatment must take into account the dimensions and subtleties of man’s constitution as a physical and spiritual entity.

As believers, and bastions of the last and complete message from the Divine, it is our duty to tend to both our physical bodies and our spiritual growth. In the treatment of human disease, it is essential that we also do not follow the pack and separate the two, or turn to unnatural solutions for our physiological, emotional, and psychological conditions. For to do so, would be abusing our God-given human nature, which is indeed a miraculous organism that deserves reflecting on. ‘We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this [the Quran] is the truth.’ [41:53]

Unlike most nations, for whom the afterlife seems to have receded into a distant memory, the Muslims, while fully engaging and benefiting from this world, have traditionally always kept the Hereafter at the forefront of their thoughts in all aspects of life. It is our duty to preserve this priority in our lives.

On the fundamental level, what is needed are three things:

1) A return to our religion, in both outward and inward observances, the starting point being our return to the Qur’an, and helping each other in building our relationship with the Book of Allah. Why is this so important? Because Allah Most High tells us, ‘We send down in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe.’ [17:82]

This ‘healing’ of the Quran is explained by the scholars of Quranic exegesis, ‘The Quran, [whether in] small portions or large portions, is a healing from the manifest and outward sicknesses … And a healing from the inner spiritual sicknesses … And what is meant by ‘Mercy’, is blessings in this life and the next life.’ [Hashiyah al Khalwati].

2) Building strong and stable families and communities. In a world where the social fabric of people, Muslims included, is fast dissolving, with people feeling as isolated as ever, and mental health issues, in both children and adults, are on a meteoric rise, it is imperative that we unite and work towards creating cohesive, safe and resilient communities, which fulfil our worldly and religious-spiritual needs.

3) In times of sickness, both short-term and long-term conditions, it is important for us to utilise medicines and therapies, that can at the minimum, flow in the same direction of the innate healing mechanism and immune system that Allah Most High has created in us, and not oppose it.

The effects of hammering down our immune systems with endless supplies of anti-biotics, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressants (as well numerous Inhibitors and Blockers), not only affects our physical health, but if taken over a long enough time, can deeply disturb our psychological and spiritual health. We must be pro-body and not anti-body!

Ideally, we should seek out potent, natural medicines and therapies, which can not only work with the body in a natural way, but that are able to reach beyond the mere physical level of man, and instigate healing on the non-physical level as well. Such systems of medicine do exist, and we will discuss examples in a later article. Optimally, such modes of treatment would be accompanied by the support and guidance of qualified and adept religious and spiritual persons.

An Anecdote

We leave you with a beautiful story of the relationship between emotional and physical sickness (as well as an exemplary model of bed-side manner that all physicians should take heed of!). A young lady, previously full of life, youth and beauty, suddenly, without apparent reason, fell ill. Much to her family’s anguish she began to wither away, pale and withdrawn in both body and spirit. The concerned family sought the advice of the best physicians in the town but none could make a diagnosis, nor find a cure, except that they knew that she was dying.

Finally, the family consulted the celebrated physician Ibn Sina, who agreed to come to the family house to see the girl. He sat with the girl, and proceeded to take her pulse. As he sat beside her, he spoke to her informally, asking her about the area she lives, how long they have lived there, and whether she knew this place and that person and so on. Upon mentioning a particular house, the girl’s pulse picked up a little. Noticing this, Ibn Sina asked the girl whether she knew the family, and again her pulse picked up a little more. He then inquired whether she knew the older children in the house. Her pulse started to pulsate. He then asked if she knew the son, and at this, the girl’s pulse started to race hard and fast.

The case clear, Ibn Sina turned to the family and said, ‘Your daughter is dying from a broken heart.’ And it was indeed true, for the young man she loved had married another.

Such anecdotes may seem somewhat crude, especially to the ‘scientific’ mind, however the principle is the same and holds true, in the same way that the physical and spiritual sicknesses that ail man today, are the same throughout history, because essentially, man is always the same.

The current writer’s own clinical experience, as well as those of his teacher’s, repeatedly attests to the fact that chronic diseases of the body are, without exception, preceded by disturbances on the spiritual and mental-emotional sphere. Outward symptoms of pathology are the pleading expression of the internal disorder. All we need to do is observe, listen, and have the right, gentle tools to answer that plea, not ignore or drown out its voice.

We hear the word ‘Holistic’ used everywhere now, from medicine, to eating habits, to child rearing and education, even in business strategies. However, in reality, being Holistic is nothing new, it’s just we forgot what it is to be really human.

In our next article, we will be discussing this idea of internal disorder more. We will also consider the concepts of health and disease, and how the philosophy and practice of natural systems of healing reflect the teachings, guidance and practice of Islam.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

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