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On That Mid Ramadan Slump – Ustadh Salman Younas

Originally Published: 22/06/2016

With half of Ramadan gone, does your worship feel routine and stale? Is feeling this way making you lazier and less excited about performing more acts of worship? Ustadh Salman Younas says this is not uncommon.

This is a challenge that every one of us faces when it comes to our acts of worship. As humans, we have been created weak and part of this weakness are the fluctuations we experience in our states. Sometimes we feel good, excited, and spiritually high; other times we feel stale, lazy, and lacking in presence. Ramadan is no exception when it comes to this.
Before giving you specific advice, the first thing you need to recognize is that feelings are ultimately inconsequential. We worship because we believe God is worthy of worship. Whether it makes us feel good or excited is not the main focus. However, since these feelings become impediments to worship itself for most people, it is important to take some concrete steps in overcoming them when possible.
In this noble month, I would advise you to do the following to reignite the spark:

1. Renew Intentions & Seek God’s Aid

This may sound obvious but it is not so for many people. When we begin to wane in our worship and do not feel the same presence we used to, it is a good time to pause, analyze one’s intention, and turn to God in assistance. Often times, these states are sent precisely as a test to see whether we try to lift ourselves up, turn to Him, and continue striving to do our best. So, perform ablution, pray two cycles, and renew your intention to be in the worship of God to the best of your ability.

2. Don’t Miss Suhur

This is one of the first actions that people stop doing as Ramadan progresses. But suhur is not simply done to keep us somewhat satiated for the long day ahead. Rather, it is a spiritual act which when done the right way with the right intention fills one’s day with blessing (baraka). As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “Partake in suhur for indeed there is blessing in it.” [Bukhari, Muslim] Force yourself to wake up with some time to spare, eat a healthy breakfast, and engage in some worship – no matter how little – before Fajr. When you start your day in a blessed manner, chances are that it will continue in that manner.

3. Freshen Up & Dress Well

If you’re at home, don’t lounge around in your nighties. This is almost asking to be lazy and unproductive. Stay fresh by taking a shower (ghusl) or at the least remaining on ablution (wudu’), keep yourself well-groomed, and dress well. Studies show that clothing can systematically influence an individual’s psychological processes and effect productivity. Additionally, taking care of one’s appearance is part of the sunna.

4. Change Up Your Worship

Often times, breaking out of a stale state requires modifications to one’s daily habits. If you are not finding presence in your supererogatory prayer (nawafil), try to replace some of it with Qur’an or dhikr. Perhaps introduce some reading of tafsir or listening to a lecture by a scholar you enjoy. If you worship mostly at home, visit the masjid for spiritual upliftment; if you do dhikr in your room, go out for a quiet walk with your misbaha (prayer beads); if you usually pray by yourself at home, start praying with other family members.

5. Be Diplomatic & Balanced

The self (nafs) is not an easy thing to tame. Sometimes, we need to approach it diplomatically. Demand worship from it but let it breath a little a bit too. If it wants to check Facebook or Twitter or relax for a bit, then do so in moderation but make sure you tell it to read some Qur’an or perform a few cycles of prayer after. As one of my teachers said, “Give your nafs what it wants from the halal and then take from it what you want from good actions and worship.” This will hopefully ensure that you don’t burn out. As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “This religion is ease and none makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So, perform your deeds properly and in moderation…” [Bukhari]

6. Good Company & Collective Worship

There is a reason why the larger community is so stressed upon in our tradition. Believers feed off each others’ states and push each other towards something higher than themselves. They uplift each other and provide motivation to engage in the good. The mosque is an obvious place to meet others and engage in collective worship, but so is your home. Keep the Ramadan excitement going in your household by making the family have iftar together, praying together, watching your favorite lectures, going to talks/events, and visiting/inviting people over for iftar. The same can be done with your friends.
While there are a number of other points that can be mentioned, the most important thing is to keep at it. Do not give up on your worship simply because you are not feeling it anymore. Rather, try your best and recognize that worship transcends the temporal feelings that we may experience. These ups and downs are part of the test that God has laid out for us to see who among us “will excel in good deeds.” (11;7) Hopefully, by following some of the above points, the excitement of worship will be reignited. That is what we require at this point: a little spark that we can capitalize on so as to fully benefit from this month.
And God alone gives success.

Students of Knowledge Stepping Into The Spotlight Before Their Time

One of the biggest mistakes students of knowledge make – including myself – when embarking on the path of traditional study is to remain plugged into the internet and social media, writes Ustadh Salman Younas.

Whether it is having debates on forums, writing lengthy Facebook posts, coming up with catchy tweets, or posting pictures of your student adventures on Instagram, the base assumption that every student (actually, every person) should have is that these are largely ways to aggrandize the self (nafs) whether one realizes this or not.

A Destructive Distraction

Spiritually, it is destructive for a student. From the perspective of ilm-seeking, it corrupts intentions and distracts a student from the higher aims of seeking knowledge: God. There is an element of putting oneself out there and assuming a role before one is actually ready to step into the spotlight. There are indications that one feels his opinion counts and needs to be spread (if you pass a glance at how many shares your post got, you know you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons).

There is a hidden desire that perhaps people should follow me – the layman taking the hand of the learned. Often times, there is argumentation, sometimes ill-will developed towards others, and the construction of a false image for the public. The consequence of this is summed up in a famous legal maxim:

“Whoever rushes something before its time is punished by being prevented from attaining it.”

If you are a beginner student, stick to studying and worship. Don’t waste the opportunity God gave you by occupying a station that He did not place you in.

This is a problem of my generation. Go look at our elders, such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Shaykh Hamza, Imam Zaid, Habib Umar, Mufti Taqi, and others. How many of them were putting themselves out while still students? None of them. They waited. They focused their attention on what they needed to do – on seeking knowledge for the sake of God. They understood the statement of Ibn Ata’illah:

“Bury your existence in the earth of obscurity. If something sprouts before it is buried, its fruits will never ripen.”

