The Heart – A Khutbah at the University of Pennsylvania

The believer and the heart: how it can be influenced. How it should be protected.

Concerns of the Heart: [audio:http://www.marcmanley.com/media/mp3s/khutbahs/2011-12-16-upenn-the-heart.mp3|titles=Concerns of the Heart|artists=Marc Manley]

Protecting one’s heart

  • From without: الحواسّ الخمس
  • From within: suggestive imagination [الخيال]; passions [الشهوة]; anger [الغضب].

Our hearts are troubled by the things we see but we should take comfort in knowing that God is always manifesting His Truth:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَآ إِلَىٰٓ أُمَمٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَأَخَذْنَٰهُم بِٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَضَرَّعُونَ
فَلَوْلَآ إِذْ جَآءَهُم بَأْسُنَا تَضَرَّعُوا۟ وَلَٰكِن قَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
فَلَمَّا نَسُوا۟ مَا ذُكِّرُوا۟ بِهِۦ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَٰبَ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا فَرِحُوا۟ بِمَآ أُوتُوٓا۟ أَخَذْنَٰهُم بَغْتَةًۭ فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْلِسُونَ

“We sent Messengers to nations before you, and afflicted those nations with hardship and distress so that hopefully they would humble themselves (42). If only they had humbled themselves when Our violent force came upon them! However, their hearts were hard and Shaytan made what they were doing seem attractive to them. (43) When they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened up for them the doors to everything, until, when they were exulting in what they had been given, We suddenly seized them and at once they were in despair (44).” – Qur’an, 6: 42-44.

Involuntary suggestions: protect yourself from influences.

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: اتق الله حيهما كنت وأتبع السيئة الَحسنةَ تمحها وخالق الناس بخلق حسن – الترمذي

“The Messenger of God said: ‘Keep God in mind wherever you are; follow a bad deed with a good so that it offsets it and treat people with courtesy.’ Al-Tirmidhi”.

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: أكثر ما يدخل الجنة تقوى الله وحسن الخلق

“The Messenger of God said: ‘What allows many to enter paradise is taqwa of God and good character.’ Al-Tirmidhi”.

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: الزنا يوثر الفقر

“The Messenger of God said: ‘Illicit sex begets poverty.’ Al-Suyuti on ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar”.

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ما أعز الله بجهل قط ولا أذل بعلم قط ولا نقصت صدقة من مال

“The Messenger of God said: ‘Illicit sex begets poverty.’ Al-Daylami on ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar”.

أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَن تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ ٱلْحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُوا۟ كَٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ مِن قَبْلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌۭ مِّنْهُمْ فَٰسِقُونَ

“Has the time not arrived for the hearts of those who have iman to yield to the remembrance of Allah and to the truth He has sent down, so they are not like those who were given the Book before for whom the time seemed over long so that their hearts became hard? Many of them are deviators.” Qur’an, 57: 16.

Prophetic Love: A Look At Obedience to Prophet Muhammad

Love.  There are so many synonyms, so many names and inflections in this one little word.  We are encouraged to extol the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم.  And yet despite this, I see an increasing disconnect between Muslims and what and who the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم represents.  As a Muslim educator for over a decade (approaching two!), it would seem that the most neglected “science” amongst Muslims is the biography of the Prophet (referred to as the sirah) صلى الله عليه وسلم in particular and history in general.  The result has been a notion, not of a man who lived a real life with real pain (and love), real wins and real losses, but that of an abstract figure whose emulation remains elusive, like the remembrance of a dream upon waking: the harder you struggle to concretize that memory the more it fades away.

In observation it is clear that we as a community need to re-establish the humanness of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم: to re-assert that he lived and died, that he ate and drank, laughed and cried, married and buried spouses and children.  In order to do so, I will share some observations from the opening of Surah al-Hujarat, the Forty Ninth chapter of the Qur’an:

يأيها الذين ءامنوا لا تقدموا بين يدى الله ورسوله واتقوا الله إن الله سميع عليم

“O’ you who are secure in belief!, do not put yourselves forward in front of God and of His Messenger; and have taqwa of God. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” – Qur’an, 49: 1.

