Do You Forgive?

February 23, 2010

Often times, Muslims generally seem to have beef (problems) with other Muslims whether it comes to masjid politics, MSA drama, basketball on the court, or whatever else may be an issue between two Muslims.  However, this is obviously not the way of the believer.  As Muslims, we are told to forgive one another as the believers are described as “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive” (Translation of the Meaning of the Quran, 42: 37). 

So ask yourself, have you forgiven those that have wronged you in any way in the past?  You may be thinking, but my situation is different as this specific person doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.  However, is it?  Forgiveness, by definition, is given to those people that don’t deserve it.  So why not forgive those that may have done something harmful towards you?  Even if you don’t want to forgive that specific person for their sake, forgive them for your sake so that you may be forgiven by your Lord as we are told, “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah” (Translation of the Meaning of the Quran, 42:40)

We all want mercy, love, and kindness from our Lord.  Do we strive to exhibit these same qualities to others?  So ask yourself, do you forgive?

Judging Others

February 14, 2010

We live in a society that is based on judging others.  Often times, as Muslims, we tend to do the same thing in that we judge other people.  We think we know others’ intentions or we know where their heart stands.  We may look for a reason to pass judgment on a specific brother or sister or we may look for an excuse to consider them ‘off the manhaj’ as it is so often known as. 

However, in reality, ask yourself, “Who are we to judge others?”  As Muslims, we want and wish for the best for our brothers and sisters in faith.  They are a part of our family and thus we want nothing but the best for them.  What happened to making excuses and excuses for our brothers and sisters?  Who are we judge others?  No doubt, as Muslims, it is our duty to advise others and it is our duty to command the good and forbid the evil.  What would happen if we didn’t pass judgment on them, rather we just advised them instead?  Would something befall upon us?  Allah is the Judge and He will judge the people for indeed we do not know what is in the hearts of others, rather Allah knows what is in the breasts of mankind.

Imam Malik stated, “If I was given 99 reasons to declare a person deviant and one upholding their orthodoxy, I’d go with the latter!”  Imam al-Ghazali stated, “The hypocrite looks for faults, the believer looks for excuses.”  Al-Hafidh al-Dhahabi wrote, “I heard our Sheikh, Ibn Taymiyyah, d. 728 a.h, say towards the end of his life, ‘I will never declare anyone from the people of the Qiblah (Muslim direction of prayer) as an infidel.’”

Ask yourself, do you REALLY want the best for your brother or sister if you’re looking for an excuse to throw them outside the fold of Ahlus-Sunnah or worse yet, even Islam?  Oh Muslim, make excuses for one another.  Make dua for one another.  Love one another.  The Messenger (SAW) of God told us that we would not attain faith until we love one another.  He (SAW) also told us that one is not a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.  Therefore, O Muslim, attain faith, become a believer (Mumin)!  May Allah (SWT) allow us all to be believers.  Ameen.

Do You Smile?

January 4, 2010

I used to visit a specific masjid and for a bit of time I did not look forward to attending that masjid.  I didn’t know anyone there and very few people there made an effort to reach out.  I would see brothers that I would see every day and they wouldn’t smile at me and so I didn’t feel as welcome as I should have.  Maybe it was because they were stingy with their smiles or maybe I wasn’t a member of their click (maybe I wasn’t tablighi enough for the Pakistanis or salafi enough for the Saudis or Arab enough for the Palestinians or convert enough for the blacks (bad generalizations on purpose) etc etc).  In reality, if I wasn’t stubborn enough, there is a good chance I would have stopped going to that masjid because of the uncomfortable environment. 

Muslims are supposed to be welcoming, cheerful people, especially around other Muslims.  We know from the hadith that smiling for your brother is a charity, yet many of us decide we don’t have enough smiles to give out or we decide we only want to smile to those we know.  For those that cannot smile for their fellow Muslim brother, this is a completely moronic and idiotic train of thought that comes from nationalism, miserliness or ignorance.

If you look at the kuffar and the environment they’ve produced around us here in the West, you will notice that these people will make an effort.  They will make eye contact with you.  They will smile in your face and ask you how your day is going.  They will make small talk.  What is wrong with us (the Muslims) when we cannot do this amongst ourselves?

For those that want the scientific benefits of smiling (though the Sunnah should be enough for us), Dr. Mark Stibich (via about.com) notes ten reasons to smile:

1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive:
We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away — but a smile draws them in.