They took counsel from their teachers. They rectified themselves spiritually in addition to gaining knowledge of the outward. And God eventually opened the door of scholarship and spreading knowledge for them… and how beneficial was it when it was opened at the time He desired and not when they desired it.

Resources for seekers

Can A Sinner Love the Prophet? – Ustadh Salman Younas

Allah has commanded all believers to love the Prophet. However, can a sinner claim to have love for him? What about someone who justifies their bad deeds in the name of love?

 

Love of the Prophet & Disobedience

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said, “None of you believe until I am more beloved to him than his parent, child, and all people.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Love of the Prophet is a fundamental requirement in Islam that no Muslim is devoid of in some measure. Every individual who has truly acknowledged the Prophet as the final messenger sent by God to humankind, seldom fails to discover some element of this love in himself at particular moments. The degree and intensity of this love varies between people due to various factors. The tradition mentioned above has been commonly understood as a reference to the perfection of one’s faith and belief. In other words, no one has perfected their belief until the Prophet is more beloved to him than all of creation.

What is Love?

Love is a terribly difficult reality to describe. Imam al-Qushayri stated that it cannot be “defined by any clear and understandable description or definition” due to its complex nature. (al-Risala) Generally, love is identified as a feeling of the heart that draws an individual to some object of affection that is found to be pleasing and agreeable. Being a matter of the heart, it is easy for a person to believe that he possesses love and lay claim to it. Indeed, all people lay claim to love, but as the poet said:

Each person claims to have united with Layla

But Layla does not acknowledge this for any of them.

In the same vein, Imam al-Ghazali warns that it is necessary for a person to avoid being deluded by the Devil and the self (nafs) when it comes to claiming love of God and His Prophet. Rather, love is akin to a good tree whose roots are firmly in the ground, its branches in the sky, and its fruits manifest on the heart, tongue, and limbs. In other words, any claim to love must be tested in light of specific signs and proofs to see if it is true. (al-Ghazali, Ihya’ ʿUlum al-Din)

Signs of True Love: Following the Prophet (blessings upon him)

Qadi Iyad mentions the signs that manifest in an individual whose love for the Prophet (blessings upon him) is true as opposed to a mere claim. These include:

  1. Following the Prophet in his words and actions, submitting to his commands and steering clear from what he prohibited, and letting oneself be guided by his moral example.
  2. Giving preference to the shariʿa brought by him over one’s own passions and desires.
  3. One’s anger against others being only for the sake of God’s pleasure.
  4. Mentioning and remembering him often.
  5. Yearning to meet him. 
  6. Exalting the Prophet (blessings upon him) when he is mentioned and displaying humility upon hearing his noble name.
  7. Loving those whom the Prophet (blessings upon him) loved and hating those who display enmity towards them. Avoiding those who undermine his sunna and innovate in the religion.
  8. Having love for the Qur’an.
  9. Having compassion for the community of the Prophet, giving them sincere counsel, and striving for their best interests. (al-Shifa’)

From the aforementioned signs, it is obedience to the Prophet and following his sunna that constitute the core of love and the clearest sign that it is true. Abu ʿAli al-Rudhabari said, “Love means compliance,” while Sahl al-Tustari said, “Love means to embrace obedience and parts ways with disobedience.” (al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

Qadi Iyad mentiones that one of the signs of love for the Prophet is letting oneself be guided his moral example. Similarly, Imam al-Junayd stated that love is “the substitution of the attributes of the lover for those of the beloved.” (Ibid) In other words, the true lover is one whose heart burns so passionately for his beloved that he divests himself of his own attributes. He wishes to be like his beloved in his inward and outward state.

The evidence for this is found in the Qur’an, where love is associated with obedience and submission. In one well-known verse, the Prophet  says, “If you love God, follow me.” (3:31) This verse was said to have been revealed in response to a people who claimed that they loved God. The Prophet was commanded by God to tell these people that if their claim was to be beleived, they would submit to God and His command to love and follow the Prophet. 

Similarly, it is related that one of the companions approached the Prophet (blessings upon him) and stated, “You are more beloved to me than my child, family, wealth, and even my own self.” He then wept and when asked by the Prophet (blessings upon him) what caused this sadness, he replied, “I remembered that you will pass away and so will we, then you will be raised with the prophets, and if we enter Paradise, we will be lower than you.”

God then revealed the following verse, “Whoever obeys God and the Messenger will be among those He has blessed: the messengers, the truthful, those who bear witness to the truth, and the righteous- what excellent companions these are.” (4:69) In this Qur’anic verse, it is not simply a feeling of love alone that unites a believer with the Prophet (blessings upon him) in the next life but actual obedience to him.

Sinners May Be Lovers but Sin Never Arises from Love

Love is a powerful emotion, and it is also one required of all believers in their relationship with God and His Prophet. The combination of these two elements makes love a potent tool in the hands of the Devil. Disbelievers  may be driven to commit sinful actions out of an actual hatred for God and His Prophet. However, a Muslim may be driven to such behavior because it is cloaked in the guise of prophetic love. The very real passion and attachment the believer possesses for the Prophet is, therefore, a means by which he may be exploited. Indeed, the self and the Devil often trap the religious through religion itself by justifying sin as being an expression of faith. This is nothing but deception and delusion.

