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Regarding Sincerity: A Conversation About Truthful Intention and Self Accountability – By Dr. Mahmoud Masri

Dr. Mahmoud Masri

There’s a story in ‘al-Risala al-Qushayriyya’ of a young man who regularly attended a gathering (majlis), when he heard a shaykh discussing sincerity: how is it, how should it be when performing actions, etc. The young man found this heavy upon himself, and from that day forward he made a firm intention that he would not attend the gathering anymore, and refrained from going until the point he was harmed because of that. The Shaykh noticed his absence and asked regarding him. He eventually met with him and asked him why he was absent; he answered, “I heard from your words and was afraid for myself”. The Shaykh replied to him, “My son, that’s not the solution. We point you to sincerity (ikhlas) in actions, not to abandoning actions!”

Act! Thoughts such, “I’m doing this pious act and I fear the interest of people and their interest in my actions” may come to a person. One must not pay attention to this and should correct their intention. Even if he is actually one of the ostentatious, he should remain upon the action, and continue the deed. Like when they said, “We sought knowledge for other than Allah, and knowledge refused to be for any but Allah.”

Every action is such! Just like prayer may not be perfect because of what comes to the person of thoughts and notions; the solution isn’t to abandon prayer all together. Rather, the solution is in rectification, and this is done with training.

It is upon the person to adhere to actions, even if notions, whispers, or thoughts come to him. Thoughts of the self are like whispers of Devil: their remedy is to disregard them.

Section:

In the issue of the person who doesn’t like notoriety, and in this state, thoughts of people noticing this come to him.  This is from the hidden and intricate matters that are warned against in spiritual training.  As mentioned earlier, the approach here is to disregard these thoughts and to continue the actions he was doing. This is how these thoughts and things which resemble them go away.

One thing that helps the person in this is clarity (as-Safaa) and of the means of obtaining it are:

  • remembrance of Allah (dhikr)
  • good companionship (suhbah)
  • self striving (mujahadah)
  • self training and exercise (tadreeb wa riyadhatu-nafs)

You cannot remove darkness, but you can bring light. When light becomes present, darkness disappears. 

Whoever knows Allah is not the slave of fame nor of obscurity; rather, he will be a slave of Allah. Whatever state Allah places him in he submits to Him, outwardly and inwardly, and he doesn’t pay attention to anything else.  If he places him in one situation he is content, if he places him in another, he is content. He doesn’t look back on these matters.

As for the issue regarding people venerating a person for his work in da’wah while he doesn’t see himself deserving such treatment from them since there are people more knowledgeable than him, deserving something comes from Allah. If we were to look at worthiness then none of us would actually qualify by ourselves. What occurred is that which the divine will selected, so it’s from Allah’s decree and we have no control over the matter.

Furthermore, don’t look at the external and apparent. Rather, look at the fact that Allah is the one who moves them and their hearts; and that you are similar to them in that you are in Allah’s possession. You exchange the same love and respect. See in everything that it is from Allah, and say, “All praise is due to Allah” and this will push you to many things.

It is said, “Whoever has good opinion of you, work towards realizing it.”

Not by saying, “You spoke the truth” or “What you said regarding me and your good opinion of me is true, I am exactly what you say and think of me”.

Rather, the meaning is to act in accordance with their good opinion, make them truthful by actually doing the actions; that you are actually like that!

It has also been said:

When a rumor spread that Abu Hanifah used to pray Fajr with the wudu of ‘Isha he forced that upon himself and took it as a sign for himself from Allah. 

O Allah grant us sincerity.

 

Taken from the words of Shaykh Dr. Mahmoud Masri, click here to read the Arabic original.

Translated by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Conquering Mount Sawm, by Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya

Especially motivating for those dreading the long summer fasts, the following diary entries, written by British educator Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya, should provide reassurance that keeping hunger at bay isn’t as hard as it seems.Although describing the challenge of keeping a voluntary fast, the lessons are just as relevant for Ramadan.

