Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
By time, humanity is in loss. (Sura 103:1)
The key to avoiding loss is committing to change, which happens through an active choice to make things better. Imam Ghazali outlined how to get closer to Allah through personal accountability. In book 38 of his Revival of the Religious Sciences, he mentioned six steps to achieve this:
Step One: Goal-setting, or musharata. One should commit to upholding the obligatory acts, such as prayer, fasting, and worship. In addition, one should leave all the prohibited acts. After these basics have been established, one should then move onto bringing in the sunnas, and leaving the disliked acts. Doing this properly require knowledge of beliefs, worship, social relations, and transactions.
Step Two: Watching over oneself, or muraqaba. It’s easiest to begin by watching over one’s prayer, and one’s tongue. Prayer is one of the central aspects of the deen, and most of life’s problems happen through toxic speech. Having these standards will bring caution and concern into one’s life.
Step Three: Taking oneself to account, or muhasaba. One should sit down once a day, week, or month, and look over what they did. They should identify the positive and negative, and deciding what could be done better.
Step Four: Self-penalty, or mu’aqaba. This refers to positive self-discipline, as the nature of humans is that they will continue to push boundaries unless there is a consequence.
Step Five: Spiritual struggle, or mujahada. The easiest way to do this, is to strive to be constantly in remembrance of Allah.
Step Six: Self-reproach, or mu’ataba. Nothing harms the self as much as self-satisfaction, and one should remain humble. Scholars would ask themselves, if they died shortly, would they be satisfied to meet Allah? Was there any harm, negligence, or sins on their record? Are there many good deeds on record? It was said about Imam Hamaad, the teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, that if he were told he were to die tomorrow, he could not possibly increase in good deeds.
In this engaging and inspiring series Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers Imam Ghazali’s brilliant explanation in his Renewal of the Sciences of Religion (Ihya Ulum al-Din) of how one could become God conscious through watchfulness (muraqaba), and self-accounting (muhasaba). This series will give you keys, insights, and timeless wisdom on how to change oneself, through setting goals and conditions, watching over oneself, taking oneself into account, and spiritual striving.
Shaykh Seraj Hendricks is among the third generation of scholars who have been teaching the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences) in South Africa. The Ihya is a 40-volume work on Islamic ethics, spirituality, and religious practice, written by the great Imam Ghazali. It has gained fame not as a manual of Islamic law, but because of its essential focus on spirituality and purification of the self. Shaykh Seraj’s grandfather was reportedly the first man to bring the book to the lands, where he was delegated to teach it.
Shaykh Seraj’s first exposure to the Ihya series, was the Book on Halal and Haram, which was when he was eighteen. He found himself fascinated by it. While studying psychology in university, he interviewed a scholar called Shaykh Mahdie, who was in his seventies. Shaykh Mahdie mentioned that he had just finished his 20th reading of the Ihya. Later on, Shaykh Seraj learned that it was part of the litanies of the Ba’lawi spiritual path, to do 20 readings of the Ihya in a lifetime.
In this interview, he speaks of the Ihya and its effects on the South African communities. Religious scholarship was established when the Dutch colonisers exiled many Muslims leaders to South Africa. Rather than cutting off the spread of Islam, ot served to establish a small community, whose leaders painstakingly kept up their religious practices. They dedicated rooms in their houses for worship, and kept up the readings of Sura Yasin and the litanies of the B’lawi tariqa, with their love for spirituality and connecting with Allah. In this way, Islam survived through slavery and colonialism. However, it still had to suffer through apartheid.
The Muslims were heavily involved in the struggle against apartheid. Shaykh Seraj himself was imprisoned briefly for his role in the movement. While in prison, he was invited by other prisoners to give a talk in the prison square. He began preaching that Muslims should not harbour hostility to others, even to the prison guards. He then turned to the prison guard in charge, and reminded him that oppression is not limited to a particular group, but is a mindset build on prejudice, and that the guard, a dehumanized being, needed their help as much as anyone else to overrule oppression. The guard got angry and threatened to shoot.
Shaykh Seraj finishes the interview with encouraging all Muslims to support institutions that teach Islam, in order to overcome personal and societal barriers.
Posted with gratitude to Mishkat Media. Connect with Shaykh Seraj Hendricks at Azzavia Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa.
Day 18: Break Your Ego
Allah is the All-Powerful, All-Near. We know this and believe this. However, we know that there is a veil between us and Him. That veil is our nafs, our ego and lower self. One of the scholars said, “One nafs is worse than seventy devils.” This is more apparent in Ramadan, where we know that the devils are chained, but we are still having problems.
This Ramadan, try to do something to overcome your ego. It could be forcing yourself to seek advice from someone you don’t like, or offering extra prayers. After all, the path of struggle is the path of love.