The Islamic tradition has a word for this: hawa, or caprice. If love is an inclination towards the truth, caprice is often used to refer to an inclination towards falsehood: “Do not follow capricious desire (hawa) for it will lead you astray from the path of God.” (38:26) Sin is a result of caprice, not love, even if the former may feel like the latter. The signs of love are clear. They are submitting to the Prophet, while every act that contravenes his noble way is from capricious desire. “None of you truly believes until his desires are subservient to what I have brought.” (al-Nawawi, al-Arbaʿin)

For a person to couch sin in the language of love is falling into the trap of the Devil. It minimises the gravity of sin and asserts a connection with the Prophet that does not exist. Indeed, anyone professing love for someone is forwarding an enormous claim as Imam al-Ghazali states. Thus, Fudayl ibn ʿIyad is reported to have said:

If you are asked, “Do you love God?” then remain silent. For if you reply in the negative, you have disbelieved. And if you reply in the affirmative, the attributes of true lovers are not found in you. So avoid being the object of detestation. (al-Ghazali, Ihya’ ʿUlum al-Din)

Similarly, it is related that some people were discussing love in the presence of Dhu’l Nun al-Misri. He exclaimed, “Refrain from this matter. If your selves fail to understand it properly, they might lay claims to it.” (al-Qushayri, al-Risala) The early Muslims were quite conscious of what it meant to declare someone the object of their love. This was especially in a religious context, where the weight of one’s claims would hang heavily in the next life. The true lovers of the Prophet (blessings upon him) were those who gave themselves completely to their beloved. Despite this recognised that all they could offer was an imperfect love. As al-Harith al-Muhasibi said:

Love means you are inclined toward someone in your entirety, then you give preference to this someone over yourself and your possessions, then you comply with his wishes openly and secretly, whereupon you acquire awareness of your love’s imperfection. (al-Qushayri, al-Risala)

A Mistaken Sense of Love

Imagine  those who appeal to this love in order to explain or justify sinful actions that they or others might be engaged in. Instead of framing the issue in a false light, individuals need to be made to realise that love for the Prophet (blessings upon him) can never manifest as sin. In this way, they can recognise the true nature of their actions, repent, and make sincere emends. Indeed, people who engage in anathematising other Muslims, murder, the destruction of property, spreading corruption in the land, and other enormities, as a result of of what they view as ‘defending’ the Prophet (blessings upon him) and his honor, are in reality involved in actions that are heinous to God and His Prophet

While the actions of such people can be described as the result of a mistaken or misguided sense of love for the Prophet in an attempt to better understand their state of mind and ameliorate it, their sinful actions can never be identified as an expression of true love for the Prophet itself. To present such actions in this light is to delude oneself and others.

Those who commit sins, however, are not necessarily deemed to be completely devoid of love for the Prophet. A sinner can still be characterised as possessing love for the Prophet in a general sense despite his sins and slips. This is evidenced in the tradition of the companion who repeatedly got intoxicated. He was punished, but his love for God and the Prophet was still affirmed. (Bukhari)

There is a difference, though, between  negating love entirely from a Muslim who may commit sins and between identifying love as underpinning a specific act of sin. In the former, al-Ghazali indicates that the basic feeling of love that all Muslims are said to be characterised with as believers in God and the Prophet. But the moment one is engaged in sin, such love has been corrupted and discarded in favor of one’s own desires. In such situations, the obligation of sincere counsel (nasiha) requires that a person be told in no uncertain terms that his actions contravene the way of the Prophet, and the more egregious the sin, the more resolutely this needs to be pointed out.

 


Born and raised in New York, Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman.  There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

His teachers include: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Salah Abu’l Hajj, Shaykh Ashraf Muneeb, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Snobar, Shaykh Ali Hani, Shaykh Hamza Bakri, Ustadh Rajab Harun and others.

Ustadh Salman’s personal interests include research into the fields of law/legal methodology, hadith, theology, as well as political theory, government,  media, and ethics. He is also an avid traveller and book collector. He currently resides in Amman with his wife.


What Is Aqida and Why Study It? – Shaykh Hassan al Hindi

Shaykh Hassan al Hindi gives an overview of the science of ʿaqida, clarifies points of contention and agreement, and explains why it is a necessary science.

Though each of the Islamic sciences has its specific topics of inquiry and detailed investigations, a student may find himself losing sight of the purpose, importance, and distinctive features of a science when engaged in studying its details and minutiae.

For example, a student may study legal theory (usul al fiqh) under a teacher, covering such topics as linguistic signification, analogy, and consensus, but this student may still not know what legal theory actually is, the benefits that are gained through its study, its ultimate aim, the manner it is to be studied, and the way it distinguishes itself from other sciences.

For the science of ʿaqida, such a comprehensive and universal understanding is necessary before diving into its detailed investigations. He proceeds to provide such an overview by answering a series of questions.

What Is ʿAqida?

The term ʿaqida has two meanings. The first refers to aspects of belief that are obligatory upon a person to establish in his heart and have faith in. These are the concepts and ideas that a person adopts regarding the Creator, this universe, the purpose of creation, this world, the next world, and so forth. This is the ʿaqida that is obligatory upon all Muslims to know.

The second meaning refers to the subject matter that is taught in seminaries, namely the actual science of ʿaqida, which incorporates the first definition mentioned above but extends beyond it. In this context, the term ʿaqida is defined as the knowledge through which religious beliefs are established by means of evidence that is decisive and certain.

I would like to draw attention to the use of the word yuqtadar in classical definitions of the science of ʿaqida. It signifies a strong ability or disposition. Consequently, ʿaqida as a science is a natural disposition or aptitude of the self that is characterized by strength in knowledge, expertise in evidence, and the ability to engage in a dialectic where truth can be distinguished from falsehood. This ability is something that God grants to some of His servants.

The evidence used to establish points of ʿaqida are both rational and textual, and there is no contradiction between these two sources. There are some points of ʿaqida that are evidenced mainly on the basis of rational proofs, others on the basis of textual proof, and yet some others that are based on both these sources.

The Relationship between ʿAqida and Knowledge in General

The relationship between ʿaqida and knowledge in general is one of a general-specific distinction, i.e. all ʿaqida is knowledge but not all knowledge is ʿaqida. A matter is considered a point of knowledge if it is established on the basis of evidence that is knowledge-based and scholarly.