After reading extracts from Brad Pilon’s Eat. Stop. Eat, encouragement from my teacher and reflection upon the Sunna, I decide to embark on the ultimate challenge for a food-loving Muslim: a voluntary fast. (And since it’s British summer time, the fast lasts from 02:30 till 9PM – 19½ hours!). What encouraged me was last Ramadan’s experience; we British Muslims dreaded the long summer fast of 2012 – the longest of its kind for almost 30 years! And yet, we did it. It wasn’t that hard. Indeed, I found this extract from a hindsight entry made last year under the title ‘Miracle of Fasting’:

“I somehow fasted from 4.50am till 9.30PM, possibly my longest ever. And it wasn’t hard – despite my normally having 3 square meals and 2 tea-breaks in that time! Allah made it easy, put baraka in my suhur and gave me energy, Alhamdulillah!”

So I went to sleep last night, after a late Isha, with the intention that if Allah would get me up at Tahajjud, only then would I fast with the following intentions:

  1. To follow the exalted Sunna, which should suffice us from having any other motive (though, as with other Sunnas, modern scientific findings help us appreciate the worldly benefits)
  2. To discipline my mind and nafs (self/soul) not to think about food all the time, and therefore
  3. Have a more productive day

02:50 AM

Allah woke me at 2:05AM and I knew He wanted me to try this experiment (perhaps so I could share it with SeekersHub Global readers!). I scrambled to the kitchen to prepare an odd suhur of instant porridge, last night’s pizza & chips leftovers, tea, a date and orange juice. Suitably stuffed, and after some fervent du’a, I’m ready to face the day… after the small matter of sleep!

1:15 PM

Breakfast wasn’t an issue as I was still full from suhur. No headaches or tiredness either. Skipped my compulsory tea-break at work without fuss. This is a big deal as, normally, the first moment after finishing my lesson at 10:30  I’d be rushing to the kitchen to make a cuppa! Got some less intensive down-time for the next few hours. Over half way now: so far, so good.

From a teacher’s point of view I find the ability to fast extraordinary. The nafs is like a teenager/child. Where it knows it has options, it’ll test the boundaries and ask for more than it deserves. However when the boundaries are clear from the outset of the day and one has made the firm resolve NOT to eat until sunset, the nafs grows quiet and barely a squeak of defiance is ever heard!

4:30

Three hours later and still no pangs, Alhamdulillah. I got a slight headache after hours of study on a Seekers Guidance course,  email checking and internet research. The research was worth it though: found out about The Fast Diet which contains much of the inspiration that got me started.

Now, after a brief rest, am pretty energized whilst tutoring the first of two lessons. Only two problems I’ve encountered so far: tendency to do excessive or useless internet jobs, and a longing for Maghrib time to come!

7:00

Last lesson done. Slight headache. Will rest for 20 mins before Tai Chi class at 7:30.

10:00

OK, Tai Chi was agony on my legs for some reason (found out later that this was due to my incorrect posture in one of the positions!) But Maghrib came upon me far from passing out due to hunger.

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

So if I could climb and conquer Mount Sawm outside Ramadan, anyone can. I’ll leave you with a few top tips that helped me get there:

