Religious Dispatches – Qualities of a Believer Part 2

How do we progressively move from Islam 101, to 201, and maybe even 301? Start with submission:

كَلَّا لَا تُطِعْهُ وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِبْ

No indeed! Do not obey him, but prostrate and draw nearer to Allah.

After you make the intention to submit, start to draw closer through what is made obligatory on you, not just through what is optional. Then, know that what will give you assistance in this is good character:

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ

And you Muhammad are of an enormous character.

From here, you must learn to deal with tension, learn to deal with those who disagree or conflict with you and begin to acquire the attributes of belief:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ

For a complete reading, see Surah al-Mu’minun (23), roughly the first 15 ayat.

Islam 201

“If you want to change the people outside during the day, change your relationship with Allah at night.” – thanks to @HamidTS for the Twitter love.

Here are few tips of taking one’s practice to the next level:

  • Operationalize your Islam. Personalize your Islam. Deepen your relationship with Allah.
  • You want to change the world that you see in the daytime? Then change your relationship with God in the Night Time.
  • Distinguishes that not everything is an intellectual effort. Standing for tahajjud is not an intellectual endeavor.

Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ
قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
نِّصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا
أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا

O you wrapped up in your mantle!, Stand vigil through the night, except a little, a half, or reduce a little from that or add to it, and recite the Qurʾān in a measured tone.

And lastly, some encouragement from a hadith related by A’isha, may God be pleased with her, that she heard the Prophet say:

إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

By his good character a believer may attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day.

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

Continuing Thoughts on Building the Correct Adab Towards Allah

إن الحمد لله نحمده و نستعينه و نستغفروه و عليه نتوكل
و نعوذ به من شرور أنفسنا و من سيئات أعمالنا
فمن يهده الله فلا مضلل له, و من يضلله فلا هادي له
و نشهد أن لا إله إلا الله, وحده لا شريك له, رب الأرباب و مسبب الأسباب, فاطر السماوات السبع و خالق كل شئ
و نشهد أن نبينا و إمامنا و أميرنا محمد ابن عبد الله, أبي القاسم, عبده و رسوله, خطم الأنباء و أشرف المرسلين
صلى الله عليه و على آله و أزواجه و أصحابه و أنصاره و ذرياته و سلم
إن لله و ملائكته يصلون على النبي, يا أيها الذين آمنوا صلوا عليه و سلموا تسليما, و بعد

Surely, all praise is due to God, we praise Him, we seek His Aid, we ask for His forgiveness and upon Him do we rely solely. We seek protection in Him from the evil that resides within all of us as well as from the mischief of our own actions.

As for the one that God chooses to guide, there is no misguider for him – and for the one that God misguides, there is no guidance for him.

We bear witness that there is no god but God, know as Allah in the Arabic language, completely alone and without peer or partner, Lord of lords, Causer of all causation, the Fashioner of the Seven Heavens and the Creator of all that is.

We also bear witness that out Prophet, our Imam, our leader, Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, father of al-Qasim, is his slave and messenger – the seal of the Prophets and most noble of the Messengers. May God abundantly send peace and prayers upon him and on his noble family, his wives, his Companions, his helpers, and his progeny. “Surely, God and His Angels abundantly send peace and prayers upon the Prophet – therefore O’ you who believe! Lavish peace and prayers upon him frequently.

As for what follows, the main topics of this khutbah will pick up on the last khutbah, which focused on looking at the psychology of the human being as Allah as laid out in His Book:

و لو يعجل الله للناس الشر استعجالهم بالخير لقضي عليهم أجلهم

“And if God were to answer mankind in the same manner for their evil requests as they wish he would hasten on the good, they would be totally annihilated.” [Q: 10: 11]

Man often gets impatience when he feels he is under duress. But if God were to answer all of our requests equally, we would be finished. Therefore, God answers based on His Wisdom and judgment of what is really best. This is also a test – as we saw in suwrah al-Baqarah,

أم حسبتم أن تدخلوا الجنة و لما ياتكم مثل الذين خلوا من قبلكم مستهم البأساء و الضراء و زلزلوا حتى يقول الرسول و الذين آمنوا معه متى نصر الله

“Do you think that you shall waltz into the Paradise without such trials as those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with poverty and disease and they were shaken such that the Messenger and those who believed that were with him cried out, ‘When will the Help of God come?’” [Q: 2:214]

As we summarized, being tested is a part of life and how we react to those tests, how we react to God for being tested will determine the results of our test. This is all said to help understand and inculcate the proper adab or etiquette towards God.