Here, I have noticed a tendency that when we as Muslims discuss the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his legacy, we have lost a sense of reverence for his station. How quick are we to battle one another (let alone those outside our faith) about this or that point from his Sunnah.  Far too often we “raise our voices” as means of browbeating or intimidating others into accepting our provincial points of view regarding this or that argument.  But development of love for the Prophet عليه الصلوات والسلام starts with recognizing the space, rank, and station that his voice still retains to this day, one thousand four hundred and thirty two years after his demise صلى الله عليه وسلم.

God continues in the Qur’an with:

يأيها الذين ءامنوا لا ترفعوا أصوتكم فوق صوت النبي ولا تجهروا له بالقول كجهر بعضكم لبعض أن تحبط أعملكم وأنتم لا تشعرون

“O’ you who are secure in belief!, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet and do not be as loud when speaking to him as you are when speaking to one another, lest your actions should come to nothing without your realizing it.” – Qur’an, 49: 2.

Developing a love and appreciation for who God’s Final Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم is starts with humbling yourself to his legacy.  This should not be confused with taqlid*, or “uncritical imitation” in matters that demand us to think.  It may be a great struggle to accept the primacy of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم I one’s life; we all have different struggles.  But if one accepts that God sent Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم as the only infallible source of guidance, then perhaps from here we can lower our voices, not simply out of disrespect (hence the “do not be as loud when speaking to him as you are when speaking to one another”) but also so we can hear what it is his Sunnah is saying to us.

Though obvious to some, I believe it bears repeating: the Prophet’s legacy/Sunnah صلى الله عليه وسلم is for our benefit, meaning that its adherence or rejection in no way reflects on the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, nor his status as God’s Beloved and Noble Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم.  We can see this in the next verse, where God says:

إن الذين يغضون أصوتهم عند رسول الله أولئك الذين امتحن الله قلوبهم للتقوى لهم مغفرة وأجر عظيم

“Those who lower their voices when they are with the Messenger of God are people whose hearts God has tested for taqwa. They will have forgiveness and an immense reward.” – Qur’an, 49: 3.

We should never think that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has truly departed from us: as he said, “I have left you two things … God’s Book and my Sunnah.”  It’s this point I want to drive home: Islam is a living religion with a living practice with a living legacy.  While God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم did depart from this life as we know it, nonetheless, we are commanded by none other than God to send salutations on him in every two units of prayer:

السلام عليك أيها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته

“Peace be upon you!, O’ Prophet, and God’s mercy and blessings.” – Muslim prayer, al-Tashahhud.

So not only is it for our benefit, but with everything in Islam, obedience brings about reward: “They will have forgiveness and an immense reward.

So before we are so sure, so confident about whether this or that thing is simply culture (wearing hijab or growing one’s beard for instance) we need to investigate the Messenger’s relationship صلى الله عليه وسلم to that thing. Nor should we dismiss a thing lightly simply because it is only mustahibb or “loved” by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This type of assumption can also be a “raising one’s voice above the Prophet” صلى الله عليه وسلم. It will prove extremely difficult for us as Muslims to grow our love the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم if we continue to dismiss what was endeared by him so easily صلى الله عليه وسلم.  It is this assumption, in my opinion, that illustrates the lack of primacy that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has in our lives; our fall from grace if you will.

In closing, consider the follow account by ‘Ubayy Ibn Ka’b رضي الله عنه. To me, it beautifully sums up the station and primacy of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in the life of a Muslim.  It elucidates a type of emotional relationship with God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم that left me personally feeling a bit selfish and self-centered (I’m always asking God about me).  And yet, through putting the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم before myself—may God’s promise be true—I will have all of my needs, all of my wants, all of my anxieties attended to by the One Who Responds as well as forgiven by the One Who Forgives. For me, this is the syllabus for Islam 201.

كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا ذهب ثلثا الليل قام فقال يا أيها الناس اذكروا الله اذكروا الله جاءت الراجفة تتبعها الرادفة جاء الموت بما فيه جاء الموت بما فيه قال أبي قلت يا رسول الله إني أكثر الصلاة عليك فكم أجعل لك من صلاتي فقال ما شئت قال قلت الربع قال ما شئت فإن زدت فهو خير لك قلت النصف قال ما شئت فإن زدت فهو خير لك قال قلت فالثلثين قال ما شئت فإن زدت فهو خير لك قلت أجعل لك صلاتي كلها قال : إذا تكفى همك ويغفر لك ذنبك

“The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to stand after two thirds of the night had passed and would go out to the people and say: ‘O’ people!, remember God, remember God! The First Blast has already come; the Second Blast is to follow it. Death has come, death has come.’ ‘Ubayy said, ‘I said: O’ Messenger of God, I pray for you often but how many prayers should I make?’ He [the Prophet] said, ‘as many as you wish.’ He [‘Ubayy] said: ‘I said, “a quarter?”.’  He said: ‘as you wish, but if you were to increase it, it would be better for you.’ He said: ‘I said, “two thirds?”.’ He said: ‘as you wish, but if you were to increase it, it would be better for you.’ He [‘Ubayy] said: ‘If I dedicate all of my prayer to you?’ He said: ‘Then your needs will be satisfied, and your sins forgiven.’ — recorded by al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan.

*Taqlid is a term used to describe many things though usually it refers to imitating or following a practice in Islam. In modern times, taqlid has become something of a pejorative though it is good to remind oursevles that for somethings, we can only follow what the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم left us and not simply make up our own way to pleasing or worshiping God (for this, see Dr. Jackson’s article, Towards Empowering the Common Muslim). An example of taqlid in which we have no choice but to follow exactly what the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم left us are the three units of prayer for Maghrib: as to why they are three and not four, no one can say. But if one wishes to prayer Maghrib (and one must prayer Maghrib in order to complete the five canonical prayers) then one must follow what the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم left us and any deviation from it would be considered unsanctioned innovation (bid’ah).

Disciplining the Soul to "Return Pleased and Well Pleasing"

First Khutbah – Main Points

كل نفس ذائقة الموت ونبلوكم بالشر والخير فتنة

“Every soul shall taste death. And We shall test you by evil and good means as a trial.” [al-Anbiya’ 21: 35]

On the grand scale of things, Islam is about the worship of God. But when we look at Allah’s Book, the Holy Qur’an, Allah presents an over-awing framework by which through our brains and our hearts, we might come to know Him and submit willingly [أسلم]. We only need listen to His Call:

والله يدعوا إلى دار السلام ويهدى من يشاء إلى صراط مستقيم

“And it is God that calls to the Abode of Peace, guiding as God wills, to a straight path.” [Yunis 10: 25]

Whether we attempt to thwart God’s proclivity [الشريعة] in This Life, we shall be held accountable for what we have said and done and ultimately, even if only by our very createdness, we shall submit.

يسبح لله ما في السموت وما في الأرض له الملك وله الحمد وهو على كل شيء قدير

“Everything in the heavens and the earth negates the possibility of any god other than Allah. The dominion belongs to Him as well as all praise. And He has power over all things.” [al-Tagabun 64: 1]

Submission is an ongoing process. In order to facilitate this, God has provided for us His Signs, which unfurl like a ship’s sail before a steady wind:

خلق الإنسان من عجل سأوريكم ءايتي فلا تستعجلون

“Mankind was created hasty. I shall show you My Signs so do hasten.” [al-Anbiya’ 21: 37]

So when Bani adam steps back to look at the Big Picture, ease [سعادة] and certainty [يقين] can enter into the heart and life’s apparent randomness takes on a shape and form of meaning and purpose:

ونبلوكم بالشر والخير فتنة

“And We shall test you by evil and good means as a trial.” [al-Anbiya’ 21: 35]

Second Khutbah – Main Points

So how do we attain this happiness, this certainty, this insight?

It involves struggling against one’s own soul. Ibn ‘Abbas [rah] reports, that the Prophet [s] said:

أعدى عدوك نفسك التي جنبينك

“The most ardent enemy is your own soul [nafs], which is between your two sides.” [al-Bayhaqi]

This is similar to what Allah tells us in the chapter Yusuf, when Prophet Yusuf/Joseph [عليه السلام] said concerning the governor’s wife when she tried to seduce him:

وما أبرئ نفسى إن النفس لأمارة بالسوء إلا ما رحم ربي إن ربي غفور رحيم

“I do not say my soul [nafs] was free from blame. The self indeed commands to evil acts – except for those my Lord has mercy on. My Lord, He is Forgiving, Merciful.” [Yusuf 12: 53]

To be sure, it is exceedingly difficult to achieve this state of tranquility, happiness, and certainty. The modern cultures are hostile to the development of these qualities, as This Life constantly seeks to distract us. For this reason, we must strive to devote ourselves to God, remembering Him always:

يأيها الذين ءامنوا ادخلوا في السلم كافة ولا تتبعوا في خطوت الشيطان إنه لكم عدو مبين

“O’ you of faith!, enter into Islam completely and do not follow in the footsteps of Shaytan. He is an open enemy to you.” [al-Baqarah 2: 208]

In this way, Allah further reveals our own devious nature in that we often attempt to evade our responsibilities towards Allah, such as showing gratitude, etc.