  1. Have a strong intention for Allah.
  2. Consume a hearty, nutritious (I did have porridge remember!) suhur
  3. Read inspiring literature about benefits of the fast: if you’re not up to date with the two world famous and highly popular diets that lead incredible scientific support to the Sunna fasting system, then do read The Fast Diet by Mosley and Eat.Stop.Eat by Pilon
  4. Keep really busy. I’m sure you noticed my day was quite packed with different activities including work, study and fitness.
  5. Ponder that if millions of other Muslims around the world can do it, so can you. Mothers do this to get over the fear of childbirth. Fasting is not nearly as painful. If you need motivation outside Ramadan, when you are struggling to fast when most people aren’t, then there are a few things to consider: a) Your worship is especially likely to be more sincere. Keep your fast secret (as is recommended with all voluntary acts) and enjoy the special connection you have with Allah, knowing that you are fasting sincerely for His pleasure alone; b) The health benefits you learn from acting upon point 3 above is enough to inspire anyone to take up fasting weekly. Non-Muslims throughout the UK are ‘fasting’ Monday and Thursday due to the proven long-term benefits to health. As Muslims we have even more motivation; c) Although, not everyone is fasting, you can be sure that the ‘ulema of Taqwa, awliya and saliheen all fast regularly. It’s certainly comforting to know you are united with them in following the Sunnah of regular voluntary fasting.
  6. Allow yourself a Sunna qaylula (afternoon nap) after Zuhr; in long summer days this means you can get through plenty of work before your nap. Many nap straight after work. When you wake, it’s just the final lap with the finish line in sight.
  7. Enjoy and take advantage of the fact that you can be so much more productive on a fast day.

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

As we’ve all experienced, the thought of fasting – of not having one’s regular meals, of skipping one’s normal snacks – is actually a lot more frightening than the fast itself. Ironically, this is like productivity generally: the anticipation of how difficult it will be to achieve important goals is normally much worse than the actual experience.

And so the upshot is also the same: stop worrying; just do it! Ramadan Mubarak to all reading this and I’d be so grateful if you could remember me in your duas when you break your fasts.

Fruit Photo by Michael Stern. Clock picture by Christine Callahan.

Resources for Seekers

Sincere Repentance from Zina

Ustadh Salman Younas is asked how to sincerely repent from having committed zina and if it is necessary to ask the other for forgiveness.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am a young Muslim guy. I do pray five times a day. But I have committed zina several times. I did make tawba and went back to it. And then I did make tawba again. I am trying to full fill the 3 conditions of tawba. But since my crime involves other individuals, how do I ask forgiveness from them?

I heard one of the condition of tawba involves the rights of others. But I am so ashamed to go to the person that I committed zina with and ask for forgiveness. My question is, will that be sufficient if I regret my sin and ask Allah for forgiveness? Or do I have to ask forgiveness from them too?

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

It’s enough in this case to seek the forgiveness of Allah, feel remorse for your sin, and intend to never return to it again.

The sin that you have committed is something quite serious. However, you should not lose hope in the mercy of Allah, which has lifted people who were trapped in much darker places to very lofty states. As the Qur’an states, “Do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, God forgives all sins.’ (Sura al-Zumar 39:53)

Keep turning to Allah in repentance, and in thankfulness for allowing you to realize your errors. You should also seek forgiveness for those who you assisted in carrying out sinful actions by being a partner to it. While, you do not have to actually seek their forgiveness, you should ask Allah to turn their hearts towards Him, wipe clean their sins, and allow them to enter into His obedience.

Salman

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Tasawwuf and Human Potentiality

Ustadh Salman Younas discusses the concept of tasawwuf, its place in the Islamic sciences, and its role in growing human potential.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when a Muslim hears the word tasawwuf? Often, a person’s thoughts are directed to the institution of the spiritual path (tariqa) and the figure of a spiritual guide (murshid) to whom allegiance is pledged by an aspiring spiritual novice. Other times, this word evokes exotic and mysterious imagery: saints performing miracles; masses congregated around graves; dervishes engaged in ecstatic sessions of spiritual audition.

In the minds of many, these constitute essential elements and practices in the world of tasawwuf, which some embrace as valid expressions of the Islamic faith, while others view it in less favorable terms. This conflation of tasawwuf with one or another of its institutional or cultural expressions is not particularly surprising, but the reality of tasawwuf is far greater and much more profound than any of this.

Focusing on these aspects tends to distract people from a science whose ultimate aim and vision is not merely something Muslims should recognize and embrace, but one they would readily accept regardless of their particular attitudes towards the institutional, religious, and cultural aspects mentioned above. This vision is one centered around identifying and actualizing human potential in light of the worldview of tawhid, the most fundamental principle of Islamic thought.

