Ramadan Preparation Part Too: A Khutbah

From the previous khutbah, we continue the topic of religious responsibility, deeds, and taqwa, all as a part of increasing our religious literacy. To sum things up again, we noted that taqwa can be thought of as a set of reflexes – a self-defense system if you will – for the believer. Again, to quote al-Tabrizi’s from the collection, al-Hamasah:

الإتقاء أن تجعل بينك و بين ما تخافه حاجزا يحفظك

“Taqwa is the idea that you [A] place something [C] between yourself and that which you fear could destroy you [B].”

So with this in mind, we will look at how avoiding disobedience can server as our “barrier” to put in between ourselves and what may lie in wait for us on the Day of Judgment. Let’s triage some of the acts of disobedience.

Avoiding Disobedience

This can prove to be one of the most difficult things a believer can do: put their desires in check so as to avoid the displeasure and disobedience of God. We forget that God has promised us that on the Day We Stand, our limbs themselves will bear testimony of what we did:

يوم تشهد عليهم ألسنتهم وأيديهم وأرجلهم بما كانوا يعملون

“On that day their tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they used to do.” [Qur’an: al-Nur, 24].

So by keeping this in mind, we may be able to encourage ourselves, through hope and fear, of avoiding disobedience, by reminding ourselves that our eyes, our hands, and our tongues will testify against us. But the glass is not all half empty. As we shall see, as Ibn al-Qayyim relates a saying of one of the Salaf, that sins are also opportunities to return to obedience to God. He quotes in his work, al-Wabil al-Sayyib:

إن العبد ليعمل الذنب يدخل به الجنة و يعمل الحسنة يدخل بها النار

“A servant may commit a sin by which he goes to Paradise and he may do a good deed by which he enters the Fire.” [Hilyah al-Awliya’ wa Tabaqat al-Asfiya’, 242.]

Be careful here not to misconstrue Ibn al-Qayyim’s words: it’s not that sins in and of themselves are something “good”, but rather, when one commits a sin, there is the opportunity to feel shame, remorse, and to be regretful in committing the act. We all commit sins so we should never feel secure that because we’re doing other good deeds that we do not need to seek Allah’s forgiveness. On the other hand, if good deeds become something prideful, then we lose the benefit of those actions. In fact, if the servant heads down this path, he or she runs the risk of Allah abandoning them to their pride. But with so many things, God has given us a head start to obedience by not “leaving us to ourselves”. Again, Ibn al-Qayyim says:

العارفون كلهم مجمعون على أن التوفيق أن لا يكلك الله تعالى إلى نفسك والخذلان أن يكلك الله تعالى إلى نفسك

“Those who are Aware are in agreement that tawfiq [Divine Success] is that Allah does not entrust you to yourself and that Allah’s displeasure is that Allah leaves you to your pride, vanity or heedlessness”

God the Exalted has given us God to rely on. It is only when we are heedless, prideful, or both, that we are “left to ourselves” as we read in the Qur’an:

فنذر الذين لا يرجون لقاءنا في طغينهم يعمهون

“And so We left those who have no hope in meeting Us in wandering blindly in transgression.” [Qur’an: Yunus, 11]

From time to time, we allow Shaytan the Accursed to trick us into thinking that [aside from associating partners with God] the sins we have committed are beyond even God’s clemency to forgive and redeem. This quandary further illustrates the importance of understand God by the Attributes that Allah chose: al-Ghafur, al-Rahman, al-Tawwab, etc. These Names and Attributes, in the Divine Reality, are capable of forgiving the sons and daughters of Adam, even if their sins Were to be “like the foam on the ocean.” But despair leads to heedlessness which deceives us in giving up hope in meeting our Creator and being forgiven for our transgressions.

Mercy Over Wrath

In the modern discourse surrounding Islam, there is far little mentioned concerning the mercy and love that God has towards the Creation. This is especially absent in how Islam is presented towards non-Muslims, which has taken on a dry, textual, and ritualistically-empty practice. And yet, as we see in this hadith Qudsi [Divine Narration], God set a fundamental approach as to how the Creation would be treated:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم لما قضى الله الخلق كتب في كتابه على نفسه فهو موضوع عنده إن رحمتي تغلب على غضبي

“The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated: When God decreed the Creation, God wrote in [His] Book in regards to His Self-which is laid down with God-that ‘My mercy precedes My wrath.'” [Abu Hurairah reports this in Muslim]

So as we prepare to greet the month of Ramadan, seek the Creators mercy and clemency. Strive to avoid disobedience through the limbs and the heart and keep this du’ah in mind:

يا حي يا قيوم برحمتك نستغيث لا تكلنا إلى أنفسنا ولا إلى أحد من خلقك طرفة عين وأصلح لنا شؤوننا كلها

“O Ever-Living, O Self-Subsistent, by Your mercy we beseech Your help. Leave us not to ourselves nor to any of Your creation for even the blink of an eye. Set right for us all our affairs.”
Listen to and download the khutbah below:

Additional Resources

For the reference to a “fiqh of the cubicle” [from the audio], see Imam Suhaib Webb’s khutbah.

Ramadan Preparation: A Khutbah

Islam is a religion of responsibility, both towards ourselves and to others. This is part of our deeds as well as our religious literacy.