To look further into this issue, this issue of being honest to God, we must work on recognizing God, first and foremost, as an authority figure. We are conditioned in our various societies to recognize authority – one can even say this is a sunnah of Allah as it relates to the human beings’ primordial condition [fitrah]. We recognize our parents, our teachers, law enforcement officers as authority figures and we obey them. These signs [ayat] should be no different to us than the signs that God has put in His Creation to call man to His attention:

هو الذي جعل الشمس ضياء و القمر نورا و قدره منازل لتعلموا عدد السنين و الحساب ما خلق الله ذلك إلا بالحق نفصل اللآيات لقوم يعلمون
إن افي اختلاف الليل النهار و ما خلق الله في السماوات والأرض لأيات لقوم يتقون

“It is He who has made the sun a shining spectacle and the Moon a light, having measured out for them appointed stages so you might come to know the number of years and how to account for time. And God created this in nothing else but pure Truth. Such do We explain the signs to people who have knowledge.”

“Without a doubt, the variances in Night and Day and whatever God creates in the Heavens and in the earth are signs for a people that have taqwa.” [Q: 10:5]

So we can recognize the authority of God by looking at His Creation. When we understand our proper relation with him, we may desist from petty bargaining with One-Who-Has-Everything.

One of the many theories on the meaning of the word “Allah” in the Arabic language is that it is derived from the أداة التعريف or the definite article [ال] and the possessive له meaning “for him”. Combined, this comes to take on the meaning of “all of which belongs to him”

ال+ له = الله

But we should not think that being tested only happens in a “negative” context. Indeed, Allah shows us that we are also tested in what is good:

و إذا أذقنا الناس رحمة من بعد ضراء مستهم إذا لهم مكر في آياتنا, قل الله أسرع مكرا, إن رسلنا يكتبون ما تعملون

“And when We have made mankind to taste some of Our mercy after a calamity has come upon them, Witness!, they take to plotting against Our Signs! Say [Prophet Muhammad], surely Allah is swifter in planning. Always are our messengers writing what it is you do!” [Q: 10:21]

It is pointless to try and barter with One Who Has It All. God is clearly showing His Superiority over man and thus councils us to behave with that knowledge in hand.

We live in an age where many believe themselves to be self-made and self-sufficient people. Imam ‘Alī, may God be pleased with him, gives us some sound words of advice:

من ظن أنه بدون الجهد يصل فهو متمن – و من ظن أنه ببذل الجهد يصل فهو مستغن

“For the one that thinks that he will achieve his goal without effort is a wishful thinker – and for the one that thinks that he shall, by the expending of effort, be successful, is presumptuous.”

Being honest with God has many sides and facets for the human being to analyze and reflect upon. We mustn’t delude ourselves – we need God! And there are so many people out here in our society that need Allah, yet they may not know it.

May Allah make us of the people of sincerity.

The Parable of the Boat

We will see in the below verse how man is always cruising along, happy when the world’s “going his way” but then as soon as he is hit from an unseen vantage point, he cries out:

هو الذي يسيركم في البر البحر – حتى إذا كنتم في الفلك و جرين بهم بريح طيبة و فرحوبها – جائتها ريح عاصف و جاءهم الموج من كل مكان و ظنوا أنهم أحيط بهم – دعوا الله مخلصين له الدين لئن أنجيتنا من هذه لنكونن من الشاكرين

“It is He who makes it easy for you to travel by land or sea – such that you can even travel by boat with a favorable wind and thus they rejoice – then an ill wind turns their way and the waves crash in upon them from all sides and when they think they are overwhelmed – they cry out with all sincerity of the moment to Allah, pleading: ‘If you save us from this catastrophe, we pledge to be from amongst the most thankful of servants’.” [Q: 10:22]

Again – when man needs God [and when does he not need him?], he cries out in anguish, attempting to barter his pitiful obeisance to the One Who Owns Everything. Leave off gainless bargaining and begin a way of showing your obedience and love and respect to your Creator by improving your character – being thankful when your ni’mah is in abundance, not cursing your rizq when it is in short supply, and bearing hardship with patience and understanding. And a final word on good character,  a hadīth related to us from Imam Ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, through Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya’:

أثقل ما يوضع في الميزان يوم القيامة تقوى الله و حسن الخلق

“The heaviest thing to be weighed on the Scale on the Day of Judgment will be taqwa of God [for now, we will term this God-consciousness – I address this term in a later khutbah] and goodness of character.”

We ask Allah to make us from amongst the people of good character and forgive us our sins. Amīn.