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.

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Overcoming Historical Romanticism

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First Khutbah – Main Points

Opening from the Qur’ān:

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

“O’ you of faith!, enter into Islam completely and do not follow in the footsteps of Shaytan. He is a clear enemy of yours.” [Q: 2: 208]

I wish to continue our conversation about the enterprise of Islam in America, specifically focusing on the first part of the verse/āyah.  Many have understood the following āyah to refer to the rituals of Islam such as wudu’/ablution, prayer, fasting, and so forth.  And indeed it does.  Yet, with all cases in the Qur’ān, there is a deeper sentiment that Allah is coaching the Muslims to: one of responsible action.  To enter into Islam completely means to not only follow the outward aspects of what the Prophet did, such as trimming one’s nails or putting one’s right shoes on first, but also following the basīrah or vision of the Prophet.  To use a technical term: kulliyāt, its rough translation meaning “the big picture”. Never did the Prophet allow labels to do all of his talking, and more importantly, thinking, for him.  He mitigated the transition from pagan idolatry to tawhīd/monotheism but adhering to what was absolutely essential while also allowing room for dignity, humility and the evolutionary process that was present in all who took their shahādah/testimony of faith in his presence.

Presently, Muslims in many parts of the world are wrestling with a similar challenge – what’s quintessential and what’s incidental.  And in the process of determining what must stay and what might need to be altered is the call for creative minds to chart a course that will be conducive to a healthy Muslim experience [speaking primarily about Islam here in America].  But what is arresting the development of this process?  I will focus on just one issue that I have observed: history, and to be more specific a type of myopic, historical romanticism in which a few select people from certain geographic locations played imaginative roles in world history, played so well that the only hope we can have is to somehow go back to this bygone era and not simply emulate their performances but reenact them like a Civil War theme park.  We can dress up and talk like these noble, bygone people, but we never actually look to how they thought and behaved, and whether our collective energies and imaginations should be best spent on costume or on our futures.

But we are commanded to enter into it completely.

This can also be seen as a call and commandment of Allah, to the Muslims, to make Islam relevant to wherever you are.  I spoke of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah last time and again, I can think of no other event in the history of the Prophet’s mission that so eloquently outlines this as well as demonstrates how it gets done.

So how is Islam relevant? Continue reading “Overcoming Historical Romanticism”