2. Smiling Changes Our Mood:
Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There’s a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

3. Smiling Is Contagious:
When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

4. Smiling Relieves Stress:
Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.

5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System:
Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure:
When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin:
Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger:
The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day — you’ll look younger and feel better.

9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful:
Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive:
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.

Therefore, O Muslim, smile, it’s the sunnah!  So I ask you, do you smile?
Related: Do You Miswak? and Do You Adhan?

The Nourishment of Hearts

December 3, 2009

By my brother, Kevyn aka Yusuf:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والحمدلله رب العالمين و الصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين

We all know that when we come to the prayer, we are coming to stand before Allah. It is thus necessary to clothe ourselves accordingly and it is praiseworthy to beautify ourselves, perfume ourselves and use the siwak in preparation for this momentous meeting with Him; for the prayer is our connection to God – it is our dialogue with Him (swt).

Yet as we stand before Allah, and as we go through life, we must clothe more than our bodies, for our exterior actions and appearances are merely the apparent manifestation, not necessarily the inner reality of our relationship with God.

As the great early scholar Abu Talib al-Makki said in his Qoot al-Qulub (or ‘The Sustenance of Hearts’ as it might be translated):

الإيمان عريان ولباسه التقوى وزينته الحياء وثمراته العلم

“Iman (belief or faith) is naked; but its clothing is taqwa (uprightness and God-consciousness), its adornment is haya’ (modesty and shyness), and its fruit is knowledge.”

This is actually a very profound statement when we reflect for it delineates the growth of the heart from iman to islam to ihsan. Belief, by default, is bare; it is real to be sure, but it is unprotected. It is complete, but it is not ‘complet-ed’. It is much the way that Allah describes the husband and wife in the Quran:

هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَهُنَّ

“They are a clothing for you as you are a clothing for them” (Surah Baqara – part of verse 187). We are created as whole individuals, yet we are also created with a desire to clothe ourselves not only literally with garments but metaphorically by way of marriage insofar as spouses should help one another have taqwa of Allah and bring each other closer to Him. Taqwa is not simply awareness and fear of God, rather, it is a fear we desire, a fear we actually want to have. This is because having taqwa protects us the way that clothes protect us, and the way that a spouse gives one comfort and also protects one from the badness and baseness of the world. Therefore, we must enrobe ourselves and our iman with taqwa.

In the Quran, Allah says: “O children of Adam, We have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness (taqwa). These are some of God’s signs, that they may take heed” (Al-A’raf, ayah 26). We see that taqwa is an extension of iman, and that it is very much a part of the path to perfection, or ihsan, “…which is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.” This is excerpted from the rigorously authenticated hadith, described by Imam Nawawi as one of the ahadith upon which the Islamic religion revolves.

Indeed, it is with proper taqwa that we begin to understand the import of Allah’s commands and submit ourselves in deed and action. Shaykh Abu Talib al-Makki said that “taqwa gives you a criterion (فرقان) by which to differentiate light and dark, right and wrong; have taqwa and Allah will teach you.” What he means by this is that taqwa will allow us to see things for their intrinsic realities; we will recognize the truth behind worldly things: that they are all transient, ephemeral, dying. Only our actions which were solely and sincerely for Allah are carried with us unto that “… Day which shall make children turn grey-headed.” Only our iman endures. (see Surah Muzzammil, ayah 17)

For this reason, the moment that one’s parents die – if they die in disbelief – you’re not allowed to pray for them; and that is because at the moment of death, the bonds of blood are meaningless; and the only bond of any importance is the bond of iman. And as we’re lowered down in our grave, our brothers and our sisters are the brothers and sisters of iman – those are the people you’ll be raised up with as a family – it’s not the people you might have been directly related to by blood, yet there was no iman to bind you. The blood bonds are earthly, but the bonds of iman are eternal.

Although this thought evokes sadness, as it should, we must remember that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was always praying for Allah to guide people, to guide everyone, to this religion. At the same time, we might also remember that Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) faced much the same difficulty with his own family – yet he held onto the rope of Allah with certainty that Allah knows best.

If taqwa is our garb, then haya’ is our ornamentation – it is that which decorates and beautifies our iman, as it is in fact a defining quality of our religion. As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty” (al-Muwatta’). Haya’ is a kind of mixture of modesty, shyness, humility, whereby one would feel shame even at the thought of disobedience to Allah. As the Prophet (pbuh) has said, “God is more deserving than other people of shyness” (Abu Dawood). From this stems diligence in the performance of prayers and good works, and a proclivity to leave doubtful matters.

