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Taqwa: Definition, Discovery and Disposition ~ By Sidi Yousaf Seyal

Taqwa
As we enter final ten days of Ramadan, the meaning of taqwa continues to entertain my mind, reflecting on why God has mandated an entire month of fasting to attain God-consciousness. After all, isn’t taqwa a constant state that should be upheld throughout the year, let alone one’s lifetime?
This year, while I traverse the road of Ramadan for the fifteenth time, I believe that I have finally come to an understanding of taqwa, although I may need to undertake many more journeys to fulfill this objective. Stemming from the Prophetic hadith, “Whoever knows himself knows His Lord,” I believe that the root of taqwa stems from knowledge of the self, yourself.
The more that you come to know the vices of your lower-self, the ego, by contemplation and confession, is the same route that should lead you to turning to your higher-self, the heart, connecting you to the Creator and leaving you in a continuous state of consciousness in Him. Taqwa.
DSC04778Definition
Up until now, scholars and saints continue to quote the verse of fasting, “O ye who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon ye as it was prescribed upon those before ye, in order that ye may attain taqwa [2:183],” extracting legal rulings and spiritual insights for the abstainer.
Just a few days ago, I learned that the linguistic meaning of taqwa comes from waqa, meaning to shield. Thus, the pre-Islamic Arabs would refer to taqwa as the blocking of a blow, such as in a duel, yielding off any external injury. According to ibn Ata’, taqwa is categorized in two parts: external form and internal matter. Its external form is the preservation of crossing boundaries and its internal matter is intentionality and sincerity, ikhlas [al-Risala al-Qushayriyya:Taqwa].
Growing up, I was always exposed to new definitions of taqwa, only to realize that interpretations need to be internalized through a perpetual state of personal growth. Hence, the levels of fasting correspond to the levels of piety, the final being the abstinence of everything but God Himself. Although the words of the wise are never to be ignored, today, I hope to move beyond meaning to an embodiment of this virtue, a mystical ascension to my Lord. Taqwa.
Discovery
When I look back and hear the voices of the righteous before me, I fail to find my place in the pages of history, confused and unable to identify whether my presence is worthy of the time that God has granted me.
When so many people around me seem deserving, dedicated, and disciplined, I ask, “God, why have you given me another Ramadan when You know that I am undeserving of Your grace?” Perhaps, the only explanation that I have is a single verse, found in the middle of four verses related to fasting, “And if My servants ask you about Me, then I am near, answering the cry of the caller when he calls upon Me. So, let them respond to Me and believe in Me in hopes that they may attain guidance [2:186].”
God is calling each and every one of us to actively engage in communicating with Him during this month. In fact, this is why God says in a Divine tradition, “Fasting is for Me, and I alone reward it,” excusing the angels from their task of recording the deed. Rather, God makes this act so intimate that, not only is it hidden from the external world, Satan himself cannot interfere with the intentionality that the servant commits to God, leaving the abstainer to couple with his Lord in filling his heart with His, a union that crosses the boundaries of time and space to a metaphysical meeting with God. Taqwa.
chainsDisposition
When Satan is removed from the universe and chained in the chambers of Hell, the doors of Paradise are opened to those who wish to enter it, Janna al-Rayyan, the level of Paradise promised for the abstainers. Yet, even this opportunity is a material one, reflecting the ultimate opening which emanates from God upon the willingness of the servant to erase his ego and embrace the mercy of His Lord.
Once this bond is established, the servant is able to listen to the hymns of the angels, urging him to good, while the whispers of Satan evaporate, purifying the seeker of God. In reality, as the veils between him and God are removed, he will begin to hear himself, his past, wrongdoings and mistakes, urging him to sell himself to his self — a battleground between gratification and God.
A few days ago, one of my teachers said that Ramadan is the best time to get to know yourself, because even Satan cannot be blamed for the discourse that one has within himself, rooted over the past eleven months. However, especially during Ramadan, displeasing thoughts and unpleasing urges can be viewed as an opportunity to detect the faults that we have so arrogantly avoided since last Ramadan. Once we dedicate ourselves to discovering ourselves, identify the vile traits within us, and abandon the nasty habits disclosed from us is when we can hear the calling of our Lord, “And learn, for indeed, the best form of provision is taqwa [2:197].”
Finally
Taqwa is a process that begins with a definition but does not end there. After all, definitions are merely signs which signify meaning, accomplished through self-discovery, uncovering the defects of the self. Once a person begins to identify the veils that have so long distanced himself from God, he can than begin to remove those barriers, advancing towards God and retreating from Satan.
This development can and does take place over the year, but it is best traversed during Ramadan, a month in which the heat of Hell is heated for Satan and the breezes of Heaven are blown into the earth, enveloping those who embrace it. This Ramadan, I can claim that, for the first time, I have taken this month seriously, hearing the embedded whispers of Satan within me while struggling to listen to the voice of God, the call to taqwa.
It is during this time that God allows us to connect with Him on an intimate level, so much so that Satan is restricted from direct intervention, leaving the servant to chose between God and his ego. Hence, the Prophet said, “Taqwa is here,” pointing to his heart three times, signifying the function of the heart, and indicating that the purer the heart, the greater one’s knowledge of himself, enabling him to know God. Taqwa.
~ Sidi Yousaf Seyal, MicroMolvi