A specific point of knowledge is then termed ʿaqida if in addition to this God attaches a particular significance to it that necessitates belief in it. The ʿaqida of Islam can be divided into two types.

Firstly, those aspects known in their details, such as God being omnipotent, omniscient, all-hearing, and all-seeing, or the specific names of prophets sent to mankind mentioned in the Qur’an, or the names of angels, etc.

Secondly, a general belief in everything that has been authentically conveyed from God and His Prophet, blessings upon him. Thus, there are issues that a Muslim is required to affirm on a general basis and others that he is required to affirm and be taught on a more specific and detailed basis.

Sometimes we are required to express general points of belief in a more detailed fashion. For example, the books of ʿaqida do not detail the creation of Adam, peace be upon him. Muslims suffice with the Qur’an and other texts to affirm as a general point of belief that he was created from clay and was the first human being.

Today, however, it is necessary to discuss this matter in more detail due to the various doubts that have arisen regarding the Islamic creation narrative.

An Intellectual Science vs. Experiential Reality

Another manner in which ʿaqida is divided is between its being a scholarly and intellectual activity and between its being an experiential reality. The former refers to ʿaqida as an engagement with texts, detailing and interpreting various points of creed, expounding their proofs, defending the faith, and so forth. On the other hand, ʿaqida as an experiential reality entails transforming and transferring these points of creed into one’s consciousness and being.

Both of these dimensions are separate but intimately connected. Separate because they engage the subject-matter from two distinct perspectives – one intellectual and the other practical. And intimately connected because they complete one another.

ʿAqida as a Living Science

In order for anything to maintain its state of living, it requires two things: nourishment that allows it to grow and sustain its existence and a medicine/protection that prevents it from being harmed.

The nourishment for faith is found in acts of worship, such as supplication, remembrance of God, prayer, the company of the righteous, and so forth. This type of nourishment is required for everyone.

As for medicine, this is only required by those who suffer from a disease or someone who is prone/exposed to it. What is this medicine? It is of two types:

  1. It may be a cure to treat an actual disease that is present, or
  2. It may be a cure to treat a disease that may occur, i.e. preventive medicine.

In the case of the second of the aforementioned points, it is necessary for anyone who feels they are prone to the disease of doubt to learn the general proofs and evidences of ʿaqida. However, if someone is afflicted with doubt regarding a specific issue, it is obligatory upon that person to learn the appropriate evidences for that ʿaqida issue in specific and seek an answer for their doubt.

The Subject-Matter of ʿAqida

There are three primary subjects that ʿaqida deals with:

  1. Godhead (ilahiyat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for God.
  2. Prophethood (nabuwwat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for prophets.
  3. Unseen matters (sam’iyat): topics relating to such issues as the Day of Judgment, heaven, hell, angels, devils, the signs of the last day, and so forth. Each of these issues is subsumed under one core principle: things that the intellect deems possible that the revelatory texts affirm and attest to.

Scholars mention other topics that are included in texts of ʿaqida. Some of these topics are introductory discussions, such as moral responsibility (taklif) or the faith of a blind-adherent (muqallid). Other topics are viewed as accessory discussions, such as detailed expositions of the proofs for the existence of God.

Opinions on Why It Is Called Kalam

The science of ʿaqida is also termed the science of kalam. There are different opinions regarding why the latter term was utilized to describe this science. Some opined that it returned to questions concerning the nature of the Qur’an and God’s speech (i.e. kalam) being among the earliest and most oft-debated theological topics. Another opinion stated that the science of ʿaqida involved a sustained engagement between different parties, which often involved verbal debates (i.e. kalam).

Here is an important piece of advice for teachers. Someone who is instructing others in ʿaqida should be completely open to his students and their questions. This is because the teacher is tasked with teaching them knowledge upon which faith and disbelief rests, and he should instruct students in a way that ensures that they have fully understood the material and are convinced by it. Therefore, it is necessary for a teacher to engage the questions of students, their doubts, and endure with them patiently. This is not to be viewed as a flaw in the student nor disrespect towards a teacher.

The Ruling on Studying the Science of ʿAqida or Kalam

In regard to ruling of studying this science, there is no disagreement that it is necessary to know God, His angels, messengers, books, the Last Day, and so forth. The disagreement arises regarding the formal science of kalam, which some have deemed an innovation. This latter opinion is incorrect due to the fact that the emergence of the science of kalam mirrors the development of all other sciences, such as grammar or hadith.

The particular terminology utilized in kalam, such as “privative attributes” or “entailed attributes” is not ʿaqida in itself and nor of a specifically religious character, but labels and categories that explain certain discussion in ʿaqida and present it as a codified and systematic science. This is simply an organic development that all sciences experience.

Another point linked to this is the manner in which Islam spread and interacted with other systems of thought, such as Greek philosophy. Scholars undertook the task of evaluating and critiquing these systems, such as Imam al Ghazali in three of his famous works: Maqasid al Falasifa, Mahak al Nazar, Tahafut al Falasifa.

The scholars of kalam formulated principles, detailed proofs and arguments, etc. in order to eradicate erroneous and misguided ideas and return creed to its pristine state. Therefore, this science not only explained ʿaqida, but acted a barrier preventing corrupt ideas from infiltrating it.

How Does Islamic ʿAqida Distinguish Itself from other Creeds?