Between the Animalistic and Angelic

Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 298/910) defined tasawwuf as “a battle in which there is no peace.” The battle that all humans face stems from their essential nature: dirt and dust combined with a heavenly spirit. The Qur’an describes this basic human composition in the following verse:

Who gave everything its perfect form. He first created man from clay then made his descendants from an extract of insignificant fluid. Then He fashioned him, and He breathed into him of His spirit (ruh). He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts; how seldom you are grateful. (Sura al Sajda 32:7-9)

The human being is a paradox. He is insignificant and lowly when viewed from the perspective of the basic materials from which he is created, such as dirt, dust, and sperm. These materials do not reflect life. They are dark and inanimate. The spirit, on the other hand, is life endowing. It is lofty and angelic as seen in its ascription to God in the Qur’an: “Say, ‘The spirit is of the command of my Lord.’” (Sura al Isra 17:85)

For this reason, Imam al-Ghazali describes the human self (nafs) as a divine matter (min al-umur al-ilahiya) that gathers within itself indescribable mysteries and secrets regarding God. In other words, the human self serves as the vehicle through which one can know the divine on an experiential level, a level above and beyond mere acknowledgment with the lips or abstract ideas in the mind: “We shall show them our signs on the horizons and in their selves.” (Sura al Fussilat 41:53)

Human beings are constantly engaged in this struggle to see if the self assumes the characteristics of the spirit – heavenly, luminescent, and connected to God – or that of dead earth. The spirit pulls man upwards towards light; his earthly body pulls him downwards towards darkness. When the spirit dominates through reflection, submission, and good works, a person ascends to the level of angels; otherwise, he is worse than animals: “They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray.” (Sura al A‘raf 7:179)

The Higher Spiritual Stations

In discussing the positive transformation of the self and its spiritual ascent, the scholars of tasawwuf often refer to ‘stations’ or ‘states of being’. These terms are often incorrectly associated with notions of saintly hierarchies or miraculous gifts, but they actually refer to something more profound: the condition of the heart as a result of righteous action, acquiring praiseworthy character traits, and shunning that which is displeasing to God. The move from actions to states is vividly illustrated in the following hadith qudsi:

My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him. (Bukhari)

The first part of this tradition concerns actions. The obligatory duties mentioned in this tradition are to be understood as including the actions of the mind, limbs, and the heart. These correspond respectively to sound belief, worship, and keeping away from inner diseases of the heart, such as envy, hatred, rancor, and the like. The supererogatory extends beyond this and entails going above and beyond base requirements in order to further nourish and purify the self. Fulfilling that which is obligatory and supererogatory results in the acquisition of a particular state of being where the will of the servant aligns with the will of God in a manner where the servant begins to see and interact with the world around him through the lens of pure tawhid.

The spiritual stations that the great Sufi scholars identify on this transformative journey have little or nothing to with miracles in the popular sense. In al-Risala, Imam al-Qushayri dedicates the final third of his text to detailing these spiritual stations: repentance (tawba), God consciousness (taqwa), renunciation (zuhd), silence (samt), fear (khawf), hope (raja’), contentment (qanaʿa), trust in God (tawakkul), gratitude (shukr), patience (sabr), and sincerity (ikhlas), among several others.

These stations do not merely manifest as the righteous actions of the limbs, though such actions are necessary for their emergence and continued presence, but they pertain to one’s innermost being and the heart’s becoming firmly established with a particular quality. A person who fully actualizes the station of repentance, for example, never fails to manifest it in mind, body, and heart at every moment it is required.