If I am Patient, Will I Get a ‘Good’ Spouse?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: My question is about getting married in the future.

If I pray and have patience will I get a good spouse in the future, or should I start looking for someone who is religious and tell her to wait until it is the right time to marry? If I stay patient, will I get a nice, virtuous, and good looking wife?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

The sunna is to take the strongest and most effective of means whilst relying wholeheartedly upon Allah. And patience is remaining steadfast on what is pleasing to Allah.

Focus on becoming somebody of taqwa, righteousness, and excellent character. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those most excellent in character.” And Allah Most High says, “Corrupt women are for corrupt men, and corrupt men are for corrupt women; good women are for good men and good men are for good women.” [24.26]

Allah Most High says, “And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will grant them a way out, and will provide for them in ways unimagined. And whoever places their trust in Allah, then Allah is their sufficiency. Allah’s affair will surely come to pass–and Allah has made a clear decree for everything.” [Qur’an, 65. 2-3]

See also: The Intentions of Marriage and: A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah.

I’d highly advise taking this class: Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Advice on Dealing with the Financial Crisis

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: Can you give some information -advice – on how Muslims should respond to financial crisis both in the public and private lives?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

In short, the answer to dealing with any crisis—whether privately as individuals or publicly as a community—is to return wholeheartedly to the teachings and guidance of the Qur’an and Sunna, which related to financial matters include the following:

(1) Realize the true nature of this world, as explained by the Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) in many hadiths, such as:

“This world and all that is in it is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allah, that which He loves, a scholar or a student of knowledge.” [Tirmidhi]

That is, all of this world is blameworthy except for that which is used as a means to please Allah, to draw near to Allah, and to serve Allah and His religion. If one’s worldly efforts are done for the sake of Allah, they are blessed and bring blessings; otherwise, they are devoid of good and become a means of headaches and worries.

(2) Related to that, try to infuse all of your work and career endeavors with a sincere intention—to please Allah, to use your earnings for the sake of Allah, to earn a halal income, to have enough money to support your dependents and donate charity, etc.

Having a job is a great blessing of Allah Most High, and a means to do much good. It is the way of the prophets themselves, as Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No one ever ate better food than from the work of his own hands; and Allah’s prophet Dawud used to eat from the work of his own hands.” [Bukhari]

Take the means to secure a good job, and work hard: be diligent, honest, and upright—all for the sake of Allah.

(3) Spend in charity, and do so regularly. This is a great source of baraka in one’s life and wealth, as well as a means for acceptance of spiritual works, good health, and warding off calamities.

Allah Most High states, as related by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in a hadith qudsi, “Spend O son of Adam! I will spend on you.” [Bukhari]

(4) At the same time, be balanced in your charity, and do not neglect your primary financial obligations.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O son of Adam! For you to spend the surplus is better for you, and for you to withhold it is certainly worse. You will not be blamed, however, for keeping what suffices you; and [when you spend] begin with your dependents.” [Muslim]

A Qur’anic verse that provides a most beautiful summation of the attitude of the believer towards his wealth is:

“And seek, with respect to all that Allah has given you, the next abode; yet forget not your portion for this world; and [when you do spend] do so with excellence, just as Allah has shown excellence to you.” (28:77)

Muslims do not neglect their worldly duties and responsibilities, yet their focus, aim and goal is Allah and the afterlife. And when they do anything for Allah, they do so with excellence and beauty (ihsan).

(5) Have godfearingness (taqwa) in all your affairs, as taqwa is a means to every good in general, and specifically to relief from distress, unforeseen provision, and ease in one’s affairs.

Allah Most High states, “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will give him a way out, and will provide sustenance for him from whence he least expected,” (65:2-3) as well as “Whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will make easy his affairs.” (65:4)

(6) Avoid wastefulness (israf), which is a major vice and disease, prevalent at both the individual and societal levels today.

