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AT-TAWASSUL

AT-TAWASSUL

As dutiful slaves, Allah does manifest His magnanimity to us in different ways. One of such is At-Tawassul. To the common mind, it is just one of those ‘stuffs’ Islam preaches. Hence, he is barely enthused to explore its unseen beauty. To the wise and mindful, it is more than just a phenomenon. It is a true and amazing experience which brings relief that is usually indescribable. It is, to them, the only hope during the most critical and difficult periods in any human life.

This concept would become utterly vague and blurry without a mention of a renowned Hadith reported by the most authentic books of Sunnah. It is the story of three friends on a journey who sought shelter from a heavy rain in a mountain’s cave. Just when they were about to have their rest, a big rock rolled down the mountain and sealed the cave. They became entombed. They did try to move it but, the rock remained unperturbed. Exhausted, they knew there was no way help could come from anywhere. They were miles away from home and they knew it was just a matter of days before they die; one after the other. Their families would forever lie in wait at the door for them because their disappearance would remain mysterious. They had hoped to journey safely; now, they have a date with death. They knew the only One to call upon was He Whom the mountain itself magnifies and praises daily.

“Verily, We made the mountains to glorify Our Praises with him (Dawud) after the mid-day till sunset, and after the sunrise till mid-day”. Q38:18

The first of the three men began his supplication in a very unusual way. Rather than reciting a set of prayers, he described to Allah how kind and dutiful he has been to his parents. Then, he had old and feeble parents who had a flock of sheep. This young man would visit his parents every day to graze their sheep no matter how demanding his schedule was. He had made it obligatory upon himself to serve them and show them all the kindness he could give. And each time he returned, he would milk the sheep and serve it to both parents with his own hands. The parents would then pray for him in appreciation; and whatever that is left of the milk would be served to his own children. This he did consistently for some time. But, one day, he had a delay while grazing and came home late. It was already dark and his old and feeble parents had gone to bed, stomach-empty. He was pretty sad. He knew they could not have eaten anything. He went ahead to milk the sheep as usual and went into house. He had developed the culture of not interrupting their sleep, so he waited patiently with the bowl of milk in his hands. He must have thought that the empty stomach would interpose their sleep. But he was wrong; both did not wake up until dawn. When they woke up from their sleep, they found their son waiting on them with the bowl of milk in his hands. They filled their stomach and prayed for him, as usual. After recounting this incidence to Allah, he said:

“O Allah! If You are aware that I did this in order to seek Your pleasure, grant us riddance from this trouble”. Bukhari

There and then, the rock shifted. Now, they could see the sky, but the opening was not large enough to let anyone out. It was the turn of the second of these three men to make his supplication. As done by the first man, he searched his depository of deeds if he could find anything strong enough to move the rock. Luckily, he found one. He remembered how he almost took advantage of a cousin of his in a year famine struck the land. Then, only the wealthy could afford to feed themselves and their families. Long before that drought, he had made an attempt to have sexual dealings with this same cousin, but she declined. However, when life became unreservedly unbearable during that year of famine, this lady thought it was wise to seek help from her cousin who had more than enough to eat and spend. When she approached him for help, he offered her a huge sum of money on the condition that she would allow him fulfil his lust. In between her legs, when he was about to unleash himself on her, she warned him to be fearful of Allah. And just at the mention of Allah’s Name, he regained his consciousness; got up from her and dressed himself up straightaway. His sensuous desire had gotten a better part of him, but the fear he had for Allah came to his rescue. He apologised to the lady and told her to still keep all the money. Narrating this incidence to Allah while his colleagues listened, he then said:

“O Allah! If I did that for Your Sake only, please relieve us from the present calamity”.Bukhari

Again, the rock moved, but still not enough to let anyone out. Their survival now rests on the third man who, fortunately, was a good man; a rare gem. He described loudly to Allah how he employed a few labourers for some work and how one of them left just when they were about to be paid their wages. He did make enquiries about the man but none of his fellow labourers knew his whereabouts. He then invested his wages in livestock. After some years, the labourer returned asking for his wages. He was shown a herd of sheep, cattle, and camel and some slaves. He then drove the entire herd away, leaving not a single calf with the custodian. Then, he said:

“O Allah! If I did that for Your Sake only, please relieve us from the present suffering”. Bukhari   

There and then, the rock moved away completely, and once again, they got the chance to live. Their deeds had saved their lives. This is the precise definition of At-Tawassul; a fervent and sincere ‘plea’ by a Slave to Allah in times of exceptional difficulties, which is followed by an ‘immediate’ response from Allah. And as perceived from the hitherto mentioned Hadith, this plea is always convoyed with a good deed, a righteous one. The exercise would simply be incomplete without a righteous deed. But, regrettably, most of us are spiritually bankrupt. It is almost impossible to find a righteous deed in our bank of deeds. If some deeds are found at all, they would be some prudently observed Solat, Zakat, Fast or Hajj and a host of sinful deeds. Apparently, this is consequent upon our misconception that obligatory acts make righteousness, whereas, they do not.

On the other hand, these mandatory acts could make righteousness only if they are practically expressed in our individual and communal lives. To begin with, recall that a man may observe his Solat at their appointed times in congregation from cradle to grave, and yet remain the farthest from his Creator if he fails to objectify the essence of Solat. Solat, as described by Allah in the Qur’an, ought to transform and elevate a man’s status, character and spirit from their stumpy, crude and tainted forms into lofty, fine and pure ones.

“Verily, the Solat prevents from Al-Fahshâ’ (i.e. great sins of every kind) and Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed)” Q29:45

…..to be continued

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UMMU SULAYM

UMMU SULAYM

During my days in the college, I learnt an Hadith about an extraordinary lady called Ummu Sulaym. Because Hadith was one of my preferred courses, the Sheikh had no difficulty in apprehending my concentration throughout his stay in that class. As anticipated, the Hadith was well described and excellently delivered. After which, everyone was obliged by the lessons inferred from the Hadith, to search his heart if truly faith was resident in it. Ummu Sulaym had exemplified the true meaning of faith. Then, she was the perfect index with which we could measure our faith. But years later, listening to the narration and explanation of the same Hadith, this time from a blind Sheikh: Abdul-Hameed Kiski, I knew that writing about Ummu Sulaym would be quite arduous. The precise title for the piece would be the hitch because her story is composite of multiple and rare virtues. The blind Sheikh had related the same Hadith differently. This time, Ummu Sulaym’s patience with Allah was her most striking character.

As a young lady, just like everyone does, she had dreamt of a beautiful and pleasant life after marriage. Nonetheless, she was one of those few who intensely understood the dynamics of life and acknowledged the fact that dreams fade. So, her philosophy about life did not revolve around her dreams; rather, on the Qur’an. The Glorious Qur’an had taught her that man can only hope, work and pray for a good life, the eventuality lies with the Disposer of all affairs, Allah. In life, one may own a game, but life dictates its rules. And in such games, you cannot win always; you win some, you lose others. That is the ideal ideology the Qur’an advocates; and over the years, ideal Muslims who nurtured this fundamental principle of life were never awed or dispirited by any of life’s unpleasant moments. They were always expectant and ready to handle such moments with unbending faith.

“Do people think that they would be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and would not be tested?” Q29:2

So, after her marriage to Malik bin An-Nadr in Medina, she gave birth to Anas bin Malik. With faces radiating joy and compassion, both parents watched their little Anas, expecting to raise him into a fine and strong young man. But life struck bitterly. Malik died and Ummu Sulaym became a widow. Losing one’s true love to death in a marriage has never been an experience anyone wants to imagine, let alone witness. It is a grief that fails to dwindle. One just has to live with it. It was a major ‘test of faith’ for Ummu Sulaym and she did recognize that fact. Her faith remained still, unruffled. She did not query the incidence because she knew it could not have been a mistake; Allah does not make one. His death could not have been oblivious of Allah’s knowledge, she thought.

“The knowledge thereof is with my Lord, in a Record. My Lord is neither unaware nor He forgets” Q20:52

In Islam, the manifestation of any unfortunate event is not as imperative as the attitude of the victim during that period. Any test is a ‘means’ and not an ‘end’ in itself. Such situations are preordained to test how faithful and submissive we are to Allah’s Lordship. And the best way to exhibit that is to be well collected, tranquil and avoid unnecessary assertions whenever we are in grief. That very situation must not be questioned because it would connote ‘challenging Allah’s Authority and Wisdom’. But regrettably, when these situations occur, many individuals lose confidence in Allah and the Deen. Sometimes, they renounce Islam to seek the ‘true religion’. Allah describes such individuals as losers!