The highest degree of each of these stations returns to beholding God (mushahada) with the heart. In Ihya Ulum al-Din, Imam al-Ghazali routinely explains these praiseworthy traits by listing their various stages and degrees. To give an example, the lowest degree of tawhid is to declare with the tongue and heart that there is only one God. This is the tawhid that is required of anyone to be deemed a Muslim. It is the tawhid that we comprehend with our intellects and whose details we study in creedal texts. Then there is the highest stage of tawhid where only God is witnessed and nothing besides Him.

This level of tawhid escapes description, but the words of Imam al-Junayd indicate its reality: “It is a reality in which all outward traces (rusum) disappear and all knowledge passes away, while God Most High remains as He always has been.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala) Meanwhile, Abu Saʿid al-Kharraz said that tawhid is that “any awareness of mundane things vanishes from the heart and one is left alone with God.” (Ibid.)

Indeed, the reality of mushahada is affirmed in the primary texts and by leading traditional scholarly authorities. This concept finds its basis in the saying of Prophet (blessings upon him), “Ihsan is to worship God as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, know that He sees you.” (Bukhari) Explaining this, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali states:

Some of the Salaf said that whosoever acts for God while witnessing Him (mushahada) is a gnostic (ʿarif), and whosoever does so while being aware that God is witnessing him is a sincere individual (mukhlis).

These are two stations. The first is the station of vigilance (muraqaba). It is for the servant to bring to mind God’s closeness to him and His knowledge of him. So, he imagines himself between the hands of God, and, therefore, is aware of Him in his movements and state of rest, and in private and public. This is the station of the sincere muraqib, and it is the lowest station of ihsan.

The second station is the servant witnessing this with his heart and so he is akin to someone who sees and beholds God. This is the highest station of ihsan, and it is the station of those who possess knowledge of God directly and experientially (ʿarifin). (Fath al-Bari)

It is worth pondering over the words of Ibn Rajab and realizing what he is stating. The absolute lowest station of ihsan is to have a constant awareness that God is witnessing one. Imagine then the highest station of ihsan. One is reminded of the words of Imam al-Junayd regarding those who have arrived at the utmost realization of tawhid: “They have arrived at bewilderment.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

The Path of the Prophet

This station of mushahada, or perpetually beholding the Divine, was the state of the Prophet (blessings upon him) who embodied it in its purest, loftiest, and most perfected form. In a report related by ʿA’isha, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was said to have remembered God in all of his moments. (Bukhari, Muslim) This ‘remembrance’ was not the typical verbal utterances often associated with the term dhikr for the moments of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, covered the spectrum of everyday human action, such as eating, sleeping, worship, spending time with his family, speaking to his companions, and so forth. Rather, his remembrance of God related to his heart and soul being connected to God and constantly beholding Him.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was therefore never engaged in a mundane action. His moments were never disconnected from God. Every moment of his manifested the highest form of repentance, God consciousness, renunciation, contentment, trust in God, gratitude, patience, sincerity, divine oneness, etc. His self and inner nature was pure spirit. Qadi Iyad describes this in al-Shifa’:

Their outward form, bodies, and structure are characterized by the qualities of men as far as non-essential matters are concerned, such as illnesses, death, and passing away, and human traits. However, their spirits and inward parts have the highest possible human qualities, associated with the Highest Assembly, which are similar to angelic attributes, free of any possibility of alteration or evil. Generally speaking, the incapacity and weakness connected with being human cannot be associated with them… Thus, they have the aspect of men as far as their bodies and outward parts are concerned, and that of angels in respect to their spirits and inward parts.

