Community Foresight – Many Fingers Make Light Work

A listserv started and maintained by Da’ood Nasir

Funerals. They are something we generally do not like to think about. I say this based on evidence of observation in the way in which Muslim communities tend to handle funerals (hereafter referred to as janazah). I’m not talking about the etiquette, or lack thereof, that is displayed at so many jana’iz (pl. janazah): that subject deserves its own post (forthcoming? Make du’ah for my typing skills). What I am talking about are two things: one, community obligations and two, easy deeds for one’s scale.

As for point one, let’s examine it from rom a fiqh point of view: jana’iz fall under the heading of fard al-kifayah/communal obligations. It is our responsibility as a community to bury our dead, not the state’s. What seems to frustrate this process is often times a lack of planning, admittedly on both parties: the deceased (or in this case, the formerly living) and the Muslim community at large. Part of what I feel should be incorporated into the new masjid paradigm we see trying to form in America is help in the area of life planning, or more specifically in this case, death planning (feel free to suggest some other terminology — I know this sounds awful). This is equally important for both legacy Muslims as well as so-called convert Muslims. I have seen many funerals go awry due to improper planning of wills and last testaments. Not that we want to hand every new Muslim a copy of the Qur’an, a prayer rug and then a last-will-and-testament kit (bean pie is optional), but it would be pretty good to have a will-template made up and on-hand, downloadable from a masjid’s website or obtainable from its front office. It would also help to perhaps conduct workshops on this from time to time to keep it in the community’s periphery vision. But I digress.

Point two: easy deeds. What do I mean by easy deeds? There is a well-cited hadith from Ibn Majah, narrated by Abu Hurayrah, that details the fate of those who die in a state of debt:

نَفْسُ الْمُؤْمِنِ مُعَلَّقَةٌ بِدَيْنِهِ حَتَّى يُقْضَى عَنْهُ

“The soul of the believer is attached to his debt until it is paid off.” (Hasan)

For me, this hadith illustrates the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم overarching wisdom in that he saw all sides and all aspects of his community. The Muslim community will always be made up of those who will need the help of others and that these people should not necessarily be looked down upon simply because of economic hardship. In fact, helping one’s brother or sister from a hardship is an excellent and “easy” opportunity to acquire lofty deeds for one’s scale as is noted in another hadith (also narrated by Abu Hurayrah), as recorded in Sahih Muslim:

مَنْ نَفَّسَ عَنْ مُؤْمِنٍ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ اَلدُّنْيَا, نَفَّسَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ يَوْمِ اَلْقِيَامَةِ , وَمَنْ يَسَّرَ عَلَى مُعْسِرٍ, يَسَّرَ اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ فِي اَلدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ, وَمَنْ سَتَرَ مُسْلِمًا, سَتَرَهُ اَللَّهُ فِي اَلدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ, وَاَللَّهُ فِي عَوْنِ اَلْعَبْدِ مَا كَانَ اَلْعَبْدُ فِي عَوْنِ أَخِيهِ

“If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. If anyone makes it easy for the one who is indebted to him (while finding it difficult to repay), Allah will make it easy for him in this worldly life and in the Hereafter, and if anyone conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps His slave as long as he helps his brother.”

For me, I am concentrating on the first part of the hadith, “If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life…”. I cannot tell you how many notifications for jana’iz have come through brother Da’ood Nasir’s listserv: Islamic Information E-mail Network, of Muslims who have passed on. Often these Muslims who are passing, may Allah have mercy on them and grant them Jannah, have non-Muslim family who may or may not be amicable to a Muslim funeral, are in debt, or are incapable (them or their families) of paying the costs of the funeral. Our communities seem to have no issue in investing millions of dollars into buildings but commits very little to human causes. My thoughts are thus: could we, as a community, set up an emergency fund to help these Muslims alleviate their debt by removing this hardship or the hardship of the cost of the funeral. Perhaps something as simple as a weekly or monthly donation program in which members of the Muslim community could contribute to this fund which would be especially allocated to this particular effort. In the end, it would be a win-win situation for the dead as well as the living, who will be joining them shortly.

These few notes here are not meant to be taken as dictates but rather as a means of starting important conversations in our various communities across America to help facilitate the growth and maturation of the Muslim community in America. And God knows best,

For more information on Da’ood Nasir’s e-mail network you can reach him at nasir [at] nasirkeyman [dot] net.

Do We Hope To Meet God? Steps Towards Making Islam a Reality

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ يَهْدِيهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِإِيمَانِهِمْ ۖ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ

دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ ۚ وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

قَدْ جَاءَكُم بَصَائِرُ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَنْ أَبْصَرَ فَلِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ عَمِيَ فَعَلَيْهَا ۚ وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُم بِحَفِيظٍ

‘Clear insights have come to you from your Lord. Whoever sees clearly, does so to his own benefit. Whoever is blind, it is to his own detriment. I am not here as your keeper.’ Qur’an 6: 104.

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ لِلنَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَلِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِوَكِيلٍ

“We have sent down to you the Book for mankind with truth. So whoever is guided is guided to his own good and whoever is misguided, it is to his detriment. You are not set over them as a guardian.” Qur’an 39: 41.

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعًا

“And present to them an example of two men: We granted to one of them two gardens of grapevines, and We bordered them with palm trees and placed between them [fields of] crops.”

كِلْتَا الْجَنَّتَيْنِ آتَتْ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمْ تَظْلِم مِّنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ وَفَجَّرْنَا خِلَالَهُمَا نَهَرًا

“Each of the two gardens produced its fruit and did not fall short thereof in anything. And We caused to gush forth within them a river.”

وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرًا

And he had fruit, so he said to his companion while he was conversing with him, “I am greater than you in wealth and mightier in [numbers of] men.”

وَدَخَلَ جَنَّتَهُ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ قَالَ مَا أَظُنُّ أَن تَبِيدَ هَٰذِهِ أَبَدًا

And he entered his garden while he was unjust to himself. He said, “I do not think that this will perish – ever.

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُوهُ الرِّيَاحُ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّقْتَدِرًا

“And present to them the example of the life of this world, [its being] like rain which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it and [then] it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah is ever, over all things, Perfect in Ability.”

Basr is to look out while basirah is to look in. Foe example, the eye may behold a tree which grows, bears fruit, dies, and does it over again. Basirah sees the tree and reverse engineers it: it sees a tree which came from a seed … Which leads back to Allah.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ فَالِقُ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَىٰ ۖ يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَمُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتِ مِنَ الْحَيِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ

“Allah is He Who splits the seed and kernel. He brings forth the living from the dead, and produces the dead out of the living. That is Allah, so how are you perverted?” Qur’an 6: 95.

وَمَا مَنَعَ النَّاسَ أَن يُؤْمِنُوا إِذْ جَاءَهُمُ الْهُدَىٰ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَّا أَن تَأْتِيَهُمْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ أَوْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ قُبُلًا

“And nothing has prevented the people from believing when guidance came to them and from asking forgiveness of their Lord except that there [must] befall them the [accustomed] precedent of the former peoples or that the punishment should come [directly] before them.” Qur’an 18:55.

وَمَا نُرْسِلُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ إِلَّا مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ

“And We send not the messengers except as bringers of good tidings and warners.” Qur’an 18: 56.

الخير عادة والشر لجاجة ومن يرد الله به خيرا يفقهه في الدين

“Goodness is a habit while evil is a stubbornness. When Allah wills good for a person, He causes him to understand the religion.” Recorded in Ibn Majah on the authority of Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.

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.