“But if a trial befalls him, he turns back on his face (reverts to disbelief after embracing Islam). He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss.” Q22:11

With these philosophies of life and religion, Ummu Sulaym was able to move on with life. She passed her test exceptionally. She was able to raise her son Anas bin Malik alone until a marriage proposal came from another man named Zaid bin Sahl, who was later called Abu Talha. He was a fine, brave and strong young man who any lady would want as a protector. He was a master in archery. He never missed a shot. He was also famous and rich; the wealthiest in date-fruit among the Ansar in Medina. One would expect that Ummu Sulaym would cheerfully accept his proposal. But she did not. There was a hitch; Abu Talha was not a Muslim. Though, in a difficult situation as widow, she was very much satisfied with what she had and was not ready to relinquish her faith for all the excellent qualities Abu Talha had. She then requested him to learn about Islam and become a Muslim if he found it to be a true religion. “Your Islam would be my dowry” she said. He did and became a Muslim. Afterwards, they got married and were blessed with kids.

“A happy ending”, one would think. But, her story is yet to end. True faith and contentment, described hitherto, are a few of her esteemed assets. Till date, her patience with Allah’s decree remains unique and incredible. She ranks among the few early Muslims who reached the summit of patience with Allah during exceedingly tough moments. And that was exposed in another unfortunate event that ensued in her second marriage to Abu Talha. Life struck the second time. Initially, it was her first husband; now, one of her sons is the victim. It was another turn to stare closely, at an unpleasant episode of life as described by Allah:

“And so are the days (good and not so good), We give to men in turns, so that Allah may test those who believe” Q3:140

She observed the poor boy had given up the ghost when she approached him on his sick bed. She was all alone; no one to console her. Abu Talha had left the home for a short trip earlier in day. It was an immeasurable pain she had to sustain. Once again, she did not question God over her son’s death. She did not run into the street naked, yelling on the loss. Rather, she convinced herself to be patient and composed. She sat and grieved for some time and did what any other woman is yet to match in the history of the universe.

 She informed some family members of the death but gave them a stern warning not to break the news to her husband when he returned later that day. She was to inform him herself. She then went back home to clean up the dead child. All alone, she washed and shrouded him in white clothes and placed him somewhere in the house. When her husband returned, as a loving father, the first thing he asked for was the situation of his sick son. Ummu Sulaym responded:

             “The boy is quiet and I hope he is in peace”

It was not time to break the news; yet, she needed to respond to the inquiry. Abu Talha did not know that the quietness she meant was to last forever. In that Hadith, as reported by Anas, she then offered him his supper; after which she adorned herself like never before. Her intent was to make him have her and he did. After the intercourse, she then asked him:

“If some people borrow something from another family and they (lenders) later ask for its return, would they (borrower) resist its return?     

The husband responded in affirmation: “No!” She then informed him of his son’s death. Allah had withdrawn what He gave them. Her preamble gave her husband, who was very much younger than her in Islam, a soft landing. He also accepted their fate and recounted the incidence to the Prophet the following morning. The Prophet then supplicated to Allah to bless that night. His prayer was granted and that night gave birth to a new son whom the Prophet himself named Abdullah. For her patience with Allah and a true faith in Him, Abu Talha and Abdullah were not the only compensation she received from Allah. Her first son to her late husband, Anas bin Malik, became the third of the seven greatest narrators of Hadiths in the history of Islam. The history of Islam would be incomplete without Anas. She also earned the ultimate reward as mentioned by the Prophet:

“I was shown Paradise and I saw the wife of Abu Talha (Ummu Sulaym)”. Muslim

THE SPECTRUM OF GREED

THE SPECTRUM OF GREED

Greed is a disease that resides in man. Yet, almost every tongue denies its existence. This unreserved refutation is not in any way bizarre since one of the identified weaknesses of man is his poor understanding of his own innate composition and tendencies. Even if he did understand his instinctive elements and tendencies, indisputably, greediness would be missing on the list. This is because greed is a distinctive ‘bug’ that is hardly noticed by its host. But, the reality is that it does subsist within us and affect our sense of judgement and character. It ultimately defines who we are.

