Shaykh Asim Yusuf on Living a God-Conscious Life

Nurulain Wolhuter writes an insightful overview of Shaykh Asim Yusuf’s Canada lecture, where he discussed the concept of tawheed, or Divine unity, and how to connect our needs to living a God-conscious life.

Shaykh Asim Yusuf commenced this insightful and moving lecture on the importance of a life conscious of the divine by exhorting the servants of Allah to become people of mercy. His lecture explained process of actualising such a way of living consciously and authentically. This starts when one understands the interplay between the concepts of unity and multiplicity. He stressed mercy being at the core of the call to the student of knowledge. Those who are merciful to others will receive the mercy of Allah, the All-Compassionate.

While mercy is the foundation of the call to Allah, the servants of Allah must strive to become people of God-consciousness and piety (taqwa). The servant must have a pious heart, in order to reflect goodness and light to those around her or him.

The righteous servant must be imbued with God-consciousness. Shaykh Asim says that living a God-conscious life has three aspects, namely taqwa, active remembrance of Allah (dhikr), and worship (ibadah).  Different people achieve this in different ways.

Understanding Taqwa

Understanding God-consciousness requires understanding the human condition, its wider relationship to the universe, and, most importantly, its relationship to the Creator. Humans are distinguished from animals by the capacity for abstraction. They are able to perceive the past through memory and the future through imagination. They can also conceive of abstract concepts out of time, like good or bad, joy or sorrow.

However, a more insightful way of understanding the nature of humanity is to be found by understanding the Arabic word for human, or insan. Insan is derived two meanings, namely uns and nisyan. While uns refers to the need to be loved, nisyan refers to forgetfulness. Shaykh Asim says humanity is driven by the desire to be loved but has forgotten where to find it. So the human journey is one from forgetfulness to love.

God-consciousness is the ability to recognise the this need, and to seek its fulfilment. Allah made this known primordially when He asked the souls: أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ “Am I not your Lord?”  and they answered: قَالُوا بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَا “Yes, indeed, we witness.” (Sura Al-Araf, 7:172) While most people have forgotten this, a glimmer of it remains in the primordial memory, generating an existential fear, and a yearning for the presence of Allah.

Consciousness begins from the time the soul is placed into the fetus. The womb, or rahm, is a place of mercy (rahmah) and all the needs of the fetus are met. However, once it is born, it experiences the trauma of separation from its mother and its first need, namely the need for oxygen. When this is met by the taking of the first breath, it experiences the first fulfilment of a need. After that, it experiences many needs that are met from a multiplicity of sources, such as its mother. The baby, at this time, ascribes the fulfilment of need to its mother. It does not yet have the understanding to ascribe it to Allah. 

Allah’s Divine Unity

Shaykh Asim said that Allah is unity, but His acts are manifested in multiplicity, namely in His 99 names or attributes. The universe can also be described as multiplicity arising out of unity. The relationship between man and Allah works against the backdrop of this concept of unity in multiplicity. This relationship can be described as the connection between the unity of Allah and the multiplicity of His acts. These lead to a multiplicity of effects, which are perceived as a multiplicity of experiences by man. It relates back to the self as a unity, because man experiences himself as a unity although, in reality, he is a multiplicity. This relationship is encapsulated in Allah’s exhortation: يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ “O mankind, worship your Lord.” (Sura Baqarah 2:21)

Shaykh Asim’s description of God-consciousness as the expression and growth of the soul’s yearning for the forgotten need to be loved by Allah is an insightful tool that facilitates the reflection and introspection that is necessary for the servant’s journey to His Lord. However, students may benefit from engaging with his concept of unity in multiplicity to ensure that it is kept clearly distinct from the vehicle for the infusion of non-Islamic concepts such as the Trinity, or polytheistic notions of multiple deities.

Why The Sahaba Said All Division Is Evil, by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

When faced with disagreements amongst Muslims, Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said argues that we should take the example of Abdullah bin Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) who said, “All division is evil and no good will come from it”.

Allah Subhanu wa Tala has blessed us with His Nur and guided us to His nur through His Nur. Allah Subhanu wa Talasaid is Surah Al Maidah “Indeed a Nur from Allah has come to you”.