The way of tasawwuf involves following the Prophet (blessings upon him) in all of his outward actions and inward states. Though non-prophetic figures can never attain the rank of a prophet, they do possess the ability to ascend to a higher, more angelic plane where the whisperings of the lower-self abandons one and thoughts about anything else but God never enter the heart: “As for those elect adherents of the Prophet’s sunna, blessings and peace be upon him, who kept every breath they made with God and who protected their hearts from the onslaughts of forgetfulness, they were distinguished by the name ‘Sufism.’” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

The Modern World

If Islam is orienting the mind, body, and soul towards a single center that constitutes the truly real and the cause of all things, the modern world is increasingly characterized by the opposite. It lacks a single center, a single purpose, and a single orientation. This does not mean that there is no goal, orientation, or meaning as people do not exist in a complete vacuum, but that the object of ‘worship’ in modernity is a plethora of mini-‘gods’ that are either impossible to subordinate to a supreme God or they are subordinated to one that is the product of ideologies. William Chittick defines some of these modern objects of worship:

To mention some of the more important ones would be to list the defining myths and ideologies of our times – freedom, equality, evolution, progress, science, medicine, nationalism, socialism, democracy, Marxism. (Science of the Cosmos)

Modern thought is, therefore, antithetical to tawhid, the major pillar of Islamic thought that defines the way things really are. In place of the unity, coherence, balance, and order established by tawhid, the result of the modern world’s stepping away from this transcendent principle is incomprehension, chaos, disorder, and disintegration on an individual, social, and cosmic level. Tawhid demands that humans see the world as interrelated and interconnected, all arising from, subsisting through, and returning to God.

Even an act as fundamental as the daily prayer involves a connection not simply between God and humans, but between humans and the entire created order who together turn their focus to the One: “Do you not see that all those who are in the heavens and earth praise God, as do the birds with wings outstretched? Each knows its own way of prayer and glorification.” (http://tanzil.net/#24:41) In contrast, the modern world increasingly sees the world around it as disconnected and lacking any unifying principle or source in the Real, which results in universal disharmony.

The importance of tasawwuf in the modern world cannot be understated. Muslims may recognize God through the mind or express their submission through particular actions, but the fundamental reorientation that humans require is one that relates to their hearts and actualizing the spirit that God has bestowed them with through adherence to His commands. The core of tasawwuf returns to tawhid, which is not merely creedal points rationalized in the mind or movements of the limbs, but a state of being that follows emerges from these that fundamentally alters the manner in which one understands and interacts with the divine, oneself, and the cosmic realm. In other words, tawhid is not something one thinks or writes about but a reality that is experienced and lived.

As Abu al-Tayyib al-Maraghi said, “The intellect demonstrates and gnosis witnesses and experiences [God] directly.” (Al-Qushayri, al-Risala) It is only through attaining the high stations aspired to in the path of tasawwuf that people can harmonize their minds, actions, and being with God and grasp the true nature of things around them by viewing them through the prism of their transcendent source. This brings about good in both the worldly and next-worldly contexts.

While discussions on tasawwuf often revolve around peripheral points in popular discourse, such as particular Sufi practices, Muslims should not lose sight of the essential aims of this science and its grounding in a deeply profound understanding of Islam’s fundamental pillar of God’s oneness that serves to ameliorate and make wholesome the condition of the individual, society, and the entire cosmic order. People should recognize that history and the scholarly tradition attests to individuals having attained these high levels of realization, figures such as Sari al-Saqati, Imam al-Junayd, Abu Sulayman al-Darani, Imam al-Qushayri, Imam al-Ghazali, Ibn Ata’illah, and numerous others who strived to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet blessings and peace be upon him.

Then, at the very least, one may reflect on where one stands in relation to these figures in terms of understanding, recognizing, and submitting to God. Tasawwuf is ultimately about God, but it also lays out a vision of limitless human potential. Every person should be cognizant of this if only to raise their hands to the sky in order to seek forgiveness from God for not truly realizing who He is and for not worshiping Him in the manner He truly deserves.


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


 

Does Seeking Reward Affect the Sincerity of One’s Intentions? (Video)

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Does seeking reward affect the sincerity of one’s intentions?

Answer:  Wa’leykum Salam,

Here is a video answer by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani to this question:

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil: A Comprehensive SeekersHub Reader

Enjoining good and forbidding evil forms the 19th chapter of Imam Al-Ghazali’s seminal work, the Ihya, which is widely regarded as the greatest work on Islamic spirituality in the world.