“And human inner-selves are swayed by greed”. Q4:128

If this latent sickness were to be defined in easy terms, it would be ‘excessive desire for something, mostly wealth and worldly goods’. And you would agree that everyone does have that instinctive tendency to incline towards anything charming, interesting and immensely beneficial to his continual existence in life. Therefore, it is natural to work hard towards owning ones dream cars, yachts, houses and a horde of other worldly things that breed pleasure and more income. This must at no time be misconstrued as greed because Islam itself does favour acquisition of wealth and properties. History did reveal to us that some of the early Muslims who were most dutiful to Allah in worship were incredibly wealthy and prosperous merchants. Amidst their wealth, they were able to strike an enviable balance between trade and worship.  They were also the saviours of the Islamic spirit during financial droughts.

“Men, who neither trade nor sale diverts them from the Remembrance of Allah, performing Solaat or giving the Zakaat.” Q24:37

Greed becomes apparent only when the fellow finds it extremely difficult to give out to the needy, a little from what he owns due to his acute desire to have them all to himself; sometimes, his nuclear family members as well. A greedy individual always perceive himself as being deprived; not rich enough to be generous to the have-nots. But in Islam, when a man earns an income which is enough to feed himself or his family, clothe and shelter them in the most humble manner, he is judged rich, and sound enough to extend to the poor from the little he has been bestowed with.

“And he, whose resources are restricted (limited), let him spend according to what Allah has given him.” Q65:7  

But sadly, this noble philosophy of Islam still struggles to find a comfortable niche in the present Muslim communities of the world. It only flourished successfully during the glorious years of Islam within the early Muslims. It was an epoch when the poor never admitted they were poor; they would happily give out to poorer individuals and they would in turn be gently coerced with plea by the rich to make them accept their Sadaqa. Then, true love and brotherhood ruled the atmosphere so much that there was not a single deprived individual on the street in every Muslim community that existed. It was an ideal and real society modelled on the Glorious verse of the Qur’an mentioned above. Some individuals may be exceptionally wealthy, but not a single individual would be so poor that his daily meals would come as miracles.

The world has since changed. It is no longer news that men, women and children now die of starvation and diseases that could be easily cured with a few hundred Dollars. It is no longer the social responsibility of Muslims to assist the weak.  Everyone is still in the pursuit of more wealth. No one seems to have earned enough money to help the dying. The greed in us constantly deludes us to wonder why the richest among us cannot feed the hungry and save the sick. We had never admitted the fact that such generosity and kindness must first emanate from us. This is the remarkable difference between us and the early Muslims. Then, everyone suppressed their greed and saw charity as a responsibility. The Holy Prophet (saw) had told them the story of a man who resolved to give alms from what Allah has blessed him with. He took his alms and gave it to a man. He was later told that the man who received the alms was a thief and not a needy. The man praised Allah and resolved to give out another one. This time, a lady came his way. He gave it to her sincerely and he left. To his dismay, he was later told that the lady was an adulteress. He felt he had missed the bull’s eye once again. He was not dispirited; he was still enthused to give out another one, hoping to meet someone in dire need of help. This time, he gave it to a man. Afterwards, he was told that the man who received the alms was a rich man. He could not believe he had missed three shots. A wise and pious Muslim then walked up to him and said:

“The alms which you gave to the thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from adultery, and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause”. Bukhari 

If everyone suppresses the greed in him and gives out a little from what he owns, our world may do well without even involving the wealthiest among us. The freedom from greed begins when an individual cut loose from his inner thought that repeatedly mislead him to believe that he is also a man in need and not rich enough to assist the poor and defenceless. He must also understand that no amount of wealth can tame greed. Sometimes the richer he is, the greedier he becomes. The wealth may engulf and shroud him from the reality of life and the hereafter until he ends up in the grave.