One of the main principles of this religion is focusing on human honour and human dignity. In Surah Al Baqara, Allah speaks about how He made Adam (peace be upon him) and ordered the Angels to prostrate to him. In this we can see how Allah has honoured humans by ordering His creation that does not commit any sin, that worships Him constantly, that He made from Nur (light) to make prostration for our father Adam. And Allah said in Surah Al Isra “Indeed, We have honoured mankind”.

All humans are honoured because Allah has honoured them. Amongst humans, the most honoured are the pious ones. Every mu’min’s (believer’s) aim is to achieve piety as the purpose of all forms of worship is to achieve piety. In Surah Al Baqara Allah Most High said, “O people, worship your Lord who has created you and those before you so you may achieve piety”.
That is why the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, said in his prayers of travelling “We beg you, O Allah, to achieve piety and righteousness”. And our beloved Lord, Most High, said in the Quran that He only accepts the prayers and actions of the pious ones, may Allah make us from them.

The Danger of Pessimism

In Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, said:

“If a man said people have gone astray, people are being misguided and destroyed, that person is the most misguided and destroyed”, and in another narration, “he is the one who misguided and destroyed them”.

If piety is our aim then we have to think good of all muslims. In Surah Hujurat (10), Allah (Subhanu wa Tala) said:
“Indeed all muslims are brothers”.

So brothers should have good thoughts of one another. Brothers should help one another. Brothers should make excuses for one another. Brothers should love one another. Our beloved Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, said: “You can not believe until you love each other “.

We shouldn’t see the ummah through the eyes of misguidance and doom, rather we should see the abundant good in the ummah. In a hadith reported by Imam At Tabarani, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, said

“My ummah is like the rain” because you don’t know whether the beginning or the end of the rain was the reason of all the fruits and vegetables that we have.

The ummah is going through difficult times and dividing into groups and adding fuel to the fire is one of the greatest dangers. Every Muslim has to put their effort in doing their part in uniting people. We cannot divide the divided. The state of the ummah requires a great sense of vigilance. And we have to be very careful with every word we say and every action we take that may cause fitna, chaos and division.

Allah, Most High, said in Surah Al Anam (159),”Indeed those who divided their deen (religion) and they became groups, you [O Messenger] are not related to them”.

This is the greatest warning ever when Allah disconnected those who divide and become groups from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him.

Common Good, Not Personal Whims

We shouldn’t say there are already groups and division, each person is responsible for their own actions. And every action and word should be for the common good, and to cooperate and work together in anything that promotes togetherness and piety as Allah said in the second ayah of Surah Al Maidah.

We urge everyone to give up their rights for the common good and not to insist on their opinion. We see when Sayyiduna Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) completed salah in Mina when travelling, many companions approached him to say “The sunnah is to shorten the salah, we prayed behind the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, and he shortened his salah, and Abu Bakr and Umar followed that sunnah”.

Uthman gave many reasons for not shortening the salah but they were not convinced. Abdur Rahman bin Awf (may Allah be pleased with him) came to Abdullah bin Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) and said “Don’t you see Uthman is not shortening the salah even though he knew to” to which Abdullah bin Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) replied, “All division is evil and no khayr will come from it”.

We should apply this great understanding of Abdullah bin Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) in all our issues, and we should rise above the situation and circumstance and aim for the highest form of worship and piety (taqwa). Taqwa is to please Allah and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, to concentrate on oneself and to be a source of good for everyone. Taqwa also is to not look down on anyone no matter how bad or evil you think they are because Allah might forgive them.

In hadith qudsi, reported in the Sahih of Imam Muslim (no. 2621), Allah Most High said:

“Who is the one that says Allah will never grant forgiveness to such & such?” Allah says to this person “I have forgiven such & such and I have erased all of your deeds”.

Allah will not ask us about others and there is much in us individually that we need to change that should keep us busy from thinking about the collective divisions.

May Allah forgive us, purify us and guide us and allow us to be worthy of following the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him. May Allah allow us to be a source of khayr for the ummahand those around us and allow us to embody the true meaning of piety. May Allah bless you and bless your jummah with every khayr.

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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.

Hajj: So Much More Than Just A Gathering, by Ustadh Salim Mauladdawila

The Hajj brings millions of Muslims together on a horizontal plane each year but it is so much more than just an enormous gathering. Ustadh Salim Mauladdawila brings us back to a core message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – the call to and importance of unity amongst Muslims and what there is to gain from it.