The ways in which the ʿaqida of Islam sets itself apart from other creeds and belief systems are as follows:

  1. The ʿaqida of Islam is from God and His messenger.
  2. The ʿaqida of Islam is tawfiqi, i.e. it does not accept abrogation, change, alteration, and so forth. Rather, the ʿaqida taught by the Prophet, blessings upon him, is the same one that the Salaf believed in and the one that Muslims continue to accept up until today.
  3. The ʿaqida of Islam accords with the primordial nature (fitra) of people. For this reason, when a Muslim speaks about the ʿaqida of Islam, it is done with two sources of influence and authority: one external and one internal. The external relates to strength of proof and rational/textual evidence, while the internal relates to the primordial nature of human beings.
  4. The ʿaqida of Islam does not contradict sound reason or intellect. The oft-repeated statement that the Muʿtazila were misguided because they arbitrated on the basis of reason and the intellect is not correct. Rather, if they had utilized these sources in a sound manner, they would not have been misguided.
  5. The ʿaqida of Islam is simple and clear.
  6. The ʿaqida of Islam connects a person to His creator without intermediary.
  7. The ʿaqida of Islam contains no contradictions. Perceived contradictions are the result of a lack of understanding. Sometimes, a point of ʿaqida may bewilder the mind, but it is never something the intellect deems rationally impossible. Thus, the intellect deems the throne of God and angels as rationally possible even though it is not able to fully comprehend their reality.
  8. The ʿaqida of Islam is a comprehensive creed for all times, peoples, and places.
  9. The ʿaqida of Islam is suitable for all times, peoples, and places.
  10. The ʿaqida of Islam is a moderate creed occupying a middle ground between extremes. It is neither a dry rational creed nor one grounded in emotional sentimentality. Rather, it appeals to both the heart and mind.
  11. The ʿaqida of Islam is the foundation of personal and communal well-being, righteous action, and rectification. This is why many prophetic traditions begin with, “Whosoever believes in God and the Last Day…” These good deeds and traits are the fruit of sound belief.

Why Study the Science of ʿAqida?

Not understanding the reasons underpinning the need to study a particular science often entails devaluing that science and not engaging it properly. There are a number of reasons why we should engage in the study of the science of ʿaqida.

  1. To present ʿaqida in a clear, scholarly, and systematic manner. This safeguards people from erroneous beliefs that may be unknowingly adopted in a context where ʿaqida is learnt organically in a general fashion. Such a presentation of ʿaqida also establishes it as a science with defined beginning, middle, and end stages that students can gradually progress through.
  2. To support points of ʿaqida with proofs and arguments that helps prevent doubts from affecting our faith.
  3. To strengthen and make firm our ʿaqida against refutations that are mounted against it. This is especially true in an age where even the most fundamental axioms that ʿaqida is premised upon are subjected to doubt, such as the impossibility of infinite regress. Here, it is a communal obligation to produce scholars who possess the knowledge and ability to fend off such doubts from the community at large and safeguard the faith of people.
  4. The science of ʿaqida allows us to possess belief that is sound, which is a prerequisite for felicity in the next-life. Through sound belief, one is able to properly conceptualize the world and the purpose of existence.
  5. The science of ʿaqida places an individual in a state of tranquility and peace with the condition that one possess a real connection to God.

How Does One Study ʿAqida?

The default is that every individual is responsible for studying ʿaqida. However, ʿaqida is presented to people based on their respective abilities and preparedness. Therefore, there is no one way of teaching ʿaqida to people. In terms of teaching people ʿaqida, learners fall into the following categories:

Young Children. ʿAqida is taught to them by constantly repeating basic creedal points, such as God is one, God is powerful, God gives us everything, etc., so that these ideas become embedded in their minds. When a child asks a question, he or she should be provided with a clear, simple, and sound answer. Children may not fully comprehend a particular idea, but they do retain it, and many of the ideas they retain at a young age are treated as axiomatic by them when they grow older.

The general laity. They are taught ʿaqida as a general expression of creedal doctrine without detailed and technical discussions. This should be taught to them not on the basis of creedal texts or the terminology of kalam, which the laity are not obliged to know, but rather through tafsir, sira, Qur’anic verses, and hadith using clear but non-technical language.

Well-educated people who are not ʿaqida specialists. They are taught ʿaqida in a general sense and also gradually exposed to some of the more detailed discussions relating to creed. However, these discussions are not presented to them in the manner that it would be to a person seeking specialization. Further, such people are provided answers to doubts – actual and potential – raised against Islamic ʿaqida. In this context, they are taught what is relevant to them in their own time and place, i.e. discussions on atheism, for example, as opposed to the Muʿtazila.

Students who are specialists. Those who are specializing in ʿaqida are required to study everything related to the science. This includes a comprehensive syllabus of classical texts – both early and later –, as well as past and modern ideologies and sects.

A Note to Students of ‘Aqida

Students who are specializing in this science must raise the bar. They should not suffice with intermediary works but eventually dive into the more advanced and principal works of the science after mastering the tools needed to access and understand them.

We must strengthen our aptitude and grasp of the evidence underpinning ʿaqida so that it may be furnished to people appropriately on the basis of their respective abilities and preparedness.

We must understand the period we are living in to present a more contemporary ʿaqida discourse that is suitable and appropriate to today’s culture and environment.

We must be aware of modern ideologies and sects, as well as the doubts raised against Islam, and formulate sound responses to them.

And God knows best.

Hassan al Hindi


This post is based on notes from a lecture in Arabic by Shaykh Hassan al Hindi. The notes were made and translated into English by Ustadh Salman Younas.


Eating the Meat of the People of the Book

Ustadh Salman Younas answers questions about the lawfulness of eating meat slaughtered by Jews or Christians, and what to do if halal meat is hard to get.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuh.

Since in our countries (South America) it is very problematic to get halal meat, and where even halal meat is of dubious provenance, is it lawful to eat the meat obtained from the people of the Book?