Islam reconciles the seemingly opposed aspects of the wayward self:

ألنفس الأمارة بالسوء

And the soul at rest:

يأيتها النفس المطمئنة ارجعى إلى ربك راضية مرضية

By coming to see this aspect of our relationship with Allah—The Big Picture—we foster a greater sense of realization [يقين-معرفة] of our purpose in life:

ما خلقت الجن والإنس إلا ليعبدون

“I did not create the Jinn or mankind except that they are to worship Me.” [al-Baqarah 2: 208]

and …

الذين يذكرون الله قياما وقعودا وعلى جنوبهم ويتفكرون في خلق السموت والأرض ربنا ما خلقت هذا باطلا سبحانك فقنا عذاب النار

“Those who remember God standing, sitting and laying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth [utter], ‘O our Lord, You have not created all this in jest, how perfect You are, so protect us from the torment of the Fire.” [al-‘Imran 3: 191]

Endeavor to restrain your souls, and the Ultimate reward will be yours:

وأما من خاف مقام ربه ونهى النفس عن الهوى فإن الجنة هى المأوى

“For the one who fears the Station of his Lord and denies the appetites of the lower self, the Garden will be his refuge.” [al-Nazi’at 79: 40-1]

Finally, in the advice of our Beloved Prophet [s]:

حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل أن تحاسبوا ووزنوا أعمالكم قبل أن توزن عليكم

“Take account of yourselves before you are held to account and weigh your deeds before they are weighed for you.” [al-Tirmidhi’s al-Qiyamah]

Download the khutbah, Discipline the Soul to “Return Pleased and Well Pleasing” here.

Listen online now

[audio:http://www.marcmanley.com/media/mp3s/khutbah_upenn-7-16-2010.mp3|titles=Disciplining the Soul to “Return Pleased and Well Pleasing” by Marc Manley]

The Importance of Food and What Lies Beyond It

First Khutbah – Main Points

إن الأكل من الدين

“Eating is part of religion.” [from the Companions – RAH]

لا طريق إلى الوصول للقاء الله إلا بالعلم والعمل

“There is no path to the meeting with God except by knowledge and deeds.” [advice from al-Ghazali]

ولا تمكن المواظبة عليهما إلا بسلامة البدن

“And there can be no devotion to it [knowledge and deeds] except with a sound body” [advice from al-Ghazali

كلوا من الطيبات واعملوا صالحا

“Eat from that which is good and perform righteous acts.” [Q: ‘A’raf (7):100]

إن الرجل ليؤجر حتى في اللقمة يرفعها إلى فيه وإلى في امرأته

The Prophet [s] said: “A man is rewarded even for the morsel of food he raises to his mouth and to the mouth of his wife.” [related in Bukhari]

الوضوء قبل الطعام ينفي الفقر وبعده ينفي اللمم, ينفي الفقر قبل الطعام وبعده

The Prophet [s] said: “Wudu’ [ablution] before eating removes poverty and performing it afterwards removes minor sins.” [related in Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi]

Eating is a barometer of sorts for the believer. It gives us an indication of where our nafs is at: Continue reading “The Importance of Food and What Lies Beyond It”

The Danger of Procrastination

 قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تقبل توبة العبد ما لم يغرغر أخرجه الترمذي وابن الماجه

The Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] said: “The slave’s repentance is accepted until he gives the death rattle.” Transmitted to us by the authority of al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Imam al-Ghazali relates to us from the Revival of the Religious Sciences, Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, from the book: The Remembrance of Death and The Afterlife, by which he conveys for us the nature of a dying man: He peers out on the world and its people for one last time while the door of repentance is closed for good. In doing so, he is overcome with sorrow and remorse.