Nearly 1384 years ago to the day, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ addressed his Companions on the Hajj pilgrimage. In the valley of Urana and the foot of Mount Arafat, The Prophet ﷺ sat upon his camel al-Qaswa’ before his Companions and advised them in what was subsequently knows as his ‘farewell sermon’. Imam Muslim relates the beginning of the sermon from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir as follows:

“Verily your blood and your wealth are [made] sacred upon you, like the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this land of yours.”

Two days later, in the holy valley of Mina, The Prophet again addressed his companions from upon his camel. Imam al-Bukhari narrates that he spoke, “O people! What day is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred day.”
He then asked, “What land is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred land.”
He asked again, “What month is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred month.”
The Prophet then said, “Verily your blood, your wealth, and your honour are sacred upon you like the sanctity of this day of yours, in this land of yours, in this month of yours.”

Brotherhood forged

Certainly one of the greatest accomplishments of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the sacred brotherhood he forged amongst the Companions. The unity found in the melting-pot of Medina at the time of his passing was a living example of the Quranic verse, “O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest amongst you in the sight of God is the most god-fearing of you” [49:13]. Previously-warring Bedouin Arab tribes made peace, Persians were brothered with Ethiopians, and the wealthy befriended the freed slaves. The emphasis the Prophet placed on this unity in his farewell sermon is a fitting capstone to his prophetic message, and the Muslim nation today would do well to reflect upon the poignancy of his words.

The conditions of unity

The unity the Prophet spoke of is a sanctified part of our religion. A Muslim’s blood, wealth, and honour are, as Imam al-Nawawi comments, even more sacred than the holy times and place the Prophet mentioned. As a part of Islam, unity has conditions, and cannot simply be claimed without it having a reality. In the Quran, God tells us signs of its establishment. He says, “Surely all believers are brothers. So reconcile between your brothers, and fear God, so that mercy may be shown to you” [49:10], and “The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, establish prayer, give zakat, and obey God and His Messenger. God will have mercy upon them” [9:71]. True unity, then, manifests itself as “[reconciling] between [our] brothers” and “[enjoining] what is right and [forbidding] what is wrong”. It is unity founded upon mercy, and as long as our unity is lacking this mercy, it cannot be called true.

The consequence of merciful unity

In the second halves of the quoted verses, God tells us that a direct consequence of this merciful unity between Muslims is that we receive mercy from Him. Indeed the Prophet tells us, “The merciful are shown mercy by The Merciful [God]”. The Cordovan hadith scholar Ibn Batal explains that the initial mercy between the believers is itself out of God’s mercy, hence, when the believers give the unity forged between them its due, God invariably increases their unity and exposes them to an even greater portion of His mercy. Sanctifying what God has sanctified and giving our unity a reality, we enter into a state of continuous exponential improvement. Conversely, when we do not do this, we expose ourselves to God’s anger, for as the Prophet explained to us, “God will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind”.

When we lie, cheat and plot

Many Muslims today could benefit from being reminded about the sanctity of our unity. When we lie to and cheat one another, when we plot and scheme against our brothers, we are directly calling upon ourselves God’s wrath; and for what gain? Regrettably, it is all too often that we hear Muslims slandering, attacking, disgracing, and shaming other Muslims over frivolous affairs. Imam al-Bukhari narrates in his book of prophetic etiquette al-Adab al-Mufrad, “If one is fed at the expense of a Muslim, God will feed him like it of hell. If one is clothed at the expense of a Muslim, God will clothe him like it of hell. If one achieves a position of ostentation and hypocrisy at the expense of a Muslim, God will put him in a position of ostentation and hypocrisy on the Day of Resurrection”. Will we let these teachings of our Prophet  ﷺ fall on deaf ears?
Several Companions tell the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ looking upon the Kaaba saying, “Verily God has ennobled you, venerated you, and glorified you, and a believer is even more sanctified than you”. The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Whosoever wrongfully harms a believer, it is as if he has destroyed the Kaaba”, and Imam Ibn Majah relates him saying, “The destruction of the world is less [in the sight of] God than wrongfully killing a believer”. Calls of disunity today are heard far and wide, be it on the pulpits of our mosques or in endless social media messages. Vitriolic diatribes have, in some circles, sadly replaced religious knowledge, and we find Muslims seemingly well-versed in technical religious arguments showing ignorance of the basics of cleanliness and prayer.