It comes in the Book of Wara’ (or Scrupulousness) of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal that a man once asked him about honey that was coming from the land of the Romans, as to whether it was permissible for him to eat it. Imam Ahmad answered, yes; but what is important to understand here is that this question itself – this hesitation – was coming from a deep, deep scrupulousness and awareness of his Lord. The man was afraid even to eat something that bees had made by virtue of the fact that it was was coming from a land that had doubtful matters in it. This is how the early muslims were – they were concerned about their hearts. They understood that righteousness is good behaviour, it is moral behavior; this is how to grow closer to Allah and arrives at his Lord: a healthy heart only comes from remembrance of one’s Lord.

If this happens and remembrance and righteousness becomes a habit, we begin to develop a deeper understanding of our own selves and our relationship with the sunna and with God; and this is when the fruits of knowledge begin to grow. In essence, haya’ is a kind of adornment because it becomes the firmly established character of someone, deeply-rooted in his or her thinking, practice, and being. As the Arabs say:

الأدبُ يُزيِّنُ الغنيّ ويَسترُ فقرَ الفقير 

“Etiquette adorns the rich and hides the poverty of the poor.” Put another way: with the proper adab and character, the distinction between rich and poor melts away. Social class had little to no meaning amongst the salaf because they saw that everything was from Allah; they defined themselves not by material wealth but by knowledge & spiritual growth, for the former is worldly, but the latter is eternal: knowledge is about the path to refining ourselves by truly following the sunna of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to the letter, out of love for him, and out of unshakable conviction that it is the way to Allah.

This then – all of this – is the foundation from which knowledge may grow. Iman, taqwa, haya’: they are all necessary components to having a sound heart and virtuous character. These are the inward garments we must don in order to gain sound knowledge and character. As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself said, “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” (Ahmad) and, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character” (Tirmidhi). This is the prerequisite to knowledge – and it is also complimentary to it – since the point of seeking knowledge is to put into practice that which is learned. “One drop of caprice,” said Abu Talib al-Makki, “would ruin an ocean of knowledge…. A person of knowledge is not just one who knows good from evil; he is one who knows the better of two evils or two goods.”

True knowledge will spring forth from the tranquility, sakina, and steadfastness attained by purifying one’s character of its negative qualities and grasping the true weightiness of this religion. Allah tells us in the Quran that we are created to worship Him. Yet how often do we remember this? It is Allah who looks at our hearts – i.e., our iman – to differentiate between us; would we not thus want to nourish, strengthen, and beautify ourselves with those things which complete us, which purify and raise us inshAllah?

May Allah give us unwavering iman, ever increasing; and may He allow us to adorn our faith with taqwa and haya’ such that our inner beauty might shine through; and may He make it easy for us to nurture the fruits of knowledge until we achieve full understanding and appreciation of our servitude to Him. Ameen.

Working Through Obstacles

October 15, 2009

My last post, Companionship, discussed the importance of who are our friends and how we are very much similar to those people whom we love and spend time with.  After all, Rasoolullah (SAW) said “Shall I tell you who is the best of you?”  “Yes,” replied the Sahaba.  He (SAW) said, “Those who remind you of Allah when you see them.”  He (SAW) went on to say, “Shall I tell you who is the worst of you?”  “Yes,” they replied.  He said, “Those who go about slandering, causing mischief between friends in order to separate them, and desiring to lead the innocent into wrong action” (Bukhari).  However, does this mean we isolate and polarize ourselves from society?  No, in general, we should strive and struggle to benefit ourselves and others around us.  Consider the benefical words of Ibn al-Qayyim:

Know that the greatest of losses for YOU is to be pre-occupied with ONE who will bring you nothing but a loss in your time with Allah – the Mighty, the Majestic – and being cut-off from Him.  Wasting your time with such a person.  Weakening of your energy, and the dispersing [disbanding, separating] of your resolve [steadfastness, determination].  When you are tested with this – and you must be tested with this – deal with this person according to how Allah would wish, and be patient with him as much as possible.  Get closer to Allah and His Pleasure by way of this person.  Make your getting together with him something to benefit from, NOT  something to incur a loss from.

Be with him as if you are a man who is on a road who was stopped by another man, who then asks you to take him on your journey.  Make sure that you are the one who gives him a ride, and that he is not the one giving you the ride.  If he refuses, and there is nothing to gain from travelling with him, DO NOT stop for him.  Bid him farewell, and do not even turn back to look at him, as he is a highway robber, regardless of who he really is.  Save your heart, be wary [cautious, guarded] of how you spend your days and nights.