Allah Most High states, “Do not be extravagant: verily the extravagant are the brethren of devils” (17:26–7), as well as

“Eat and drink, but be not wasteful: verily Allah loves not the wasters” (7:31).

For a more detailed discussion on wastefulness, please see:

Global Warming and Wastefulness

(7) Related to avoiding wastefulness, appreciate the immense blessing of wealth, and show much gratitude for it. This is a sure means to keeping the blessing, inshaAllah, as well as finding increase in it.

As Ibn Ata’illah states, “Whoever does not show gratitude for blessings has exposed himself to losing them, yet whoever shows gratitude for them has tied them down by their tethers,” which is based on the Qur’anic verse, “And surely if you show gratitude, I will most certainly give you more” (14:7).

(8) Maintain family ties, which itself is an expression of gratitude for the blessing of family, and also a means to expansive sustenance.

Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us, “Whoever would love for his sustenance to be broadened [and filled with blessing] and for his lifespan to be extended, then let him maintain family ties.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

(9) Make tawba your constant companion in the journey of life. Shun the unlawful and ask much forgiveness.

This should be done for the sake of Allah alone, but Allah does inform us of some worldly benefits of tawba as well, including financial, as He Most High states, “So I said, ‘Seek forgiveness from your Lord, indeed He is Ever-forgiving. He will send down rain upon you in abundance, and He will increase you in wealth and in children'” (71:10-12).

(10) Realize that financial difficulties, as with all difficulties, are tests from Allah. Turn to Him in neediness, lowliness, humbleness, and impoverishment. Raise your hands in supplication, and ask of His favor. Tell Him that you are His weak servant, and He alone is Lord, Master, Powerful, and Free of need.

Persevere, be steadfast, and hold fast to contentment. Take the means to end the trial, and leave the rest to Allah. If we are pleased with Allah, Allah will be pleased with us, and there is no success greater than that.

Please see also this related answer:

Bringing Barakah into Your Wealth and Life

As well as this general article related to dealing with suffering and trials:

Suffering and Divine Wisdom

And Allah knows best.
wassalam
Faraz

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

How Do I Raise My Resolve to do Good & Overcome Hardness of the Heart?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish

Question: When I began practicing, I used to be very motivated to perform the good. Now, I feel a hardness in my heart and less motivated to do good deeds. Can you please give some advice on how I can raise my motivation?

Answer: Bismillah

Allah Most High says,

“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful.” [Qur’an 9.119]

Thus, with our taqwa (God-consciousness), it is necessary to keep the company of the truthful and righteous.

With this, we should supplicate often with the words of the Best of Creation (peace and blessings be upon him),

“O over-turner of hearts, make my heart firm on your religion.”

If our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to make this supplication, it behooves us to follow his example (peace and blessings be upon him) and have fear of the overturning of hearts. And Allah Most Glorious is the Overwhelming over His creation, and He decrees whatever He wills for whoever He wishes. Thus, we ask Him to make us with the truthful and righteous, and to give us a good ending. And we seek refuge in Him from deception and being led astray, for He is the Hearing and Answering.

Worshiping Allah for His sake, not for illumination

When a believer obeys Allah Most High, they do so in obedience to the command of Allah. This good deed gives fruit to a light in the heart, and an increase in one’s spiritual resolve (himma). However, if our good deeds do not give apparent fruits, it is not allowed for us to leave them, because whenever we do the good, we will have obeyed the command of Allah—this is our duty.

Then, [having done our duty] if we find the apparent fruits of our deeds, then so be it. Otherwise, we at least obeyed the command of Allah, and we ask Him for acceptance. We are the servants of Allah, not the servants of illuminations that result from our deeds. The one who worships Allah for the fruits of their worship, such as the light and softness they find in their heart, are in need of sincerity to Allah alone in their worship.

What to do about hardness of heart and weakness of resolve

As for when one fears non-acceptance when they find hardness of heart and weakness in resolve, then one should make remembrance of Allah and istighfar (seeking forgiveness). It has been related in a hadith from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said,

“Truly, hearts rust just as iron rusts, and their polishing is La ilaha illa Allah (‘There is no god but Allah’) and seeking forgiveness.”

Thus, if a Muslim seeks to polish their heart, they should adhere to the remembrance of Allah until their heart is purified and illumined. If one makes remembrance of Allah but finds no light therein, then they should make themselves in a position to benefit from the winds of Allah’s beneficence.

It has been related in hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“You Lord has in the days of your lives winds of beneficence, so benefit from them.”