And if so, how does this apply to meat is feasible to get in our countries, which mostly comes from slaughterhouses, making impossible to know who slaughtered the animal, much less whether it was invoked the name of God to do so under the Christian or Jewish rites.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well. It is only permitted to eat the meat of the People of the Book (ahl al kitab), namely, the Jews and Christians, if there is a proper slaughtering. The conditions for a proper slaughtering are:

1. The one slaughtering be a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian.
2. That the name of God be consciously uttered when the slaughter takes place.
3. That the animal be slaughtered at its throat.
4. That at least three of the four main veins of the throat be cut with a sharp object, such as a knife.

(Ibn Abidin, Radd al Muhtar; Abu Bakr al Razi, Tuhfat al Muluk)

If one can ascertain that the above conditions are being met, it would be permitted to eat such meat. If unable to, then one should avoid and veer on the side of caution. The ruling given in our times is that kosher meat is generally permissible to eat, whereas Christian meat is not.

Meat Is A Luxury

One thing to recall is that eating meat for most of us is a luxury and not a necessity and the health benefits of avoiding its excessive consumption are well known. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his Companions, Allah be pleased with them, were known to eat meat rarely and scarcely.

However, at the same time, the scenario you mention indicates the need for Muslims to work towards building a halal industry within their respective communities, with the assistance of scholars, local businessmen, and so forth.

This may not be an easy task in the world we currently live in but with with some effort and tact results are bound to manifest, beginning with smaller projects, such as local slaughter houses, and then building from there.

Wassalam.

Salman

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
Photo by Nikola Knezevic on Unsplash


The Smoke and The Beast: Signs of the Last Hour

Ustadh Salman Younas explains the meaning of the Smoke and the Beast, and how we should view differences of opinion on Signs of the Last Hour.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Could you please explain the meaning of the Smoke and the Beast, which are from among the signs of the last day?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

The Smoke and the Beast are among the signs of the Day of Judgment, mentioned in the Qur’an and in rigorously authentic narrations.

The Smoke

Allah Most High states, “So be on the watch for a day when heaven shall bring a manifest smoke covering the people; this is a painful chastisement.” (Sura al Dukhan 44: 10-11) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The Hour will not rise until you have seen ten signs: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the beast…” (Muslim)

There is a difference of opinion regarding whether the “smoke” mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an refers to the smoke that was foretold as one of the signs of the Hour. Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud was of the opinion that it did not, while Ibn Abbas, Ali, Ibn Umar, and others affirmed that it referred to the same smoke mentioned in the Prophetic narratives. (Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim; Qurtubi, Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

Imam Qurtubi mentions that the smoke will cover the earth for a period of forty days, effecting both the believers and disbelievers. The former will be effected as if suffering from a common cold, whereas the latter will suffer harder. (Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

The Emergence of the Beast

Allah Most High states, “We shall bring forth for them out of the earth a beast that shall speak unto them.” (Sura al Niml 27: 82) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The first of the signs [the Hour] to appear will be the rising of the sun from the west and the appearance of the Beast before the people in the forenoon.” (Muslim)

Here scholars differed greatly regarding the details related to the Beast, which, though not important to know, can be mentioned briefly as follows:

  1. Appearance: Some scholars, such as Imam Qurtubi, held that the beast is the she-camel of the Prophet Salih, Allah bless him. Others stated that it was an animal that is a hybrid of many different animals. Another opinion states that it is an actual human being, which is a very weak opinion. (Qurtubi, Tadkhira)
  2. Place of Emergence: Some stated that the Beast will emerge from Makka, basing it on a narration of Hudhayfa, Allah be pleased with him. Others stated that it will emerge from a desert, then disappear, then emerge from a village, then disappear, then finally from the Masjid al Haram in Makka. There is another opinion that states it will emerge from Ta’if. (Qurtubi, Tadkhira; Alusi, Ruh al Ma‘ani)
  3. Its Speech: The Beast will address the people with the words of Allah, “Mankind did not believe in our signs.” (Sura al Niml 27: 82) Others stated, quoting Ibn Abbas, that “speaking” refers to the action of the Beast in differentiating the believers and disbelievers.
  4. Its Role: The Beast will be tasked to differentiate the believers from the disbelievers. Abu Hurayra, Allah be pleased with him, narrates that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The Beast of the earth will emerge and have with it the staff of Moses and the ring of Solomon.” (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad) It will use these to mark off the believers from the disbelievers. (Qurtubi, Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

Differences of Opinion

An important point to note is that many of the opinions regarding the beast may not have sound basis in the texts. As such, believing in these subtle details is not necessary, except that which has come in the authentic narratives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

This includes, first and foremost, believing in the coming of the Beast itself, a point established decisively in the Qur’an, as well as it being a sign of the Last Hour, its speaking to people, and its task of differentiating the believers from the disbelievers.

Details regarding its appearance, where it will arise from, what it will say, and so forth, are matters of secondary importance. The safest route is to consign these modalities and details to Allah, while realizing that ultimately we will all return to Him to be judged for what we did in our worldly life.

Wassalam
Salman

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


On Death and Dying, by Ustadh Salman Younas

With the current year drawing to a close, social media has come alight repeatedly with news of the passing of yet another celebrity. Ustadh Salman Younas shares some personal thoughts on an inevitable journey all of us will embark upon: death.