Recap on the meaning of taqwā. We can think of it as a set of reflexes – a self-defense system as per al-Tabrizi’s definition:

الإتقاء أن تجعل بينك و بين ما تخافه حاجزا يحفظك

“Taqwa is the idea that you [A] place something [C] between yourself and that which you fear could destroy you [B].”

و اتقوا يوما لا تجزي نفس عن نفس شيئا و لا يقبل منها شفاعة و لا يوخذ منها عدل و لا هم ينصرون

“Defend yourself against a day that will come where no soul shall be of assistance to another whatsoever – nor shall it put forth an intercessor in its place – no compensation will be taken from it – nor shall there be anyone to come to its aid.” [Qur’an: 2:47]

Responsibility: we must take ownership over our Islam as it pertains to our personal piety, development and how Islam is seen in the public eye. We can see this in the narration of the Prophet, صلى الله عليه وسلم:

عن ابن شيبان عن أبيه, قال قال رسول الله, صلى الله عليه و سلم من بات على ظهر بيت ليس له حجار فقد برئت منه الذمة

“Whoever spends the night on the roof of a house that has no stone balustrade, then by all means, Allah’s responsibility towards him has been absolved!”

عن مالك أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال بعثت لأتمم حسن الأخلاق

One of the primary areas we can all work on and take responsibility over is our character. We can see clearly that character was of paramount importance to the Messenger and to Islam as a whole. Related to us from Imam Mālik’s Muwatta’: Mālik heard the Messenger of Allah [s] state:

“I was sent for the perfection of character.”

عن علي بن حسين بن علي بن أبي طالب من حسن إسلام المرء تركه ما لا يعنيه

Related to us from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib in Imam Mālik’s Muwatta’:

“From the excellent qualities of a person’s Islam is that s/he leaves off that which does not concern him/her.”

Avoiding Disobedience

المعصية بالجوارح يوم تشهد عليهم ألسنتهم وأيديهم وأرجلهم بما كانوا يعملون

“On that day their tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they used to do.” [al-Nur, 24].

The limbs are the instrucments by which we committ acts of disobedience. Here are three to watch: the eyes, ears, and tongue. Each will testify either for or against us on the Day of Judgment, where they will speak of what we did:

قال عز و جل ما تقرب إلي المتقربون بمثل أداء ما افترضته عليهم و لا يزال العبد يتقرب إلي بالنوافل حتى أحبه فإذا أحببته كنت سمعه الذي يسمع به وبصره الذي يبصر به ولسانه الذي ينطق به ويده التي يبطش بها ورجله التي يمشي بها

Closing du’ah

يا حي يا قيوم برحمتك نسبغيث لا تكلنا إلى أنفسنا ولا إلى أحد من خلقك طرفة عين وأصلح لنا شؤوننا كلها

“O Ever-Living, O Self-Subsistent, by Your mercy we beseech Your help. Leave us not to ourselves nor to any of Your creation for even the blink of an eye. Set right for us all our affairs.”

Ramadan Preparation: A Khutbah by marcmanley

Bridging Our Gaps: Thoughts on Piety and Taqwa on the Cusp of Ramadan

First Khutbah – Main Points

Ramadan is a time of joy, happiness, reflection and purification for Muslims all around the world. But if we as Muslims are to truly benefit from this sacred time then we must extrapolate an Islam that is didactic, that is instruction in a complete and harmonious way, not simply a list of harām and halāl.

So I pose the question, what is it we should be reflecting on? The term itself suggests one is peering at or into something. For us, we must peer into our own souls, examining every deed, every strain of thought, every emotion. If we are to diagnose what maligns our souls, we must look at them in the mirror.

Yet, above and beyond the mundane prose lies a spiritual reality and awareness that demands more than just religiosity. Allah says in His Book:

شهر رمضان الذي أنزل قيه القرئان هدى للناس و نينات من الهدى  و الفرقان فمن شهد منكم الشهر فليصمه و من كان مريضا أو سفر فعدة من أيام اخر يريد الله بكم اليسر و لا يريد بكم العسر و لتكملوا العدة و لتكبروا الله على ما هداكم و لعلكم تشكرون

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down, a guidance for mankind as well as a explanation on that guidance and a criterion on which to judge. Let the one who has borne witness to this fast. For the one that is sick or traveling, then count your days therein, as Allah desires to make it easy for you, not difficult. Therefore complete your days when able and proclaim Allah’s Greatness for the guidance He has bestowed upon you all so that you may properly show gratitude.” [Q: 2:185]

Many of us today suffer from a false sense of piety, that piety is either some exceedingly difficult task or lifestyle, or a mode of dress, or something else conjured up from our own sense of piety. This is at the crux of a major spiritual crisis going on in the Muslim world today. Yet, Allah and His Messenger [s] have given us clear signs and examples of what constitutes piety. The Prophet [s] said:

الكيس من دان نفسه و عمل لما بعد الموت
و الأحمق من اتبع هواه و تمنى على الله تعالى الأماني

“The astute man passes judgment on himself and works for what comes after death –
The imbecile is the one who follows his passions yet expects God, the Exalted, to realize his wishes.” Continue reading “Bridging Our Gaps: Thoughts on Piety and Taqwa on the Cusp of Ramadan”