Among these winds of beneficence are the blessed days mentioned in the Prophetic hadiths, in which worship is especially virtuous.

Among them is to search for truthful and righteous believers and to keep their company.

Among them is to establish night worship at the end of the night, and to supplicate at that time.

Among them is to remain constantly in the remembrance of Allah. Sayyidi Ibn `Ata’illah says,

“Do not leave the remembrance because of your lack of presence of heart with Allah therein, because your heedlessness of the remembrance of Allah is more harmful than your heedlessness during the remembrance of Allah. It may well be that He take you from remembrance in which there is heedlessness to remembrance in which there is consciousness; and from remembrance in which there is consciousness to remembrance in which there is presence of heart; and from remembrance in which there is presence of heart to remembrance in which there is obliviousness to all but the One Remembered, “And that is not difficult for Allah.””

Loss of motivation and the importance of moderation

As for loss of motivation, this is natural to the human temperament, and is the reason why the acts of good and worship are variegated—so that the lower selves of creation not get weary. Thus, if one finds weakness in one’s resolve, then move to another type of good, while being wary—when given success—not to take on too many voluntary acts of worship, lest this lead to loss of motivation and a sense of being fed up. Allah Most High enjoined upon us certain obligations which we cannot leave. After this, He encouraged us to supererogatory works from which we should take that which our selves can handle, sustain, and remain avid for the good.

Imam Muslim related in his Sahih, in the chapter on ‘Moderation in Exhortation,’ from Shaqiq that he said,

“We were sitting before the door of Abdullah [ibn Masud (Allah be pleased with him), the great companion of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)], waiting for him, when Yazid ibn Mu`awiya al-Nakha`i passed by us. We said to him, “Tell him about our presence.” He entered. Soon after, Abdullah [ibn Mas`ud] came out. He said, “I have been told about your presence. The only thing preventing me from coming out to you is my dislike of boring you. Verily, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to carefully choose when to give us exhortation, out of fear of us becoming weary.”

We ask Allah to make our days rich with His obedience, and to increase love and desire of drawing closer to Him in our hearts, until we meet Him and He is pleased with us. Amin.

Muhammad Qaylish

(Translated by Faraz Rabbani, a student of Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish)

3- حينما بدأت ألتزم كنت أجد دافعاً قوياً في نفسي نحو الخيرات ونوافل العبادات وكثرة الذكر . وكنت أجد رقة في قلبي .. الآن لا أجد ذاك الدافع وأشعر بقسوة في قلبي وضعف في همتي .. لا أقع في معاص ظاهرة … لكن أخاف أن يزداد ضعفي … كيف أقوي عزمي نحو الخير وتنوير قلبي؟

الجواب: يقول الله تعالى : [يا أيها الذين آمنوا اتقوا الله وكونوا مع الصادقين]. فمع التقوى لا بد من مصاحبة الصادقين . ومع هذا وذاك علينا أن نكثر من دعاء سيد الوجود e : “يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك” . فإذا كان نبينا e يدعو بهذا الدعاء فعلينا أن نقتدي به e ونخاف من تقليب القلوب . والله سبحانه هو القاهر فوق عباده يحكم بما يشاء على من يشاء . فنسأله أن يجعلنا من الصالحين وأن يختم لنا بخاتمة الحسنى . ونعوذ به من المكر والاستدراج. إنه سميع مجيب.

والمؤمن حين يطيع الله عز وجل فإنه يفعل ذلك امتثالاً لأمر الله . فتثمر هذه الطاعة نوراً في القلب، وزيادة في الهمة . ولكن إذا لم تثمر الطاعة ثمارها فلا يجوز أن نتركها، لأننا حين نعمل الخيرات فإننا نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. وهذه هي وظيفتنا. ثم إذا أتت ثمار الطاعة فأهلاً وسهلاً. وإذا لم تأت نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. ونسأله سبحانه القبول. فنحن عباد الله ولسنا عباد الأنوار التي هي ثمرة عبادتنا . وإذا كان المسلم يعبد الله لأجل أن ينال ثمار العبادة من نور في القلب ورقة فيه فإن عبادته تحتاج إلى إخلاص النية لله وحده.

وأما إذا كان يخاف من عدم القبول حين يجد في القسوة في قلبه والضعف في همته فعليه بذكر الله والاستغفار . وقد ورد في الحديث عنه e : إن القلوب تصدأ كما يصدأ الحديد وجلاؤها لا إله إلا الله والاستغفار .