Together we are stronger

The Quran says, “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of God upon you: when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make clear to you His verses that you may be guided” [3:103]. Islam united the Companions of the Prophet and was their salvation. Through remaining united our predecessors in faith accomplished amazing deeds and attained greatness in the sight of God. Imam Malik bin Anas, one of the most highly regarded scholars in Islam and founder of the Maliki madhhab, is famously quoted as saying, “The end of this nation will not be righted except by what righted the beginning of it”. Working towards unity, then, should be of paramount importance to us, and God has given us generous incentives to unite. The reward of our five daily prayers is multiplied by 27 if we pray them in congregation. Once a week a congregational prayer is obligatory upon us. Twice a year we gather in a larger congregation for the Eid prayers. Zakat is a decentralised social welfare charity established over 1300 years ago specifically to benefit needy individuals, as many of the scholars state, in one’s local community. We fast for one month a year, gaining a small taste of the hunger that the less fortunate live every day. Undoubtedly the greatest embodiment of this is the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where Muslims gather from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, don identical clothing, and perform the one great act of worship at the same place, at the same time.
In the midst of this powerful expression of the immense unifying force of Islam and its respect for humans of all backgrounds such that “surely the noblest amongst you in the sight of God is the most god-fearing of you”, we cannot help but feel united. One feels amongst brethren before their creator, a member of a community who have left their homes desiring only their Lord. Good actions become easy. Generosity and forgiveness become one’s natural disposition. We encounter amazing acts of kindness and humanity on Hajj and we leave feeling firmer than ever in our faith and proud to call ourselves ‘Muslim’. All this is an example of God’s mercy, which he promised us when we “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, establish prayer, give zakat, and obey God and His Messenger”.

Hajj is not just a gathering

We should strive, then, to ensure that our gathering in this holy place, where the Prophet told us of the sanctity of unity, is not merely an assembly of bodies, for Hajj is no mere assembly. Those who are blessed to travel this year should do so representing their families, communities, cities, and all Muslims behind them. They should stand before our Lord as one nation in heart and in form, for how repugnant would it be to outwardly honour the Kaaba, but inwardly commit acts worse in God’s sight than its destruction? Those who travel should return striving to maintain the bonds which they felt when they were in that sacred place. For those not fortunate enough to perform the Hajj, they should pray for those who do travel; for their safety and for the acceptance of their Hajj, for in God’s acceptance is renewed forgiveness and mercy for us all. And we should all pray for all Muslims, and do whatever little we can to spread mercy amongst both believers and non-believers.
Islam’s message is complete and we are to take it all as it was given to us. God told us that we are allies, so we should be so. The Prophet told us that our fellow believers are sanctified, so we should treat them so. The Prophet told us, “You shall not enter heaven until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not direct you to a thing which, if you do it, will foster love between you? Spread the [greeting of] salaam between yourselves”, so let us begin with this small step and may God encompass us all with his divine mercy.
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With Hearts United, We Must Respect Differences of Opinion

One of the blessings of being Muslims is that this religion was sent by Allah to unite the hearts of believers. However, Shaykh Faid Mohammad Said warns us that this does not mean we don’t accept and respect differences of opinion amongst us. We must learn how to agree to disagree. Listen in for the full details.

“Adab al-Ikhtilaf: Ethics of Disagreement” – Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

“Adab al-Ikhtilaf: Ethics of Disagreement” – Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

An extended, higher quality version of a previous lecture we posted.

In it he addresses the perennial problem of the lack of respect for others with different opinions. He explains the nature of the unity of ahl al-sunnah wa-l-jama’ah and the proper adab (manners) for engaging in debate and respectful disagreement.

Below is a highlight from the lecture:

Adab al-Ikhtilaf by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari – Cambridge Khutbas

Adab al-Ikhtilaf by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari – Cambridge Khutbas

In it he addresses the perennial problem of the lack of respect for others with different opinions. He explains the nature of the unity of ahl al-sunnah wa-l-jama’ah and the proper adab (manners) for engaging in debate and respectful disagreement.

Listen to this talk

Download this talk (MP3, 52MB)