I have seen many people in my wider circle of friends/acquaintances express how death has seemed so much closer to us this year than previous ones. We have witnessed the passing of many a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, and child. Some of us directly suffered these losses; others suffered through seeing these losses endured by people they knew, such as friends; yet, other losses were so global and impactful that all of us were effected by them.
I was never particularly fearful of death until my daughter was born. After her birth, the fear kicked in. It was in most ways a worldly fear. I wanted to see my little one take her first steps, speak her first words, start school, become a rebellious teenager, go to college, and have a family. I wanted to live to see my child grow.
This all changed after my father passed away. I remember standing with some of my close friends after a Quran recital telling them about how the birth of my daughter led to an increased fear of death on my part. But my attitude had changed now. I knew my father had moved into another room that was out of my sight. But I was no longer afraid to have the door to that room opened for me because I knew that he would be there. It was the first time in a long time that I was not afraid to leave the room my daughter was in for the room my father had gone too.
[cwa id=’cta’]

The Fear Factor

This taught me an important lesson. We often understand death in negative terms: we will be questioned, there is a thing called Hell, God will take us to account for everything, and so forth. The motivating factor in death for many is the fear factor. This is important, of course. Yet, the passing of my father taught me that it is also a motivator because of a love factor, a love and desire for reunion.
This was the perspective of Fatima (God be well-pleased with her). When the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was in his final illness “he said something secretly to Fatima and she wept. Then he said something secretly to her and she laughed.” [Bukhari] When asked later why she wept, she said it was because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was moving to the next life. But when asked what made her smile, it was because she was told that she would join him in Paradise.
This was the perspective of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). In one of his final sermons, he mentioned how “God had given a slave the choice between immortality in this world or meeting his Lord, and he had chosen to meet his Lord.” He was speaking about himself. His last words according to A’isha were, “to the highest Companion!” He had chosen to move on and unite with God. [Bukhari]

A Beautiful Union

To all of my brothers and sisters who have lost someone, to those saddened by separation, and to those still grieving, do not forget the union that death brings. A union with a merciful and compassionate Lord. A union with a most beautiful and perfect Prophet who will not cease pleading to God until each and every one of his followers is in Paradise with him.
Remember that your loved ones from this community wait for you, and that you have the opportunity to be with them in a place where time has ceased, where there will be no separation, nor grief, nor sadness, nor pain. It is a place where all of you can be together in utter bliss, love, and happiness.
This is the hope and trust we place in our Lord. This is why we worship and engage in righteousness: so we can reunite with those whom we love – God, His Prophet, our parents, children, siblings, friends, and others. So, do not despair, do not lose sight of the bigger picture, and make your life a road to reunion.
We ask God to renuite us in the eternal garden with those we love in the company of our Prophet (blessings upon him) and all the righteous.

‘Tis The Season…For Mawlid Wars? – Ustadh Salman Younas

The month of Rabi` al-Awwal is here, which can only mean that some of us will witness renewed debates on the practice of celebrating the birth of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), writes Ustadh Salman Younas.

[cwa id=’cta’]
To make things easier for everyone, I’ve mentioned a handful of leading classical scholars who permitted the mawlid in its institutionalized form and those who deemed it impermissible. What is this meant to teach us? That this is a *valid* difference of opinion. While we can cordially discuss the merits of each view, no one should be condemned, mocked, or looked down upon for engaging or not engaging in such a practice, since leading scholars throughout the past few centuries have differed on this issue.

Don’t Let Your Nafs Distract You

Instead of using this time to debate and argue, let’s use it to draw closer to the greatest of creation in a manner that we individually deem sound and acceptable. If that means gathering to sing poems in his praise and celebrating his birth, then wonderful. If it means you sit alone in your house to send some salawat upon him, then wonderful. The point is not to let your nafs and the devil distract us from doing good and puff us up with arrogance/anger by occupying us with argumentation on an issue scholars have differed upon for centuries.

Some of Those who Permitted the Mawlid

  • Imam Abu’l Khattab ibn Dahiya [al-Hawi li’l fatawa (ed. Ilmiyya, pp. 189)]
  • Ibn al-Jazari [al-Arf al-ta`rif [ed. al-Kattaniya, pp. 13-43)]
  • Imam Abu Shama [al-Ba’ith fi inkar al-bid`a wa’l hawadith (ed. Dar al-Raya, pp. 95-96)]
  • Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani [al-Ajwiba al-murdiya (ed. Dar al-Raya, pp. 1117-1118)]
  • Imam al-Sakhawi [Ibid., pp. 1116-1120)]
  • Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti [al-Hawi, (pp. 189-193)]

Some of Those Who Did Not Permit the Mawlid

  • Imam Taj al-Din al-Fakihani [al-Mawrid fi amal al-mawlid (ed. Maktaba al-Ma`arif, pp, 19-27)]
  • Shaykh Ibn Taymiyya [Majmu` al-Fatawa (ed. al-Najdi, 25:298)]
  • Imam al-Haffar [al-Mi`yar (ed. al-Awqaf, 7:99-100)]
  • Imam Abu Amr ibn al-Ala’ [al-Hawi, (pp. 192)]
  • Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi [al-I`tisam (ed. Maktaba al-Tawhid, 1:46)]

Methodological Differences Underlying These Positions

When it comes to the issue of innovation, we can identify two broad approaches:
(a) The dominant approach adopted by many jurists of the Shafi`i school that allowed for a general principle or text to be applied in practice in a particularized manner despite there being no specific precedent for said practice. An early example of this is the position of Imam al-Shafi`i that it is recommended to recite blessings upon the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) after uttering the tasmiya while slaughtering an animal. This is deduced from the general command in Surat al-Ahzab (33:43) of sending blessings on the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). In other words, Imam al-Shafi`i used a general command to legislate a particular practice despite there being no explicit precedent for this practice. Since such a practice could be validly subsumed under a general principle, it would not be an innovation to put into practice in an unprecedented form.
(b) Another view, which was held by a number of Maliki scholars, argued that there must be specific evidence in order to permit persistence (iltizam) on a particularized form of a general command. This is termed by al-Shatibi as takhsis al-umum bi-la dalil (specifying a general text without evidence). Those scholars agreeing with al-Shatibi would not allow reciting blessings on the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) after saying the tasmiya while slaughtering because no specific evidence exists to establish such a practice. As for the general command to send such blessings, it is alone insufficient to evidence permissibility in this case.
Therefore, the first view lends itself to being utilized to institutionalize or invent specific forms of devotional practice so long as they do not oppose the broad principles of the law.
The second view is not “open-looking” in this manner as it restricts itself to the existence of past precedent without which a devotional act cannot be invented or institutionalized. The only exception is when a devotional act is is done spontaneously or due to free-time without it being institutionalized.