DO NOT let the Sun set [death approach] before you arrive at your DESTINATION.

Excerpts taken from Imam Ibn al-Qayyim’s book Al-Waabil as-Sayyib

Many of us, though we may have sincere and righteous intentions, have recently misplaced our ahklaq (i.e. we have lost our manners).  This message is not directed towards one specific incident, but rather I’ve noticed a culmination of different events where many of our brothers (and sisters!), inlcuding myself perhaps have forgotten the proper way to advise our fellow muslims (an act known as irshad or islah).  When we advise our brothers and sisters if they are doing something incorrectly, we must remember to do it for the sake of Allah (SWT) with the best of intentions.  The believer looks for excuses, not blame for his brother.  We want the best for our brothers and sisters and hence we advise them because we love them, not because we think we are better than them.  For if think we are better than them, then this is arrogance and pride and arrogance and pride was the sin that got the rejected and accursed devil kicked out of paradise and doomed for eternity.  We should not think we are better than others.  We need to humble ourselves and be thankful that we are in a position to advise others.  We shouldn’t advise people harshly, rather we need to be gentle, yet firm.  The Messenger of Allah was the best of examples sent to mankind and he would be gentle with others.  We have heard the hadith of the man who urinated in the masjid and the Prophet (SAW) handled the situation in the most eloquent of ways.  Nowadays, if a brother is praying without a kufi (head-covering) or his pants below his ankles in the masjid, we may berate him, but is this really the best way, will he continue coming to this masjid?  There may be a time for harshness, but many of us are not in the situation to handle it as we are the laymen.

With that being said, we need give advice in private.  None of us likes being called out in public and hence we should treat others the way we would want to be treated.  With that being said, when we receive advice, regardless of who it is from, we need to be thankful and considerate of it.  It takes courage to give advice and when one receives it, we should pray for that brother or sister that advised us becaus they love us, regardless of whether they are correct or not.

We need to be on our best behaviour at all times for our akhlaq may be what draws people to our beautiful and truthful religion and way of life.  Nowadays, the brothers with the big beards or the sisters with niqaab are the ones that seem to be the most intimidating, but this is incorrect.  We should set good examples.  Who said to be religious means to be stern and harsh?  Often times, harshness by our brothers and sisters may scare off those people that are young and new to the religion.  Wasn’t there one point in our lives not long ago where we may not have turned out the way we have if it wasn’t for someone who was gentle and kind to us in their teachings?

The salaf (our pious predecessors) used to study ahklaq (good manners) twice as long as they studied knowledge.  How much time have we personally devoted to purifying our souls and being steadfast in our manners and characteristics.  The Prophet (SAW) said, “I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners” (Abu Dawud) so why not aim for the highest part of paradise.  We need to be gentle, honest, and sincere in our character and manners.

I just felt the need to write this short piece up as a reminder to myself first and foremost and then to all of you for we know the reminder benefits the believer.  May Allah (SWT) allow us all to have the best of manners, to attain the highest part of Jannah, and to love one another for the sake of Allah (SWT).  Ameen.

The Fiqh of Priorities

September 1, 2009

It is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) to shorten the dhuhr and asr prayers to two rakat instead of four during the time of Hajj. However, Uthman (the caliph at the time) thought the sunnah was to pray the full four rakat. Ibn Masood , who had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten his prayers during Hajj, approached Uthman to tell him of the correct opinion. However, Uthman held firm to what he believed was correct and led the prayer in full. Ibn Masood prayed behind Uthman the full prayer.

Afterwards, a group of Muslims came to Ibn Masood and asked him why he prayed the full four rakat behind Uthman when he could have waited for the prayer to be over and then prayed the shortened prayer by himself. After all, Ibn Masood had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten the prayer himself and knew it to be the correct opinion. Ibn Masood responded that to shorten the prayers during Hajj is a sunnah, however, to follow the imam is an obligation.

Here we are given a glimpse into the Fiqh of Priorities. We are to give precedence to that which is more important. So next time you want to become a fitnah in your community and raise a ruckus about whether the Taraweeh prayers should be eight or twenty rakat, ask yourself, “Is this what the companions of the Prophet (SAW) would do?” After all, the true sunnah here is to pray what the imam has prayed as Abu Dharr said the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer” (Tirmidhi).

For a lecture on the Fiqh of Priorities, check out Yasir Fazaqa’s lecture available on AudioIslam here (it’s the 22nd lecture listed).