فإذا أراد المسلم أن يجلو قلبه فعليه بذكر الله حتى يصفو ويتنور. وإذا كان يذكر الله فلا يشعر بالنور يدخل إلى قلبه فليتعرض لنفحات الله سبحانه . فقد ورد في الحديث : إن لربكم في أيام دهركم نفحات . ألا فتعرضوا لها. ومن النفحات الأيام المباركة التي وردت الأحاديث في فضل العبادة فيها . ومنها البحث عن الصالحين الصادقين والبقاء معهم . ومنها قيام آخر الليل والدعاء فيه…. ومنها المداومة على الذكر . يقول سيدي ابن عطاء الله السكندري : لا تترك الذكر لعدم حضورك مع الله فيه فغفلتك عن وجود ذكره أشد من غفلتك مع وجود ذكره . فعسى أن ينقلك من ذكر مع وجود غفلة إلى ذكر مع وجود يقظة ومن ذكر مع وجود يقظة إلى ذكر مع وجود حضور ومن ذكر مع وجود حضور إلى ذكر مع غيبة عما سوى المذكور وما ذلك على الله بعزيز .

وإن السآمة من طبع النفوس البشرية . ولذلك تنوعت الطاعات والعبادات كيلا تمل نفوس العباد . فإذا شعر المسلم بشيء من الضعف في الهمة فلينتقل إلى نوع آخر من الطاعة . وليحذر الموفق من حمل نفسه على كثرة النوافل حتى لا تمل وتسأم . فإن الله سبحانه قد فرض علينا فروضاً لا يجوز لنا أن نتركها . ثم ندبنا بعد ذلك إلى نوافل نأخذ منها ما تحتمله نفوسنا وتبقى معه راغبة في الخير . وقد أخرج الإمام مسلم في صحيحه في باب الاقتصاد في الموعظة عن شقيق قال: كنا جلوساً عند باب عبد الله – بن مسعود – ننتظره، فمر بنا يزيد بن معاوية النخعي فقلنا: أعلمه بمكاننا. فدخل عليه، فلم يلبث أن خرج علينا عبد الله فقال: إني أُخْبَرُ بمكانكم، فما يمنعني أن أخرج إليكم إلا كراهية أن أُمِلَّكُمْ. إن رسول الله e كان يَتَخَوَّلُنَا بالموعظة في الأيام مخافة السآمة علينا. نسأل الله أن يجعل أيامنا بالطاعات عامرة وأن يزيد في قلوبنا محبته والرغبة بالإقبال عليه حتى نلقاه وهو عنا راض . آمين.

MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and SunniPath.

The Path of Taqwa – Faraz Rabbani – Qurba Retreat 2010 (Video, Lecture)

The Path of Taqwa – Faraz Rabbani – Qurba Retreat 2010

Path of Taqwa.jpg

A talk delivered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at the Qurba Retreat “Detour Ahead: Staying on the Prophetic Path, August 2010. Shaykh Faraz highlights the Qur’anic call to mindfulness (taqwa); the virtues of taqwa; its three levels; and how mindfulness is manifest in faith, outward actions, the actions of the heart, and also in one’s thinking.

 

See: The Path of Taqwa – Faraz Rabbani – Qurba Retreat 2010 from Qurba on Vimeo

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Avoiding Differences of Opinion: Why & When Can I Follow Another School?

Answered by Sidi Faraz Khan

Question: Why is it recommended to follow another schools position out of scrupulousness when we believe our own school is correct? When would taking another position outside of one’s own school be permitted for this reason?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

InshaAllah you are well.

The basic idea is that while each school of thought (madhab) believes its own view on any given issue to be correct, it does acknowledge that it could be wrong and that instead another school could be correct. Hence, it is recommended to avoid difference of opinion and take into account opinions of others schools in one’s personal practice, as this would entail more piety (taqwa) and scrupulousness (wara’). However, a condition is that doing so would not entail doing something disliked (makruh) in one’s own school. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

For example, in the Hanafi school, touching a non-related member of the opposite gender does not nullify one’s ablution (wudu’), yet it does in the Shafi’i school. Hence, if a Hanafi man were to touch a non-related woman, he would not have to renew his wudu’ before praying, yet it would be recommended to do so in order to avoid the difference of opinion with the Shafi’is, and because it would not be disliked according to his own school [the Hanafi school]. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi ‘l-Falah]

An example where one would not avoid difference of opinion is with respect to the recitation of Sura Fatiha by a follower in congregational prayer. Despite it being mandatory in the Shafi’i school, a Hanafi would not do so in order to avoid difference of opinion, as it is disliked according to the Hanafi school. [Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidaya]

And Allah knows best.
wassalam
Faraz Khan

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani