Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 10, 2017

Journey of the Muslim: The Smart Guide to Jannah

I recall reading the book Lives of Man by Imam al-Haddad. What sets this book apart is it describes stage by stage what each person will go through from life to death to afterlife to eternity.

In tribute to this unique book, I wanted to create a more detailed, concise and above all practical guide to the Akhira from works that are similar to Lives of Man. Not every Muslim has time to read 800 pages on the akhira and pinpoint the scattered nuggets of guidance. So here I have pointed out each landmark and listed acts that can be done to save oneself from difficulties to be faced in the journey to the Afterlife, through the Afterlife and to reach the highest levels of Jannah. Basically, this is meant to be an action plan for planning your Afterlife. I intended this as an article, but I have printed it off for myself as my own guide.

I reverse what most traditional books do action -> result, I am showing result -> action for various needs we will have at various stages in our Akhira. Much of what I will write will come from writings of al-Ghazali’s Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt wa-ma ba’dahu (Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife) and his Durra al-Fakhira, Imam al-Haddad’s Lives of Man, Imam al-Qurtubi’s Tadhkhirah fi ahwal al-mawt wal akhira (Remembrance of Affairs of Death and Afterlife), Imam Sha’rani’s Lawahiq al-Anwar, Mufti Usmani’s Easy Good Deeds and other notes from various bayans. I will try and cite full ahadith, but many I refer to are well-known and easily found online.

Most of us are interested in the religion for worldly purposes. We want wazaif and duas to solve all our worldly problems, which we will not even recall a year from now. But our otherworldly problems become neglected. And furthermore, do we want Allah? Shaykh Samer al-Nass quoted Sari as-Saqati saying, “Mankind is 10,000 people all who say they love Allah. When the dunya was created 9,000 left Allah, then when Hell was created 900 of the remained 1,000 left Allah, then when Heaven was created 90 of the remaining 100 left Allah. Only 10 remain loving Allah.”

A Life of Tawfiq

When we are in our mother’s wombs, our mother’s spiritual state affects us. When we are raised it must be consuming halal, around Islamic books and masajid. When we are in our teens we sort out our iman and yaqin and begin to experience spiritual experiences. When we are in our old age, from 50 to 70 years old according to Ibn al-Jawzi, grey hairs show up and the hadith says, ‘for someone whose hair turns grey while a Muslim, it becomes light for him.’ (Lives of Man, p. 26)

There is a beautiful hadith Imam al-Haddad mentions in his book on life stages from Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Abi’l Qasim al-Yamani’s 40 hadith on forgiveness of sins via Anas ibn Malik:

The Messenger of God ﷺ, said: ‘For a newborn child until he reaches the age of discretion, his good deeds are written to the credit of his parents, while his bad deeds are written neither against him nor against his parents. Once he reaches the age of discretion and the pen begins to write his acts, God the Exalted issues His command to the two angels who accompany him and guard and counsel him. When he reaches 40 years in Islam, God gives him security from three things: madness, leprosy, vitiligo. When he reaches 50, God makes the reckoning lighter. When he reaches 60, God grants him to revert to Him as pleases Him. When he reaches 70, the inhabitants of Heaven love him. When he reaches 80, God records his good acts and is lenient with his bad ones. When he reaches 90, God forgives him his bygone sins and those to come, allows him to intercede on behalf of the people of his family, and he becomes God’s prisoner on the earth. Then, should he be returned to the worst age, so that after having had knowledge he knows nothing, God continues to record as good acts for him those which he used to do when he was well, and if he commits an evil act it is not recorded. (Lives of Man, p. 39)

Achieving a Pious Death 

Remembering death is a major source of motivation. Imam al-Suddi commented on surah Mulk, v. 2 [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving, “This means which of you recalls death most frequently, and treats it with the greatest fear and attention.”  (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt). Muslims are adamant to worship on the 15th of Sha’ban despite the arguments against doing so because this is the night when the angel of death is informed of whom will die that year.
The Prophetﷺ said: ‘Watch for three signs in the dying man. If his forehead sweats, his eyes shed tears and his lips become dry, then the mercy of Allah has descended upon him. But if he should choke like a man being strangled, and if his colour should turn to red, and if he should foam at the mouth, then this is the punishment of Allah descending upon him.’  (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 25)

The pangs of death are very painful as the hadith in Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt say it is is ‘equal to three hundred blows with a sword’ and each individual artery will experience the pain of death. When the soul leaves the body, it is the size of a bee. (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 25)

Action: Pangs of death can be relieved by recitation of Surah al-Yasin for the dying person as reported in at-Tabarani. But we do not know if this will eliminate all the pain but it may ease the departure of the soul as Imam al-Haddad says. It is important to instruct the dying person to say La ilaha ilallah Muhammadur Rasulullah ﷺ continually at the verge of death.

The only other way to circumvent pangs of death is to achieve the death of the martyr (shaheed) who experiences death with the mere pain of a bee sting. We would love to die as shaheed but there is too much violence in our world today, such that the true mujahid is hard to differentiate from the khawarij. If you live as a minority then you are enjoined to live peacefully as the Muslim emigrants to Abyssinia did under a Christian king Najashi.

However there are other ways to get the rank of shaheed.

A’isha (radiallahu anha) said, “O Messenger of Allah! Shall anyone be resurrected with the martyrs?” The Prophet  said, “Yes. He who remembers death twenty times in the day and the night.” (Lives of Man, p. 31)

Imam al-Sha’rani in Lawahiq al-Anwar has listed many ways of having the death of a shaheed through exercising sabr. All are from the decree of Allah but I have underlined the items that are actions one can do:

  1. Death from plague
  2. Death from drowning
  3. Death from pneumonia
  4. Death from stomach illness
  5. Death from being burnt alive 
  6. Crushed underneath a wall (i.e like a airplane crash)
  7. Die giving birth or before marriage
  8. Death while traveling
  9. Death from suffering tuberculosis 
  10. Death from falling off a transport
  11. Death from epilepsy
  12. Death from fever which is the most beloved of all illnesses because affects the whole body and sabr in whole body.
  13. If killed protecting one’s wealth
  14. If killed protecting one’s self
  15. If killed from protecting one’s family
  16. If killed protecting other people
  17. Death from divine love
  18. Death from an animal of prey
  19. If die while being oppressed and imprisoned
  20. If beaten to death by oppressor
  21. Death from a vicious animal
  22. Death while in search of animal
  23. Live life as mu’addhin
  24. Live life of a trustworthy businessman meaning while operating a business one is amin sadiq – then one is resurrected amongst ambiya
  25. If death from nausea and vomiting on a ship
  26. If raise kids according to Islam and Sunnah and feed them only halal
  27. If make the dua for death 25x everyday Allahumma barik fil mawti wa fima ba’dal mawt – Oh Allah! Bless me at the time of my death and after my death
  28. If regularly Perform the chast / ishraq /duha salah, which is 20 minutes after sunrise. Imam Sha’rani says no evil jinn will come to that person. (the name of this prayer is debated )
  29. If one fast 3 days every month – like the moonlit nights known as ayam al-beed
  30. If one never misses witr while traveling or at home
  31. If revive or act on a Sunnah receive the reward of 100 martyr
  32. If one recites 40 times during an illness La illaha illah subhanaka inni kuntu minal dhalimin
  33. If someone is not a fighter but ties horses for a Muslim army on Muslim border/camps and die during an enemies attack
  34. If recite Surah al-Yasin every night
  35. If one dies in a state of wudhu
  36. If one recites salawat ala an-Nabi ﷺ, at least 100 time daily. One is likely to see Nabi ﷺ just before death and get talqin from Nabi ﷺ
  37. If one makes dua for death as a shaheed 
    1. A man who sincerely asks God for martyrdom shall be granted the status of a martyr even if he dies in his bed. (Muslim 1909, Tirmidhi 1653)
  38. If one dies on a Friday (i.e Thursday maghrib to Friday maghrib). This person is also protected from the punishment of the grave.
  39. If one regularly recites 3 times in the morning  the adkhar, Audhubillahi as-Samiyal Aleem min as-shaytanir rajeem + last 3 ayahs of surah al-Hashr and dies during the day. Also 70,000 angels make istighfar for the person who does this until the evening. 

Furthermore, Imam al-Haddad mentions a hadith, “Someone whose death coincides with the close of Ramadan enters the Garden, and someone whose death coincides with the close of Arafat enters the Garden, and someone whose death coincides with the close of his charity enters the Garden.” (Lives of Man, p. 40)

Internment into the Grave

A janaza is made for the forgiveness of the deceased (mayyit). It is said if 40 people gather for salah, then one of them is definitely a wali. And if the deceased (mayyit) is pious and those praying his janaza are not pious, then those praying for the deceased will be forgiven.

When we enter the grave we are given talqin, the answers to the questions Munkar and Nakir ask us. They will ask us about our Lord, our religion and about the man who was sent amongst us – namely the Prophet ﷺ. The common dhikr said every morning / evening: Raditu billahi rabba wa bil-Islama deen wa Muhammadan Nabiya ﷺ could be an easy response to this. To read more on talqin see here.

Action: Many ulema have said if we recite an abundance of salawat ala al-Nabi ﷺ then he  will come and assist us and give us the talqin himself ﷺ.

When someone dies we should say after Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon and the dua,  Allahumma j’al kitabahu fi illiyin, wa’ktubhu indaka min al-muhsinin, wa’akhlufhu fi ahlihi fil-ghabirin, waghfir lana wa-lahu ya rabb al-alamin – “O Allah! Places his records in Illiyin, record him as a man of excellence (muhsin), provide a successor for him in caring for his family in the dunya and forgive us and him, O Lord of the worlds.” (Lives of Man, p. 41)

Reciting Qur’an over graves and giving the reward to the dead is also encouraged. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal saw during a funeral a blind man who recited the Qur’an by a graveside. Imam Ahmad initially called it an innovation but then changed his mind after hearing of Ibn Umar requesting the same. There are two narrations in Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal encouraging recitation of Surah al-Baqara and in the second narration of al-Fatiha, al-Falaq, an-Nas and al-Ikhlas, “Make the reward of all this over to the people of the cemetery for it will reach them.”  (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p.117)  

Praying for the dead is a good act and it is amongst the wisdoms of why we Muslims are brothers and a community. If we each were to try and enter Jannah on our own merit without help from our Muslim brothers and sisters, we would all fail. But if we all work and assist each other, pray for each other and send each other rewards, then we will be able to succeed. A hadith encourages us to ‘insure’ each other by having a good opinion of each others, “You are God’s witnesses on earth, those whom you praise will be thus.” (Lives of Man, p. 41) A hadith states, ‘Were it not for the living the dead would have been destroyed,’ and ‘My Nation is a nation covered with mercy. Its members enter their graves with sins like unto the mountain, and leave their grave having been forgiven because the living have asked forgiveness for the dead.’ Amongst the most helpful of acts for the dead is reciting and donating 11 times Surah al-Ikhlas. (Lives of Man, p. 45-46).

According to Shaykh Samer al-Nass, the soul is taken very quickly to heaven or turned back from there to spend life in the grave next to its dead body. The life of the grave involves punishment, visitation by people, most slumber in their grave until resurrection, or the righteous who go up to Heaven on birds after 2-3 months or the spirits of the dead are given freedom to roam if they are awliya. Also in the grave one is given a preview of where they are destined to end up – either Heaven or Hell. Not as well known is the fact the dead are informed of the deeds of their living friends and family (Imam al-Ghazali has 3 narrations on this, Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 114-115) just as the Prophet ﷺ  is shown the deeds of the believers and prays for them. The reverse is also possible, the living can see the state of the dead in dreams. It is also encouraged to visit the dead on Fridays but very few Muslims ever practice this.

Hadith: Whosoever visits the grave of one or both of his parents every Friday shall be forgiven his sins, and shall be inscribed as having been faithful to them. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt)

Muhammad ibn Wasi’ was in the habit of visiting graves on Fridays. When asked why he did not postpone his visits until Monday he replied, “I have heard that the dead are aware of those that visit them on Friday, and on the preceding and succeeding days also.” This is because of the excellence of Friday. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 115)

Escaping the Punishment of grave

One’s deeds come back to them in the grave in various forms and they can see into Jannah or glimpse into Jahannam.

Said Ka’b [al-Ahbar], ‘When the righteous bondsman is laid in his tomb he is surrounded by his righteous acts, such as his prayer, his fasting, his pilgrimage, his engagement in the Holy War, and the charity he used to distribute. Then the Angels of Chastisement approach him from the direction of his feet, but are told by Prayer, “Get back from him, you have no authority over him, for upon those [feet] he stood in me at length for the sake of God.” Then they approach him from  the direction of his head, but Fasting says, “You have no authority over him, for in the world’s abode he thirsted at length for the sake of God.” Next they draw near to him from the direction of his trunk, but Pilgrimage and Holy War say, “Get back from him for he exhausted himself and wearied his body when he accomplished the Pilgrimage and the Holy War for the sake of God; no authority do you have over him.” Then they approach him from the direction of his hands, but Charity says, “Back! Retreat from my master, for how many an act of charity issued from those two hands to fall in to the hand of God (Exalted is He!), while he acted only for His sake; no authority, do you have over him.” Then he shall be told, “Rejoice! Good you have been in life and in death!” Next, the Angels of Mercy come, and spread a heavenly cloth and resting-place out for him, and his grave is widened around him for as far as the eye can see. A candle is brought from Heaven, and from it he has light until God resurrects him from his grave.’  (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 134) 

Said Abu Hurayra, “When the deceased is set in his grave he is approached and surrounded by his righteous works. When they draw near him from the direction of his head his recitation of the Qur’an comes forward, and when they approach him from the direction of his feet there comes his standing (in night prayers). And when they approach him from the direction of his hands these speak out, saying, “By God! It was his custom to stretch us forth in charity and in supplication; no authority do you have over him.” When they come to him from the direction of his mouth, his commemoration of God and his fasting appear. Likewise, Prayer and Fortitude stand at one side, and each declares, “As for me, if I behold any shortcoming I will stand by him.” (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 146) 

Action: One must also be careful of urine spilling onto their clothing and careful of slander. I recall Shaykh Abdur-Raheem Limbada saying some ulema who have kashf have reported mortgages are a major cause of punishment in the grave.

Action: Surah al-Mulk which is also called al-Mani’a (the saver) every night wards of the punishment of the grave.

Action: Reciting the ayah La ilaha ilallah al-Malik al-Haqq al-Mubeen 100 times a day also protects from punishment of the grave and provides rizq, according to a hadith in ad-Daylami mentioned by Imam al-Sha’rani.

Action: Imam Ibn al-Qayyim has said doing hisab (accounting all of one’s days’ actions) before sleeping and making tawba for one’s sins makes one more likely to die in a state of repentance.

ActionImam Sha’rani also mentions salah without wudhu and walking by an oppressed person (madhlum) and not helping them leads to punishment of the grave. 

Also as stated previously, the person who dies on Thursday night/Friday is also protected from the punishment of the grave in addition to being resurrected with the signs of a shaheed.

Resurrection

Imam al-Haddad says, resurrection will occur after 2 trumpet blasts from Israfil. We will be re-assembled from the coccyx bone. The tip of it is like a seed for the human being and humans will be recreated from it due to a divine rain called al-Hayawan (which I imagine is probably much like the fabled Elixir of Eternal youth, as we will live eternally henceforth, in bliss or in agony). Imam al-Haddad mentions people will come accompanied by or transmogrified by their sins, as blinded, as animals, chewing their tongues, or amputated. (Lives of Man, p. 57) Everybody will be resurrected naked but Imam Ghazali mentions some hadith that state, “Take great care in clothing your dead, for my community will be raised in their shrouds, while the rest of the nations are naked.” (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 76)

How to prepare for Yawm al-Qiyamah & Waiting on the Plains of Mahshar

Yawm al-Qiyama has upward of 80 names as listed by Imam al-Ghazali. The Earth will be transformed into a new land which Muslims call the Plains of Mahshar or the Concourse. The heavens, sun, moon, and star will vanish. The Plains of Mahshar is said to be in Syria and will be off-white colour like pure flour for 300 years to 50,000 years. Some say for the righteous it will be shortened to the length of time between between noon and afternoon salat, or time to pray the fardh salat (Musnad Ahmad III:75; Lives of Man, p. 61) but for the sinners it will be 50,000 years long. Some people will ride, some will walk and some will walk on their faces (which has different interpretations). (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p.179) One hadith says believers will ride camels that represent their deeds, where 2 to 10 people will be on a camel sharing their ride due to a shortage of good deeds journeying to their judgment. The sun will be 1 mile from our head and we will sweat profusely, up to our ankles or legs or chest or head and seek shade.

Action: The hadith of those 7 individual who will be in the shade of Allah on Yawm al-Qiyama mentioned in al-Bukhari and al-Muslim:

  1. a just ruler;
  2. a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah;
    1. Ibn al-Jawzi says youth is from 15 to 35 years old so take heart if you are under 35.
  3. a man whose heart is attached to the mosques;
  4. two men who love each other for Allah’s sake, meeting for that and parting upon that;
  5. a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position [for illegal intercourse], but be says: ‘I fear Allah’;
  6. a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his justify hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity;
  7. and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.

Action: “Those who attend the mosque at dark (i.e. Isha & Fajr) will find a shade on the Day of Judgment when no shade is to be found.” (Ibn Majah)

Action: “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” (al-Tirmidhi)

Action: “If anyone would like Allah to save him from the hardships of the Day of Resurrection, he should give more time to his debtor who is short of money, or remit his debt altogether.” (Sahih al-Muslim)

Action:  “He who brings to life the nights of the two Eids and the night of mid-Sha’ban, his heart will not die on the day when hearts shall die.” (al-Mundhiri)

Action: Imam al-Ghazali says those known for repentance like Fudayl ibn Iyad will have light perspiration or sweat up to their ankles.  (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 88)

Action: Imam al-Ghazali says that any sweat not spent in some effort for God’s sake like the sweating in Hajj, fasting, tahajjud, fulfilling the needs of Muslims would make one perspire more and sweating from obedience will make this day easier. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 181) 

Hadith also mention children who died before puberty will give their Muslim parents water to drink during this heat.

Hisab (Accounting) by Allah Subhana wa ta’ala

Once the Judgment will begin, Allah will judge our life taking account our sins, good deeds and each of our blessings as mentioned in the tafsir of surah al-Takathur. This will not be easy. Some say it will happen very quickly in 24 hours. Imam al-Awza’i says we will see our whole life before us, which sounds much like a movie. Hasan al-Basri says our deeds will be hung around our necks. The Qur’an tell us our limbs will bear testimony to our actions. More narrations speak to Scales weighing deeds and Scrolls detailing one’s life and whether one receives the Scrolls in his right hand or left hand. Surah al-Inshiqaq v. 7-8 tells us those who are given their scrolls in their right hand are given an easy reckoning.

We will be asked particularly 4 questions relating to – 1) lifespan and how it was spent, 2) youth and how it was spent, 3) where we earned our money, how it was spent and 4) what we did with our religious knowledge. This is congruent to the hadith in Bukhari and Muslim of the womb where the angel writes 4 things, the child’s apportioned provision, his lifespan, his deed and whether he will end up as wretched or joyful.

And as they teach us at every masjid, our prayers (salah) will be the first deed we will be questioned about. Imam Sha’rani mentions expenditure on your family will be the first deed weighed on the Scales. The weighing will not be of solely quantity of deeds however. Imam al-Qurtubi mentions the words of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri who said, “Though some people will have come with deeds which are enormous as Mount Tihama, they will still be of no weight in the Balance.” (Tadhkhira, p. 108) Thus the utter importance of ikhlas. Besides ikhlas is a connection and closeness to Rasulullah ﷺ  because there is a saying that a single sajda of one sahabi is more weighty in the sight of Allah than the amal of the whole ummah for 950 years continuously.

Being called to account for all the blessings we enjoyed by the Omnipotent and All-Knowing poses a big problem, as even the Qur’an says, we cannot even enumerate the blessings of Allah. (Surah Nahl, v. 18)  How then will we enumerate and analyze and review our own selves in our blessings we experienced? The more blessings we experienced the more we will be called to account for them. This is why the poor are said to be more virtuous in the Next world because they have little to account for. Those with more deeds will find ease but those with equal good deeds and bad deeds will stand on A’raf between Jannah and Jahannam until Allah’s Mercy comes to them and they enter Jannah.

Here are some more ways to pass this stage.

Action: There is a hadith mentioned by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa on the meaning of Yawm al-Din, “Do, and as you do, you will be treated,” which means if you do not take people to account, pointing out their good actions and bad actions, then Allah will, insha’Allah, not take you to account.

Action: The best dua to make for an easy hisab is the one narrated in al-Hakim Allahumma hasibni hisabun yasira and Imam Malik’s favorite dua Allahumma sattar awrati wa man rawati so that Allah edits your book of deeds and covers your sins and does not expose them to everybody on the Day of Judgment.

Action: “Whosoever conceals the faults of a believer shall have his own faults concealed by God on the Day of Arising.” (Ibn Majah)

Action: The interceding surahs mentioned in the ahadith will be of great aid, namely surah as-Sajda, surah al-Mulk, surah al-Baqara and surah Ale-Imran. Likewise, reciting Qur’an at night and fasting can intercede. They will inshaAllah act as your lawyers and advocates in the Divine Court as their intercession is approved by Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

Action: Avoid positions of leadership because their accounting will take longer than if you had no leadership. Abdullah Ibn Umar saw his father Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab in a dream 12 years after his death and he said, “My accounting has just finished now (i.e. after 12 years). If it weren’t for Allah’s Mercy the throne of Umar would have collapsed (i.e been dire).”

What to do for Hisab (Reckoning) by Muslims

At this stage or after passing the Sirat, we will also have to account for injustices we inflicted upon fellow believers.

Abu Sa’id al Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: “When the believers pass safely over (the bridge across) Hell, they will be stopped at a bridge between Hell and Paradise where they will retaliate against one another for the injustices done among them in the world, and when they are purified of all their sins, they will be admitted to Paradise. By Him in Whose hands the life of Muhammadﷺ is, everybody will recognize his dwelling in Paradise better than he recognizes his dwelling in this world.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Fath Al-Bari)

At this point, one’s good deeds will go to the one they wronged as compensation until one runs out of good deeds to offset. Once that happens then the person takes on the sins of the person they wronged as compensation until they are cast into Jahannam for expiation. How can one get around this scenario?

Action: Fasting is one of the ways to avoid this for Imam Sufyan ibn Uyaynah says commenting on the hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, “Fasting is Mine and I will reward it,” and the hadith in Sahih al-Muslim “All the good deeds of the son of Adam are multiplied (10 times to 700 times), except for fasting,” that “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah the Almighty will take His slave to account and compensate for his wrongdoings from his deeds till nothing remains except fasting. Then, Allah will settle on the slave’s behalf the rest of his wrongdoings and admit the slave to Paradise because of fasting.” Habib Umar bin Hafiz explains that this means the if the fast was accepted by Allah, then He will place it in His protection such that even if on the Day of Judgment this person has due upon himself from others then Allah will tell them to take from his other good deeds but not from the accepted fast because “it is Mine.” Then Allah will assign a reward value to the fasting until it compensates the believers and enters them into Jannah.

Action: Another way Imam al-Ghazali mentions to get around this is to keep many good deeds secret so none will know of them on the Day of Judgment. In doing secret deeds, one may become beloved to Allah and the wrongs of others may be turned aside. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 203)

Action: If you find yourself destined to Jahannam, then remember the story of the man who on Yawm al-Qiyama will have equal good deeds and bad deeds and need only one good deed. A man will say to him, “I am going to Jahannam anyways, so take this good deed I have.” Because of that Allah will forgive them both and send them to Jannah. Another narration in al-Hakim mentions 2 believers, one whom will retaliate on another believer but no good deeds remain so he says let him take my burden (of sins). Allah ta’ala then shows him what Jannah looks like and says it belongs to the one who pays its price which is something this believer possesses. “Your forgiveness of your brother,” then they both enter Jannah and this made Rasulullahﷺ laugh and he recited surah 8, v.1. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 203) Likewise a similar narration is mentioned in Durra al-Fakhira regarding a son who said uff to his father and is destined to Hellfire, but his father is also destined to Hellfire so he asks Allah to take on his fathers sins and they are bought admitted to Jannah due to this Afterlife act of filial piety.

Achieving No Hisab (Reckoning) 

There are famous hadith of the 70,000 (or more) who will enter Jannah without reckoning (hisab) through the Right Hand Gate (al-Ayman). “… Allah Says to the Prophetﷺ, “O Muhammad! Let those of your followers who have no accounts, enter through the gate of al-Ayman, (a gate of the gates of Paradise that lies on the right); and they will share the other gates with the people.” (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 214) These people are the only ones who will enter through this gate and they will enter Jannah first. They are described as not cauterising (Shah Waliullah says cauterising drives away angels), don’t use charms (ruqya), or take omens from birds (augury) and put their trust in Allah. Imam al-Haddad says these are the sabiqun. Ukasha ibn Mahsin was a Sahabi who was one of them because he asked Rasulullah ﷺ to make dua to be one of them. Ukasha was also known to have kissed the blessed Seal of the Prophet ﷺ and was given a stick that the Prophetﷺ transformed into a sword for battle. Another hadith mentions the 70,000 was multiplied so each one was given another 70,000 totalling in 4.9 billion who enter Jannah without reckoning, “O my Lord, and shall my nation reach such a multitude? and He (Allah subhana wa ta’ala) replied, “I shall make up the number for you with the nomads.” (Tabarani, Mujam al-Awsat; al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi 84; see Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 259)

Action: Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa mentions the Hamadun, those who praise Allah in every situation are from amongst these 70,000. I believe he may have taken this from Imam al-Ghazali who says, “Another party is composed of those with not a single transgression to their discredit. A voice calls out, saying, ‘Let those who did praise God abundantly in every state arise!’ and they stand up and hasten to Heaven. Then this is done with regard to the people who used to stand in the night vigil (tahajjud) and then with those whom no worldly commerce or sale distracted from the remembrance of God! A voice calls out to them saying, ‘Joy, never to be followed by any sorrow!'” The other groups Imam al-Ghazali then lists are those who had no good deeds at all and those with mixed good deeds and bad deeds. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 195) Imam al-Qurtubi also mentions something similar attributing it Ibn Abbas via Ibn al-Mubarak: the groups who advance to Paradise were those who praised Allah at all times, those who made tahajjud and spent charity, and those who were not distracted by trade and commerce from the dhikr of Allah and regular prayer and zakat. (Tadhkira, p.140-141)

Action: Another way of entering with reckoning Imam al-Ghazali mentions is to do hisab of one’s sins and righting wrongs done to others, “He should set their hearts at rest so that when he dies not a single injustice or obligation will remain to his discredit. Such a man will enter Heaven without reckoning.”

Action: There is another hadith in Tirmidhi that mentions the Prophet ﷺ will shake the door-rings of Heaven and enter with the poverty-stricken believers, which suggests the poor will be ahead of the rich in entering Jannah first (i.e without account). Another hadith mentions the first to reach the Hawd (the Pool) will be the ‘poor amongst the Muhajirun who will be wild-haired, dusty clothed and do not marry women of pleasure and no doors ever open for them.’ (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 218)

Action: Abu Hurayra said the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever meets the expense of a couple’s marriage from his own wealth for the sake of God shall be summoned from every gate of Heaven…” (Bukhari and Muslim, Zakat chapter; Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 235) And we can hope that Ayman is not excluded from this hadith.

Action: Jarir ibn Abdullah said, “The man whose good deeds outweigh his sins on the Day of Arising shall enter Heaven without reckoning. The man whose good deeds match his sins shall receive a lenient judgment, and shall then enter Heaven. The Intercession of Allah’s Apostle ﷺ is only for the man that ruined himself and burdened his back.” (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 255)

How to Cross the Sirat

In order to enter Jannah one will need to cross the Sirat (bridge) over Jahannam. On this razor sharp bridge will be huge thorns that will trip one up and cut them until they plunge into Jahannam. The first to cross after the Prophet ﷺ will be the poor amongst the Muhajirun.

 

What the sa’adan thorns on the Sirat will look like according to the hadith

 

Some narrations suggest there being 2 Sirats – the other Sirat passed by each Nabi (from our Nabi ﷺ until Nuh) and their ummah, of which disbelievers of their ummahs will be made blind and plunge into Hellfire then the Prophets will go with their righteous with angels guiding them until they reach the Throne of Allah. Other narrations from Imam al-Qurtubi also mention al-Aqaba as a steep mountain between paradise and hell that will be crossed through good deeds as described in surah al-Balad.

Crossing the Sirat depends on everybody’s light (nur). A narration in al-Hakim says Allah will grant the believers a light in proportion to their works, some like a mountain, some like a date-palm, to the smallest which is light only his big toe, which goes out and come back to light. The light is used in the darkness to cross the Sirat and see the way forward. Some will cross the Sirat in the twinkling of an eye; some like lightning, a falling star, a running horse or walking. The one with the light in his big toe will go crawling on his face and hands and feet until he reaches the end of the Sirat and praises Allah. 

From the things I have heard ulema say that will help in crossing the Sirat are the following:

Action: Abundant salawat ala al-Nabi will help pass Sirat quickly and rescue those who slip as if a helping hand.

Action: Love of mosques will aid on passing the Sirat according to Imam al-Sha’rani.

Action: Imam al-Haddad mentions trustworthiness and kinship bond (silat ar-rahm) will stand by the Bridge. (Lives of Man, p. 63)

Action: The dua in surah at-Tahrim, v. 8 is what those who enter Jannah will recite, asking Allah for forgiveness and to perfect their light: Rabbana atmim lana nurana waghfirlana inaka ala kulli shayin qadir.

Action: A hadith in ad-Daylami reports you will not slip on the Sirat if you love Ahl al-Bayt.

Action: Help the oppressed: “Whoever walks with one who has been wronged until he establishes his rights, Allah will make his feet firm on the Sirat on the Day when feet slip.” (Ibn Abi’l-Dunya)

Amal and Akhira

I used to find it confusing as to what specifically entails entry into Jannah and salvation from Jahannam. I found this saying in one of Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf’s talks and it all made sense:

“Being saved from Jahannam is from Allah’s forgiveness, entry into Jannah is from Allah’s Mercy, and your place and rank in Jannah is from your good deeds.” ~Sufyan at-Thawri

So you should think in this way

  • Allah’s Forgiveness (maghfira) = Freedom from Jahannam
  • Allah’s Mercy (rahma) = Entry into Jannah
  • Good deeds (amal) = Assigned rank in Jannah

So for example, hadith that being in the first row in salah or in eating suhur are rewarded with mercy, which is connected to entry to Jannah. Hadith about forgiven (minor) sins for reciting certain dua / adhkar entail with them hope of freedom from Jahannam.

“The people of heaven and the people of hell all do good things. The question is who avoids bad things.”
—Ibn al-Qayyim 

The most invaluable thing we can have before Allah is not our deeds, but our absence of sins. Imam al-Qurtubi says of the al-bulh, who will be the majority of people of Jannah, they are those who don’t know sin. In our age, we know many sins even if we don’t do them.

The hadith of kafarat darajat is also relevant here (see video below).

Action: Kafarat (expiation of sins): wudhu completed beyond the limit (cold night), walking to jama’at prayer and wait for one salah after another.

Action: Darajat (ascending ranks): feed people, spread salam and do tahajjud prayers.

This grows more complicated because Allah’s forgiveness manifests differently in what he does with our sins, even to the extent of replacing our sins with good deeds. The first 3 levels of forgiveness are forgiving sins but not forgetting them. Allah puts a veil between sins and Him: 1) al-Ghaffir = hide sins from humans in this world; 2) al-Ghaffur = hide sins from angels, forgive regardless of size, shield from consequences of sin, covers sins in Hereafter; 3) al-Ghaffar = continually forgiving over and over; 4) al-Afuww = forgive bad deeds, obliterates them and forget bad deeds (erases from memory); 5) al-Haleem = transform bad deeds into good deeds in the Hereafter.  (See this video)

Escaping Jahannam

According to Ibn Abbas, Jahannam will be created by oceans boiling until its converted to fire, then the sun and moon will be joined together and thrown into Hell which will become the greater Jahannam of Allah. (Tadhkira, p. 151). Jahannam will have a mountain called Yahmum (Black Smoke) which will be the only source shade in Jahannam. There will be a valley in Hell called Mawbiq or it will be a river of melting fire surrounded by snakes at its edges or a valley of pus and blood that will separate the people of disbelief and people of faith in Jahannam. Other valleys in Jahannam will be Wa’il where those who always start evil reside and Ghayya and Bols where the arrogant will drink the liquid discharge of the dwellers of Hell and al-Aqaba. (Tadhkira, p. 161-2) Some of the surprising people of Hellfire will be the ostentatious reciters of Qur’an, the martyrs who sought fame, a man who exhorted to good but never did the good deeds and exhorted to avoid sins but committed sins.

The hadith narrations and teaching grow more numerous when it comes to ways to be saved from Jahannam and ways to enter Jannah. All Muslims will be granted entry into Jannah wa la bada heen, even if after a while spent in Jahannam being purified of their sins. The Muslims that enter Jahannam experience the least punishment like the burning of coal on their feet or sandals of fire by which their brains will boil. Eventually, those who remembered Allah or feared Him even once will be rescued by the Intercession (shafa’a) of the Prophet ﷺ. Those believers with a dinar or a half-dinar or even an ant’s weight of good will be rescued. After angels, prophets and believers intercede, Allah Himself will intercede and will take up ‘a handful’ (and only Allah knows what a ‘handful’ with Him is) of those believers who never did one good deed and they are rescued brought back from being cinders to Heaven. This will happen because people of other faiths will take the place of the Muslims rescued from Hellfire.

However, the munafiqin, the Muslim who professed Islam but are not Muslim, are in the lowest parts of Jahannam (daark al-asfalin). It is important to note, Allah doesn’t punish in Jahannam, but the angels punish and this is from Allah’s Mercy. The ulema say if Allah were to punish the people of Jahannam then the punishment would be even worse and unrestricted. To understand the nature of Jahannam, ulema say the nafs is a branch of Jahannam, and like Jahannam, it is never satisfied and ultimately the blameworthy nafs returns to Jahannam. The only thing that satisfies Jahannam is the dhikr of Allah and likewise the only thing that satisfies the nafs is dhikr.

In Jahannam bodies will be enlarged to cause more painful punishment. Sins will become forms and punishments for the denizens of Hell. There will be a tree named Zaqqum which will provide torturous food to the denizens of Hell. Their are many sins mentioned in relation to Jahannam that are particularly damning for believers. Amongst the ones singled out in hadith are: pride, killing someone who Muslims have a treaty with, severing the bonds of kinship with ones relatives, and failing to pay zakat is mentioned as a particularly grievous punishment. It is related by Imam al-Zarqani that there will be individuals who memorized the Qur’an but will enter Hellfire. Before they enter it, Allah will remove any memory they had of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. Then Jibril will come and remind them of his name, and when they invoke it the fire will cease to touch them.

Saving Actions:

  1. Ibn Abbas (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “(There are) two eyes that the Fire will never touch, the eye that wept from fear of Allah and the eye that stood guard in the night in Allah’s path.”
  2. Asking for protection from Jahannam 3 times Allahumma ajirni minan-nar and be granted Jannah Allahumma nasaluka al-Jannah then Jannah and Jahannam intercede and ask Allah for the same for you. (Tirmidhi, Tadhkira, p. 144).
  3. I’tikaaf creates 7 mountains and ditches between a person and Jahannam the distance of heaven and earth.
  4. Fast for one day for Allah’s sake is separated from Jahannam by a journey of 70 years. (Tirmidhi, Tadhkira, p. 146).
  5. If you reach 70 years of life as a Muslm with grey hairs then you are saved from Jahannam
  6. Ramadhan: Abu Saeed al-Khudree (ra) relates that Rasulullah ﷺ said: “During each day and night of Ramadhan, Allah sets free many people from Jahannam, and during each day and night, at least one dua for every Muslim is certainly accepted.” (al-Bazzar, Musnad Ahmad). Another hadith says there is no hour of Ramadhan, except Allah frees 6,000 people from hellfire (ie 24 hour). 
  7. The Amal of Hajj are associated with forgiveness, which is associated in turn with salvation from Hellfire.
  8. “He who prays in congregation from start to finish for forty days is given two titles of privilege. The first is salvation from hell. The second is distancing himself/herself from hypocrisy.” (Muslim, Tirmidhi)
  9. There is a hadith in al-Tirmidhi’s chapter on Jahannam, about two people who will be removed from Jahannam but then be ordered to return to Jahannam. One of them says to Allah, “I had feared the evil consequence of sin, and wished never again to expose myself to Your Displeasure.” The other says to Allah, “My good opinion of You convinced me that You would never send me back after having delivered me.” And then Allah orders them to be taken to Jannah.

Stories of those who were Saved

There are various reports in Imam al-Ghazali’s Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt (p.159-169) of the righteous who appear in dreams and inform of what deeds saved them. I want to list them:

  1. Yusuf ibn al-Husayn (disciple of Dhun-Nun al-Misri) was forgiven because he did not mingle seriousness with jest (this could be a vague description of the seriousness of his ibada).
  2. Abd Allah al-Zarrad (a early Baghdadi muhaddith) was forgiveness for every sin he confessed and sweated for the one sin he didn’t confess.
  3. Sufyan ibn Uyayna (the famous muhaddith) saw one of his brethren who said Allah forgave him for every sin for which he implored forgiveness but did not forgive those he did not ask forgiveness for.
  4. Zurara ibn Abi Awfa (qadhi and muhaddith of Basra who is said to have died leading salat out of fear from an ayah of Qur’an) said in a dream satisfaction (al-rid’a) and brief hopes proved best for his Afterlife.
  5. Zubayda (wife of Harun al-Rashid who built the road from Iraq to Mecca and Madina) was seen in a dream and was saved because of the reward only for the intention she had in building the road.
  6. Imam al-Junayd in a dream said, “Those allusions (isharat) have perished and htose expressions have passed away; I had obtained nothing but two rakas which it had been my custom to pray at night.” Its worth mentioning Imam al-Junayd would pray at least 150 nawafil rakat a day.
  7. Being grief-stricken is mentioned as being a sign of piety by Abu Bakr al-Kattani and the second highest ranks in Jannah by al-Awza’i in a dream.
  8. Sufyan al-Thawri (one of the 8 ascetics of the Tabi’in) was seen flying from tree to tree by Sufyan ibn Uyayna in a dream and advised him to reduce the number of dealings with people. In another dream he was seen reciting poetry on his tahajjud prayer and crying in the night as a cause of his high rank. Another narration says he attained his rank through scrupulousness and there were others like Ali ibn Asim (the muhaddith) who were even higher in rank than him, “He can scarcely be seen, save in the way one might see a traveling star.”
  9. Imam Malik was forgiven because of words Uthman ibn Affan would say when he saw a funeral, “Glory be to the Alive, Who perishes not!”
  10. Shibli (disciple of Imam Junayd) despaired after Allah disputed with him and then he encompassed him in His Mercy.
  11. Sahl al-Su’luki (Shafi’i jurist and teacher of al-Hakim) was seen in a dream and said his spiritual states did not save him, but he was forgiven because of his answering certain questions of the common Muslims.
  12. Waraqa ibn Bishr al-Hadrami was seen in a dream and said, “Weeping from the fear of God” was the most valuable action.
  13. Utba al-Ghulam (an ascetic and colleague of Hasan al-Basri) entered Heaven because of a prayer he wrote that was kept in the house of one of his companions.
  14. Yahya ibn Akhtham al-Qadi was seen in a dream and he said, I said to Allah, “My God and my Lord! Mu’ammar told me from al-Zuhri from Urwa from Aisha who was told it from the Prophet ﷺ from Jibril and from You, “I am reluctant to punish an old person who has matured in Islam.” Then Allah smiled and pardoned him.  (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 28)
  15. Ibn Nubata was also seen in a dream and he was eloquent. He praised Allah eloquently and was forgiven. (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 30)
  16. Mansur ibn Ammar was also seen in a dream. “What have you brought to Me O Mansur?” I replied, “360 pilgrimages.” Allah replied, “I do not accept any of them.” Likewise occurred with his 360 recitations of Qur’an and 60 years of fasting. “What have you brought to me, O Mansur?” I then replied, ‘I have brought to You Yourself!’ And He said to me, Glory be to Him, ‘Now you have come unto Me. Go, for I forgive you.'” (Durra al-Fakhira, p. 31)

It is worth pondering how such pious people struggled to be saved in the Akhira and how it was diverse unexpected and even minuscule acts of righteousness that saved them. It may also be these were the Muslims of the early times who were evaluated more harshly then the Muslims of latter times.

Entry into Jannah

In total, 30 sahabas were guaranteed Jannah by Rasulullah ﷺ. To understand Jannah in any way in this world is impossible. Shaykh Hamza Maqbul describes this world as static on a television screen and the next world will be like HD (Hi-Definition). The writer Hasan Le Gai Eaton says in this world we have 5 senses, but in the next world we may have 50 or 500 senses.

Most of the people of Jannah are described in the Qur’an as having Qalbun saleem which means sincere clean hearts, free of pride, jealousy and hatred. This is supported by hadith that describe people of Jannah as having hearts like those of birds (Sahih Muslim) which means their hearts are overwhelmed by fear of Allah. Other ahadith mention the majority of people of Jannah being al-bulh, which Imam al-Qurtubi interprets as simple people who always entertain good thoughts about others or who don’t know sin.

There are at least 40 actions by which one can enter Jannah and Shaykh al-Ghumari has explained them in his book Tamam al-Minnah bibayan al-Khisal al-Mujibah li al-Jannah (partial text translation). There was a SeekersHub course taught on these but it has since vanished. I did, however, manage to save a list of the chapters of this book / lesson plan as it is very useful. I will list them briefly. 

  1. The loaning of a doe for her milk
  2. Removing that which is harmful from the road
  3. Giving drink to an animal
  4. Visiting the ill
  5. Visiting a Muslim brother
  6. Commanding with right and forbidding from evil
  7. Advising the financially inapt (yaṣna‘ liakhraq)
  8. Assisting the oppressed
  9. Responding to a greeting
  10. Following a janazah
  11. Accepting an invitation
  12. Responding to one who sneezes
  13. Starting the greeting
  14. Giving advice
  15. Removing harm from the Masjid
  16. Smiling to the face of a Muslim
  17. Guiding one who is lost
  18. Guiding one with weak eyesight
  19. Prohibiting from wrong
  20. Sharing water
  21. Raising your voice so that one with a hearing deficiency may hear
  22. Guiding the blind
  23. Directing one in need towards his need
  24. Aiding the weak
  25. Assisting someone to mount his animal
  26. Reconciling between two people
  27. Beautiful speech
  28. Articulating the intention of the inarticulate
  29. Giving water to drink
  30. Providing additional cordage to one inadequately supplied
  31. Gifting someone a shoelace
  32. Comforting one experiencing grief
  33. Being easy in trade and judgment
  34. Granting respite to your debtor
  35. Overlooking minor shortages in payment
  36. Covering the faults of a believer
  37. Consoling a Muslim male or female
  38. The hadith of greeting, feeding, joining family ties & performing the tahajjud prayer
  39. The hadith of setting free a slave, lending of a doe for her milk, reconnecting severed family ties, feeding the needy, commanding with good and prohibiting from evil and controlling the tongue.
  40. The hadith of Abu Bakr who combined between fasting, feeding the poor, following a funeral and visiting the ill all in one day, or in another narration combining between visiting the ill, attending a funeral, fasting, attending the Friday congregation and setting free a slave in a day.
  41. Praying in a remote venue
  42. Eating halal, following a path of righteousness, refraining from harming anyone.
  43. The 5 pillars worshiping Allah, establishing prayer, paying zakah, fasting Ramadan and joining family ties.
  44. Praying the 5 obligatory prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan, paying zakah, abstaining from the seven major sins and in a narration 9 major sins.
  45. Preserving your prayer, zakah, trust, private parts, stomach and tongue.
  46. Building a masjid
  47. A just ruler, a soft-natured and compassionate individual towards all relatives and Muslims and a chaste individual that provides for his family.
  48. Voluntary calling the Adhan for 12 years
  49. Calling Adhan with conviction.
  50. Responding to the Adhan.
  51. The prayer after wudhu (salat al-wudhu)
  52. Attending prayer at the masjid in the early hours of morning and evening.
  53. Praying 12 raka’at of the rawatib (supererogatory prayers before and after the obligatory prayers)
  54. Praying Fajr and Asr (al-Bardan)
  55. Loving Surah al-Ikhlas
  56. Recitation of the master formula of seeking forgiveness (sayyid al-istighfar)
  57. Recitation of a specific prayers before sleeping and when waking up.

There are more and more ways to enter Jannah I have in my notes:

  1. Man kala la illaha illalah dakhala al-jannah – “Whoever says la illaha illalah will go to Jannah.” 
    1. Wahb bin Munabbih was once asked, “Is not La ilaha illa’llah the key to the Garden?” “Yes indeed,” he replied. “However, every key must have teeth to be able to open the door. Among these teeth are a tongue free of lying and backbiting; a humble heart free of envy, treachery, and forbidden and dubious things; and limbs engaged in service and pure from sins.”
    2. “Anyone who says La ilaha illa’llah with sincere single-heartedness shall enter the Garden.” He was asked, “O Messenger of God, what does sincere single-heartedness consist of?” And he answered, “It restrains him from the things which God has forbidden.”
  2. “The Garden is the obligatory reward of anyone at whose hands someone becomes a Muslim.” (Tabarani in Kabir (786); Awsat (3456); Saghir (439))
  3. A parent patiently bearing a child’s death
    1. “Whoever buries three children, Allah will forbid the (Hell) Fire for him.” (Sahih, Tabarani in Al-Kabeer)
    2. “There are no two Muslim parents whose three children die before reaching puberty except that Allah will enter them into Paradise due to His mercy to the children. It will be said to them, ‘Enter the Paradise,’ so they will say, ‘Not until our parents enter first.’ It will be said, ‘Enter the Paradise you and your parents.’ (Musnad Ahmad and An-Nasa’i)
    3. “Whoever remains content and patient after the death of three of his offspring will enter Jannah.” A woman said, “What about two?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “And two.” (Sahih, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban)
    4. Another hadith mentions they will hold their parents garment and follow their parents until they enter Jannah (Sahih Muslim; Tadhkira, p. 231-2)
    5. “The woman who suffers from post-natal bleeding will have her child dragging her on the Day of Judgment to Paradise.” (Musnad Abu Dawud Tayalisi; Tadhkira, p.232)
    6. The Prophet ﷺ told a man from the Ansar about his son who had just died, “Won’t you be satisfied when you come to any of the gates of Paradise and find him there to open it for you?” His family asked: “To him alone or to all of us?” The Prophet ﷺ answered, “To all of you.” (Abu Dawud Tayalisi; Tadhkira, p.232)
  4. Whoever says: “I am pleased with Allah as my Rabb, and with Islam as my Deen, and with Muhammad ﷺ as my Prophet, Jannah would be mandatory for him. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  5. “Whoever asks Allah for Jannah three times, Jannah will say: “O Allah, enter him into Jannah.”’ (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)
  6. “Allah has Ninety Nine Names, one hundred minus one, and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Jannah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
  7. “Whoever takes a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Jannah.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)
  8. “Anyone whose soul leaves his body and he is free of three things, will enter Jannah: Arrogance, stealing from the spoils of war, and debt.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
  9. “The performance of Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous Umrah; and the reward of Hajj Mabrur (i.e., one accepted) is nothing but Jannah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
  10. “A body that has been nourished through the unlawful will not enter into Paradise” (Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman).

Those who harm their neighbors will be barred from Jannah. Jannah is also said to be the reward for a father who loves the name Muhammad ﷺ and names his son Muhammad ﷺ. The son too will be in Jannah. Jannah is also said to be the reward of someone who does the ghusl for 7 Muslim corpses. Jannah is also said to be the reward for those who are immersed in the majalis of dhikr. Salat al-awwabin gives one a palace in Jannah, tasbihat for trees in Jannah and beginning something good to be given Tubba in Jannah.

The believers enter Jannah through separate Gates like different border points, like ports of entry, that will be very far apart. They will enter through that gate associated with the deed they practiced most upon. Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani has said it may be that they enter through another set of Gates after entering through the main gate. 8 gates of Jannah are well-known and Imam al-Qurtubi mentions a hadith that says there could be as many as 16 gates (Tadhkira, p.195).

These are the gates I have come across:

  1. Bab as-salat (those who prayed much)
  2. Bab al-jihad (those who fought for sake of Allah)
  3. Bad al-sadaqa (charitable)
  4. Bab al-rayyan (those who fasted much)
  5. Bab al-hajj (those who did much hajj)
  6. Bab al-kadhimeenal ghayz wa’l afina-nas (for those who swallow their anger and pardoned people)
  7. Bab al-ayman (gate of the right-hand for those who enter Jannah without reckoning (hisab) and can enter through any gate)
  8. Bab al-dhikr (those who do excessive dhikr)
  9. Bab al-farrah (gate of happiness for those who make children happy that Habib al-Kazim mentioned)
  10. Bab al-infaaq (a gate Habib al-Kazim mentioned for charity)
  11. Bab as-surur (gate of joy, for guiding people and acts that brought Joy to Allah, Awliya and Nabi ﷺ that Habib al-Kazim mentioned)
  12. Bab ar-rayhan (another gate Habib al-Kazim mentioned, I believe, in connection to women)

I have seen online other names of Gates, namely Bab al-Ilm (the learned), Bab al-Razeen (satisfied persons), and Bab al-Tawba (repentant) but I don’t know the source of that information. Bab al-Tawba (repentance) however seems to be likely for those who have very little good deeds except for repentance. Another hadith says the ‘widest gate to presence of Allah is gate of good suspicion of Allah and narrowest of gate to presence of Allah is bad suspicion of Allah.’

Promoting your Position in Jannah

If we are blessed to enter Jannah (may Allah grant us all Jannah) we will have gone through the punishment of the grave for eons, the Resurrection, standing on the Mahshar for 50,000 years, the hisab by Allah and by the Muslims and passing the Sirat, perhaps even spending some purgatory time in Jahannam. At this point the believer will have had much of his good deeds depleted and may barely enter Jannah, so don’t underestimate how hard it can be to get into Jannah!

Their are at least 3 duas the believers will say when they enter Jannah mentioned in the Qur’an, namely those in surah 7:43, 35:34-35 and 39:74.

Imam Sha’rani says you enter Jannah in the order you came to salat al-Jumuah. And when you see Allah on Fridays in Jannah you will be closest to Him based on how early you came to Jumuah prayer. So you want to enter Jannah sooner rather than later. But most Friday prayers are early filled even up to 2 hours before the adhan.

Action: I suggest going to a small obscure masjid on jumuah with low attendance so you can be the first person in the first row.

Once a person enters Jannah the place where that believer will reside eternally will be based on their rank of good deeds, which likely may have diminished up to this point. It is said the ranks will be based on Qur’an ayat or the number of ayat namely 6,236 ranks. One scholar has said between each rank there are 100 subdivisions so there may be 623,600 ranks. Most people understand the hadith in Riyadhus-Saliheen, “Recite and ascend (in ranks) as you used to recite when you were in the world. Your rank will be at the last Ayah you recite,” to refer to only memorization of the Qur’an (huffaz or hamalat al-Qur’an) but Shaykh Haroon Hanif explained (in his Ramadhan talk this year) that it refers to ayahs recited in this world. And so he said, there will be people who did not memorize the Qur’an who will have a higher rank than those who memorized the Qur’an. The ayahs they recited will come to them on their own. The more popular view however is it refers only to the memorizers of Qur’an who acted according to the Qur’an.

People will not excrete or urinate but relieve themselves by sweating. There will be singing (sama) in Jannah, horses of ruby, couches that travel to and fro, clothing will come from fruits and tree, people who will be hairless and 33 years of age, children who will be born and raised in 1 hour if they wish and an expanse that will seem to never end. People who drank wine, wore silk or drank from vessels of gold and silver and never repented from doing such will be deprived of enjoying these pleasures in the Next Life. Habib al-Kazim said the Rivers of Jannah interchange from wine and honey like how the colors of a rainbow has multiple colors and the rivers are neither on the ground or in trenches. The narrations differ in description perhaps because after Jannah is created, it may continue to expand endlessly so no description is fully accurate. And in a hadith, it is said the pleasure of Allah and never being angry with the people of Paradise is greater than the pleasures of Jannah that satisfy its inhabitants, so may Allah grant us His Pleasure and save us from His Wrath. (Tadhkira, p. 224).

Some say the different names of parts of Paradise are not actual different names of those places, but just refer to the same Paradise. The highest positions of Jannah will be al-Firdaus al-A’la which is a mountain in Paradise from which the rivers flow (Tafsir al-Qurtubi) and above it is the Throne of Allah. It is said Firdaus is the middle part of Paradise. Other hadith (in al-Bukhari, Book of Tawhid) suggest the highest place will Jannat al-Adn (Garden of Eden) where ‘all that shall prevent them from viewing their Lord shall be His Cloak of Glory.’ Imam al-Qurtubi and Hakim al-Tirmidhi say the highest positions are also said to be those in Illiyun, the People of the Chambers (ghurafa) near the Throne of Allah. I recall hearing the ghurafa being explained in a khutbah like how we have well-polished waxed sports cars that shine in bright showrooms. People will see those in the ranks above them as how we see the distant stars. Another hadith explains darajat alulaa (Surah Taha, v.75) is described as being the place where Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) will reside or even higher and it is fair to say Abu Bakr and Umar will be near Rasulullah ﷺ. The Qur’anic categories of muqarrabun and sabiqun will be the closest to Allah, and yet others say the siddiqin then the shuhada who will roam under the Throne of Allah in green birds and perch in chandeliers. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani said the sabiqun are said to be those who were foremost in all their deeds, sincerity and consistency from the first 50 Muslims who believed at Dar al-Arqam or before the Fath of Mecca or the first generations of Muslims. The sabiqun are also explained as those whose say good, leave useless and idle speech, nor hear useless and idle speech and only hear good speech, and lastly, are at peace with Allah and Allah’s creation. Ibn Abbas and Abu Musa al-Ashari said, the nearest to Allah will be those described in surah ar-Rahman as But for he who has feared the position of his Lord are two gardens. The siddiqin are explained by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa to be those who do every single good deed. Abdal Hakim Murad explains in his Commentary on the 11th Contentions, the siddiqin as those truthful ones who are content with the divine decree because verses 17:80 and 54:55 connect divine presence to sidq. He also says siddiqin are those who have victory in intentions and prayers.

It may be that the highest part will not be the best part of Paradise that is closest to Allah. If Firdaws is in the middle and that is where Rasulullah ﷺ is then that is the most virtuous. It is hard to understand the geology and physics of Jannah and as Ibn Abbas has said, ‘Nothing of this world is in the Next except the names.’

Suhba with the Nabi ﷺ

Nabi ﷺ will be in al-Firdaws al-A’la which is the centre of Paradise. All Muslims will be able to reach al-Firdaws. Habib al-Kazim says Nabi ﷺ and his family will be in al-Wasila which is the highest part of al-Firdaws.

Various Actions have been recommended that tell us how to achieve eternal companionship with Nabi ﷺ in the Next Life.

  1. “I and the one who sponsors an orphan will be in Paradise like these two,” and he gestured with his two fingers, meaning the forefinger and the middle finger.” (Tirmidhi)
  2. “Whoever raises two girls then I and he will enter Jannah like these two (Prophet indicated with his two fingers).” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)
    1. Imam Ahmad relates from Abdullah ibn Abbas who reports that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The person from my ummah who loses two infants will enter straight into Paradise.” Aisha enquired, “What about the one who loses one child?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “One who loses one child will also go straight into Paradise.” She further asked, “What of those who have not lost any children?” He replied: “I shall precede my ummah and make arrangements for them (in the Hereafter), as they have never been afflicted with a calamity greater than my death.” This hadith was mentioned by Shaykh Yusuf Motala in his book Manifestation Of Prophet’s Beauty.
  3. There is a hadith I heard in a talk, “You have a place with me as long as you don’t have a place with yourself.”
  4. Seeing in a dream state as there are 3 narrations on seeing Rasulullah ﷺ that suggest it as a preview of things to come:
    1. man ra-ani fil manam faqad ra-ani – “One who sees me in a dream he has surely seen me.”
    2. man ra-ani fil manam faqad ra-a alhaqq – “One who sees me in a dream has surely seen the truth.”
    3. man ra-ani fil manam faqad fasayarani – “One who sees me in a dream shall see me soon.”

Gaining the Beatific Vision of Allah (Ziyada of Allah subhana wa ta’ala)

Really all this journey is about is achieving the Beatific Vision, to see the Noble Wajh (Face) of Allah. All that has been previously mentioned is as if a checklist to reach this point because nothing will be comparable to it and nothing will be more beloved than this. The majority of the people of Jannah will see Allah every Friday, whereas the Elect in the highest ranks will see Allah twice a day.

Mujahid said, “The lowliest of Heaven’s people shall travel a thousand years in his kingdom, beholding its farthest parts just as he beholds its nearest, while the highest is him that shall gaze upon his Lord morning and night.” (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p.249)

We have bishara (gladtidings) of 2 pious individuals who are in this lofty state. It is hard to come by this information, especially in English. Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak is amongst those who comes before Allah ta’ala twice every day. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 164) And it is worth reflecting and researching on the life of Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak who was the Nasih (advicer) of this ummah, muhaddith, one who alternated each year between defending the Muslim borders and performing Hajj, who made dua to live rich and die poor, and who enjoined people to not tell of his deeds until he died. Another individual who we have gladtidings of is Ma’ruf al-Karkhi who stares at Allah without blinking until the Day of Resurrection because he worshiped Allah only out of desire for Allah, not out of desire for Jannah or fear of Jahannam.

Their is one hadith in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi that mentions we will see Allah just as you behold this moon and then it says, ‘therefore if you are able to pray before the sun rises and before it sets, then do so.’ This hadith suggests a connection between Asr and Fajr, 2 prayers, to seeing Allah subhana wa ta’ala. Perhaps those in the highest ranks will see Allah at Fajr and Asr time daily. I try and feel as if I am seeing Allah in my salah at those times. Allahu alam.

Action: “Those who are pleased to meet God, God is pleased to meet them, and those who dislike to meet God, God dislikes to meet them.”

Shortcuts to Heaven 

So many Muslims do khayr and adkhar but what can you do to set yourself apart from all the Muslims and pious and righteous Muslims? I think of all the actions these are the most worthwhile for Muslims in the West:

  1. Tahajjud
  2. Fasting
  3. Spread hidaya and Islamic knowledge, which is the longest lasting form of sadaqa jariya
  4. Teach Qur’an as the Hadith says it is best
  5. Build a masajid for every prayer in it would be a sadaqa
  6. Akhlaaq and high moral character which will out weigh prayer and fasting
  7. Anything that calls or demands a selfless sacrifice of any kind as this is what all these deeds have in common

Lastly, Imam adh-Dhahabi says, we find in a hadith: “Whoever perseveres in the prescribed prayers, Allah Almighty will grant him five honours: 1. He will release him from straitened circumstances, 2. Protect him from the punishment of the grave, 3. give him his book (of deeds) in his right hand, 4. let him pass over the Sirat (The Bridge over hellfire) like lightning, 5. and admit him to Paradise without reckoning.”

One must wonder stage by stage, our deeds will appear in our grave, on the Scales, before our Lord, as compensation for our sins, help us across the Sirat and in ascending Jannah. Will they diminish throughout all this? Perhaps not, or perhaps if they do diminish, what remains of them will be like a soul or spirit of our deeds that will endure through the journey of the Akhira. I like to think this ruh of our amal is our niyyah (intentions), the stronger and purer our intentions, the further our deeds will carry us along from the grave to Jannah.

Salawat ala al-Nabi is a major shortcut as it appears at various points of the Akhira. A hadith Imam Sha’rani states, ‘whoever sends 100x salawat will be saved from nifaq, free from hellfire and resurrected from martyrs. Another hadith Imam Sha’rani states, whoever sends 1000x salawat daily he won’t die until he sees his maqam in Jannah. Imam Sha’rani also mentions ‘whoever says Allahumma salli ala sayyidina Muhammadan wa anzil hul maqadal muqaraba indaka yawmil qiyama it will be wajib for Rasulullah ﷺ to intercede for him.’  

Intercession and Intervening before the Divine

Before entering Jannah and after the Sirat or alternatively, before the weighing of deeds and crossing the Sirat will be the Hawd of Rasulullah ﷺ, for his words were, “And our meeting will be at the Hawd.” Imam al-Haddad says both are possible and it is hoped it is before the weighing of deeds so he ﷺ can intercede for us sooner rather than later and assist us.  A hadith states that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would meet Anas at the Sirat and if not there, then at the Scales, then at the Hawd, “I shall be found nowhere but at these three places.” (Lives of Man, p. 65)

Qadi ‘Iyad mentioned in Ikmal al-mu’lim: The Prophet ﷺ shall have five forms of major intercession. The first form will be for granting the people respite from the agony of the lengthy standing on the Judgment Plains. The second form will deliver people to Paradise without reckoning. The third form will be reserved for those who deserve the Hellfire. The fourth form will be for those believers who are subjected to the divine threat (and he will take them out [of Hell]). And the fifth form will be for an increase in ranks in Paradise. Imam al-Ghazali says Adam will intercede for 110 million of his progeny so we can only imagine how much more our Prophetﷺ will intercede for!

Action: Abu Hurayra related the Messenger of God ﷺ related, he asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ who would be the most blessed with his intercession on the Day of Rising, and he replied: ‘The people most blessed with my intercession shall be those who said la ilaha illallah, sincerely and without being prompted.’ (Lives of Man, p. 65)

Action: “Whosoever visits me in Medina seeking thereby a reward from God, for him shall I intercede and bear witness on the Day of Arising.” (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt)

Action: Imam al-Ghazali says one can intercede for others if they never despise any human creature for any could be a saint and never underestimating a sin or never belittling any good deed. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 210)

Action: The previously stated hadith above mentions reaching 90 years in age as a Muslim allows one to intercede for others.

Action: Another famous hadith is those who memorized and recited the Qur’an and observed the limits of halal and haram will enter Jannah and intercede for 10 family members who were destined for Hellfire.

Action: A hadith in Musnad Abu Ya’la mentions the people in Heaven and Hell will look at one another and the one in Hell who gave the other water to drink will ask for intercession and Allah will grant that intercession and he will be removed from Hell. (Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt, p. 215)

Action: Doing good deeds in groups. The people of Heaven will intercede for those believers who deserve to enter Hell but who had done them favours in the world and had fasted, prayed and done Hajj with them. They will go into Jahannam and rescue those believers they recognize. (Tadhkira, p.119, p.123) It is also said in a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari that Allah will admit into Jannah those whom are praised by 4 pious people or 3 or even 2, thus it is speak well of the deceased when they pass (Tadhkira, p.132).

Finally after everybody has interceded and no one is left, we find the hadith of the Handfuls where Allah Himself will intercede and take a handful of those who had never done any good and had been reduced to ashes in Jahannam. They will be reborn and grow like seeds in a river in Jannah until they enter Jannah. The people of Jannah will know these newcomers as al-jahannamiyin. (Tadhkira, p. 121-122) Other hadith in Tirmidhi and Ibn Maja mention there being 3 Handfuls and we can not fathom what a Handful is, whether it is Allah’s Hand (and we say this bila kayf – without howness) or if it means a Handful of Allah as we say the Camel of Allah or House of Allah, Allahu alam, but we do know that this will be immense!

Further reading:

Order of Events in the Afterlife

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 10, 2017

70 Sayings of Hasan al-Basri

Sayings of Hasan al-Basri

We ordinary Muslims and students of Islamic knowledge are a world apart from the Sahaba. But between the Sahaba and us were wise men like Hasan al-Basri, who had guidance for us in new and challenging situations.

Hasan al-Basri was a Tabi’i, grew up in the household of the Mother of the Believers, Umm Salama (ra), was given tahnik, dua and his name Hasan (‘beautiful’) by Umar (ra)  and was and one of the first true Sufis. He lived in a time of political turmoil, and was so intelligent the Mu’tazila (falsely) claim him as their founder. It is said his speech is closest to resembling that of the Prophetﷺ.

He is one of the biggest influences in my understanding of Islam and Muslims. His words guide and point me in the right direction when it comes to spirituality and politics amongst Muslims, two areas where their is much laxity and misunderstanding.

I have collected from my readings, from talks I’ve heard, and elsewhere on the internet Hasan al-Basri’s sayings. I am not concerned with citation, only attribution. I have memorized many of these sayings and one will find in them Hasan al-Basri’s signature wisdom.

    1. “Bury yourself and the desire to be known.”
    2. “Food was Adam’s trial and it is your trial until the Day of Qiyama.”
    3. Hasan al-Basri once said that if we were able to see the Muslims who fought at Badr, we would think that they were madmen because of their disregard of the world. “But if these Companions saw the best of you they would say, ‘These people have no character.’ And if they saw the worst of you, they would say, ‘These people do not believe in the Day of Judgment.’” (From Hamza Yusuf Purification of the Heart)
    4. “If a man swore by Allah that Hasan’s actions are not those of someone who believes in Day of Judgement, I would say, ‘sadaqta, do not expiate your oath because it is true.'”
    5. Hasan al-Basri is reported to have said: “Believe the scholars in all that they say except what they say about each other.” يروى عن الحسن البصري أنه قال: صدقوا العلماء في كل ما يقولون إلا فيما يقول بعضهم عن بعض
    6. A man asked Hasan al-Basri to whom he should marry his daughter to? Al-Hasan replied, “To someone who fears Allah. If he loves her, he will honour her. And if he detests her, he will not mistreat her.”
    7. “Do not be deceived by the hadith ‘A man is with whom he loves’ when [you suffer from] distraction, illusion and the desertion of good works, for the Ahlul Kitab love their Prophets but are of certainty not with them.”
    8. قال حسن البصري رضي الله تعالی عنه وددت لو کان لی مثل جبل احد ذھبا فانفقته علی قراءة مولد النبي صلی الله علیه وسلم  “I would like have gold equivalent to the Mountain of Uhud so that I should be able to spend it on the Mawlid Sharif of the Holy Prophetﷺ.” [An-Ne’mat al-Kubra, Page 6, Published Istanbul – Turkey]
    9. “O slaves of God! A piece of wood misses the Messenger of God! It is you who should do so.” (referring to the tree Rasulullahﷺ would preach near)
    10. law qanatil akhira khazaf yabka wa dunya dhahab yafna la kanal awla – “If the akhira was just pot that would last forever, and the dunya was gold that you’d have temporarily, you’d obviously choose that which would last forever. How then when the dunya is lesser than pot that will perish and akhira is like gold that will last forever!?” (From Yahya Rhodus class on Disciplining the Soul)
    11. Man naqala ilaika hadeethan fa’lam annahu yanqulu ilaa ghairika hadeethaka – “Whoever brings to you someone’s discourses, know that he also takes your discourses to others.”
    12. “He who remembers death (at least) 20 times a day is one of the Awliya (every night and day)”
    13. “Stay away from the busying aspects of life, and surely, life has abundant busying aspects. Every man who indulges in an aspect of life that fills his time, then the door he opened will open ten more doors of busying aspects for him.”
    14. “Better to be a musician than profit (monetarily) from Islam.” (from Shaykh Samer al-Nass)
    15. “The last bad trait that gets out of the hearts of the champions of truth is love for leadership/fame.”
    16. When Hasan al-Basri was asked the question concerning the wars between the noble Companions of the Prophetﷺ he replied, “Those were fights in which the Companions were present and we were not. They knew all the circumstances and we do not know them. The matter in which the Companions are unanimous, we follow; and the matter in which there is difference of opinion, we observe silence.”
    17. “The intelligent person’s tongue is behind his heart: when he wants to speak, he first thinks. If [his words] will be in his favor, he says them, and if they will be against him, he does not speak. And the ignorant person’s heart is behind his tongue: when he merely thinks of saying something, he says it, whether it is for or against him.”
    18. “Who says good but doesn’t do good will have his words compared to his deeds by Allah…”
    19. “The righteous salaf were as fearful of their good deeds being squandered, or not being accepted, as the present generation is certain that their neglect will be forgiven.”
    20. “If it were not for the munafiqoon (hypocrites), you would feel all alone in the streets (the streets would be empty).”
    21. “If there is music involved in a dinner invitation to a walima, then do not accept the invitation.”
    22. ya ibn Adam inama anta ayyam, dhahaba yaumun dhahaba ba’dhuka – “O son of Adam, you are nothing but a mere collection of days. Whenever a day passes by, a part of you passes away.”
    23. “Allah ordained that the ultimate resting place of believers will be paradise no less.” He reflected that, saying, “Death made life tasteless for the wise. Sadness in life regenerates many rewards.”
    24. utlub al-‘ilma wa zayyinoohu bil waqaari wa al-hilm – “Seek knowledge and beautify it with dignity and maturity.”
    25. Al-Hasan al-Basri said when he heard a group of people arguing: “These people have become bored with worship, and speech has become light upon (their tongue), and their piety has decreased and that is why they speak.” (Narrated by Ahmad in az-Zuhd and Abu Nu’aym in al-Hilyah)
    26. Hasan al-Basri: ‘The inmates of hell will be burnt seventy thousand times daily. Every time after having been burnt, their bodies would be restored. Thus this process will continue.” [Targhib]
    27. “One type of an innovator in this Deen, is a person of bad judgment who believes that Paradise is for those whose judgement is the same as their own.”
    28. “If the salt goes bad, then what hope is there to improve the food?” (From Youtube clip of Gibril Haddad)
    29. A man asked Ata’ about reciting the Qur’an on the funeral. He said: “We never learnt or heard that it is recited upon.” The man said: Al-Hasan says that we have to recite. Atta then said: “Follow this, because Al-Hasan is a great scholar.”
    30. Hasan al-Basri once said, “Seek sweetness in 3 things: Ritual prayer, Remembrance, and the recitation of the Quran. If you find it, then praised be God! But if you do not, then know that the door is closed.” (From Habib Ahmad Mashuur al-Haddad’s Keys to the Garden)
    31. Once Hasan described the effect of the Qur’an on the believer. He said: “Son of Adam! By God if you recite the Qur’an then believe in it then your sadness will be long in this life, so will be your fear and your weeping.” That is why one contemporary of Al-Hasan says: “I never saw anyone who had such a long time of sadness as Al-Hasan al-Basri. Everytime I met him I thought he had a new misfortune.”
    32. “That work that is free from wisdom becomes a burden. That silence that is free from wisdom is inattentiveness. That sight that is free from wisdom is disgraceful. The magnificence of knowledge is with tolerance and that of tolerance is with knowledge. The person who lives in the World safeguarding himself from the love of the World, has benefited himself and others. Sorrow gives the soul strength. The freedom of sight and tongue imprisons the soul. Whoever Allah subhana wa ta’ala wished to disgrace becomes engrossed in the search of wealth. Those people are truly afraid who are truly afraid of Allah subhana wa ta’ala. The punishment of this World is that your heart becomes dead. There is no greater or bigger animal that is more foul mouthed ruder and harsher than the Nafs.”
    33. From Kitab al-Yaqin of Ibn Abi Dunya Hasan al-Basri offers a list of the features that characterize a Muslim: “Among the signs for the Muslim are strength {quwwa) when professing religion (din), resolve (hazm) when circumstances are easy (layyin), faith {iman) when certain {yaqin), civility {hilm) when learned (‘ilm), quick-wittedness (kays) when circumstances are comfortable (rifq), giving (‘ita) when something is required (haqq), pursuit of the middle course (qasd) when wealthy (ghina), patience (tajammul) when poor (faqa) doing good (ihsan) when able (qudra), obedience (ta’a) when well-advised (nasiha), caution (tawarru’) when desirous (raghba), restraint (ta’affuf) when trying hard (jahd), and patience (sabr) in misfortune (shidda). His desirousness (raghba) does not destroy him; his tongue (lisan) does not speak before he does; his sight (basar) does not grasp before he does; his freedom from sorrow (faraj) does not overwhelm him; his passion (hawa) does not deviate; what is within him (batn) does not put him to shame; his anxiousness (hirs) does not see him belittled; and his right intention (niyya) does not fall short of what he required.”
    34. Hasan al-Basri once swore by God that he will be humiliated by God who honours money. That is why he said: “Two bad comrades are the dinar and the dirham. They are useful to you only when they leave you.”
    35. It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: “Verily, Allāh lets [a person] enjoy a blessing for as long as He wills. But when He is no longer thanked for it, He turns it into a punishment.” (Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Kitāb Al-Shukr article 17)
    36. It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basri – Allah have mercy on him – said: “If people called on Allah when put to trial because of their rulers, Allah would relieve their suffering; but instead they resorted to the sword, so they were left to it. And not one day of good did they bring. Then he recited (Quran 7: 137): And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel, for the patience and perseverance they had, and We destroyed the works of Pharaoh and his people and what they had erected. -[Ibn Abi Hatim, Al-Tafsir no. 8897]
    37. “Adorn hadith with yourself. Don’t adorn yourself with hadith”
    38. “Sulayman sacrificed his race horses since they distracted him from salah and was given better – control of the wind.”
    39. “Do not sit idle for death is seeking you.”
    40. Hasan al-Basri feared Allah so much he didn’t eat for 3 days
    41. “Silent dua / silent dhikr is 70 times more meritorious than when done aloud.”
    42. “Whoever truly knows his Lord loves Him and whoever truly knows the world does without it.”
    43. When people came to Hasan al-Basri, he said “Hajjaj might be a punishment against you so how can you fight against a punishment with your swords?” So he said don’t fight him.
    44. On the verse: Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties, for the price that theirs shall be Paradise. (Surah Tawbah 9:112) Hasan al-Basri said: “He creates you, and bought it back, for the prices of Jannah– look at that mercy!)”
    45. Hasan al-Basri said: adraktu aqwaman kana ahadahum asha-ha ala umrihi minhu ala dirhami –  “I sat in the company of the sahaba and I found them more possessive over their time than over their wealth.”
    46. Hasan al-Basri said to use Surah Qalam, v. 51-2 to cure the evil eye. A man was known to have strong evil eye, could kill camels with his glance and tried to use it to kill Prophet but failed.
    47. Difference of opinion on what is tahajjud in Surah Muzzamil, verse 6, nasih’at which means any prayer after Isha (Hasan al-Basri opinion), entire night (Ibn Abbas, Zubair) or later part of night (Ibn Kasian) so performing any prayer after isha fulfills this command though tahajjud meant waking in later part of night for prayer
    48. Explanation of Hasan al-Basri on qiraman qatibeen, “they’re records will be folded and placed around your neck (like a necklace) and will go with you to your grave. When you rise from your grave on the Day of Judgment Allah will say, (Bani Israel, v. 13,14): “And every human’s deeds We have tied up to his neck…Read your book. This day you yourself are enough to take your own account).” Hasan al-Basri then said: “The Supreme Being has done a great justice in that He has appointed you to take account of your own actions!” (Ibn Kathir)
    49. Habib Al-Abid reports: Once, when I arrived in Al-Basrah, I was surprised to see that the markets were closed, and the streets empty. I called out, “O people of Basrah, is this some kind of holiday of yours that I don’t know about.” Someone answered, “No, but Al-Hasan Al-Basri is in the main gathering place (of Basrah), giving a sermon to the people.” I hurried to his gathering, and when I arrived there, I saw him sitting down on some high ground. He was saying: “O people, prepare for departure, for very little time remains from this world. Prepare to move (to the Hereafter), for there is no way to stay here. Do you not know that you will soon be surrendered to the place of trial? Do you not know that each one of you will soon be alone with his deeds and that you will be presented (with your deeds) to Allah on the Day of Judgment? He ordered you to obey Him, bu you have not obeyed Him. He forbade you from sinning, but you have not desisted from perpetrating (sins). He has (threatened) you with the Hell-fire, but you are neither afraid not terrified of it. He has encouraged you to seek out Paradise, but you do not (seem to) desire it or long for it. Your white hairs are warning you of approaching death, so what are you waiting for? O white-haired one, you are able to perform good deeds, so what is your excuse. O one who obeys his mouth and his desires, who wastes his share of the hereafter by taking his entire share in this world, who persists in perpetrating sins and evil deeds – would that I knew: what will your excuse be when you stand before Him? What argument will you put forth when you go to Him? You are lost and misguided, so ask Allah, the All-Mighty, to forgive both me and you.”
    50. It is reported that ‘Umar bin ‘Abd Al- ‘Aziz once wrote to Hasan al Basri to get a brief exhortation from him, so Al-Hasan wrote back , “The dunya distracts and preoccupies the heart and body, but al-zuhd (asceticism, not giving importance to worldly things) gives rest to the heart and body. Verily, Allah will ask us about the halal things we enjoyed, so what about the haram!’ [Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Zuhd Al-Kabir, article 26]
    51. Hasan Basri advised some of his students admonishing them about avoiding the state of being proud. He said: “Do not deceive yourself into being too proud because you are in  a good or righteous environment, for there is no place that is better than Paradise, and our father, Adam (as), experienced there what is known to all. Do not become proud merely because you worship often, for consider what happened to Iblis (Satan) after he spent a great deal of time worshiping. Do not think yourself great because you have met with righteous people, for there is no man more righteous than the Prophetﷺ, yet the disbelievers and hypocrites did not benefit by simply knowing him.” [Taken from “Gems And Jewels”, P. 182]
    52. Yunus bin ‘Ubaid said: ‘I have not seen anyone with more feeling of sadness than Hasan, he used to say, ‘We laugh now and perhaps Allah has looked over our actions and said: I will not accept anything from you’.
    53. Hasan said: “The believer wakes up feeling sad and goes to sleep feeling sad as there is no room for him other than this since he is in between two (constant) fears: a mistake he has committed which he does not know what Allah will do with it, and the time left ahead not knowing what hardships he will face.”
    54. Hasan was scolded for his deep sadness and fear, so he replied: “What security do I have that perhaps Allah has seen what He dislikes of me and says, ‘Go, I will not forgive you. So I work for that which cannot be worked for’.” He was brought a mug of water to break his fast, so when it was brought nearer to him, he began to weep. He said, ‘I remembered the wish of the people of hell-fire and what they said: “Pour upon us some water or from whatever Allah has provided you.” and I remembered the reply: “Indeed, Allah has forbidden them both to the disbelievers”.
    55. A man asked Al-Hasan, ‘How have you woken up?’ He said, ‘Fine.’ The man said, ‘How are you?’ Al-Hasan smiled and said, ‘You ask me how I am?! What do you think of people who got aboard a ship until they reached the middle of the sea and the ship broke down, so each one was hanging on by a wood, what would be their state? My state is more severe than theirs.’ [Translated from Mahmood Al-Masri’s ‘Qisas Al-Tabi’een’, P. 258]
    56. Hasan al-Basri was reported to have said: “The best season to a believer is the winter, its nights are long for those who wish to pray, and its days are short for those who wish to fast” [Ibn Al-Jawzi, Sifah Al-Safwah Vol. 2/P. 433]
    57. “The reciters of the Qur’an are of three types: 1-Those who take it as merchandise with which they ply their trade. 2-Those who recite its words but fail to comply with its injunctions, they use it to lord over the people of their land and rely on it to ascend to positions of authority. There are many who fall into this category, may Allah make their number small! 3-Those who treat the Qur’an as a cure and apply it to heal the ailments of the hearts. They recite it in their places of devotion and attain tranquility, they weep in their hooded cloaks, and they are overcome with fear and somberness. It is for their sake that Allah sends down the rain and it is through them that Allah confers victory against the enemy. By Allah this category is rarer than red gold.” [Ibn Abi al-Dunya, al-Hamm wa’1-Huzn #152 / Bayhaqi, Shu’ab #2621]
    58. Hasan al Basri said: “By Allah! Hastening to the prayer is not accomplished by the feet. Indeed they were prohibited from coming to prayer without tranquility and dignity. Rather, it is about the hearts, the intention, and the submission.” [Tafseer Ibn Katheer – Surah al-Jumuah]
    59. Hasan al Basri said: “Everything has something staining it, and the stain of Scared Knowledge is covetousness (ie. wealth, fame).” (Read on pg 70, Ibn al-Jawzi, Sincere Counsel to the Students of Sacred Knowledge. Daar as-Sunnah Publishers. Birmingham: 2011.)
    60. Hasan al Basri said: “By He in Whose Hand is my life! I met people who were as disinterested in this life as they were in the sand they walked on.” (Read on pg 23, Abdul-Malik bin Muhammad ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Qasim, Life is a Fading Shadow. Darussalam Publishers. Riyadh: 1999.)
    61. A man said to Hasan al-Basri, “O Abu Sa’eed, I am complaining to you of the hardness of my heart.” He said, “Soften it with dhikr. The more forgetful the heart is, the harder it becomes, but if a person remembers Allah, that hardness softens as copper melts in the fire. Nothing can soften the hardness of the heart like the remembrance of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted. Dhikr is healing and medicine for the heart. Forgetfulness is a disease, the cure for which is remembrance of Allah.”
    62. Hasan al Basri said: “We used to be amongst a group of people (i.e., the Companions) who would never do any act in public if they could do so in private. And those Muslims would strive in making their du’a, and not a sound would be heard from them! For they used to whisper to their Lord.” [Report by at-Tabari in his Tafsir (5/514)]
    63.  “If you had the age of Nuh, the ownership of Suleiman, the faith of Ibrahim, and the wisdom of Luqman, then you would still have to face the agony of death. Behind death there are two abodes: if you miss one of them, you will end up in the second.”
    64. Hasan al-Basri said: “By Allah, the oath of allegiance to ‘Ali was like the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them).”
    65. “The foundations of evil are three and its subsidiary branches are six. The foundations are: Envy, covetousness and love of the worldly life. Its subsidiary branches are: Love of leadership, love of boasting, love of praise, love of filling oneself with food, love of sleep and love of relaxation.”
    66. Hasan al-Basri said: “Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from Allah one from the enemy. Allah shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from Allah, while he fights against the one from his enemy. To illustrate the heart’s mutual attraction between the two powers the Prophet said: “The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful”…. The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart… If man follows the dictates of anger and appetite, the dominion of Satan appears in him through idle passions (hawa) and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytan, who feeds on hawa. If he does battle with his passions and does not let them dominate his ego (nafs), imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it.” [Imam al-Ghazzali relates al-Hasan’s words on the personal struggle against one’s lusts (jihad al-nafs) in the section of his Ihya’ entitled Kitab Riyada al-Nafs wa Tahdhib al-Akhlaqwa Mu’alaja Amrad al-Qalb (“Book of the Training of the Ego, Disciplining of Manners, and Healing of the Heart’s Diseases”)
    67. “It was truly reported from al-Hasan that he heard a person ‘no-one may perform the [religious] duty of forbidding what is wrong except a person who does no wrong’. al-Hasan remarked: ‘Satan would like that to happen to us such that nobody would forbid the wrong nor command what is right.’ Abu Muhammad said: ‘al-Hasan spoke the truth and that is what we also mentioned before. May God grant us to be amongst those [He permits to] do good and to act upon it, and make us amongst those who can see the guidance, for no one is without faults. One who looks to his own weaknesses will forget those of others. May God permit us to die on the Sunna of Muhammad ﷺ. Amin, O Lord of the Worlds!” (Ibn Hazm, al-Akhlaq wa ‘l-Siyar, p. 157).
    68. Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about the Companions fighting amongst themselves, and he said: “That was fighting in which the Companions of Muhammad ﷺ were present, and we were not; they knew, but we do not know. In the issues on which they agreed, we follow; on the issues on which they differed, we refrain from taking a stance.” [Book: Ali bin abi Taalib, vo2 1 by Dr Ali M Sallabi, page-229]
    69. Al Hasan al Basri said, “One day I was walking with a young pious man in the narrow streets of Basra and its markets until we reached a physician sitting on a chair and around him were many men, women, and children who had bottles of water in their hands. Each one of them was seeking a cure for his illness. The young man moved closer to the physician and asked him, ‘O physician! Do you have a medicine that cleans away sins and cures the [spiritual] diseases of the heart? He replied ‘Yes!’ The young man said, ‘Give it to me!” The physician said, “Take ten things from me – take the roots of the tree of poverty with the roots of the tree of humility, and pour in it the milk of repentance, then place it in the mortar of acceptance [of whatever is predestined for one], crush it with the pestle of contentment, then place it in the pot of piety, pour over it the water of shame, then boil it with the fire of love, then place it in the cup of gratitude and cool it down with the fan of hope, then drink it with the spoon of praise. If you do all of this then it will cure you of every illness and trial in this world and in the Hereafter.'” [Preparing For The Day Of Judgement By: Imaam Ibn Hajar AI’Asqalani, Translated By: S.M Hasan AlBanna, pg-42]
    70. It used to be said: ‘Whoever condemns his brother for a sin that he repented from, will not die until Allaah tests him with it (i.e. the same sin).'” [The Difference between Advising & Condemning by ibn Rajab al Hanbali, pg-23]
    71. A man could find no cure for his illness and asked Hasan al-Basri for advice. Hasan al-Basri advised him to give charity profusely. The man dug wells and was cured.
    72. More reading:
      Prayers of Forgiveness of Hasan al-Basri

I will update this list if I do find more sayings.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 5, 2017

Laylat al-Qadr Protocol

The following is my protocol I implement in Ramadan in the last 10 days. It is good to have a protocol set up in advance so that you don’t waste time bumbling around reading or re-learning or re-planning and lose out on valuable time for ibada. This protocol assumes one is in itikaaf and has already brought all there food and wherewithal

Laylatul Qadr protocol from Maghrib Iftar to Fajr Suhur:

  • only 1 bottle water at iftar and odd number of dates, which is sunna and said to be a secret to finding the odd night of Laylatul Qadr
  • food should be salad and no oily foods (this is to prevent running to washroom and gas)
  • share food with people at iftar to get ajr
  • read Qur’an after food
  • go to washroom 30 minutes before isha and taraweeh starts
  • keep enough tissue in pocket for runny nose (air conditioning can do this)
  • do wudhu with sunnah method and miswak
  • fill up water bottle and keep by you
  • sit in first row
  • do dhikr of Lafs al-Jalala (“Allah“) silently all night especially in salah
  • no talking to anyone at all (people are tired, groggy and prone to pick a fight or waswasa)
  • smile at everyone because it is sadaqa
  • sip water halfway through taraweeh (if do early then may have to run to bathroom and lose your spot)
  • read the dua of istighfar Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul afwa fafu-anni
  • make your personal duas in nafil salat sujud
  • utilize adkhar that are very heavy in reward, such as
    • Subhaanallaahi wa bihamdihi: ‘Adada khalqihi wa ridhaa nafsihi, wa zinata ‘arshihi wa midaada kalimaatihi. Link
    • jazAllahu ‘anna Sayyiduna Muhammadan sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallama ma huwa ahlu  Link (see #4)
  • complete your khatm Qur’an after taraweeh
  • eat suhur quickly & lots of water then only make dua in last half an hour

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 13, 2017

Your Mother’s Mother

Your Mother’s Mother

 I believe there is something sacred about women, specifically mothers, that I would like to explore here through the Noble Qur’an.

Lets start with Maryam. She is an example for men as a true qanita. She was Isa’s teacher. Her mom Hannah made an oath by her womb, that her offspring would be dedicated to worship. Hannah’s womb here is like the mihrab of the righteous baby. I don’t think this is far fetched because I have heard old and modern stories of babies hearing their mother’s worshipping while they are in the womb. In reality, if we reflect deeply on Surah Maryam, sufism’s origin is maryami in practice – because Maryam worshipped in seclusion, met angels despite not being a prophet, endured criticism by trusting in Allah, and even later on Isa’s asceticism and non-violent preaching living as a minority under non-Muslim rule, are all defining traits of sufism. These traits have strong origin in Maryam, the waliyya, and her son, Isa alayhi salam. The goal of sufism is to become insan kamil  – spiritually completed – and the only people pronounced by Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam as ‘perfected’ are Maryam and Asiya.

 This isn’t insignificant either because I recall hearing from a shaykh that female awliya make for more nurturing spiritual guides than male awliya, and this may have a connection to Maryam raising Isa, not to mention the 4 mujtahid Sunni imams all were raised by single mothers.

Grandmothers are also a source of khayr. In a way the sirr and batin of a mother is her mother. Hanna was Maryam’s mother and she made an oath by her womb to have a child that is muharrar and dedicate her child to worship. Allah brought forth a female child and the mosques were all male. There is maybe a ‘divine comment’ here on Allah preferring a woman’s private worship over a man’s public worship, Allahu Alam. Ibn Sina is reported to have said follow the religion of old women. I believe there is special blessing that comes to us from our grandparents. Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) had khayr come from Isma’il and Hajar alayhi-salam in Mecca. One of Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s great grandmothers was named Salma and she lived and was buried in Madina before Islam. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Madina become the Prophet’s City. Something in our ancestor’s lives prescribes khayr for us, their blessed fate becomes ours somehow or Allah wants us to stay near them. It brings a different meaning to the saying ‘religion of old women’. In my own life, I discovered good relations with friends my maternal grandmother forged early on, purely from her heart, came back generations later benefiting my family. In the story in Surah al-Kahf we learn Khidr went to trouble to care for some orphans because they had a righteous grandparent 7 generations ago. This is the blessing grand parents can have.

Caring for mothers is not just a duty to dismiss out of hand – it is in fact quintessential sufism. The early sufi, Bishr al-Hafi met Khidr alayhi salam, and asked him “How did I achieve meeting you?” to which Khidr replied “Through service to your mother.” Likewise, Uways al-Qarni is esteemed tabi’ieen praised by Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and he was known for his care and service to his mother.  One of the virtues of Isa and Yahya alayhi salam in the Qur’an is there obedience to their parents. It is therefore ironic how so many religious youth became religious as a reaction to disagreements with their parents. Yet, poor service and honouring parents is a spiritual poison.

I recall in one class, Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya explained in a talk on parents that in Yemen when the children are righteous, upright and good, the shaykhs will often ‘release them’ from the haqq (divine right) the parent has over the child. The father will forego his right and will bear witness the son is now just their brother in Islam. This is interesting since it means the child will not be questioned and judged as severely on Yawm al-Qiyama for their treatment of their parents.

Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s greatest supporters in his early days were not men, but his aunts and we see in hadith that the khala (maternal aunt) has the same darajat (rank) as one’s mother.

Moms are loyal to their children. Ulema say Allah chose the Arabs because they are known to be the most loyal. Moms always choose what is best for their kids, but also what is best in reality. Think about it. What if on the night of the first Revelation, Sayyida Khadija said to Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) think of your children and the ridicule they will face after the first revelation?  Women are most womanly when they give to their family, friends, community and nation. What would’ve happened if Zulaykha had kids – would she have acted the same? What if the Queen of Sheba did not think of her people? Selflessness is what makes it easy to respect women. Its the same reason why we can’t respect career women as much as these traditional women. How did Musa’s mother feel letting Musa go and then decades later seeing both her sons confront Firawn?

Many argue Muslims oppress women, there may be truth to this, but Islam itself is concerned with mothers, daughters and grandmothers. Mothers have shaped Islam’s history more than we realize. Would spice and silk trade exist without women? All the 4 mujtahid imams were raised by single mothers, Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was raised by Bibi Amina alone. Some scholars even connect Karbala to Hind’s strong personality and the strong personality of women in Mu’awiya’s household (Allahu Alam). Later on, queen mothers exerted influence on Ottoman politicsIn our life we decide what woman to marry by studying her mother to see what type of woman she will become, a beautiful girl becomes ugly when we see her mother’s actions. We learn from our moms how to raise kids, we learn from our moms our facial movements, our obedience or rebellion, our foolishness and our wisdom. You could say everything about our life is circumscribed by the ills and virtues of our mothers, our lives are written by our mothers in advance and that mothers are the closest worldly thing we have to al-Lawh al-Mahfuz.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 5, 2016

Bringing Practicing and Non-Practicing Muslims Together

For the longest time I believed practicing Muslims are very different from non-practicing Muslims, but I’ve realized I couldn’t be more wrong and I think its time we talk about this.

When Muslims appear in the media we encounter the same obstacles over and over again: Who speaks for Muslims? What language and vocabulary can be used to speak about Arabic terms? Who has the religious authority and knowledge of Islam and the English skills to convey it? What cultural similarity can we share with the non-Muslim listeners? How can we attract people to us without pandering or downplaying Islam, or reducing it to superficial border issues like brown skill and smells?

The answer to all these questions is we bridge the divide between non-practicing and practicing Muslims. We cannot expect realistically for the practicing Muslims to be experts in all things. And we cannot expect Islam to survive by cutting off Muslims who are not practicing. In fact, that is when Islam is most critical, at the point where it is weakest, that we have to make sure it thrives.

Just as non-Muslims have preconceptions and presumptions about Muslims, so too we Muslims have certain presumptions and preconceptions of our fellow Muslims, whether they are practicing or not-so-practicing. Lets remedy this with some realism.

Realism
The practicing Muslim is often weak on morality, is selfish (after all being religious is for your own personal benefit) and likes to think they could easily be wealthy and successful if they really wanted to. The non-practicing Muslim, often financially successful, is confused about life, negligent about God but likes to think they could easily go to the mosque regularly and intend to do great worship in their old age. Likely both are weak when it comes to halal income but easily conceal this shortcoming. We are all equally hypocritical, albeit, in our own unique ways.

Regardless of religiosity, everyone has their own wisdom and life experience. Both practicing and non-practicing are willing to stand by their community, even in hard times. Both are indebted to each other. There is so much khayr non-practicing Muslims have done for the Muslim community and are so dedicated to the community like no other. The non-practicing Muslim is eager to help Muslims out with money and resources whenever he can and the practicing Muslim always keep the whole community in their duas, even those they dislike. Non-practicing and practicing Muslims may not communicate very much or get along always, but at the end of the day, they try.

And in each family there are practicing Muslims and non-practicing Muslims, and that too there are phases in everybody’s life where they are more religious or less so, and in different ways, often due to life circumstances. We all have times when we are closer to Allah and at times when we aren’t. Its internal so we can’t know externally. We all have different types of personalities and our hearts are not equally soft or hard, no matter how we look.

And practicing Muslims have to accept the fact some Muslims will not become religious no matter how hard you preach. Its just how they are and you have to accept it and love them as Muslims regardless. And non-practicing Muslims have to accept the fact some Muslims will not succeed materially no matter how modernized they become and that not every practicing Muslim has a holier-than-thou attitude, they are just caring for you in their own unique way or too busy thinking about Allah and His Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam).

The grey area and pretexts
Religion can be a pretext. Some sisters wear hijab because it makes them look more attractive. Some Shias don’t know how they are different from Sunnis and their understanding of Islam is Sunni, even if they are Shia in name. There are Zaydi Shias, whom Sunnis think are Shia and Shia think are Sunni. Some preachers may be charlatans. I never assume anything about a community unless I have direct experience. Hearsay is not something the Prophet relied upon, but would say “I know nothing of them but good.”

And Allah will judge us all differently based on our circumstances, chances are the ulema have a harder judgement than the unknowing average Muslim. This is not to give excuses, but to point out the reality of the human condition.

Perspectives
Let us talk about perspective. From the standpoint of God, we are all human beings in His care. From the standpoint of Satan, we are all just human beings who should be debased, one way or another. From the standpoint of the community imam, you are just one in a flock whose salvation is important – the imam will do your aqiqa (birth ceremony), your janaza (funeral) and pray for you when you are sick. The imam is more religious than anyone but doesn’t look down. From the standpoint of the government and media, you are a citizen, with a family, health problems, jobs, community contributions or a potential criminal problem. The government is completely non-religious but does a great deal of good. From the standpoint of God, Satan, the imam and the government, we are a community and we either rise together or we fall together, there is no individual falling or individual success.

Tolerating Sin 
We have to remember Abu Hanifa had an alcoholic neighbour who would play music loudly all night long. And Abu Hanifa did not rebuke this person because of the right of the neighbor and interceded before the judge when he was charged with a crime. Even earlier on, there was a time when Islam was not about practice. In Islam’s infancy, there was only the shahada and the prayer, not even the 5 daily prayers but the night prayer in the middle of the night. And that too only repeating the same few early surahs of the Qur’an, since most of the Qur’an hadn’t been revealed yet. You can imagine Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) drunk in the daytime, reciting a few verses in Surah Qaf in the night prayer. It was only later on alcohol was forbidden, 5 prayers prescribed and the Qur’an was completely revealed. In the early days, Islam was about strengthening belief and secrecy, not about external acts of worship and identity pride. Allah revealed the Qur’an slowly, because Allah wanted Muslims to become practicing in increments, bit-by-bit, year after year, whereas previous nations like the Children of Israel had to become practicing all at once. We should take solace in this and think if Allah cut us some slack from Day 1, then maybe we should cut each other some slack too?

Labels are Meaningless, Its all Relative
By the time you are 40 something and if you have listened to 1 sermon every week very closely, you have probably learned an equal amount about Islam as the 80 year-old practicing Muslim who only give the sermon half their attention. Most practicing Muslims don’t know much about the life of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and their is no kindergarten-level or high school-level of knowledge of Islam. In fact, many preachers of Islam make mistakes without realizing because of their limited knowledge and limited study of Islam. Knowledge of Islam is fragmentary in our time, not holistic; we all have pieces, but only a few have the whole picture.

Try your best
There is a reason why the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) taught an Islam that isn’t about maximal worship, but about optimal moderation. Because moderation is sustainable. And by moderation I don’t mean doing as little as possible, but doing as much as one honestly can do. Moderation means being able to honestly say, “Allah, I am trying my best.” One cannot be all things religious at all times. Its just not humanly possible. There are ups and downs. And there are times when you struggle and overcome, and then get weak and have to overcome again. But that is because it is worth it. The amount of struggle involved to just arrive at the Friday prayers on time, and then run back to work, can be a weekly test of faith for some people. The misbehaviour, the bad parking, the lengthy sermon and all that is a trial for the practicing and non-practicing Muslims. But they endure it because of Allah, because if they did it for the sake of a Muslim they like, they wouldn’t do it.

All or Nothing is False
We can’t think of ourselves in an all-or-nothing dichotomy, be immaculate or be filthy is the binary, as if we are robots. If we were to think like this, then shaytan would win overnight. But we have to keep trying, wherever we are, how many sins or good deeds we’ve done or what impression we cast on the people around us. But thats false, we have to try and do what we can and we slip and have weak points. We have to bring each other up and that should be the goal because we are in the same boat together.

And if this all doesn’t draw it all home, then just read about Jews during the Holocaust. In their last moments, as they were bussed to the concentration camps, young Jewish kids were fornicating next to Jews praying their kaddish prayer for the dead. At the end of the day, we are a community, for better or worse and those who hate us, hate us all equally.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 2, 2016

The Sadaqa Business Model

Alhamdulillah, I recently got married and have begun working full-time. This is a great blessing I am grateful for daily. Like any blessing it has its challenges, responsibilities and there is a learning experience in it along with its fruits. For the longest time, I have been a student and feel compelled to stay that way, but now I feel I have joined the rest of society in the pursuit of the dollar.

I don’t like being put in this position. So I have tried to bring my deen into my dunya – so my dunya is for my deen. My goal for working has been to give more sadaqa but there is a whole psychology behind sadaqa and the economics of shaytan’s waswasa that hides behind every paycheque. But alhamdulillah, in Islam, sadaqa can be given to one’s family. And yet, with money I always feel I am being too prudent or too extravagant in spending. I am guided by the Prophet’s ﷺ saying, “The best of sustenance is that which suffices.”  May Allah help me implement and understand this saying, ameen. If I get caught up in the trap of being distracted by the dunya, as Allah warns us in Surah al-Takhathur, then maybe I will lose the baraka of what I do earn. It may be there is more baraka in fewer earnings and there may be less baraka in more earnings.

So one idea to bring deen and dunya together is to start a side-business but to make the spiritual intention (niyyah) that this business will be solely for sadaqa. The goal is to keep my intention clear – the profits go solely to sadaqa.

There is much baraka in this idea. First of all, its a side business and so if my nafs is lazy to work, then I don’t have major losses and any benefit is sadaqa. As a side business, I can do as much or as little as I can and if the business fails, its a learning experience and not a major loss since my livelihood doesn’t depend on it. A little khayr or a lot of khayr. Secondly, if I intend to do it for Allah, then perhaps Allah will put baraka in it and make this business take off. And lastly, its a spiritual exercise in becoming responsible with my mu’amalat (financial transactions) and becoming prudent without being stingy.

If I can succeed I can help the community and help my akhira. I can give back to my community (both Muslim and Canadian community) in the process of serving it. I don’t want to rely on the Muslim community for money – using Islam or my Muslim identity to make money for my nafs, but I feel we should do the reverse – to use our nafs to enrich the Muslim community. I hope one day I can implement this.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 4, 2016

Moonsighting the Akhira

Every year we see some moon-sighting squabbles for one reason or another. This post is not on moon-sighting fiqh – it is simple sensible considerations to community decision makers and average Muslims (i.e me) on moon-sighting attitudes. I hope this helps community leaders make the most reasonable decision for their community, whatever that decision may be. My only hope is we outgrow this and realize moon-sighting is simply a yearly test from Allah.

 

“You will know you can preach and open your mouth when you love the people before you.” ~Imam al-Haddad

  1. Advice to the Decision-makers: Understand the struggles of the common Muslim. The Muslims are hungry all day, tired late-night after tarawih, many are desperately praying for shifa and rahma so their grief is constantly on their mind. Naturally then Muslim patience is thin and prone to fight and anger. Do not give them a reason to be angered!
    1. For every decision no matter how small ask yourself: What would Nabi ﷺ do?
    2. Is your decision-making out of touch with the average non-masjid-going Muslim? Are you deciding on a pedestal or have you taken the pulse of the community of Muslims? Do Muslims share your same conviction in your method of deciding or are they apathetic? Is there a deep reservoir of religious sentiment mixed with resentment in your community? Is your decision a fragile one that will test the community’s iman? Imam al-Shaybani said Imam as-Shafi’i would spend a lot of time talking with dyers to get to know their society, their concerns and adat, which is poignant because dyers were a stinky occupation. Can we expect the same from imams and community leaders today?
    3. Non-Muslim: Can non-Muslims venues accommodate Eid on either day? If not, do they deserve our business? Are we by default, letting non-Muslims choose which day we celebrate Eid on?
    4. Time constraints: You only have one chance at moon-sighting and announcing, you cannot change it halfway through the night. Can you expect people to change the day of Eid minutes before they go to bed?
    5. Risk assessment: What is at risk? What community bonds, fundraising efforts and attracting Eid-only Muslims are on the line with your decision?
    6. Who is having rahma on whom? Is the imam having rahma on the Muslims with his decision? Or are the Muslims being patient and merciful with the imam?
  2. Community Politics: Is the moon-sighting one battle in a long line of battles with another Muslim group or party?
    1. Is it worth losing the ajr of a possible Laylatul Qadr night by fighting for the reward of getting the day of Eid correct? I don’t think so, one is smaller and one is greater.
    2. Are community leaders intoxicated by the microphone? Are you jealous and wish you could be on the microphone and limelight instead of them?
    3. Don’t make your decision contingent upon another party of Muslims loyalty. Don’t make your moon-sighting niyyah to up-end another Muslim party.
    4. Is it more probable than not, you will err in moon-sighting this year?
    5. Is it better to be quiet and leave it to another party to decide? Is it guaranteed you will pick the right day every single year?
    6. Is there any good deed in picking the right day but with bad adab? No, you will upset Muslims and ruin their celebration.
    7. Before arguing consider: How can you make dua for the Muslims izzah during the Eid dua if you have fractured the Muslims the night before?
    8. Remember the Qur’anic ayahs against sectarianism: So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah . That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know. Adhere to it, turning in repentance to Him, and fear Him and establish prayer and do not be of those who associate others with Allah, or of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has. (Rum: 31-32) and the verses [Allah said], “O messengers, eat from the good foods and work righteousness. Indeed, I, of what you do, am Knowing. And indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so fear Me.” But the people divided their religion among them into sects – each faction, in what it has, rejoicing. (al-Muminun: 51-53) 
  3. Spirituality
    1. Have you made salat al-istikhara before announcing the moon-sighting decision?
    2. Have you recited the dua of the new moon?
    3. Is the moon not a symbol of Rasulullah ﷺ? The Madinans sang Tal’al Badru alayna when Nabi ﷺ emigrated to Madina. It was the Madinans who equated seeing Nabi ﷺ with seeing the full moon and it is Nabi ﷺ who told us we will see Allah SWT in the Next life just as if we see the full moon.
    4. Recall the hadith: “The best of my umma are those who observe prayer times by shadow on the ground & sight moon with their eyes.” (Tabarani) You do not need to be a community leader to do this.
  4. Advice to the Common Muslims
    1. Is there any sin on you if the imam picks the wrong day? No, there is no sin on you. The sin, if there is any sin, is on the imam and not the Muslims that follow the imam.
    2. Cheer up fellow Muslims on Eid. Hand out candy and treats to kids and balloons.
    3. Be patient and tolerant with Muslim community leaders, especially if they are elderly. For some of them, this is their only time to take a lead and change the direction the community is heading in, for better or worse.
    4. This is a time-limited trial – it lasts not more than 24 hours, so don’t prolong it by talking about it ad nauseam.
    5. Pray that these troubles are solved and Allah puts in their place much good.

Maybe this will not benefit anybody but somebody has to say these things. Ramadhan mubarak.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

 

Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 18, 2016

The Mathematics of Fasting in Islam

Last year I had taken to fasting more often. As time went by I thought more and more about rewards for optional sunnah fasting and its benefits. The hadith on it are well known and we hear them every few months in Shaban, Dhul Hijjah, Ramadhan and Shawwal (for those unfamiliar see the links). But the more time passed, the more a pattern appeared to me.

  • Fasting the day of Ashura (10th of Muharram) + 9th or 11th of Muharram expiates for sins in the previous year (Sahih Muslim). That is 360 days.
  • Fasting Ramadhan and 6 days of Shawwal gives the reward for 1 year as well, as 30 days in Ramadhan + 6 days Shawwal are given 10 times the reward in Ibn Abbas’ ijtihad so 360.
  • Fasting Ayam al-Bid (the luminous nights) which are, 3 days every Islamic month, including Ramadhan by default, typically 13-15th (see here for a possible wisdom behind that) or the 1st Monday and next 2 Thursdays, that is 12 months is 36 days as well. Multipy 10 times the reward gives 360 again.
  • Fasting 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, significant as the 12th month of the year, specifically fasting the Day of Arafah forgives sins in the previous year and the year to come. Again 360 x 2 = 720.
  • Fasting the fast of Sayyidina Dawud (alayhi salam) is every other day that is 180 days a year. The same hadith also mentions fasting every 2nd or 3rd day, so we have 120 and 90, factors of 360.
  • Fasting the first 15 days of Shaban, that is the 8th Islamic month is also significant where 15 x 8 = 120, a factor of 360. 

All these fasts are optional except Ramadhan. Now, if you total the actual days of optional fasting that comes to 2 days for Ashura, 6 for Shawwal, 12 for Ayam al-Bid, 10 for Dhul Hijjah. That is a total of 30 days of actual fasting, so really just an extra month of fasting which is 2/12 months or 1/6th of the year.  This doesn’t even include Shaban which is not as emphasized in Muslim communities as the other sunnah fasts. And the reward you would get for those extra 30 days? 360 days for Ashura, 360 days with Shawwal, 360 days with Ayam al-Bid, 720 days with Dhul Hijjah, which is a total of 1800 or 5 years worth of reward for fasting 30 extra days! So you only fast 30 extra days besides Ramadhan and get the reward of 5 years! SubhanaAllah, pretty mind boggling stuff!

“Which one of the Favours of your Lord will you deny?”

Why 360?

Why is there a mathematical pattern relating to 360 and its factors apparent in relation to fasting? Allah knows best. One explanation I did came across was that Ethiopian Orthodox Christians are required to fast 180 days a year! Apparently, this is because Maryam the mother of Isa (Jesus alayhi salam) fasted 6 months every year. We Muslims fast at least 1 month or 2 months. So the possible wisdom is Muslims fast much fewer days than the Christians, but are given double the rewards the Christians gets, that is up to 360. This is the generosity, blessing and favour Allah has shown to the Muslim ummah over the Christian ummah! I believe this is because of Allah’s love of Sayyidina Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam). Alhamdulillah, we have many easy options for fasting but are given great rewards for them

For those of you who are keen, you know there is also a sunnah fast on Mondays and Thursdays of each week. This is significant because the same Ethiopian Orthodox Christians also fast every Wednesday and Friday, so Muslims fasting Mondays and Thursdays is a way of making us distinct from that previous religious community. It is also worth noting fasting in Islam is in commemoration of blessed and joyous occasions, like completing Ramadhan or Abraham’s sacrifice but if you look at fasting in the Jewish communities, it is as marked by sadness and sorrow. Islam is therefore more spiritually optimistic than those nations of the past.

More Hijri Mathematical Patterns?

The mathematical patterns made me wonder if there are other patterns in the Islamic calendar. Here are some possible findings:

  • The 4 sacred months are also recommended for worship which is approximately 120 days.
  • Rabi al-Awwal is interesting too because it is the 3rd month and the Mawlid an-Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is on the 12th day, so 3 x 12 is 36.
  • The last 10 days of Ramadhan, the 9th month, is significant. The 9th month is the last 3rd of the year. The last 10 days of Ramadhan, from the 20th to the 30th, are the last 3rd of the 9th month. And during that time, in the last 3rd of the night we recite the Qur’an and by then our taraweeh has reach the last 3rd of the Qur’an. (Read that again if it didn’t make sense) There are 4 chronological levels of 3rds here, that is again 12, a factor of 360. Or we could say there is 4 dimensions to these last 10 days, like a kernel within a kernel aligning in this period, so the last 10 days are really like 40 days in magnitude.   

These are only a few things I found and I have looked mainly at months. One could similarly explore mathematical patterns in Islamic hours in the day (hour of jumuah, night before jumuah, hour before fajr, the Final Hour, etc) or even decades of Islamic history for patterns (the first years of Nubuwwah, the first 3 generations etc). Or similarly, exploring the effect of seasons and spiritual practices in Islam like fasting in winter when days are short and praying the night in summer when the nights are short, thereby making it easier for us.

Conclusion

I don’t believe in numerology or anything like that but I do believe Allah has a Sunnah (a pattern) in creation and its good to find that pattern as a sign of His Knowledge and Majesty. I have pointed out only a few of these patterns. In Muslim communities, we emphasis 40 and 786 as being spiritually significant. For the reasons mentioned above, I think 36 and its factors are also significant. Surah YaSin is described as the ‘heart of the Qur’an’ and is the 36th chapter of the Qur’an. The middle of the entire Qur’an is in the 18th chapter of the Qur’an (surah Kahf) and comes right after the 18th verse, again factors of 36. And when we consider the fasting hadith mentioned above, 36 or 360 becomes a symbol of Allah’s All-Encompassing Generosity to us Muslims. This exercise was interesting for me in an attempt to quantify how much Allah’s Mercy to Muslims is greater than Allah’s Mercy to the People of the Book.

For me it is important not to get bogged down in the details or this number or that number being special, but to see all numbers point to the One, al-Wahid, al-Ahad. If we can see all numbers as a sign of Allah, then just mentioning any number besides 1, will remind us of Allah.

 

Footnote:

*Its also interesting to note that mathematically the first Muslims were not always precise, the lunar Hijri calendar has about 354 days, or 11-12 days shorter than solar year, and Muslims like to approximate (ie 40 Hadith Nawawi is actually 42 hadith).  Our days are also reversed because the day for Muslims begins at sunset, not sunrise and there is no certainty with moonsighting. This is to say spirituality in Islam, is not supposed to be exact, it is approximate, and that is more in line with trusting in Allah.

*Post-script: This hadith is also interestingThe Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Friday is twelve hours in which there is no Muslim slave who asks Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for something but He will give it to him, so seek it in the last hour after ‘Asr.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i].

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika wa ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant wa astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 25, 2015

Prophetic Clothing and Ahlul Bayt

Bismillah

The following are some reflections on the clothing of Rasulullah ﷺ and Ahlul Bayt. I write this because it is Ashura and Muharram is a good time for (Sunni) Muslims to contemplate their connection and love of Ahlul Bayt with adab and in a way that is fresh, original and within the confines of Qur’an and Sunnah.

ayat_e_mawaddat

Clothing in Islam

In Islam clothing is seen as important to modesty but also has other significance. We wear a ihram to Hajj, and to our grave, we are forbidden from tearing our clothes in times of calamity, the Qur’an tells us our spouses are a clothing for us, if we are lucky we are clothed in libaas at-taqwa or garments of light in Jannah or if we are unlucky, clothed in garments of fire and tar in Jahannam. There are many hadith in which clothing – cloaks, shawls, veils – are mentioned. Allah SWT has veils of light and some say Rasulullah ﷺ did too.

There are instances in hadith where clothing in relation to Rasulullah ﷺ becomes a special means of blessing and honour: the famous hadith of Abu Hurayrah’s memory, Su’wad telling Rasulullah ﷺ to take off his battle armour so he can hug him skin to skin before his final moments in battle, Rasulullah ﷺ giving a cloak that was gifted to him ﷺ to Umm Khalid bin Sa’id bin al-‘As.

Prophetic Clothing of Ahlul Bayt

The desire in the above examples is closeness to Rasulullah ﷺ. Though all these are blessed, if you look closely at them, these are moments not actually conferred by Rasulullah ﷺ’s hand directly. In fact, most ahadith that mention the unique honour of Rasulullah ﷺ actually conferring or clothing someone directly are directed to the Ahlul Bayt. Outside of Ahlul Bayt, their are few exceptions to this unique honour, like Ka’b ibn Zuhayr (who composed the original Burda), and leaders who accepted Islam (like Waail ibn Hujar who left his kingdom for Islam, and Jarir bin Abdullah al-Bajali for whom he ﷺ placed his shawl on the ground to walk on, but Jarir picked up the shawl and placed it on his head).

Raqibu Muhammadan fi aali Baytihi 

“Be mindful of Muhammad ﷺ in his Family.”

~Sayyidina Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (via Faraz Rabbani)

The only other major hadith that is similar to Hadith of the Burda is the Hadith of Ahl al-Kisa. But there are more events just like Ahl al-Kisa involving Ahlul Bayt which suggests a deep connection between the blessed garments of Rasulullah ﷺ and Ahlul Bayt : 1) During the Hijra, when Sayyidina Ali hid in Rasulullah’s ﷺ bed, covered by his blessed mantle, 2) when Rasulullah ﷺ left his House behind an invisible hijab, unseen by his would-be assassins, 3) the story where one of Rasulullah’s ﷺ daughter comes to defend Rasulullah ﷺ from the mustahzi’een (arch-enemies of Islam) at the Kaaba and she became uncovered in her haste and Rasulullah ﷺ covered her (note: I am still trying to find the source for this) 4) when Rasulullah ﷺ spread out his shawl for his foster-sister Shayma, the daughter of Halima Sadiya, 5) the story of Sayyidah Khadija  “zamilooni zamilooni” and Surah Muzzamil, 6) Rasulullahﷺ dreaming of Jibril carrying Aisha in a shawl telling him she will become his wife, 7) Surah Ahzab and the ayahs of hijab for Ummahat al-Mumineen.

The Blessings of the Prophetic Clothing

Those probably aren’t even all the examples pertaining to this topic, but its quite obvious the emphasis on veils, shawls, mantles, and other Prophetic clothing in relation to Ahlul Bayt, suggests a greater holiness and sanctity for the Family of Rasulullah ﷺ. This is above and beyond what is reserved for the Sahabas, because as it has been made clear, there are many more instances of it occurring. We can’t fully understand it but consider, if the Kaaba is covered by a Kiswa (or Ghilaf), then so are the Family of Rasulullah ﷺ. If the sufi khirqa is such an honor, then how much more of an honor is it to be covered and surrounded by the garments of Rasulullah ﷺ especially when it is done by his very own blessed hand  ﷺ ?

Ever since the story of Ka’b bin Zuhayr and Ahl al-Kisa Muslims have held the garments of the Rasulullah ﷺ to be of sacred import. We don’t fully understand it but we can speculate what the reality of these Prophetic garments may be. One hadith mentions when Rasulullah’s ﷺ reality is ‘unveiled’ in Jannah people will go into sajda out of wonder (only to be told not to make sajda because this is not Allah). Uways al-Qarni was given the cloak Rasulullah ﷺ wore on Isra wa’l Miraj by Sayyidina Umar and is reported to have said about Rasulullah ﷺ, “All you have seen of him is his shadow.” Allah veiled Rasulullah’s ﷺreality to us in this world but since the Ahlul Bayt were clothed with Rasulullah’s ﷺ clothing, one possibility may be they are privy to the inner reality of Rasulullah ﷺ – if not in this world, then in the life of barzakh.

O you who covers himself with a garment…And your clothing purify, And uncleanliness avoid…

Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity of sin, O people of the Prophet’s household, and to purify you with extensive purification.

As the ayat above suggest, Rasulullah’s ﷺ clothing is pure and the Ahlul Bayt too are purified and this is why they are often called Ahlul Bayt at-Taha. So the Prophetic clothing are a divine sign of spiritual purity and the connection with Ahlul Bayt only strengthens the claim of Ahlul Bayt’s spiritual purity.

The Qur’an tells us that shaytan surrounds us (“I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left”) but a garment comes between a human and shaytan so the clothing of Rasulullah ﷺ may be a shield for these blessed people from shaytan. The clothing of Prophets appears in the Qur’an with the curing powers of the shirt of Yusuf and sakina descending on Bani Israel when they carry the Ark containing the clothing of Musa and Har’un. So it would be safe to say Rasulullah’s ﷺ clothing gives protection from shaytan, sanctity, tranquility and healing – at the very least.

We can maybe try to speculate as to what Ahlul Bayt experienced from these blessed garments. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal wore the qamis of Rasulullah ﷺ. Imam Ahmad is said to have dreamt of Allah SWT more than 100 times. Many find this report strange but it makes sense if we consider the ayah, “It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil” – here the veil from Rasulullah’sﷺ shirt. Imam Ahmad was not from Ahlul Bayt and yet he experienced this from 1 item of Prophetic clothing, so what did the Ahlul Bayt experience with multiple items of clothing?

Conclusion

Just like there is continuum of the Salaf (Sahaba, Tabieen and Taba Tabi’in as most righteous generation) based on who physically saw Rasulullah ﷺ, I propose there is a similar continuum of uns (closeness) to Rasulullah ﷺ that these garments signify – at the centre are the Ahlul Bayt then Sahabas, Tabi’een, etc and at the very far end are the disbelievers – whose hearts Allah Himself has covered with a hijab, (unlike Rasulullah ﷺ himself covering the bodies of the righteous), and disbelief is enough to cut off family relations in the sight of Allah (like the story of Nuh’s son).

These are my reflections on pondering over the special importance of Ahlul Bayt in the Qur’an and Sunnah. I don’t know if what I have written is complete and I don’t imagine everybody will agree with it, but studying the Prophetic Clothing is a starting point to seeing a whole new dimension of Ahlul Bayt’s prominence in Sunni Islam. Because if Rasulullah ﷺ’s Clothing and His Familyﷺ, those things that are the physically closest to Rasulullahﷺ, are not important to us – than what is?

Allahu alam.

 

May Allah give us understanding of these ahadith and the rank of Ahlul Bayt and all of those beloved to Rasulullah ﷺ.

تلك امة قد خلت لها ما كسبت ولكم ما كسبتم ولا تسالون عما كانوا يعملون

That was a nation which has passed on. It will have [the consequence of] what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.

subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

 

More links:

Ahlul Bayt: Litmus Test of Rightly Guided Ulema – Yahya Rhodus

The Prophet’s Compassion for Children

The Rights of the Sahaba and Ahlul Bayt – Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah 

Ahlul Bayt Part 1 and Part 2 – Dr. Shadee Elmasry

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 28, 2014

In Response to the Deconstruction of Convert Islamic Identity

Bismillah

The blogosphere and American speakers have tried to discuss the problems of being a convert, but it has by and large been a very superficial discussion. Alhamdulillah Sh Esa Alexander of the UK has written a more substantive nuanced discussion on the sensitive topic. Take a read of it if you can. I began writing a comment in response to Shaykh Esa but it became too long and I will blog it here and go into more detail inshaAllah.

Convert Stages

I liked that you focused not on the convert/revert victim card, but on the phases of convert life – good and bad and how it progresses and regresses. It would be great if we broke this down further into something similar to the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grieving model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression acceptance, etc) which is used for death, losing your job, divorce, substance abuse and other major life changes. Seeing exactly what happens to convert identity more closely might help counsel them through the trials and tribulations of new Muslim life.

Precipice of Identity

I find converts struggle with entering the masjid and born Muslim struggle with exiting the masjid; integration with uncles vs. integration with non-Muslim peers. Most of the identity problems materialize at the precipice of the houses of Allah.

When you enter and exit the masjid you inevitably wonder if xyz is righteous or if you are more righteous and use outward markers of piety (ie dress) to judge that. This is our state day in and day out whether we like it or not and it is where we confront Islamic identity. Itikaaf is distinguished from this because one of its blessings is you do not think about Islamic identity for 10 days. During those 10 days you see everybody in the masjid as religious because the prayer carpet is as normal as breakfast, pajamas and bedsheets. Paltry conversation is discouraged in itikaaf and isolation is encouraged, so you will not be bothered by others. The psychological shift during it is something I found personally very beneficial and so my suggestion is for converts to have an itikaaf or khalwa in the masjid a few months after converting to ‘take a break’ from their constant identity re-negotiation and to preserve and strengthen their relationship with Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

muslim cultures

Cultural Buffer Zone

Part of the deconstruction of identity is swinging the pendulum from orientalizing yourself with thobes to becoming a vegan zen-loving hipster pseudo-sufi who looks down on the uncles and pretends to know to have a more enlightened understanding of Islam, which is probably just their bigotry re-organized to put it in rough term. In many places the converts imitate born Muslims, but increasingly the born Muslims imitate the converts. So their is give and take both ways and one convert’s schizo tendencies feed off a born Muslim’s schizo tendencies and they mirror each other’s confused identities. So its not as clear cut as you have spoken of.

The central issue is not about identity or culture but about community. If your only Muslim community is Arab, then you will become Arabicized to some degree. We all have some cosmopolitan cultural buffer zone in us. We like to dabble with other cultures and feel cosmopolitan and refined, but we don’t want to commit to other cultures totally and forever. But we may think, if we don’t commit a little, then maybe we lose community. Human beings like to change and evolve but they also go through tough times when returning to their cultural roots – be they British, Greek, Arab or Pakistani – is necessary for them. If they don’t return to that, then they may take out their frustration on the ethnicity of the dominant Muslim community they have tried to connect with.

Understanding that we all have this cultural buffer zone – an emotional limit or a time limit where we can only become encultured to a different identity so much before it begins to hurt us or we begin to hurt our fellow Muslims – and that we need to know when we hit that limit before we hurt others and hurt our deen. We should respect converts have this culture buffer zone that should not be exhausted, but utilized selectively.

Treating Converts like Babies?

I don’t agree with the last part of your article. Converts don’t need to be treated like babies – this is the West where people are independent and will not welcome that. But there should be a ‘partnership approach’ like the Ansar and Muhajirun. I think every masajid should institute a monthly meeting for converts with the imam, social worker and even a psychologist to talk about their problems in an open non-judgmental environment.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 18, 2014

Unlocking the Honorific Titles in the Qur’an and Hadith

The following are some bookmarked notes and excerpts I’ve picked up while reading different tafsirs online that explain how we can earn these honorific titles. We have many hollow man-made titles and honorifics, but what do they compare to the honorifics of the Eternal Qur’an? Imagine: if we try and act on even one of these, maybe Allah will call us by that Qur’anic title on the Day of Judgment and in Jannah, insha-Allah.

The sources for this are Ma’ariful Qur’an, Tafsir al-Tustari, and Tafsir Ibn Kathir to combine the classical early mufassirun and the insights of the awliya.

Waf-fa

Meaning loyal, faithfully fulfilling his covenant, referring to Ibrahim alayhis-salam discussed in Surah Najm in Ma’ariful Qur’an:

Ibn Abi Hatim hadith via Muadh ibn Anas: “Do you know why Allah gave Ibrahim the title al-ladhi waffa? Then he said, Because he used to recite the following dhikr every morning and evening:

(fa subhanallahi hina tumsuni wa hina tusbihun…wa kadhalika tukhrajun) from Surah Rum, v.17-19

“He fulfilled the day’s work by starting it with the performance of 4 rak’at (salat-ul ishraq). (Hadith via Abu Umama)

Ahwa’an Haleem

Ahwa’an haleem – 9:114, Qurtubi says awwah, it means one who sighs a lot (saying “ah ah” as a dhikr), supplicates much or as Abdullah ibn Mas’ud says one who is given to mercy for servants of Allah.

Mustaghfirina bi’l as-haar

“And who pray for forgiveness in the early hours of the morning” (3:17) refers to those who ask forgiveness before Fajr time during Suhur time. This time dua is accepted and beloved because it is the time of day Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was born.

Awwab and Hafiz 

Surah Qaf in Ma’ariful Qur’an:

Awwab, someone who turns to Allah in repentance, according to Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Sha’bi, Mujahid refers to someone who recalls his sins in loneliness, private and secret, and seeks forgiveness, Ubaid ibn Umair said Awwab is one who seeks Allah’s forgiveness of his sins in every sitting

(See Duas after every sitting: subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika la illaha illant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk and subhanallahi wa bihamdihi allahumma inni astaghfiruka mimma asabtu fi majlisi hadhi–for repentance for evil done in a sitting or a gathering)

[17:25] …If you are righteous, then truly He is Forgiving to those who keep turning [to Him] in repentance.

Ibn al-Musayyib said: ‘The one who turns again and again in penitence (awwāb) is the one who sins, then repents, then sins, then repents, and dies in a state of repentance’. Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said, ‘The awwāb is the penitent who repents without delay.7 Indeed he is ready (muhayyaʾ) for repentance at every instant and moment.’ It was related on the authority of Ḍamra b. Ḥabīb that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam)  said: ‘He for whom a door to goodness has been opened should seize [the opportunity] as he does not know when it will close on him.’ This means that he should seriously consider his present moment (waqt) and not procrastinate. (Tafsir al-Tustari)

Hafiz according of Ibn Abbas is one who remembers his sins so returns to Allah and make amends, another report that he remembers his covenant with Allah and doesn’t betray it.

Whoever performs 4 rakat Ishraq early in the day is Awwab and Hafiz (Qurtubi via Abu Hurayra)

Qalbin Munib 

Wa jaha bi qalbin munib” — Abu Bakr Warraq says munib is he always maintains respect for Allah and humbles himself to Him and gives up his sensual and base desires

Abdun Munib

[50:8] As an insight and a reminder for every penitent servant.

He said:

This means: ⸢as a lesson and source of evidence, guiding them to believe in the oneness of their Lord and to show gratitude to Him;⸣2 penitent (munīb), that is, one who devotes his heart purely to God by turning his attention [wholly] to Him,3 and by maintaining God’s remembrance (dhikr) in the practice of his obligatory duties (wājibāt).

Sa’imun

«وَالصَّوْمُ زَكَاةُ الْبَدَن»

(Fasting is the Zakah of the body.) In other words, it purifies it and cleanses it of things that are bad in both physical and Shar`i terms. Sa`id bin Jubayr said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan and three days of each month, is included in the Ayah,

“the men and the women who fast” (Qur’an, 33:35)

Dhakirina wa Dhakiraat

“and the men and the women who remember Allah much” in 33:35, Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allah said:

«إِذَا أَيْقَظَ الرَّجُلُ امْرَأَتَهُ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَصَلَّيَا رَكْعَتَيْنِ كُتِبَا تِلْكَ اللَّيْلَةَ مِنَ الذَّاكِرِينَ اللهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَات»

“If a man wakes his wife at night and they pray two Rak`ahs, they will recorded that night as being among the men and the women who remember Allah much.” (Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja)

Sayyidan Hasuran 

Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and Sa`id bin Jubayr said that Allah’s statement about Yahya alayhi-salam

And “Sayyidan” means, a wise man. Ibn `Abbas, Ath-Thawri and Ad-Dahhak said that Sayyidan means, “The noble, wise and pious man.’‘ Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib said that Sayyid is the scholar and Faqih. `Atiyah said that Sayyid is the man noble in behavior and piety. `Ikrimah said that it refers to a person who is not overcome by anger, while Ibn Zayd said that it refers to the noble man. Mujahid said that Sayyidan means, honored by Allah.

“And Hasuran” does not mean he refrains from sexual relations with women, but that he is immune from illegal sexual relations.

Sa’ihun

9:112 : saihunna, siyaha — for us it is fasting (Ibn Abbas), or journeying for knowledge (Ikrimah) or fighting (the monasticism of my ummah is fighting in way of God — (Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi) mentioned in Tafsir Ma’ariful Quran

Khashiyun

As mentioned in Surah al-Muminun as pertaining to in salah, khashiyun — Mujahid said: casting one’s eyes down, voice low. Ali said refrain from casting sideways glances obliquely. Ata’ said not toying with any part of the body. Abu Dharr hadith via Mazhari: “Allah keeps an eye over His servant during prayers so long as he concentrates his attention on Allah, but when he turns his attention elsewhere and glances obliquely sideways, Allah also turns away from him.” Hadith Reported to have told Anas to keep his eyes fixed at spot which he touched his forehead with when performing sajdah. “If he had khushu in his heart, his body and limbs would have remained calm.” (Hadith)

Siddiq/Siddiqa

My understanding of this is that Yusuf, Maryam and Abu Bakr are mentioned by sidq. The commonality among them is they spoke the truth when it was difficult. Yusuf alayhi-salam spoke of Allah when Zulayka tried to seduce him, Maryam was also accused of committing zina but she was truthful in pointing to her son Isa alayhi-salam, and Abu Bakr when interrogated about Isra wa’l Miraj said, “In-qala, If he said it, fa qad sadaqt, I believe it. I believe in something more miraculous than this that he received wahi from the heavens.”

ʿAbd al-Wāḥid b. Zayd said:

Veracity (ṣidq) is being faithful (wafāʾ) to God in your act[s].

Sahl al-Tustari was asked about veracity and said:

Veracity is fear concerning [our] end (khātima), and patience (ṣabr) is the proof [lit. witness (shāhid)] of veracity. Truly, veracity is hard for the veracious (ṣiddīqūn), sincerity (ikhlāṣ) is hard for the sincere (mukhliṣūn), and repentance (tawba) is hard for the repentant (tāʾibūn), for these three require [extraordinary] exertion of the spirit (badhl al-rūḥ).

Aḥmad b. Mattā was asked about its meaning [ṣidq] and said:

It is that there no longer remains a share for a person’s lower self.

Sahl said:

No one will get a whiff of the fragrance of veracity as long as he panders to his lower self or to others. Rather, veracity is that a person feels in his innermost secret (sirr) that there is no one on the face of the earth from whom God has demanded servanthood besides him. Furthermore, his hope is his fear, and his fear is [of] his demise (intiqāl).  Then when God, Exalted is He, sees them [the veracious] in this state, He takes upon himself the care of their affairs (tawallā umūrahum) and suffices for them (kafāhum), and every hair on their bodies speaks [as one] with God (maʿa’Llāh) in gnosis (maʿrifa). Thereafter God, Exalted is He, says to them on the Day of Judgement, ‘For whom did you work, and what did you desire?’ They will reply, ‘We worked for You, and You alone did we desire.’ He will say to them, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ And by His Might, His words of testimony affirming their veracity are a greater source of joy to them than the bliss of Paradise.

Aḥmad b. Mattā was asked about the meaning of his [Sahl’s] saying, ‘that the hope of veracity is his fear, and that his fear is [of] his demise (intiqāl).’ He said:

It is because veracity (ṣidq) is their hope and what they seek, but they fear that they are not veracious in their quest (ṭalab), so that God will not accept it from them. He has said regarding this: and [those] who give what they give while their hearts tremble [with awe] [23:60], meaning that they are in trepidation while doing acts of obedience, for fear that they will suffer rejection. (Tafsir al-Tustari)

The above meaning fits well with 33:8: “That He may question the truthful about their truth. And He has prepared for the disbelievers a painful punishment.”

For more ideas on Sidq

May Allah grant us the reality of these righteous titles.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

ramadan 10 days

Ramadhan is the one time of year when you see the best spiritual performance of a Muslim. It is in this time that Muslims best deeds are often seen. Its kind of like an annual Olympics for the Mu’mineen. Considering the vastness of the Ummah and the various groups and communities amongst the believing Muslims — one inevitably sees diverse ways of pursuing good deeds. I would like to share some of the best practices I have taken note of amongst various Muslim ulema in Ramadhan.

1) Answered Dua:  The first is a piece of advice Muhammad AlShareef of AlMaghrib Institute once gave to his students. Make one specific dua asking Allah for that one thing throughout Ramadhan and you will see this dua answered guaranteed. I tried this a few years ago and found this approach to work but like anything, it does require sabr.

2) 100 Rakat Tarawih:  The second practice is one I imagine few can do, but worth trying if you can muster the courage and if time permits. The 100 rakat Tarawih performed in parts of Yemen is a known practice of the Habaib shuyukh. The masajid have tarawih and qiyaam prayers spread out at different hours of the night, making it possible for one to do 20 rakat tarawih at one masjid and then move to the next masjid and perform 20 rakat tarawih there and so on until 100 rakat is achieved by Suhur time.

3) DIY Iftar: One of the simplest and easiest but most beneficial practices advised by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari and Imam Tahir Anwar is doing your own iftar and dinner at home. Ramadhan is a time of ibadat (worship), but we unfortunately turn it into a time of socializing with many dinner parties and iftar invites. So turn down invites for iftar and dinner parties citing Ramadhan as your excuse. The benefit of doing this is you have greater control on the hours of the night, your energy level, limiting food intake and creating a stable Ramadhan routine. Though you may be seen as anti-social, you be safe from the sins of the tongue insha’Allah, at least for the month of Ramadhan.

4) Guaranteed Laylatul Qadr: Another practice I have heard Turkish trained teacher Shaykh Naeem Abdul-Wali advise is the marfu’ hadith, “He who prays Isha in the last 10 nights in jamaat in Ramadhan, he has indeed acquired the Night of Qadr.” The shaykh tells us the hadith is weak, but that there is still virtue in acting on exhortations as fada’il al-amaal (virtuous acts) and if one cannot get the whole, to try their best to get a part of it. It goes without saying that we should cover all our bases in striving for a reward as immense as Laylatul Qadr!

5) Finishing the Qur’an Daily: Some of us may have heard of how Imam Abu Hanifa would complete the Qur’an 60 times in Ramadhan — that is finishing the Qur’an twice daily! But how exactly one would go about even doing one khatam (completion) of Qur’an in a day with a busy schedule? Well, Shaykh al-Hadith Zakariyya al-Kandhlawi was known to start and finish the Qur’an daily. This is the schedule he would follow and how many parts (juz) of Qur’an he’d complete in different Ramadhans in his life:

ramadan sh hadith ramadan sh hadith1

Taken from: Source

May Allah bless the teachers of this ummah who have kept the noble spirit of Ramadhan alive to our time.

Closing Advice:

Don’t make Ramadhan about physical fitness, make it about spiritual fitness and you will find success with both.

Treat each day like a journey from the city into an empty desert, where each day you sever your heart from something it hungers for until you find yourself with almost no wants.

Ask Allah for the best Ramadhan for you and the Muslims around the world.

 

Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 13, 2014

Driving as a Muslim

Everytime I drive I contemplate lessons in driving and slowly its grown on me.

In Islam even shoes are considered a vehicle, so it doesn’t matter how impressive your car is – its all about its function as a conveyance. It may be the more features your car has, the more headache it causes you (ie. beeping if you don’t have your belt on, expensive repair costs) so I feel there is more baraka in humbler vehicles. I drive with hadith books in my car for protection and ease. Sometimes I have water bottles in the trunk for wudhu while commuting. I do dhikr while driving and in the midst of potential accidents its kept me safe, alhamdulillah. People often curse their car when in difficulty, but if I stay silent, make shukr when things go good, or say good things about my car, I find more khayr in it the next time I drive. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa alihi wa salam) named his camels and donkeys and cared for them – he didn’t beat and curse them. Those are ways in which I have found baraka in my ride. Often we find ourselves in situations of stress, being late or stuck in traffic or driving low on gas. These are situations of sabr and tawakkul.

Driving itself is not so much about you as it is about those around you. If you make the intention (niyyah) for benefiting those around you through driving, then it can be an act of worship. Driving is very different for a passenger than for someone who has their hands safely on the wheel to cushion themselves. Learning to drive in a way that keeps passengers comfortable is sometimes overlooked by independent minded people, but if you don’t learn it then no one will want to share a journey with you. I suppose thats how it is with many things in life like marriage and community. When you are on the highway and a car approaches in the opposite direction, you turn down your hi-beams so it doesn’t blind their vision. If another car is blinding your vision, you flicker your car’s headlights as a warning, for yourself but also the cars that will come behind you. Driving slow can annoy those driving behind you but it also helps them obey the rules of the road and save them from a speeding ticket. Overtaking cars or being flippant while driving long distances could end up being a problem later. In the night time, when the roads are rough and its dark, cars driving long distances often stick together on the highway, in case something happens to them, at least others are near to help. Sometimes on a highway, you slow down looking for opening in lane next to you, and the car in that lane does the same trying to get into your lane and you don’t realize it. This reminds me of how you never know other people’s intentions but can be blinded by your own.

Parking is another everyday example of thinking of others. Parking can be easy but harder if  you park so that adjacent cars can get in and out of their cars easily. Thinking of others in narrow constraints is where it can really count. Speed bumps force us to slow down like Islamic prohibitions do and as obstacles protect people walking by. At 4-way intersections, it is sometimes better to let others go first but often its better to not wait for others, but to just rush sometimes, in order to save everybody’s time. If you think of one person, thats good but you may be hurting 2 other people. So sometimes putting yourself first is the same as putting others first and that has to do with leadership and courage even. At other times, you can stop slower than usual at a four way stop so other cars are quick to go first. Its almost a way of being silent with your car. A way of leading by silence.

There are other good acts one can do in their car. Carrying granola bars in your car to give to homeless people as you walk by. Something Canadians do is buy Tim hortons coffee in the drive-thru for the car that is immediately behind them as a nice surprise. Keeping booster cables to help cars stuck on the road and shovels in your trunk to dig cars stuck in the snow out in the winter is also a must for a practicing believer. It requires you to go out of your way to help a complete stranger. Parking far from the masjid so others can park near is another khayr one can intend and gives one extra hasanat with each extra footstep.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | April 29, 2014

Meta-Eman – A Practical Theory of Dawah

Bismillah

Meta-eman is the psychological drifting of a non-Muslim person into Islam via small agreeable facts about Islam. Non-Muslims instantly agree with a fact about Islam that seems so natural, so logical, so true, humane, equitable, obvious and just.

I must emphasize these are facts – words, deeds, laws, and heroics that show high Muslim ideals. There is truth in these ideals because they actually happened and continue to be lived up to in everyday life.

These facts build a foundation, form and tone to a non-Muslim person’s understanding of Islam. As the number of these small facts accumulate in their learning, they gravitated towards Islam because of the stability and breadth of Islam’s viewpoint on everything in life. Islam touches everything in life in the best possible way, so it becomes hard to see a world without the beauty of Islam.

It is important that Islam’s viewpoint not merely meet their expectations, but also surpass their expectations. They are believing in the idyllic or equitable components of the deen because they are unlike those of other religions or philosophies. Like a fourth wall or inner conversation on belief, they are slowly negotiating their way into Islam.

Proto-Eman

Believing in one’s ability to believe in Islam comes after they look back on all the aspects of Islam they consciously support with their entire being. Once they are in this place, which I call Proto-Eman, they see Islam as a manifestation of upholding those ideals since it created those ideals in them. This is the recognition (anagnorisis) of how their belief in those ideals is connected to God and this is when they are ready to say the shahada. It may be they have been in this proto-eman state for a very long time, but never had that recognition of God occur.

 

in sha Allah

That is the basic part of my theory from my past dawah work. But in parallel to this, is shaytan’s misguidance. He may make them feel weak, proud, cling to sins or tell them lies about Islam. But over time, this feeling will shrink in comparison to reliance on Allah and the immense mercy of His Messenger ﷺ. As time goes on the strength of that eman will grow and be re-worked with tarbiya and learning about the deen.

I feel this is how most dawah works but not the only way it works.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 7, 2014

New Series!

A new project I am contributing to. Check it out.

Healing Hearts

Healing Hearts presents in collaboration with other blogging friends, a 7 day series from Monday 10 March 2014. 

Luminaries flyer PNG image

Follow #Luminaries on

 social media

Contributions by:

Mohamed Ghilan- Mohamed Ghilan

Kamran Haikal- Ahlul Bay

Sidra Mushtaq- Healing Hearts

Kamran Shaheen- The Conscious Muslim

Dawud Israel- Muslimology

Zara Nargis- Treasures for the Seeker

Tariq Yusufzai- Tariq the Pilgrim

May this special series be a source of inspiration, healing and learning. May we benefit from learning about some of the great luminaries that stepped on this earth. Amin!

Please keep the contributors and their loved ones in your excellent prayers!

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Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 2, 2014

Minimal and Maximum Meaning in Reading the Qur’an

In the West, we tend to approach the Qur’an with certain attitudes. We are looking to be impressed many a time, and if not impressed, we are searching for some astounding meaning or insight. This is the culture of scientific miracles of the Qur’an and all manner of twisted fascination with odd discoveries. In short, our hearts and minds aren’t reading the Qur’an, our boredom is reading the Qur’an. We want it to astound us but in a way that is completely predictable, and there is the problem. This is part of the maximum reading approach that seeks certain meanings in the Qur’an, perhaps as affirmations of one’s own ideas, or to satisfy some insecurity or inferiority complex or simply to rescue us from our own boredom with religion. If we don’t find that in reading the Qur’an it is as if we didn’t ready anything at all – it is an all or nothing approach. This approach speaks to an attitude that does not read the Qur’an as revelation but as an ultimatum with a time-limit on it. The false aim of this approach is that there is a maximum meaning in the Qur’an, that is difficult to reach, and that maximum meaning may even be easily translatable into materialistic terms.


The Messenger will say, “Lord, my people had abandoned this Quran.” (Qur’an 25:30) 

In the East, the approach to the Qur’an historically and perhaps even today, has been of finding the minimum meaning in the Qur’an. At the very minimum God’s word is great, so even if you find the least meaning you have found something immense. The attitude is to find the bare meaning, to find the meaning of every single word or pronounciation/recitation. This is the approach you find in Tafsir books and among early Sahabas discussing the Qur’an. We in the West dislike quarreling over semantics and may see this as being as such. But no, the fact is this is the revelation from God, and as such, even the smallest point can be of great importance, if not immediately, perhaps in some other far reaching corner of Islamic law and spirituality. Nothing is beyond valuing. In order to mine the Qur’an of meaning you must start at the bare minimum. This speaks to a contentment and harmonious well-being with the deen.

reading quran

The minimal approach to the Qur’an comes from the Sahabas world of zuhd, while the maximum approach of us Westerners comes from the world of abundance and materialism. We see knowledge materialistically in the West and as such approach it with haste, not patience and greed. The minimal approach finds more meaning in less, thus find more meaning in the least, and this is the baraka and secret of zuhd. This may also affect how many adhkar we do, we may do much but in reality we budget our dhikr, and put less and less of ourselves into each of those dhikrs until it is not our egoes but the dhikr that is effaced. To find more meaning in little, even if its a single verse, is a fruit of zuhd and allows the heart to be more positively affected.

The upshot of all this is it shows how precise our thinking is. A maximum approach is messy, illusory and easily confusing, while a minimal approach can be clear, exact, clearly differentiated, given definition, and built upon for deeper and greater understandings.

An example of this is when we read of the exploits of King Sulayman (Solomon) alayhis-salam. A maximum reading of the Qur’an will note his power over jinn, animals and the wind, while a minimal approach will note the small things. When Sayyidina Sulayman speaks to an ant, a creature of the minimal, and praises God for speaking to this ant, but when he speaks to the Queen of Sheba, a figure who is always maximizing wealth and power, he does so with much force and harshness. If we were in his position we may do the reverse – we would talk to the Queen with honorifics and crush the ant. The ant could be seen as the zahid and the queen as dunya obsessed.  Sulayman sees clearly the minimal meaning in the ant, the one clear fact: that this helpless creature is the least of his subjects and it is crossing his path and trying to protect its compatriots, so he acts mercifully. And because he sees clearly the minimal meaning in the queen, her kufr and obstinacy, he is not deluded by her power and wealth. He effaces everything but what is essential and what he needs to see and is not concerned with the extraneous and what he has no concern for as a believer.

The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said, what translated means, ‘A sign of one’s excellence in his Islam, is ignoring what does not concern him.’ [Related by Ahmad, Malik & At-Tirmithi]

At the end of the day, we can only ever understand the least about God. The shahada of Islam is addressed at minimum requirements, no more is needed and the same is throughout Islam with the faraidh (obligations) and this tells us God understands our human nature far better than we do ourselves.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.  

Posted by: Dawud Israel | September 26, 2013

Qur’an and Salah Schedule

Bismillah.

I hope this is of benefit. This is the approach I used to become attached to the Qur’an and perform my prayers on time. Click to zoom.

Tawfiq.

quran schedule

 

Download the PDF

salah schedule1

 

Download the PDF

 

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 2, 2013

Spring Cleaning the Nafs

Cross-posted at Muslimmatters.org

I believe we overestimate and underestimate mentally by about 50%. We underestimate time spent driving, like it’s a chase scene in a film. We overestimate how much we can eat. We underestimate how much we covet. We underestimate how one habit influences another habit. We overestimate the benefit of an easy fix and underestimate the benefits of a hard fix. We overestimate how strong our īmān is and underestimate our reliance upon Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

We will be asked by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) about everything we owned and possessed on the Day of Judgment. We will be asked about how we used it and those possessions and blessings will either be for us, or be a proof against us. So will what I possess come crashing down on me on that day? But am I zahid (ascetic) like Eesa (alaihis salaam), who supposedly possessed no more than a comb and a toothpick?

Cleaning My Emotions
So today, I cleaned away the easiest and most modern form of clutter: Information. I deleted 60% of my Twitter feeds. Was there any loss? No, since the number of activists who tweet about Palestine, Libya, Syria is pathetically ridiculous. The more they tweet, the more hopeless it seems. It reminds me of the āyah about habaa’un manth-thura — deeds like scattered dust blown into the wind. It’s really sad to see so many Muslims characterizing themselves in their Twitter description as “Arab” or “Hijabi” — isn’t there more to you? Why turn yourself into a caricature? At the same time, doesn’t Twitter and social media reduce people to icons to be clicked in an information society for only information? Ironically, what I found was social media is not used for information as much as it’s used for cynicism, venting anger and frustration. This can really hurt my relationship with Allāh. So what’s the real loss?

But digital cleaning is over-rated. There is no benefit in deleting emails. They aren’t biting you nor will you feel a change in your life by making them disappear. Cleaning your real life is much harder. Real cleaning is not about what is obvious, but it’s about the less obvious, the nooks and crannies and what that say about you. Cleaning the back of a cooking stove and seeing all manner of things you had lost, and finding filth in places you barely think about. I think that is what cleaning the nafs is really about.

Uncovering hidden Blessings
There is no art-form closer to the body than clothing, as a Shaykh once said. The Romans wore togas and couldn’t move around much in them, so all day long they stood around talking politics. What you wear affects the tone and attitude you have to life and your behavior. So yesterday, I cut my wardrobe down in half and got rid of more than half of my clothing. There is always much second guessing and doubting, but it feels so good to just say, “Get rid of it. Out!” It feels transformative to force yourself to wear new clothes or unworn clothing. What do I look like in this? How do I want people to see me? How do I want Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to see me? What about Islamic logos on my shirts — what do I do with that? If I give it to Salvation Army, then what about this story that people make money on textile recycling and perhaps sell them to the less fortunate abroad? Shouldn’t I give these clothes directly myself, since the best charity is that which is given by your own hand? So I made a gift pile of clothes, for different types of people I will gift them to, their clothing style, age, and body size.

To understand the baraka in this, consider finding clean socks for jumuah — it takes a far longer time when you have too many socks to sort through and then they don’t even match, but is much easier when you only have a few socks to go through. This is that elusive benefit of simplicity that Ulema of the past call tawseer – expansion. What is the loss if I never wore it anyway? Giving away clothing is far easier than giving away money. Maybe the only reason Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave me all these clothes was to make me accustomed to giving charity?

Cleaning Away my Delusions
We overestimate how many books we have read and understood. Umberto Eco said famously the real purpose of books is the anti-library – it’s there just in case and not for any immediate purpose. Those books will never do anything but sit there–to others it may seem a testament to my piety, but after a while it seems like a testament to my hypocrisy and weakness. Books make you feel like you have much intellectual pride but you realize you didn’t really experience this book as thoroughly as you thought you did. What happens is the most intense experience you had with a book, becomes the stereotypical experience of reading books, so you convince yourself you had that great experience with all your books — when you barely read some of them.

I treat clutter like prose, I hold on to it trying to search for some hidden value in it that maybe a situation will arise where it will be needed, but it never happens. That paperclip in your pocket won’t be used to lock-pick, because you can’t lock pick– nor will that book on gender studies intersectionality ever be read. Nor will that big hadith book be understood because you don’t have the commentary. So give it to someone else who will appreciate it and make more shukr for it than you do. Perhaps God reward you for your sacrifice and teach you in a better way.

The same can be said about notes on Islamic talks. Either I memorize them or give to someone else. Imām an-Nawawi would take notes in the day from his teachers and memorize them all in the evening. I will probably end up putting many of my notes online for people to share, but what else can I do with them? My friend once criticized some brothers by saying, “All they do is just lie around and listen to Hamza Yusuf all day long. Why don’t they do something good for somebody?” So, what’s the benefit if I don’t put it in my words and actions? May be, it’s time to cash in on these investments before I go bankrupt on Qiyama.

3 take-away lessons: 
There is always more to clean — we keep blinking to keep our vision clean

If I get rid of this, what is the perceived loss and what is the actual loss? Can I as a human being do without it?

It takes time to become attached to things, but it takes effort to become detached from them.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 16, 2013

Islam and Existentialism

I find existentialism interesting for a few reasons. Not so much because of what it says, but what it attempts to say. To me it seems like a lens for spotting certain occurrences or scenarios in Islam. I won’t pretend to understand it completely, but I will try and explore its connection to Islam here.

Existentialism and North American Muslims

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “existence precedes essence” in Existentialism is a humanism but I will try and interpret it in my own way to make some connections to the Muslim worldview. I think ‘existence precedes essence’ is how we feel sometimes, where we are here, but aren’t sure as to who we are, our identity, what defines us, and what mould to fit into. “We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world — and defines himself afterwards.” We are here, as Canadian or American Muslims, and there is no essentialism to define us with regards to what we do. Precisely because we can’t figure out our identity as Muslims, all we have is existence and so essence remains a mystery, though the media may try and define our essence for us. For Muslims, we try and resemble the Prophetic actions and behaviors, but we don’t always fulfill that. What we do, how we organize our time, defines us: ‘I don’t know how to do anything else.’ We do things on auto-pilot and what matters, isn’t what we feel this says about God or Muslims, or even our personal life, because often those aren’t really on our mind, but that we actually do these things. Yes we did this, and no it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We do righteous actions, but after a while, the ‘righteous’ essence of those actions fades and it just becomes yet another thing we do and only its existence remains.

I think when it comes to things like extremism, people believe Muslims do things very consciously though in reality, it might just be the violent actions of a Muslim terrorist have no meaning or intent to them – its the mere existence of destruction that justifies it, not the essential meaning of that destruction and what its intended to symbolize. But then where does the responsibility lie? The existence of a Muslim committing a crime, and the rejection of its essential meaning means Muslims will really struggle to take responsibility for a violent act, individually and collectively. This is probably why Muslim extremism is so difficult to understand…

Another play where existentialism is relevant is when Muslims are tempted to cheat on final exams, so if they see someone’s exam sheet they decide to go against that cheating temptation and purposefully select another answer (a wrong answer presumably). Here, full responsibility is taken, but some could say here essence (right/wrong) precedes existence (a choice). For pious Muslims who have memorized the Qur’an, the fact they have memorized it is seen as having more merit, than the fact they understand it. The existence of the fact they have memorized the Qur’an is more important than them knowing the essence of the Qur’an.

Guiding people to Islam can be aided by better understanding existentialism. The person whom you are speaking to may see themselves as a sinner. This is there essence in their mind. Their existence and lifestyle has gone against whatever you may preaching to them. They don’t see themselves in that religious world. But mere existence precedes essence, so you can utilize the fact they exist to help them understand what their essence might be. I think this is where existentialism can explain how one can use their free-will to liberate themselves from what they may see as their sinful essence, and be empowered by a new existence that their free-will can lead them to.

Existentialism and the Prophets

Yet another example I can think of is in the Qur’an when the angels came to Abraham to tell him that they are there to destroy the nation of Lot (Sodom). What is important to recall is that Ibrahim argues with the angels to not destroy the sodomites. Here, is a Prophet of God going against the decree of God mentioned by God, and yet he is described as the Friend of God — and this is perhaps why he is described in the Qur’an as tender-hearted and forbearing. (Qur’an, 9:114). The existence of his mercy precedes the essence of its originating in God’s will.

Another example we can think of is when the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) consulted the Sahabas about going to war in Uhud (if I remember correctly that was the battle). He did not want to go to battle but some of the Sahabas persuaded him to. When they learned later that he was initially inclining to not go to battle, they came to him to revert to his decision. But by this time, the Prophet of God had already donned his battle armor and he said (paraphrased), “Once a Prophet wears his battle armor he doesn’t take it off until he has gone to battle.” Here, the existence of the Prophetic decision is more important than the essence of Prophetic decision – what that essence is, God knows best.

Miracles too play oddly into the dichotomy of existentialism/essentialism, since the existence of a miracle is unlikely but possible. What then is its essence if its existence is rare, if not impossible in the mind of an atheist? If it does exist, then the miracle existing has essence at the same time as it has existence. See below for an image of Japan’s first mosque standing tall even after bombings in World War II – something which many Muslims would say is a miracle.

kobe

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Bismillah.

Note: I worry a great deal about what I write and hesitated a great deal to publish this. This is one of those post I will continue to worry about and its potential misuse. Before one reads this post, readers should be familiar with Islamic eschatology and signs of the Day of Judgment and have read the previous post.

In my previous post, I suggested a few new avenues that open up when one studies and contemplates the history of Sayyid al-Awaleen wa’l Akhireen ﷺ. If one considers how the miracles at the time of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and thereafter, were greater than the miracles prior to his arrival ﷺ, then one can infer two transhistorical realities:

1) If you know all the miracles Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ performed, then you can infer that most likely Prophets before him performed miracles very similar to these, only not at the same lofty magnitude; and
2) That possibly certain miracles of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ  are yet to occur. And is this latter possibility that opens a new door for us to wonder about…

No one can know when the Last Hour will be, and even Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ said he ﷺ did not any more than the one who asked him ﷺ. But we can speculate like the Jews and Christians, who were waiting in Arabia for the arrival of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. I will not be looking at all the hadith that are well-known, but I will be trying to look at those things that are implicit and hidden in these narrations. Again, Allah and His Rasul ﷺ know best, so I am not stating this post with absolute certainty (qati’) but rather this is a speculative (zanni) consideration, though certain things will rise to a greater level of certainty.

Here are some questions I pondered while looking over the hadith of the End Times: Why will world end in this particular way and not another way? What does that mean to the people of insight, ulu al-baab? What do ayat (signs) mean if we magnify them, and look at them through the lens of history and space? Do certain patterns emerge? Why do certain events stand-out in Islamic history?

[This is] the established way (sunnah) of Allah which has occurred before. And never will you find in the (sunnah) way of Allah any change. (Qur’an, 48:23)

These (ayat) signs of the End Times are like landmarks. In many of the hadith of the End Times, you see a reoccurring theme. The relics and reminders of the Prophets of old re-appear. The Ark of the Covenant is recovered by Imam Mahdi containing the relics of Musa and Harun, the Beast appears bearing the Ring of Sulayman and the Staff of Musa, Yajuj Majuj will break through, killing will occur to such an extent “if someone comes to kill any of you, then be like the better of the two sons of Adam.” It is the return of the Prophets. The forgotten legacy of the prophets and the asatirul-awaleen, tales of the ancients, are affirmed once and for all. They are no longer just tales but their presence is made known to the Ummah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. It is as if the Prophets are gathering in attaching themselves to Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and so there is no doubt as to previous messengers bearing the same message as Rasulullah ﷺ and that to him belong all their miracles. Whom Prophecy truly belongs to — Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ —  now and in every era, has been made clear and there is no room for dispute. No one will be able to say that Moses would’ve said such-and-such about the Muslims, because the staff of Moses and the Ark are in the hands of the Mahdi. No one will be able to say Jesus would’ve said such-and-such because he will be from amongst the Muslims. What, then can any Jew or Christian say?

But the question arises, are these all the manifestations of earlier Prophets that will arise in the Last Days in the Ummah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ? Here are some possible explanations regarding the Prophets: Ibrahim, Khidr, Jesus, Yusuf, Dawud, Musa, Harun and Nuh.

-Ibrahim was thrown into Nimrod’s fire and found it cool and this is analogous to when the believer will be shown Dajjal‘s heaven and hell, and the believer will walk into Dajjal’s false hellfire and it will turn into a cool garden.
-Some say Khidr will be the believer that Dajjal will split in half but Khidr will continue to argue against him.
-Another historical event maybe when the Dajjal is killed by the spear, which may have significance to the ‘Spear of Destiny’ which was the spear people believe killed (the false) Jesus on the Cross.   
-Dreams (cf. Yusuf) become more true near the end of time, perhaps suggesting a nearing of the alam al-mithal and the dunya?
-Will the Muslims get to make dhikr with the mountains as Dawud did once Isa has been successful?
-Mountains of Mecca have been blasted away similar to how the mountain was blasted away before Musa when he asked to see Allah
-A Safina (Ark), like that of Nuh may be constructed to shelter the last believers
-We know Jesus will be present, this  may mean other Prophets that are in occultation will also be appear

There is much to speculate but we know the trials in the Last Days will be more difficult than any trial any nation has ever faced so it is likely echoes of trials previous communities faced will re-appear, but in a more difficult form. This is yet another reason why we should adhere to the Qur’an and learn from the lessons Allah teaches us about previous nations. Those tested most are the closest to Allah, and this ummah’s test will be the greatest in history, and thus a sign of our rank and a metaphysical justification for our entering the Jannah first.

The Beast 

And when the word befalls them, We will bring forth for them a creature from the earth speaking to them, [saying] that the people were, of Our verses, not certain [in faith]. (Qur’an, 27:82) 

We know the Beast appears out of the Earth near the Hour bearing the ring of Sulayman and Staff of Musa and will speak to the people about the Qur’an. This is comparable to how many of the early disbelievers would ask, “Why isn’t an angel sent down?” and Allah responded “If We did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted them (Quran, 6:8)” meaning that a sign, in the form of an extraordinary creature is a conclusive and definitive trial. And so the Beast appearing at the End of Time is an appropriate connection to this ayat. Also note that whenever the disbelievers are quoted in the Qur’an as saying, “send down to us” it suggests pride, whereas the Beast emerges from the Earth, from below, not from above, suggesting a type of humility on the Muslims and the Last Day.

Salih’s she-camel emerged from the local mountain, as a sign and trial, while the Beast (Dabbah) emerges from the Earth, a sign indicating the dominion of the Last Prophet ﷺ and also a global trial for people, (though accepting Islam after the Beast appears will not be accepted). The Dabbah (Beast) speaking is comparable to Sulayman being able to speak to the animals, but is greater since it is an extra-ordinary creature. The metaphysical significance of the Beast has to do with it emerging directly out of the Earth and it emerging in the time of the Risalah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ speaking to the people about the Qur’an. This suggests that through the Beast, the Earth and the natural world are showing that Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is their imam. The first half of the shahadah (La ilaha illAllah) is clear to all who study the Earth, but the Beast emerging and speaking about the Qur’an is the Earth’s affirmation of the last half of the shahadah (Muhammadur Rasulullah), and appropriately is the last sign (or second last as the sun rising in the West might be the last as well) at the End of Time just as Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is the first sign of the End of Time. This miraculous creation will bear witness to the rank of the Best of Creation ﷺ. The miracle of the Beast is appropriate to our age because we have done great damage to the Earth and the natural world and become increasingly obsessed with science, nature and evolution viewing it in deterministic terms. So when this Beast emerges speaking the verses of Allah, what then can any atheist or scientist say?

Imam Mahdi and Ahlul Bayt

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Made by my dear brother Abdul Khafid

We must recognize that Ahlul Bayt have continually been displaced throughout Islamic history. The rise of Imam Mahdi is the return of the House of the Prophet ﷺ to their rightful place. Just as the Jews rejects Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ so shall some of the Muslims reject the Mahdi and it may be that Imam Mahdi will be rejected in much the same way that Imam Husayn was rejected by the Muslims. But eventually and ultimately the Muslims will understand the place of Ahlul Bayt in Islam and honor the Qur’anic injunction to honor the House of the Prophet ﷺ.

Whereas the Imam Husayn’s resolve was strong to lead, his followers were weak in their resolve, however we know from hadith that Imam Mahdi will flee from the mantle of leadership and khilafat, and his resolve to lead will be weak but his followers will be strong in their resolve to have him as their imam. We know that much like Imam Husayn’s struggle, Imam Mahdi’s reign will begin with an internal battle amongst the Muslims, where he will defeat the ‘Sufyani’ and this is parallel to Imam Husayn’s political struggle against Yazid who was Abu Sufyan’s grandson. This suggests that Imam Mahdi will pick up where Imam Husayn left off and finish his work by establishing order and justice amongst the Muslims and ridding them of tyranny. Lastly, it may be that like many great events in history, something will occur on the Day of Ashura, just as the martyrdom (shuhada) of Imam Husayn occurred on Ashura, or perhaps, Imam Mahdi will change the significance of the Day of Ashura, to a day of victory and raise the spirits of the Muslims.

Jesus and Imam Mahdi

The Qur’an mentions Isa as being “Mahdi” (Qur’an 3:46,5:110) and he was lifted at 33 years of age, so it may be both Imam Mahdi and Isa alayhi salam will be of the same or near equal age. Another crucial point as can be understood from the previous paragraph is that Islamic history will be mirrored: It began with the 1) Prophetic rule of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, then struggles in establishing 2) the rule of Ahlul Bayt (Hasan & Husayn) and then 3) the rule of Tyrants was established; The Last days will be the reverse, 3) The rule of Tyrants then 2) the rule of Ahlul Bayt will be established (Imam Mahdi) then it will return to 1) Prophetic rule (Jesus). This is a similar pattern to the history of Bani Israel where tyranny, prophetic rule and kings dominated their political reality.

We know from hadith it will be Isa who will pray behind Imam Mahdi and Isa will be a member of this community. The intersections between Isa and Imam Mahdi are more than just coincidence: Isa had a cousin, Yahya, in the time of his prophecy, and in the Last Days he will be in the company of his more distant cousin, the Mahdi. Imam Mahdi will die before Isa dies, just as Yahya’s death preceded Isa’s (supposed) death. Both Yahya and Imam Husayn had similar deaths, beheadings as a result of rebelling against corrupt authority. Another commonality is that just as the Christians worshiped Jesus, so too did a group of deviants worship Imam Ali, claiming that he is God (astaghfirullah).

These commonalities underline one simple fact: It will be Isa who will do justice to the rank of Ahlul Bayt. It will be a Prophet known for his spirituality, the Ruhullah, and known for his blessed lineage, who will show this Ummah how to honour the descendants of Rasulullah ﷺ. After the descent of Isa, there may even be a marriage between the family of the Mahdi and Isa or his offspring and this makes sense metaphysically to occur, in the Last Days; the blood-line of Isaac and the line of Ishmael will finally be joined and reconciled physically, spiritually, theologically and metaphysically into one.

Jesus and the Ummah


And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path. (Qur’an, 43:61)

Isa is the one Prophet who made dua to join the Ummah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and his dua was granted to him; what does this say about the honour of this ummah through the blessing of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ? But Isa’s relation to this ummah is not only in the Later Days. There is a hadith that Isa was in Egypt and he came across Muqattam hills and said that the Sahabas will be buried at Muqattam hills, which came to pass. And we have another hadith that, ‘No ummah will be destroyed which has me at its beginning and Isa at its end’ (paraphrased from a Habib Kadhim talk). Our Ummah has been blessed with a description of the Masih (Messiah) from the hadith on Isra wa’l Miraj and also hadith on his descent to Earth, so that we won’t have a case of mistaken identity like that which the Jews and later Christians had, which ultimately lead them to misguidance. In this sense, the Muslims are favoured over the Jews and Christians. Unlike the Jews who were for the most part, opposed to Rasulullah ﷺ, the Christians were helpful to the early believers and this may be a sign of God’s favour towards the Christians that they will be guided aright when Isa returns, while many of the Jews will follow the Dajjal. With Isa’s descent the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which has been under the guardianship of a Muslim family for centuries, will finally become a masjid and with it, most likely the Vatican in Rome will become a masjid. The Hadith also states that Isa will kill the pigs, break the cross, and abolish the jizya, which may be a synecdoche that he will liberate Christians from dhimmi status, by converting all the Christians into Muslims.

The Isaacites (the Jews) waited for the Ishmaelite Prophet ﷺ in Madina; in the Last Days it will be the Ishmaelites (the Muslims) that will await for the Isaacite Prophet (Isa alayhi salam) in Damascus. This is alluded to in the Qur’an “Praise to Allah , who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication.” Quran 14:36-39  The Khalifas of some of the previous Muslims dynasties had adab with the House of Dawud, honouring leaders from them (the position of the exilarch) and this reflects on the reality that Isa will look at how the Muslims honored his kinsmen because of their righteous and Prophetic ancestry.

Now we must understand the Masih belongs in this ummah because he is a manifestation of God’s will that this ummah is for all mankind, and he is a proof that this ummah honours the place of the Ajami, the non-Arab, in the ummah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and considering the fact Isa is from a previous era, this is a proof that Rasulullah ﷺ is a Prophet for all times, past, present and future and for all peoples.

The minaret of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus where Isa (Jesus) will descend

Jesus and Rasulullah ﷺ

We know in hadith that Isa descends to Earth at the time before Fajr and this is the time that Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ was born in and when dua is accepted. Thus Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is the connection between us and Isa, temporally and in this blessed time when we will pray to Allah, Isa will descend. Angels came to Bani Israel carrying the Ark of the Covenant; similarly angels will come to our Ummah carrying the Son of Mary – this is yet another favour upon us. Isa is a fatherless son; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is a father without a (surviving) son – for them to be buried side-by-side in Madina is a natural completion of God’s favour and divine sign on the importance of the bonds of faith over the bonds of blood. Prophets are buried where they die, and so this means Isa is buried where he dies, meaning that Isa dies near Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and in the opinion of Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa, he dies giving salams to Rasulullah ﷺ. Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa has also said, that we are created from the soil of wherever we are buried at death, and Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and Isa ibn Maryam will both be buried in Madina, meaning both were created from the soil of Madina. Isa will most likely continue to transmit hadiths from Jannah, not from himself, but from Imam al-Mursaleen ﷺ and the hadith books will insha-Allah continue to be written once again…

Jesus and Adam 

Just as at the start of time Adam descended to Earth after living in Heaven, so too must near the end of time, a Prophet descends to Earth from Heaven after dwelling there, and it is fitting that it is Isa as the Qur’an says, “Indeed the likeness of Isa (Jesus) before Allah is as the likeness of Adam.” (Qur’an, 3:59). Isa will establish ‘Heaven on earth,’ as a mirror to Heavenly garden of Adam and Hawwa. Isa is also in a sense, necessary at the end of time because ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’ and how shall it be known who are these meek inheritors of the earth unless a Prophet is there to do bestow upon them that inheritance?

Jesus and the Qur’an

Comparative religion writers make the point that the Bible should not be compared to the Qur’an, but rather the Bible should be compared to hadith and the Qur’an should be compared to Isa, since both are the Word of God (see Qur’an 3:45). It may be that the Kalimatullah (Isa) will recite the Kalimatullah (Qur’an) and a Muslim will see the Messiah reciting the Qur’an and say, “Glory be to Allah who has preserved both of His Words!” There are more similarities between the two: Isa was a living miracle and he gave rise to many miracles, just as the Qur’an was a miracle and gave rise to many miracles. Isa will live on the Earth for 40 years; Revelation of the Qur’an began at 40 years – this is consonant to the idea that Jesus is the Word of God and so is the Qur’an. And of further significance is that Isa was lifted up to Heaven in his time, and the Qur’an will be lifted up from the hearts of Muslims near the End of Time. Wa akhiru dawa anil hamdulillahi rabbil alameen.

Isa also has a strong relation to the Qur’an not just as a figure in the past, but as a figure in the future the Muslims will encounter. Allah fulfills his 5 promises to Isa in Qur’an 3:54-55.  The Muslims will be the answer to Isa’s call in the Qur’an: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” and Isa will find among us men who will be greater than the Hawariyun (disciples) of the past. In the Qur’an, Isa will find what he is to say to Allah on Qiyama, Qur’an 5:110-120. This is a clear sign that Jesus too, is guided by the Qur’an and the Risala of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. In the Qur’an, the Muslims of the Latter days will once again apply the adab of honouring a Prophet, they will not to ask him to perform a miracle like that of al-Ma’idah in 5:110-120, and the women of this ummah who will become marry Isa, will appy the adab of being married to a Nabi, as mentioned in Surah Tahreem/Talaaq. In this way, the Qur’an is a very practical preparation for the Last Days.

The Qur’an tells us that when Allah will decide between Isa and the Christians, there will be no redemption for the Christians as they will be driven to Hell, and upon reciting this account in the Qur’an, Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ said, repeated the ayah “If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (Qur’an 5:118) and said “Allahumma ummati” and asked Allah for the shafa’ah and was given it. This is significant because it is yet another unique favour given to this ummah because of the rank Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, and through his wisdom and learning from previous Ambiya. It is even more significant because Isa ibn Maryam is also a member of this ummah and so he will receive from the shafa’ah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ.

Conclusion

There is more I wanted to touch on but I will stop here. For us, believers nearing the End Times, we should learn the Qur’an and learn from the examples of previous Ambiya if we are to be successful in facing the trials of the Last Days. As one can see in this brief outline that the Last Days are saturated with a clarity and shining forth of the rays of the Muhammadan Light. Superficially, it appears to be a return to a simpler time, but if we look deeper it is a return to a purer time. An era which will illustrate the realities of the Qur’an as the Final Book and what the Risalah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ meant, not just to us as Muslims, but to the Earth, to the Prophets, and to history itself. This is a time when it will seem as if Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ never died because signs of his importance will be manifest and made clear by another Prophet who also never died. In concluding anything, one must pay tribute to what came before, and the Last Days will be a tribute to Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and an explanation of his rank ﷺ.

Allahu Alaam.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 24, 2013

Metaphysics of the Prophetic Miracles

Since it is the eve of the birth of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ I thought I would post this piece…

salawat gif

While reading the Sirah (Biography of the Prophet) and his miracles, I began to notice many patterns and began to wonder about them. After I read Bidayat as-sul fi Tafdil ar-Rasul (The Beginning of the Quest for the High Esteem of the Messenger) of Imam Izz ibn Abd al-salam, then I realized there was more to these patterns since one of the khasais (virtues) of our Prophet ﷺ is that his miracles are superior than those of previous Prophets. Imam Izz lists only a few examples, but I began to realize there are many, many more…so I began to list as many as I could.

List of Miracles

In this list below, I compare and contrast the miracles of each Prophet with the miracles of the Imam of the Prophets ﷺ and contrast other similarities. I first mention the Nabi/Rusul and then I mention Rasulullah ﷺ. I haven’t listed the hadith or full references since they are common knowledge but only briefly mentioned the occurrence. A bigger picture shall emerge…

Isa
-Isa revived bodies; while Prophet ﷺ revived hearts
-Isa spoke as a baby to his mother; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ could speak to babies
-Isa walked on water; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Companions rode their war horses on water – a miracle or a miracle in the path of Allah?
-Isa was raised to Heaven until End Times; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ ascended to Isra wa’l Miraj, passed Sidratul Muntaha and then returned to Earth – which is more astounding?
-Isa had 1 group Hawariyun; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had Ansar & Muhajirun – the Hawaris were a small group, while Ansar and Muhajirun were a brotherhood
-Isa breathed life into birds; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Companions are martyrs living in paradise now in green birds – one was temporal, the other eternal
-Isa had a miraculous birth with angelic presence; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Birth with Nur and Voice from Heaven – which is more majestic?
-Isa was slandered by enemies at birth; Palaces of future enemies of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ destroyed at his birth (i.e. Chosroes)
-Isa’s family: Hanna then Maryam then Isa; Ahlul Bayt: Prophet ﷺ then Fatima then Hassan and Husayn
-Isa visited by Shaytan almost 100x; Shaytan never came close to Rasulullah ﷺ, except as Najdi sheikh to mushrikeen – even shaytan had an awe of him
-Isa had no mark from the claw of shaytan; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had no mark from the claw of shaytan plus had Seal of Prophethood
-Isa cured blind; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ cured blind or promised them Paradise – which is loftier?
-Isa given al-Ma’idah (Table); Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ given Ramadan – one came from Paradise, one leads to Paradise

Ibrahim

-Ibrahim destroyed a few idols; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ destroyed 365 idols, without even actually touching them
-Ibrahim sacrificed son; Abdul Mutallib’s oath on sacrificing his son, Abdullah, the father of Rasulullah ﷺ so one of Rasulullah’s ﷺ names is ‘Ibn Abi Zhabihayn’ – son of 2 sacrifices
-Ibrahim’s wife Hajar found Zamzam; Zamzam re-discovered before Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s arrival by the dream of Abdul Muttalib – this makes us reflect to whom Zamzam was really given to
-Ibrahim built the Kaaba with his son; Muslims rebuilt the Kaaba a few times
-Ibrahim’s Dua for a Prophet to be sent; fulfillment of the dua in hadith: “I am the prayer of my father Ibrahim and the good news proclaimed by `Isa to his people…”
-Ibrahim had the fire made cool for him when tortured; The Sahaba Abu Muslim al-Khawlani had the same miracle in Yemen
-Ibrahim sacrificed his son; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ lost 3 sons at birth and many daughters
-Ibrahim said of a star ‘This is my Lord’; Jews of Madina saw the star of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ on the night of his birth
-Egyptian Firawn tried to rape Ibrahim’s wife Sarah; Sayyidatina Mariah al-Qibtiyya given to Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ by Egyptian king Muqawqas – one was a protection, and another was a gift
-Ibrahim made dua for his own descendants; Allah revealed Qur’anic verses for honouring Ahlul Bayt
-Scholars from Ahlul bayt are like Prophets of Bani Israel (mentioned in a Hadith)
-Tabernacle destroyed; Kaaba protected from Abraha by birds (Surah al-Fil)
-Ibrahim unsuccessfully argued with angels to save Lut’s sinful community from punishment; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ stopped angels of the mountains from destroying Ta’if

Musa
-Musa made water come from rocks; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had water issue forth from his blessed hands – this lets us reflect on tayammum and wudu
-Musa split the Red Sea; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ split the moon – the former was earthly, while the latter was heavenly
-Musa had endless food come to him descend from heaven (manna); Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had many occurrences where the baraka made the food almost endless – this is similar to al-Ma’idah
-Musa was raised by his future enemy Firawn; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ was raised by many uncles who would become both his enemies and his supporters
-Bani Israel only allowed to pray in Temple Mount; Muslims can pray on the whole earth – who
-Musa on Mount Sinai;  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ connection to Jabal an-Nur, Jabal Thawr and Jabal Uhud
-Musa spoke to Allah through divine ‘Burning Bush’; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ made a tree into a tree of Paradise, also went past Sidratul Muntaha and spoke to Allah directly
-Musa defeated magic with miracles and his staff; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had Jibril protect him from magic
-Musa faced down Firawn and Hamman; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ faced many Mustahzi’un, and our Ummah will face many false prophets and dajjals – which community then has more resilience?
-Musa liberated Bani Israel from slavery; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ liberated slaves for all history and made former slaves into conquerors founding cities – and who will lead humanity in their liberation into Jannah?
-Musa was asked to take off his shoes in Valley of Tuwa; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ kept his sandal on while ascended on Isra wa’l Miraj – whose footsteps echo in eternity?
-Musa hit 1 man and killed him; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had the strength of 10-100 men

Bani Israel

-Bani Israel given Tabuk (Ark of Covenant) on which Sakina (tranquility) descended; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ given Quran and Sakina descends on those who recite it – one is lost and the other will continue to remain on Earth until the End Times
-313 fought with Talut; 313 Sahabas on Badr plus Angelic army
-Bani Israel were not given an explicit name for their religion; Allah named our religion ‘Islam’
-Bani Israel told to enter Egypt, given Jerusalem; Muslims conquered Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, and lands of previous prophets
-Used Tabuk as a weapon of war; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ in Jihad had angelic support
-Bani Israel given many punishments for accepted repentance; Ummah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is saved from many punishments for our repentance
-Bani Israel: Forgiven for sins with corporal punishment; Muslims forgiven sins merely by shedding tears
-Bani Israel given Torah, Injil, Zabur; Certain Qur’anic surahs have the same rank as these previous scriptures, plus given more surahs
-Khidr has greenery grow from underneath his footsteps; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ has the gardens of the afterlife grow from underneath his footsteps – one is rarely seen and worldly, the other is in Masjid an-Nabawi and is eternal
-Mountain hovering over Bani Israel’s heads to fall on them; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ could destroy and crush Taif between mountains and refusing to punish us
-Dawud had mountains make dhikr with him; Hadith about Mount Uhud loving the believers
-Yusuf was a dream interpreter; Abu Bakr was known to be a dream interpreter
-Yusuf’s remarkable beauty; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ was more more beautiful than Yusuf
-Sulayman speaking to animals; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ speaking to camel, trees and birds speech, the Sahaba Safina speaking to lion and being guided when lost, and some narrations suggest Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ knew all human languages
-Dawud made iron into chain-mail; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ turned wood instantly into the sword of Zulfiqar
-Yusuf as finance minister of Egypt; Sahaba became rulers of entire Egypt

And there are more…

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I began to notice it was not limited to miracles, it was related to occurrences and echoes of the past. Where the contrast is similar, I understand it to mean, that the Prophets of the past were beloved to Allah, because they resembled the Beloved of God to come and where the contrast is different, the honour of our Rasul is greater to show that Allah has favoured him above all. An example of the first is how shaytan did not make a mark on the Prophet with his claw when he was born, similar to Eesa alayhi salam and an example of the later is how the Muslims pray 5 times a day instead of 3 or the one or two prayers each Prophet was given.

In fact, this elevation is a proof of his position as Imam of the Prophets and to allude to us that the miracles of the previous Prophets and all miracles to ever occur are in reality miracles of the Prophet Muhammad. In this light, one can read the entire Sirah as a manifestation of all of Allah’s Names. You can literally check them off like a checklist.

So you can see another way of reading the Sirah is to piece it together backwards from the stories of the previous Prophets. The world before the Prophet is like a dream predicting or fore-telling the Risalah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ to come and its fulfillment is even greater than what was ‘dreamed.’ (I gleaned this from a line in ch. 3 of Imam al-Busiri’s Qasida Burda) If we take this metaphysical understanding further then we can infer and predict the future and I will explore this in a future post since it is considerably more difficult to do…

Metaphysics of ‘Praise’

What does this all mean to us Muslims in terms of the metaphysical reality of who our Prophet is? His name means praiseworthy. His whole life was praiseworthy and his whole life was Allah’s praise of him, at every atomistic level, and it was this praised that raised mankind and believers in rank…so how can praise of him (salallahu alayhi wasalam) not raise us in rank? Thus he is the pattern by which we become praiseworthy. All these gifts our ummah was given was because of the honour of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and a praise of him.

His very name means praised and to this day he is praised. But was he praised before Islam? We should remind ourselves that miracles are not just proofs of God’s omnipotence but gifts that honour and praise the one whom they are bestowed upon–and all miracles, throughout time, are in reality, miracles of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. We can see the miracles of the previous Prophets as a metaphysical praise of  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ in the past, and the miracles of the Sahaba as a praise of him ﷺ at the time of his prophethood and the miracles of the Awliya and Ahlul Bayt are the praise of his rank ﷺ in the future. That is the temporal element of his reality, the Muhammadan presence in all time.

The spatial element is that Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is praised in the heavens by angels and by Prophets on the miraculous Isra wa’l Miraj, he ﷺ was praised in the human realm in Madina both in his entering it and in the poetry recited in Masjid an-Nabawi, and he  ﷺ was praised on the earthly realm by miracles of stones prostrating to him and trees running to him and the like. That is element of the Muhammadan presence in all space.

Lastly, the Light of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ before time, being the first thing Allah created, and his ﷺ great intercession on Yawmul Qiyamah, in the Maqam Mahmud, is the manifestation of the Muhammadan presence in space-time. This may seem a little abstruse but what is important to underscore for all of us is the sense of historical and metaphysical continuity and how we must preserve this continuity by having a strong connection to  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ as a means for our connection to Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 10, 2013

Bayaanomics: The Art of Delivering an Optimal Islamic Talk

Bayaanomics: The Art of Delivering an Optimal Islamic Talk
by Dawud Israel, the Cynic and Pedantic but also the Humanist 🙂

I wrote the following after listening to many Islamic talks online and in person. There is a world of difference between the two, but I wanted to share my reflections based on the delivery of these Islamic talks. I am no expert, these are just my 2 cents. 🙂

Before one reads this, one must keep in mind that their are a variety of types of Islamic speeches one gives. From a reminder, to an academic style talk, to a rant, to an open-ended interactive discussion. This is not intended to downplay the place and importance of those speeches, but to highlight some key strategies and patterns as well as provide perspective to speakers as to what audience members may be thinking.

There are pitfalls in this document…namely that the listener is suggesting things out of his own intellectual pride and fickle attitude, and may lead to listeners having a low tolerance to various speakers. This elitism can be a problem with those who listen to lofty, metaphysical, subtle and obscure spiritual topics. Content is not of primary concern in this document, rather thought process, presentation, and delivery are. It will become clear some of the criteria outlined are not realistic, especially for those whom lecture frequently, but nonetheless may prove useful.

Primary Observations for Speech improvement:

Focusing/Missing the Intention: Some speakers just would do better writing than speaking. But often the best speakers are those that write a great deal. They have given what they are saying a great deal of thought, will not run out of material and complete the points they are trying to convey. One of the key problems writers encounter in revising their draft copies is realizing they completely missed the key idea they wanted to get across. It is in the back of their mind while they write but it never is expressed. “Yeah I already mentioned that…oh wait now that I have re-read it, I forgot to mention it.” And its that proofreading scrupulousness that also applies to lectures, where the speaker is about to convey a key point and thinks they have, but actually had not and missed it completely or didn’t reach it when they were building up to it. Related to this is when you sense the speaker is

Amplifying the Content: The best 3 qualities in the content of a religious talk are:
1) completeness- that they explain things fully, with lots of context, which shows true ilm and proper presentation
2) coherence- like an essay that brings ideas and lessons together and all the ideas mentioned are proportional to each other and not out of place
3) insight- it all lead to a deeper insight or realization than one could find in any religious book
The best off-hand example of this is this talk by Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzR9314Yz0Y

Avaaz: Voice is to the Khutba what the Buraq is to the Miraj.

Pace: The most effective speakers will modulate the pace of their talk allowing for adequate comprehension by the listeners. Much like driving a car, if one drives at the same speed, it is easy to doze off but modulating speed keeps one alert and moving. I don’t know if this is intentional but speakers will speed up, which makes the listener pay closer attention, and then they will slow down well below their normal pace so that the listeners listen closely. This can be connected to evoking the emotions of pity and fear, as Aristotle suggest in his Poetics but can build intimacy. If one rushes through a talk then it distances the audience, but if one is slower then it can make the listeners feel like they are having a special moment. Hamza Yusuf does this with great effect. Watching or listening to a talk at 1.5-2x the normal speed can show one where pace may need to improve pace.

Perfecting Clutch Ideas/References: The speaker often has “clutch” ideas/hadith or Quranic reference that they will repeat off-hand in most of their talks through sheer force of habit. These will form their ‘spiritual signature’ to the audience and tell them what their ethos is. What they may not realize is how they came to be expressing those clutch references with people. What one reads is not necessarily what one can easily cite off unless it was personal or you were very deeply attached to it.

Memorizing quotes: What one writes out by hand, memorizes actively and mentions in conversations with individuals is what one can easily mention off-hand in a bayaan. Mentioning a hadith for the first time in a bayaan is not as easy as mentioning it in a third or fourth or 20th talk. A good way to be successful at this is to keep a small “common-place book” one can carry easily, in which one records quotations, memorizes them in their spare time and use them in conversation. Often what is most personal is what manifests most clearly in public speeches.

Intimacy: When a speaker says, ‘I’ll share a personal story’ that brings a lot of closeness to the speaker and the topic they are discussing, it feels special and one to one. If the story is told in a slanted way, this can however, discredit the speaker to the listeners, though it some subjectivity is understandable and appreciable. What is key here is teaching Islam from a first-person perspective, first-hand and not from a third-person, externalized perspective divorced from real-world experience.

Flow: Interruptions and pauses can hiccup the digestion and absorption of a speech. The smoothness and clarity of a speech can make a great effect on comprehension. Again, watching or listening to a talk at 1.5-2x the normal speed can provide some perspective on this.

Secondary Observations:

Problematizing: A key pattern one notices in many speeches is the tendency of speakers to problematize and list problems like a laundry list at length. This makes one feel powerless and it dis-empowers one. It makes for great talking points, but it can be a waste when you realize the speaker has the solution to these problems, a very practical solution, and yet doesn’t get around to sharing it. Problematizing also has negative effects on the mental health of Muslims causing paranoia and feelings of helplessness, and I have seen mentally sick brothers whose speech mimics those of many ulema and one can tell how these issues have bore heavily on their minds until they cracked.

Internet and Memory: Reading on the Internet can stretch the mind too far. Most reading online is shallow, it is broad in its diversity but superficial it is not as deep as one would find in a book. One recalls they read something about this or that, but never the details. Our memory falters and the mind is stretched so far that we find it hard to remember things; it feels like everything is falling out. Not only that, but things we could easily recall before become harder to recall in the moment. This is a common experience and I think perhaps in the future someone will coin the term ‘cognitive metabolism’ to understand this. Learning about a topic deeply, rather than just on the Internet, will make a big difference in memory recall about that subject.

Tashaduq/Qatwil: Many of these patterns in speech-making have been noted before. Tashadduq is an overblown elocution where words are over-enunciated by the speaker. This is connected to a later point in over-simplifying speeches mentioned below. Qatwil is when speeches lack any substance and are full of fluff or mere rhetoric and empty speech. You may sense this when you feel like the speaker just wants to get to the end of the speech or is talking at length about the talk he is about to give, but ironically never gets to. We ask Allah to protect us from both of these, ameen.

Duas used: You can tell a great deal about the speaker/shaykh just by the duas they use in the start, like their tariqa or place of training for example, and its the sincerity and honour given to the duas in the start of the khutba that will reflect on the wisdom of that speaker and how practical they are.

Adab in the speech is also overlooked. Abdallah Adhami always mentions before citing a hadith, “We are honoured by His Grace subhana wa ta’ala to read in the Musnad of…” and this elevates whatever he is speaking about.

Simplicity and Over-simplifying: Simplicity is good for the average Muslim. Too much simplicity is however demeaning and patronizing. After a while, one feels like they are watching Sesame Street or Treehouse TV (a kids TV channel). Complexity and detail especially in discussing a contemporary issue will make a Muslim proud of their religion and provide them with a tool in dealing with our information-based society. This requires discretion: a general khutba can be simple, but with some details but when it comes to a class there should be no hesitation in giving details and complexity especially if students are putting in their time and effort to learn. Too much simplicity to students of knowledge can negatively affect their motivation.

Tangents: Too many tangents can get confusing and make you wonder why you are wasting your time listening to these weird tangents. Tangents can be good depending on the speaker. The more educated and learned the speaker, then their tangents will provide valuable context. But even then, if you have a great topic and instead spend it on tangents, that can really be annoying. There is an amana in giving a talk and if I buy an Islamic lecture and instead get a lecture full of jokes then that can be argued to be fraud.

Personal favorite topics: The best topics for a religious talk are seerah and contemporary issues and problems. Seerah contains fiqh, tafsir, biographies, history, hadith and wisdoms that listeners can quickly apply. Contemporary issues are the best because they are pertinent, will grab everyone’s attention.

Repetition: Repetition is a blessing but can be a trap. It is a blessing because you come to memorize a hadith, it is a blessing because then it become routine, but it may lose its effect if one doesn’t remain in contemplation. Repetition can be a trap because it can lead to a limiting of the discourse, a drawing of boundaries and limits that no one can pass.

Q&A: Question and Answers are the test of a real scholar. It requires a lot of courage to face questions on the spot. If scholars dodge questions or go around them, or simply aren’t ready to answer them on the spot, this is understandable since early Muslims would often simply say “I don’t know,” but it goes without saying that this can also negatively affect credibility. Nonetheless, sometimes a simple response is better than one that can confuse people. Often with questions, the speaker will introduce new material causing many questions to arise to help clarify or solidify an understanding; in this case, the answers precede the questions and merely require re-stating.

Teacher/Student Psychology: If a teacher rants on what they are angry about, then they tacitly teach students to rant on what they are annoyed about. This can lead to a complete intolerance of all Muslims and Islam and a picky and pretentious snobbery. This is complicated when the angry teachers become angry that their  students are angry…they get offended, like, “How dare you? Who are you to rant? Only I may rant!” This is what I suspect shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller speaks about teachers transmitting their haal (for better or worse) to their students and is why it is sometimes better to simply stick to simple talks.

Styles can vary largely, however in the West Muslims have taken a very cool-guy, almost fraternizing attitude towards Islamic speeches. This is a relaxed talk that helps listeners be comfortable with whom they are listening to. The downside can be it downplays the significance of lofty and precious lessons. The style of bayaan that is disappearing is the dramatic style that one finds in the writings of Imam al-Ghazali or the speeches of Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (rahimullah). These are full of exclamation points and points of dramatic emphasis, perhaps better suited to the Arabic language than the English language. These should not be confused with angry speeches. The benefit of these types of speeches are they are magnificent, raise the esteem of the speaker and the one listening and give izzah to the religion. The best modern day example of this is Habib Umar’s lectures and their usage of poetic meter and a hybrid of this dramatic style and the cool-guy style can be found in Ibrahim Osi-Efa’s speeches.

Closing considerations:

These points are not for ones cerebral intellectual stimulation. Reading the above points, one may prefer a secular speaker or a philosopher or a good book. But these are just patterns and tendencies that highlight some room for improvement. The goal is not to make one feel special for hearing a very sophisticated discourse, often I find many feel proud that they only listen to Abdal Hakim Murad which is sad since many other messages are worth listening too and absorbing.  The goal of Islamic speeches is for religious tarbiya, spiritual transformation and the alchemy of the soul.

For the teacher and the seeker: How is someone with knowledge? How is someone by knowledge? How is someone around knowledge? How does someone realize knowledge? How does someone use knowledge? Ma’iya with knowledge – is there awe around books, preparation, an exploring mindset, and how are they with knowledge, is there with-ness with knowledge to one’s experience? And is that with-ness lofty? How do they interact and experience knowledge and make others experience knowledge? Is there ilm and amal? 

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 8, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: Closing the Gender Wage Gap

The good folks at LearnStuff.com (Kayla Evans) contacted me about this excellent Infographic they have produced about the gender wage gap. I blogged about this little known fact a while back: Not many are aware that despite feminism and women’s rights movements, women in the West are NOT paid the same as men for the same amount of work. Conversely, in many Muslim countries working women are paid the same amount as men for the same amount of work, since this is an Islamic right for the past 1400 years.

Enjoy the infographic!

Because the Qur’an is the Criterion (al-Furqan).

There are many more proofs one can use, but I found these to suffice especially since its Qur’anic Tafsir from the words of Sahabas. They are not so well-known so do share away!

quranic proofs3a

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 10, 2012

Islamic Architecture in Secular American Buildings

A few weeks ago Zaytuna College had a presentation they aired online by Phil Pasquini on his new book “Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.” This was a very fascinating talk but unfortunately, not many tuned in because of the American presidential debates. Well, I took some notes on that talk and am going to share some examples of Islamic architecture in America that Phil mentioned in his talk. Phil made the point he felt a book like this was needed in order to fight Islamophobia and hatred towards Muslims and Arabs in America and to show Islam is woven into the fabric of America in ways most don’t even fathom.

Most of these buildings hail from a style of architecture called “Moorish revival architecture” influenced largely by architecture in Spain or what was once Andalusia. Many of these buildings are used by Shriners and other fraternities who would call them temples or mosques though their members were not Muslim. Keep in mind these are NOT Muslim buildings, but used for secular purposes from the very first day they were built.

I have put little descriptions about the buildings, so scroll down slowly. 🙂

Below are photos of Philadelphia Lulu Temple

Below is Angeles Abbey Memorial Park cemetery in Compton, California

Below is Helena Civic Center in Montana was formerly Algerian Shriner temple

Milwaukee Tripoli’s Temple below is supposed to resemble the Taj Mahal. Members play pool, inside and often Muslims come and ask to pray in here.

Madina Temple in Chicago below which is now a Bloomingdales Shopping Center

Alcazar Theatre below in San Francisco is now used as a parking garage.

Below is Alhambra Theatre in San Francisco

Lincoln Theatre in Los Angeles

New York Mecca Temple below

Below is Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” museum in Grand Prairie, Texas

Madina Wasal Army base where American troops train in a simulated Middle Eastern environment

Below is Almas Temple in Washington, DC. Inside is a picture of former American president J Edgar Hoover wearing a tarboush cap.

Tampa Bay Hotel below

Metaire Lake Lawn Cemetery Islamic architecture tomb in New Orleans, LA.

Metaire Lake Lawn Cemetery

Fabulous Fox theatre in Atlanta, Georgia

You would think you are in the Middle East, but nope, this is all contemporary United States of America. There are many more examples of this in the United States and even in some European countries. I have only shared a few. Below are some more links for those who wish to research this further.

More examples from Phil Pasquini’s new Book

Some Very Stunning High Quality Flickr Images of Moorish Revival Architecture

Moorish Movie theaters

Moorish Revival Architecture – Wikipedia

Masonic temples

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

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