“The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, until you visit the graves (death)”. Q102:1-2

Furthermore, a daily culture of giving alms to the needy has been the most effective way of reducing greed. It is well known that the great Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr Siddiq, would always give alms to the needy before he goes for the Fajr Solaat in the Masjid. If this act is sustained, after a while, the individual would unconsciously lose every atom of greed in him. Sometimes, your mind may discourage you to withhold what you have to offer the needy because it is diminutive. In Islam, the size of the gift is not what matters; rather, the intention with which it was given.

HOW FAR CAN ALLAH GO?

For pious and dutiful Muslims, there is no limit to what Allah can do to please them. The reason for this is simple and comprehensible; these individuals spend every day of their lives on actions that please Allah. They do not wish the moon a good night without questioning their conscience if they had done anything to please Him. If they had, they would have a pleasant night rest. But if they did not, they would rebuke their souls and become remorseful, perceiving the day as being wasted on frivolities, and pledging to make the following day a better one. The love for Allah and the consciousness to gratify Him engage their hearts always.  And in turn, Allah pleases them with immeasurable and mystifying incidences. Without prejudice, the early Muslims were very much exemplary in this realm; about them, Allah describes:

“Allah was Well-Pleased with them, and they (were pleased) with Him”. Q98:8

They experienced unimaginable occurrences that satisfied their faith in Him. However, if one scrutinizes any of those bewildering events keenly, it would be observed that the most inspiring thing is indeed not what Allah does to please a slave; rather, it is the ‘process’ through which the event itself materializes. Usually, it reveals Allah’s ‘will’ to do anything to please a worthy Muslim, even if it requires that the whole world should be paused, momentarily. After all, a righteous slave once asked Allah to stop the sun from setting for some hours and Allah did (see Blog, Archives: The world of the Righteous, 16/08/2010). But describing an all-inclusive account of occurrences in the Qur’an, Sunnah and Taarikh (history of Islam), that sought to please the pious Muslims of the old would evolve books in their volumes. Hence, this piece would not make such attempt. However, each time I recite the Qur’an, a story had never left me in doubt that there is nothing Allah cannot do for any pious and humble slave, even in death!

It is the story of a dutiful Muslim who did all he could to please Allah; he was a righteous man who lived in a small town. When death approached him, he could not hand over his treasure to his two sons because they were too young to manage it. He feared they would be swindled by the most foolish cheat around. Hence, they would become impoverished orphans adorned in rags, roaming the streets for food and shelter throughout their lives. He had spent his entire life serving the Lord of the universe; yet, the Angel of death came around just when he was about to raise his sons. With a heart mixed with grief and hope, he dug a hole in the ground and placed the treasure therein carefully and built a wall above it to secure it. He had an unwavering faith that the Lord he had worshiped all his years would do everything to protect and reveal it to his children at the most appropriate time in their lives. After some years, due to physical and environmental factors, the wall became weak and was about to collapse. Thus, the treasure would be unearthed and seized by someone else.

Then, Allah responded to the situation in the most inspiring manner anyone could imagine. He could have simply commanded the wall right from His Throne to rebuild itself with His word “Be!” But, He chose to exhibit how beloved this humble man was to Him by sending two Prophets to rebuild the wall. If the chosen Prophets were of low status in Prophethood, perhaps the story would have been less inspiring. But Allah chose two of His most beloved Prophets. The first was an extraordinary man called Khidr (AS); while the other was one of the 5 best Messengers of Allah: Musa (AS). Khidr (AS) had received some of the finest knowledge of the unseen from Allah which Musa (AS) was very much oblivious of, even though he was a Prophet. He was a sage whose soaring and enviable eminence was proudly described by Allah Himself:

 “Then they (Musa and his boy-servant) found one of Our slaves (Khidr), unto whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us”. Q18:65  

As described hitherto, the processes through which these events manifest reveal the degree of Allah’s love and His willingness to do everything for some Muslims. Even in death, two great Prophets were sent to renovate the wall with their ‘noble hands’. While repairing the wall, Musa (AS) could not comprehend why they should be revamping a wall in a town which its inhabitants refused to entertain them after their long journey down there. When the task was completed, Musa (AS) inquired and Khidr (AS) explained to him, the wish of Allah:

“And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town; and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full strength and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord”. Q18:82

Till date, the likes of this inspiring experience still visit our world, but its frequency has greatly declined due to our gross disregard for righteous deeds. We now gratify and confine our faith within the 5 pillars of Islam alone, insensible to the fact that worship is deeper and wider. Undeniably, if a Muslim struggles hard enough to fulfil the 5 pillars of Islam ‘unblemished’, he would be granted a desirable place in paradise. That is, his Solaat were performed with full concentration at their appointed times in congregation, regularly; and the true value of his Zakaat were fully paid habitually, to mention a few. But these acts alone do not and can never make a Muslim righteous because they are our fundamental obligations and not righteous deeds in themselves. Hence, he may not experience any of such deeply satisfying occurrences, except if Allah wills otherwise. Righteous deeds are what please Allah, and He did describe a few of them in the Glorious Qur’an:

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the east and (or) west (in prayers); but righteousness is one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to the poor, and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs Solaat and gives the Zakaat, and who fulfil their covenant when they make it, and who are the patient ones in extreme poverty and ailment, and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are the pious”.Q2:177

Based on this explicit verse, it is safe to conclude that a journey towards pleasing Allah through righteous deeds like helping the needy and sheltering the orphan without observing the 5 pillars of Islam could be best described as a wasteful enterprise. In the like manner, a Muslim who precincts himself around the essential acts of worship alone and ignores his social responsibilities has indeed built a fortress between himself and righteousness. A Muslim who seeks to please Allah must transcend his fundamental obligations in Islam. He must move some steps further and await Allah to please him as done by the early Muslims:

“And they give food, in spite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to the poor, the orphan, and the captive.

(Saying): ‘We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.

Verily, we fear from our Lord a Day, hard and distressful, that will make the faces look horrible’.

So, Allah saved them from the evil of that Day, and gave them a light of beauty and joy.

 And their recompense shall be Paradise, and silken garments, because they were patient”. Q76:8-12

THE SPIRIT OF RAMADAN

If only man could sustain the spirit of Ramadan all through the year, planet earth would have been a lot different from what it is currently. In Ramadan, thoughts are always redefined and characters transformed. Consequently, the latent love for Islam and humanity are consciously reactivated by a vast majority. Once again, the poor and the needy get the chance to experience love, care and kindness from the rich and influential. The rich equally gets the opportunity to exercise some humility, standing in prayer (Tarawih) alongside the masses. Fathers walk proudly to the mosque with every member of the family just like they go to the movies. The Holy Qur’an is relieved from shelves, dusted and recited affectionately as if it was revealed a day earlier. Tahajjud, which was, hitherto, a nightmare, abruptly becomes a must observed. The last 10 days is usually the most electrifying. The young and old desert the comfort and luxury of their homes and seek refuge in Masjids, searching for the night of Majesty; a night, superior to a thousand months.

“The night of Decree is better than a thousand months”.Q97:3

However, the most outstanding of all dispositions during this holy month is not the magnanimity or kindness that shrouds the atmosphere, but, the great triumph which every man achieves over his desires. A chain-smoker absolves himself from smoking, at least for 14 hours of fasting, daily. A drunkard relieves himself from alcohol and a fornicator takes a break throughout the month. A backbiter tames his wild tongue and a lair also listens to his conscience. Gazes are lowered and clean hearts are upheld. A nominal Muslim re-unites himself with his Creator and he thoroughly observes his Solaat at their appointed times. Concisely, obstinate hearts that have failed to yield to the admonitions of the Qur’an for 11 months get humbled in 1 month without an atom of coercion from any one. This, is the spirit of Ramadan!

This transient defiance of temptations and desires in Ramadan clearly depicts that we indeed can be righteous individuals ‘throughout the year’, but, we only chose not to. When Ramadan leaves, righteous deeds and the spirit of abstinence from sins are instantly lunched into the outer space and we revert to our rebellious beings. We simply enjoy being enslaved by our carnal appetite for sins. And because we have this instinctive ability to resist our desires when they persuade us to execute evil acts, unarguably, those who fulfil their lusts become culprits to be punished by Allah. To express that what essentially makes us sinners is that very reaction to our corrupt desires, Allah forgives any appalling or atrocious act which is performed under duress or coercion.  Such an act would have made the fellow a sinner, but, because the act was not in consonance with his will, he would be pardoned by Allah. Thus, our responses to our lust are exactly what make us sinners.

 “And who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah?” Q28:50 

On this premise, it is very much safe to state that being upright and righteous in Islam is not as difficult as we think. We can absolve ourselves from any form of misdeed even if it has become our custom. As long as we remain humans, we would always be tempted to satisfy our lusts because Shaytan facilitates evil thoughts in our minds regularly. According to the Prophet:

“Shaytan circulates in the mind of a person as blood does (in his body).” Bukhari: Volume 53: Hadith 333

 So, he freely flows through our minds and whispers some evil thoughts in them. It had never been recorded in history that Shaytan ever appeared physically to coerce or pull anyone to sin. All he does is whispering and we fall freely for it. Though, he did appear as a man called Suraaqa bin Maalik among the polytheists in Mecca just before the battle of Badr, but he did not haul or force them to fight the Muslims. He spoke to them calmly; exactly the way he whispers into our minds, declaring his assistance and giving them the confidence that they cannot be defeated by the weak Muslim army. After a brief speech, they agreed to fight and kill the Muslims.

“And (remember) when Shaytan made their (evil) deeds seem fair to them and said, ‘None of mankind can overcome you this Day (of the battle of Badr) and verily, I am your neighbour (for help)’.” Q8:48

When the two armies ultimately met in battle in Badr, the gates of Heaven were opened and Allah sent down some of His finest armies. Angel Jubril led a battalion, Mikail led another, and Israfil led the third regiment. Immediately Shaytan, now in form of a man named Suraaqa bin Maalik, saw these Angels on their battle horses in the skies, he sought the most accessible exit and fled, in fear of Allah’s punishment.

“But when the two forces came in sight of each other, he ran away and said ‘Verily, I have nothing to do with you. Verily! I see what you do not see (the Angels). Verily! I fear Allah for Allah is Severe in punishment’.” Q8:48  

He fears Allah’s punishment, yet, he deludes us to earn it through sins. And whenever we are about to be chastised by Allah, he swiftly absolves himself from us because he did not compel us to execute them. He only suggested them to us and we bought into them.

“Like Shaytan, when he says to man: ‘Disbelieve in Allah.’ But when (man) disbelieves in Allah, Shaytan says: ‘I am free of you, I fear Allah, the Lord of the world’.” Q59:16 

Since Ramadan began some days back, we have been able to efficiently control our drift towards evil yearnings. So far, we have won our daily battles against Shaytan. As Ramadan progressively arranges its departure, will this spirit remain in us till another Ramadan? To me, if victory over our carnal desires could be achieved in Ramadan, it could be achieved as well in other months if we chose to do the duel.

“Have you seen him who takes his own lust as his god? And Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?” Q45:23

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Fasting in the month of Ramadan has been made mandatory for all Muslims so that we may be pious.

“O you who believe! Observing fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed
for those before you, that you may become pious.” Q2:183

However, a few set of individuals who may find fasting harmful to their health have been permitted to hold back on this exercise. Among these individuals are the sick, old, pregnant, nursing mothers and the likes.
When these set of individuals observe that fasting would be unfavourable to their health, they should not be over enthused to fast because they have been excused by Allah Himself. Fasting and other forms of worship should be enjoyed
and not detrimental to our lives. Allah Says:

“And (He) has not laid upon you in religion any hardship”.Q22:78 

Nevertheless, these individuals must feed the poor Muslims fasting for the 29 or 30 days of Ramadan. Scholars of Islam have explained that they must feed them their Sahur and Iftar daily; and one poor Muslim represents a day’s fast.

If anyone has aged or sick parents, the responsibility lies on him and his siblings to execute the task for them daily.

Also, if a sick person dies and did not perform this duty while alive, it is the responsibility of his inheritors to perform the task on his behalf.

Enough money to buy food for Sahur and Iftar may also be given to these poor Muslims.

Allah knows best.

BUILDING A KIND HEART

Islam does exhibit her uniqueness and splendour in more than a few ways, but I am most fascinated with the fact that all spiritual duties ordained by Allah are entirely fashioned toward man’s interest and development in this life and the one to come. And because man is three-dimensional (3-D) in nature, consisting of the spirit, body and mind, the need to manage and tame him in the most effective manner necessitates worship, which makes the most of his spiritual element. In fear of Allah (spirituality), even the hardest mountain weeps. Hence, worship does not in any form promote the Glory and Majesty of Allah; it is utterly to our benefit as humans. And this is the sole intent of the Sharia.