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As-salaamu ‘alaykum my dear friend,
I miss you! I pray you are well. I know these are difficult times. I saw your message and wanted to reply but I wasn’t sure how to put into words what I have learned from Allah and His Messenger through the teachings and actions of those who strive every day in their way. However, tonight during our weekly Hikam class I found the words of those with purified hearts that speak to such trying events. I’ll paraphrase some of it and put it in a sequence I feel best speaks to our situation:
God the exalted says in His Generous Book, “Do not be sad, for God is with us.” [9:40]
It is reported that God revealed to the Prophet David:
“O David, what I love for my creation is that they be spiritual beings. Spiritual beings are not distressed because they know that I am the lantern of their hearts. So don’t let concern darken your heart and decrease you from the sweetness you’ve inherited from spiritual beings.”
This is the crux of our existence. We struggle to realize, to know, and to witness that God exists, is present, and that He knows everything, nothing escapes Him. A person who knows God and witnesses Him is not distressed by the ever changing world. He knows that all other events in existence are in God’s firm grasp and are encompassed by His Gentleness and Mercy. The world has its ups and its downs but God is constant.
The famous scholar Shibly is narrated to have said,
“Whosoever truly knows God will never experience distress.”
This is best explained by the saying of Ibn Ata Allah Iskandari who said: “Bliss, even though its outward manifestations vary in form is ultimately based on witnessing God and being close to Him. As for punishment, it too varies in its manifestations but is ultimately based on being veiled from God and being distanced from Him. The real root cause of punishment is a veil between you and God and complete bliss is gazing upon His Generous Countenance.”
It is for this reason, dear friend, that the Knowers of God, the Friends of God, the Saints, they are never shaken. Although they are concerned for the world and for its inhabitants… particularly the oppressed and the overlooked, that does not cause them to lose sight of Who is in charge.
Their innermost hearts are not shaken by difficult times even if their concern for people is high. Their hearts are concentrated on the only constant, Allah. They can balance between being completely focused on God and serving creation. Their knowledge of God does not remove them from the station of serving the needy and the oppressed.
What I have mentioned is a lofty station that most of us struggle to understand, let alone achieve. I personally know how much I need these words because I often find my heart shaken by world events and by events in my day to day life.
Thankfully, those of us who have not reached the station mentioned still find benefit in difficult times. Such difficult trials put out the fire of the ego, purify the heart, remove from us greed, or love of worldly things. And for some of us it is an expiation of our sins and elevates us in ranks in the next life.
You asked what we should focus on, on THIS day… and I would say that we should focus on God, Exalted is He.
I leave you in God’s care,
His little understanding of Islam garnered through stories in the Reader’s Digest led him to believe Islam was violent, oppressive and an Arabian religion. But in the Quran, he found the opposite.
Still, he was a Brahmin Hindu; he could never be Muslim. However, that’s not what his heart was telling him. He converted to Islam at the age of 15 years old and found that he had finally come home. Watch on to learn more about Yusuf’s conversion to Islam.
Ustadha Dr Rania Awaad has received a traditional license (ijazah) to teach Qur’anic recitation (tajwid) in both the Hafs and Warsh recitations from the late eminent Syrian scholar, Shaykh Abu Hassan al-Kurdi. In addition to completing several advanced texts of the Shafi’i school (madhhab), she is licensed to teach texts of Maliki jurisprudence (fiqh), literature (adab), and spirituality (ihsan). She is also a physician. Her medical interests include addressing mental health care concerns in the Muslim community, particularly that of Muslim women. Other on-going endeavors include the compilation of a manual addressing female-related medical issues from a fiqh-oriented perspective as well as a manual on raising Muslim children in the West.
The closest relationship a person will ever experience in their lifetime is with their spouse. In this SeekersHub seminar, we learn how to cultivate this union to the fullest, how to overcome common hurdles, and how to maintain a high degree of moral conduct and excellent character.
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Shaykh Faraz Rabbani narrates stories of struggle of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) companions form Imam Kandahlawi’s masterpiece, Hayat al-Sahaba. This lesson is part of the ongoing class: Studying the Life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
The inspirational stories of Abu Bakr, Uthman, Talha, Zubayr and others portray the deep concern of the Prophet’s companions to uphold and convey Islam and Prophetic guidance.
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Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Salam Alaykum,
I have to make wudu for every prayer because I constantly break my wudu by passing wind. During Ramadan if I make one wudu for ‘isha prayer and taraweeh is that okay? Or should I renew wudu for each prayer and each set of taraweeh? Also for Friday prayer, should I wait till just before the sheikh starts praying after the lecture or can I make wudu before I leave home?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
Do not repeat your ablution (wudu) unless you hear or smell something.
The devil is quite good at giving believers a hard time. The religion is ease. If there is no ease, something has been misunderstood. The wudu is not supposed to be a difficult nor a time consuming act.
I’d suggest seeking out reliable scholars who can assist you further. If confused, ask. The cure to confusion is but to ask, said the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Consider taking: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Beliefs & Worship (STEP)
Please see: A Reader on Waswasa (Baseless Misgivings)
And Allah alone gives success.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
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