Both views have support in the actions of the early Muslims:

(i) The first view is supported by the narration of Abu Hurarya who stated that Khubayb ibn Adi initiated the practice of performing two cycles of prayer before being executed. Here, Khubayb had no specific precedent but took a general recommendation of performing prayer and applied it in a particular manner to a specific time and situation. [Sahih al-Bukhari]
(ii) The second view is supported by the actions of some Companions who opposed practices that could reasonably be subsumed under general principles/text. One example is Ibn Mas’ud’s opposition to those who were engaging in group dhikr in the mosque despite the general command in the Qur’an to, “remember God.” (3:191)
Both these approaches return to ijtihadi differences and preferences. Consequently, the choice scholars make to argue for or against certain practices should be respected as an exercise of valid ijtihad based on sound methodological divergences.
And God knows best.

Resources on sending blessings on Prophet Muhammad for seekers:

The Dangers of Labelling Other Muslims As Sell-Outs, by Ustadh Salman Younas

There is a trend amongst Muslims to label individuals who do not conform to their political strategy as “sell-outs”. Ustadh Salman Younas warns us of the danger in doing so.

When Shaykh Hamza Yusuf went to the White House after the events of 9/11, he was labelled a “sell-out”. When certain Muslims went to a White House iftar, they were also labelled “sell-outs”. Now, Shaykh Omar Suleiman who participated in the Dallas Memorial Service may also be a “sell-out”.
Is it accurate to say that there are certain leaders in the Muslim community who may fit the definition of being sell-outs? Sure. But people need to recognize what that definition is: it is someone who knowingly betrays his principles for reasons of expedience. This is a grave accusation to make against anyone much less a believer, and people will be held accountable for such accusations when they level it against others.

The strategy employed by a scholar or activist may be ill-advised; it may be mistaken, harmful, naive, or wrong. You and I may disagree with it. But none of this necessary entails that such a person is a “sell-out”. People who cannot make this distinction are better off staying silent lest they be held accountable by the Lord of the Worlds for slander, backbiting, and false accusations against others: “You received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God.” (24: 15)
While this applies to all people, it is especially shocking to see such accusations thrown around regarding scholars who have tirelessly served the Muslim community in very precarious and tough circumstances. May God preserve them and us.
Do you want to see an example of someone who actually “sold-out” the Muslims? Hatib, the famous Companion of the Prophet (God bless him). He would inform the polytheists of the Prophet’s affairs. Do you know what his explanation was when the Prophet (God bless him) inquired as to why he did this? Hatib said that he did it for his family and not “because of any unbelief or apostasy.” Do you know what the Prophet (God bless him) said when Umar interrupted and said let me strike the neck of this hypocrite? He said, “Is he not among those who fought for us at the battle of Badr? Perhaps God has pardoned him and has said: do whatever you will because I have guaranteed for you Paradise.” Umar wept. [Ahmad, Musnad with a rigorously authentic chain]
SubhanAllah. How quick our tongues are to accuse people without inquiry into their reasons, without discussing their intentions, without seeking their clarification, without exercising any husn al-dhann in light of their track record and work for the religion. And how sad is it that we see such accusations hurled against reputable scholars who have shown nothing but true concern for our community and who have carried this community on their shoulders through thick and thin.
God is our sufficiency and He is the best of Judges.

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#‎Blacklivesmatter Because Our Lord Demands It – Ustadh Salman Younas

‪#‎Blacklivesmatter‬ because our Lord has “ennobled all the children of Adam” (17:70) and commanded us to “stand firmly for justice.” (4:135), writes Ustadh Salman Younas.

‪#‎Blacklivesmatter to me not because it is politically prudent for Muslims to side with African-Americans.
They matter to me not because it’s viewed by some as the new countercultural trend that people should hop on.
They matter to me not because it is a convenient and beneficial alliance for my community.
They matter to me not because of a mere desire to be integrated into mainstream society and its indigenous people.
Why do they matter to me? Because my Lord has “ennobled all the children of Adam” (17:70) and commanded me to “stand firmly for justice.” (4:135)
They matter to me because my Prophet (God bless him) said that when his followers become “afraid to say to the oppressor that you are an oppressor, they will be abandoned by God.” [Ahmad, Musnad with a rigorously authentic chain]
They matter to me because my Prophet (God bless him) spent his entire life serving the weak, underprivileged, and those treated unjustly. His justice and mercy extended to all regardless of their religion or color. His teachings condemned racism as he stressed that virtue lay in doing good and being pious, not through possessing “white skin over black skin.” [Ahmad, Musnad with a sound chain].
They matter to me because oppression, killing, racial injustice and the systematic abuse of a people is a heinous crime in my religion. I dread the day I have to stand in front of my Lord and in front of my Prophet having witnessed police brutality against a black father, the shooting death of an innocent black teenager, the mass and oppressive incarceration of an entire black generation, the racial inequality experienced daily by the black community, and say I did nothing to fight this plague that occurred every day in front of my eyes.

These lives must matter to Muslims because our Lord demands they do, our Prophet (God bless him) demands they do, and our religion demands they do. This is what being a Muslim is about. We will continue to strive for justice and to rid this world of all forms of oppression through whatever noble means we can.

We ask everyone to support such movements in keeping with the directives of God to “cooperate with one another in righteousness” (5:2) and the directive of our beloved Prophet (God bless him) who advised us to “make such alliances in order to return rights to their people, that no oppressor should have power over the oppressed.” [Musnad al-Humaydi]
We ask God to give us the strength and courage to stand up against all forms of injustice in the way our Prophet Muhammad (God bless him) did. May His blessings descend upon us and all those suffering throughout the world.
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Resources for seekers