So, being very spiritual or dutiful in worship is very much insignificant to Allah if the spiritual teachings do not reflect in our characters among our fellow humans, daily. A Muslim who observes almost all the tenets of Islam must not exhibit dispositions that are in sharp contrasts with the faith that lies in his heart. Kindness, open-handedness, compassion and humanity, are a few of the characters demanded from us as true believers. These claims have been validated by the Holy Prophet (saw) in an authentic Hadith in which ‘lofty character’ was mentioned as the core value of his Prophethood:

           “I was sent to perfect good character.”  Al-Muwaata; Imam Malik.

 If being humane, generous, considerate and other good characters are what make us Muslims, then, the story of the lady who was cast in hell by Allah for being inhumane to a cat should not be startling to anyone. As explained by scholars, the woman was an Israelite who believed in the Torah revealed unto Musa (AS) and she performed her religious duties to Allah regularly. But, she failed to allow kindness reside alongside the belief in her heart. One day, she placed some food, uncovered, in a container and her own cat came around and ate a good part the food. When she returned, she noticed the damage but could not forgive the cat for her own carelessness. Then, she imprisoned the cat and did not feed it for days. The cat ‘mewed’ for mercy until its voice faded, but this ‘pious’ woman failed to honour the cry of a dying cat. At last, the cat died of starvation. About her torment in Hell, the Prophet said:

“Then, suddenly, I saw a woman (in Hell) and a cat was lacerating her with its claws. On inquiring, it was said that the woman had imprisoned the cat till it died of starvation, and she neither fed it no freed it so that it could feed itself.”  Bukhari: Book 1:V12: Hadith 712

Her attitude towards the poor cat clearly demonstrates that she nurtures a cruel and ruthless heart; a heart that does not tolerate kindness and forgiveness. Consequently, she failed to earn mercy from the Most Merciful.

“The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will show mercy to you.” Abu Dawud, Book 41:Hadith4923

Interestingly, a prostitute, who neither submitted to Allah’s Lordship nor has any spiritual accomplishment was forgiven of her sins because she nurtured a kind heart. On a sunny day, she passed by a well and saw a weak dog panting profoundly around the well. She spent a moment and observed that the dog was extremely thirsty and it needed a few drops of water to evade death. Overwhelmed with pity, she pulled off her shoe, tied it to her head-cover, drew out some water from the well and offered it to the dog. It drank the water happily and its life was saved. According to the Prophet:

“A prostitute was forgiven by Allah because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.” Bukhari: Book4: V54: Hadith 538  

Despite the fact that prostitution is a monstrous crime in Islam, enough to earn anyone a place in hell-fire, Allah still forgave this lady because she was humane. She had what a worshiper ought to possess: a kind heart.

To build a kind heart, an individual needs a great deal of humility and tolerance. He must always observe people and envision what they might be feeling and what their likely needs could be, as done by the prostitute. It would be untrue and unfair to state that kindness simply means giving alms to the needy or feeding the poor. We must also demonstrate that we do care about the individual involved. Sometimes, what are required of us are care, love, and a few words of encouragement, not even materials. How would an orphan feel if you tossed a few coins at him from your car? Would he feel the same way if you walked up to him with a smile, took a brief walk with him and told him about life and how great he could become if he challenged life? The former would not show care or love while the latter would. The second approach may change his life forever.

It is very much established in the Sunnah that the Prophet (saw) never passed by kid without kissing him, showing his love and affection for him. One day, a man was sitting beside the Prophet and his grandson Al-Hassan (son of Ali) came around and he (the Prophet) kissed him. The man then told the Prophet: “I have ten children but I have never kissed anyone of them”. The Prophet was surprised and he cast a look at the man, saying:

“Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully (by Allah).” Bukhari: V73:Hadith26

Thus, being caring, loving and compassionate are key in building a kind heart. Also, a Muslim must understand that health, wealth and power are being endowed by Allah on whomever He wills. So, whoever finds favour with Him should not hesitate to extend it the sick, poor and weak.

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