Should I Avoid Pursuing Islamic Studies While Paying My Parents Mortgage?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

If a person indulges in major sin, should he avoid to pursue Islamic studies?


My parent have a lot of debts on mortgage and I am hoping to get a job and help them. But I would have to pay interest which is a sin. I would love to study Islam and become a scholar too but I fear that I will become a much greater hypocrite.

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah,

1. It is not sinful to help your parents financially. Rather, this would be a tremendous act of kindness and generosity towards them. And you aren’t responsible for the debts incurred, even if interest bearing.

2. Study Islam for Allah. Study so that you can practice it in your life and become a beloved, grateful servant. And do the best you can in the situation in which Allah has placed you. Fears of becoming a hypocrite are simply the devil’s way of ensuring you learn nothing about your religion.

Please also see: Knowledge: What, How and Why We Study and: On Sincerity and Avoiding Excessiveness – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.

Overcoming Greed, Opening Yourself To Gratitude, by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said reminds us that one of the worst attachments we have is to greed. It blinds us and incapacitates us. How did the men and women before us overcome this?

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Raheem
Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in the Qur’an, in Surah Yusuf (3):  “Indeed We have related to you the most beautiful of stories…”
In these stories, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) speaks in the Qur’an about the Anbiya, the Saliheen and sometimes He also mentions the oppressors so that we may take from it a lesson for ourselves.
Also, by relating to us stories, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is telling and teaching us about human nature; and one of the worst attachments to our nature is greed.  Greed for money and more broadly, greed for loving and wanting everything, which can turn into jealousy and envy and can also cause undue stress.
In this regard, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) tells us in the Qur’an the story of Ibrahim (alaih salam): a Nabi, standing in front of the oppressor king Nimrod, and in describing this meeting Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) tells Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) and us in the Qur’an:  “Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship?”  (Surah Al-Baqarah, 258)
In this ayah, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is saying that He is the one that made Nimrod a king and gave him power, and Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) gave kingship and power to someone who was a disbeliever.  But Ibrahim (alaih salam) was certain in his knowledge that in reality Nimrod was given nothing, as he was not given the gifts of iman, guidance and piety!
This are the Saliheen! They are lost in counting the blessings of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!
Also, Nimrod did not only have kingship and power, but that power extended to having control over Ibrahim (alaih salam) as well, but it was Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) who gave Nimrod that power, and if there were to be any khayr in it, than it would have been given to Ibrahim (alaih salam), hence the thought of jealousy never occurred.
In Surah Al-Qasas, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) tells us a story about Syedina Musa (alaih salam), in which Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) describes how Musa (alaih salam) was going through a lot of hardship, while Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) gave his cousin, Qarun, power and wealth beyond imagination.  Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) gave an example of the extent of Qarun’s wealth in describing the key to the doors of his stores, which was so rich that it could only be lifted by the strongest man of that era.
Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) shows us human nature in telling that when Qarun went out with all his wealth, supporters and subjects, it was the human nature in people that made them feel jealous of Qarun, and they all wished to be him. What they saw in Qarun was his wealth, his comfort and his ease; but no one wanted to be like Musa (alaih salam)!  The people did not see a Nabi, or the one who speaks to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), all they saw was an exterior of a man who was going through hard times, and hence no one wanted to be like Musa (alaih salam).
But when Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) destroyed Qarun and the earth swallowed him and his wealth, the same people who were in awe of him said that it was a blessing that they were not like him; these are the very people who wished before to be Qarun, and now they were thanking Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) for not being like him!
In these stories, there is a lesson:  the people that were following the opponent of Ibrahim (alaih salam) saw that he was a powerful king, and as such they did not see the khair of Ibrahim (alaih salam), his Nabuwwah and that he was Khalilullah!
The people that were following the opponent of Musa (alaih salam) saw his opponent’s wealth and resources, which did not allow them to see the khair of Musa (alaih salam), his Nabuwwah and that he was Kaleemullah!
In applying the lesson to us we must know that in every time there will be Nimrods and Qaruns, but there will also be the Saliheen as well!  So in taking lesson, we should strive to align to the Saliheen and not the Nimrods and Qaruns of our time.  The Saliheen are in our time as well, and they are the ones that have been truly blessed, despite their apparent disrespect and neglect by people; people will only miss the Saliheen when they are no longer there!
If it was in the judgment of the previous people to want to be Qarun and Nimrod, we should be wise and learn from that mistake, and instead of wanting to be someone else, we should be grateful for what we have.
WE should be grateful and smile!
If you have the blessing of time, be grateful and smile, because many people wish for this.
If you have the ability to walk, talk and hear, be grateful and smile, because many people wish for this.
If you have food on your table and a roof over your head, be grateful and smile, because many people wish for this.
If you have a family, be grateful and smile, no matter how difficult they might be, because many people wish for this.
If you have a husband or wife, no matter how bad you may think they are, be grateful and smile, because many people

wish for this.
Do not wish to be anyone else, and be happy with the hikmah of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), because the very person you
wish to be, you may not know what they are going through.  There are many things in life to be grateful and happy for, so smile!
At the end, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in the Qur’an:  “If you are grateful to Me, I will increase you!”
And this is our first message of the year.
May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make this a year of khair, and may He guide us, as He granted us a great beginning, and continue to guide us. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) clear from our heart all that is other than Him, remove any love other than His and that of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam); may Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make our hearts a place for no one other than Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam).
We wish for you and for us a year full of ibadah, remembrance and praise of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and a year of salawat upon Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam).  May it be a year of reconnecting with the Qur’an through reading, understanding and implementing it.

Resources for seekers

Shaykh Faid SaidShaykh Faid Mohammed Said is a jewel in the crown of traditional Islamic scholarship in the United Kingdom and we at SeekersHub are ever grateful for his friendship, guidance and support. He was born in Asmara, Eritrea, where he studied the holy Qur’an and its sciences, Arabic grammar and fiqh under the guidance of the Grand Judge of the Islamic Court in Asmara, Shaykh Abdul Kader Hamid and also under the Grand Mufti of Eritrea. He later went to study at Madinah University, from which he graduated with a first class honours degree. In Madinah, his teachers included Shaykh Atia Salem, Shaykh Mohamed Ayub (ex-imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, peace be upon him), Professor AbdulRaheem, Professor Yaqub Turkestani, Shaykh Dr Awad Sahli, Dr Aa’edh Al Harthy and many other great scholars. Shaykh Faid has ijaza in a number of disciplines including hadith, and a British higher education teaching qualification. He is currently the scholar in residence and head of education at Harrow Central Mosque, United Kingdom. Read his articles on the SeekersHub blog.

Etiquette of Social Media – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

As main tools of communication and connectivity, Social Media is everywhere, and with immediacy. Ustad Amjad Tarsin calls us to ponder to what end? For what purpose?

Two individuals could be doing the exact same thing, and one is rewarded and one may be punished. What gives? What is the difference between the two?  Ustadh Amjad invites us to ponder on the value of purpose and intention in every deed and action performed by the individual; what makes or breaks our actions?
“As believers we do not go off on auto pilot” reminds Ustadh Amjad; the urgency lies in reflecting and making purposeful intentions. “Social media should not be a replacement for real life.”

Ask yourself, “what purpose is this for– to what end? How does this connect me to Allah ?” Sure , social media offers you anonymity from the creation and instant connectivity; but Allah is always with you and aware of all that you do–even before you think of it. What then have you to show your Creator? what is it that you wish to share with your Lord?

The believer should have purpose in life with God-consciousness and intentionality as the provisions and tools for true, long lasting success.

Cover photo by  MKHMarketing

Resources for the Seekers: