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THE FAITH: The Three Stages of being a Muslim – Part II

In Islam on August 9, 2009 at 6:46 am

In the previous post, we have seen how reciting the kalimah is merely a stepping stone to becoming a full Muslim. Once you proclaim the kalimah, you are legally a Muslim and it certainly suffices for all earthly . Still, as the ayah, Al-An’aam 158 testifies, it is not the sole stamp needed on our passport to a happy hereafter.

The four minimum obligatory good deeds, identified in the hadith previously referenced, are well-known. The purpose in this post, however, is to review the inherent demands of these obligations; especially those that highlight the common neglects people today show in the performance of these deeds.

The Muslim scale: Salat

إِنَّ الصَّلوٰةَ كانَت عَلَى المُؤمِنينَ كِتٰبًا مَوقوتًا

The prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. [An-Nisa, 103]

Five prayers in a day are one of the many gifts that our beloved prophet Mohammad (sallah Allahu alaihi wa sallam) brought back from his night of ascension (lailat-ul-mi’raj) [Bukhari, 1.8.345]. And not only that, they are supposed to be all offered on their appropriate times (as the above ayah testifies); the ones Angel Jibrail himself taught to the Prophet [As stated in a Tirmizi hadith. Reference here].

So an important question for us is:

  • Do we say our prayers five times a day?

This question actually boils down to a series of component questions. So here goes..

  • How frequently can you bring yourself up for faj’r?
  • Out working or studying, care to find time for zuh’r?
  • What about as’r, right in the middle of the afternoon nap?
  • Are you really able to catch your maghrib amidst all that evening fun?
  • And how late is your isha and with how much struggle with sleep?
  • Finally, when you miss one, do you bother to offer it’s qaza before the next prayer due?

Another important issue is the quality of your salat, most effectively summarized in the following verse from Sura Ankaboot:

إِنَّ الصَّلوٰةَ تَنهىٰ عَنِ الفَحشاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكرُ اللَّهِ أَكبَرُ

Translation: Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. [Sura Al-Ankaboot, 45]

So:

  • Is your salat really bringing any change in your life? (If not, your heart is really not into it.)
  • and, Do you understand, approach and experience your salat as an act of relating to God? (If not, you are missing on a quality time you may have never experienced in your life.)

The Muslim scale: Saum

شَهرُ رَمَضانَ الَّذى أُنزِلَ فيهِ القُرءانُ هُدًى لِلنّاسِ وَبَيِّنٰتٍ مِنَ الهُدىٰ وَالفُرقانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهرَ فَليَصُمهُ ۖ وَمَن كانَ مَريضًا أَو عَلىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِن أَيّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُريدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ اليُسرَ وَلا يُريدُ بِكُمُ العُسرَ وَلِتُكمِلُوا العِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلىٰ ما هَدىٰكُم وَلَعَلَّكُم تَشكُرونَ ﴿١٨٥

Translation: The month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [AL-Baqarah, 185]

Al- Muslim, Book 006, Number 2566, Hadith-e-Qudsi, narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira:

Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting. By Him, in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter to Allah on the Day of judgment than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts has two (occasions) of joy, one when he breaks the fast he is glad with the breaking of (the fast) and one when he meets his Lord he is glad with his fast.

Al-Muslim, Book 006, Number 2567:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Every (good) deed of the son of Adam would be multiplied, a good deed receiving a tenfold to seven hundredfold reward. Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, has said: With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it, for one abandons his passion and food for My sake.

Lailat-ul-Qadar:

Al-Muslim Book 006, Number 2619:

Salim reported on the authority of his father that a person saw Lailat-ul- Qadr on the 27th (of Ramadan). Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: I see that your dreams agree regarding the last ten (nights of Ramadan). So seek it on an odd number (of these ten nights).

Al-Muslim Book 006, Number 2621:

Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with them) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Seek it (Lailat-ul-Qadr) in the last (ten nights). If one among you shows slackness and weakness (in the earlier part of Ramadan), it should not be allowed to prevail upon him in the last week.

No need to give the technical definition of a saum; we all know that. But in this modern, fast-paced, hip-hop world, do we really find time (or concern enough) to try to live the spiritual definition of the exercise?

This saum section deserves a special place both from the writer and reader point of views – not just because Ramadhaan is approaching but because of our growing neglect in observing the spirit of Ramazaan in our individual fasts and in the general society’s attitude during this best of months.

Many years ago when I (along with my siblings) was a ‘conventional’ Muslim in the truest possible sense of the word, I remember we used to watch a music programme Top of the Pops every week… Ramadhaan or not. The last programme that month fell (and was let fallen) on the 27th night, the most reverred of Ramazaan nights by all conventions. Did this fact made us not watch it? I sadly confess, it didn’t. The tentacles of music do not let go hold of the soul so easily unless you start thinking deliberately about your faith.

Last year I was shocked to discover that the advertisement for a certain “Ramazaan festival” proudly displayed a semi-naked dancing woman in a larger-than-life sized poster form. The ad was promptly in place by first Ramazaan on the facade of a major shopping centre in my city (one of the busiest thoroughfares, of course) – and I don’t know where else – and remained dutifully up till Eid. Just who were they trying to mock? Allah? Muslims?

The saddest reflection must be saved for the strength of faith in a society whose passivity allows its business class to knowingly and willingly soil the sanctity of the once in a year month – blatantly in defiance of the warning in Sura Noor:

إِنَّ الَّذينَ يُحِبّونَ أَن تَشيعَ الفٰحِشَةُ فِى الَّذينَ ءامَنوا لَهُم عَذابٌ أَليمٌ فِى الدُّنيا وَالءاخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعلَمُ وَأَنتُم لا تَعلَمونَ ﴿١٩

Translation: Those who love that indecency should be broadcast about those who believe – theirs is a painful punishment in this world and in the Everlasting Life. Allah knows, and you do not know.

The authorities in the council where my aunt lives, suddenly decided the last week of Ramadhaan must be made use of with a ‘farewell’ festival. Each night  (including, of course the odd nights and right through till faj’r) the makeshift market in the midst of a residential area was in full blast with music, singing and wild announcements celebrating its own insensitivity and shamelessness.

These were a few stark examples. As for the routine stuff [TV schedules, shopping sprees, behind-the-back talk gatherings, etc.] I remember it took us the 8th October earthquake (in 2005) to induce that true mood of refrain,  abstinence and virtue that a fast alone induces in a truer Muslim.

My western readers shouldn’t feel too smug. These are points to ponder for all of us. So this year,

  • Do you vow to keep all the fasts (if you aren’t fasting regularly still…)?
  • Will, this year too, your Fasts be an occasion for Fun (festivals), Food (‘tablefuls’ of iftari and sehri), and Fluid Money (shopping, redecorations, etc)?
  • What mental preparation are you going through right now to keep yourself away from all those nasty habits (dishonesty, occasional lying, backbiting, being jealous, wishing somebody bad, etc. etc.)?
  • Any more fights with parents (or spouse)?
  • If you are unable to keep a fast due to a valid reason, how long will it take you to make it up (that is execute it’s qaza as clearly mentioned in the ayah above)?
  • What about all that count of qaza fasts from the previous years ever since the saum obligation is due on you?
  • Will you be watching DRAMAS and listening to MUSIC, thereby helping promote unbashful and indecent attitudes (as warned against in Sura Nur) knowing full well that the activities involved in both are also haram?
  • And finally what about the last week – will it succeed in bringing out more from us compared with the rest of the Ramadan?

We all strive to do more in Ramadhan SOME way, so:

  • What about attempting to remove your up-till-now mistakes or neglects in the way of salat and zakat?
  • Are you saving your pocket money and personal savings ONLY for your own myriad expenses OR you care for somebody else’s hunger?
  • Will you be focusing on ‘completing” Quran’s recital as quickly & conveniently (which often means ‘soullessly’) as possible, or will you be including some tajweed or tafseer or hadith?
  • What about taraweeh? Will you wrap it up in ‘7-day’, ‘6-day’, ‘5-day’, ‘4-day’ or ‘3-day’ contrived taraweeh to have it out of your way for the rest of the month?

Finally, the spiritual duties of Ramadan are not actually over after the last saum, so :

  • Will Eid see the complete reversal of our good strivings through the month (like discarding a garment one has had to adorn for the past long hours…)? Unfortunately, the way we live, Eid does have the worse of temptations to overthrow all the lessons and progress we have made in Ramadan. So if you are serious about things this Ramadan, plan ahead of your Eid.
  • The same can be said for the rest of the year… Ramadan is not meant to be a show – a month-long once-in-a-year spiritual festival. Rather, it should be the beginning of an year-long spiritual odyssey. So don’t spend your Ramadan like a month-long once-in-a-year festival. There must be (at the very least) ONE character weakness that we can identify in ourselves and that we can resolve to correct (and to develop the correction into a practise) in Ramazan  and then to keep this new, better and higher level of attitude alive even after Ramadan…

May Allah make this Ramadan an occasion for all of us for our physical, spiritual, psychological, religious, economical, societal, and national (I mean both the nation of Muslims and the nation of Pakistan) well-being! Ameen.

The Muslim scale: Zakat

فَإِن تابوا وَأَقامُوا الصَّلوٰةَ وَءاتَوُا الزَّكوٰةَ فَإِخوٰنُكُم فِى الدّينِ ۗ وَنُفَصِّلُ الءايٰتِ لِقَومٍ يَعلَمونَ ﴿١١﴾ وَإِن نَكَثوا أَيمٰنَهُم مِن بَعدِ عَهدِهِم وَطَعَنوا فى دينِكُم فَقٰتِلوا أَئِمَّةَ الكُفرِ ۙ إِنَّهُم لا أَيمٰنَ لَهُم لَعَلَّهُم يَنتَهونَ ﴿١٢

Translation: If they repent and establish the prayer and pay the obligatory charity, they shall become your brothers in the religion. So We make plain Our verses for a nation that knows (11). But if, after coming to terms with you, they break their oaths and revile your belief, fight the leaders of the disbelief – for they have no oaths – in order that they will desist (12). [Sura Tauba]

Zakat is the 2.5% of our assets that we are required to pass over to the needing ones every year. Since it is farz (i.e. obligatory) utmost care must be excercised in the execution of this duty…

  • How many of you pay out zakat every year with your heart truly in it?
  • Have you bothered to every year to reacquaint yourself with all the delicate issues in the paying out of zakat (some of which are hinted below)?
  • How many execuses your family has created up till now so as to ‘minimize’ the total value of the assets on which you have to calculate the payable dues?
  • Do you carefully bother to count and estimate the current value of the totality of your assets (each and every pair of your gold earrings, for instance) so that you are missing out on nothing?
  • After learning of your errors in the past years, do you intend to correct the mistakes and to carefully reevaluate the amount of zakat unpayed over those past years? Remember all that zakat is still due.
  • Finally, do you just give it away whichever way or do you first investigate whether the subject receiving your zakat is really a legitimate recipient or not? Or, whether the institute you are trusting your zakat with is TRULY forwarding it where it belongs?

Remeber Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique’s first jihad as a Caliph was to fight those who had refused paying zakat after our Prophet’s (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) death, deciding from the ayah referenced above.

In the next edition of THE FAITH, I will go over a quick overview of the last point on the Muslim Scale and then move over to the Mo’min and Mohsin stages, InshaAllah.

Click here to read other posts from the Islam category in this blog.


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THE FAITH: The Three Stages of being a Muslim – Part I

In Islam, Quran on August 2, 2009 at 8:04 am

quranWhile I was reading the Qur’an some days ago, with  tafseer by Maulana Taqi Usmani, I came across an ayah in Sura Al-Maida which reminds us of the progressive stages of a Muslim’s faith.

In view of the coming Ramadaan, it seemed to be an excellent topic of presentation and preparation.

Here is the ayah.

Al-Maida, ayah 93

Translation: On those who believe and do good there is no blame for what they eat, when they are careful (of their duty) and believe and do good deeds, then they are careful (of their duty) and believe, then they are careful (of their duty) and do good (to others; and Allah loves those who do good (to others).

The context

This ayah appears in the context of the prohibition of drinking wine in a previous ayah (#90). When the commandment was received and announced by the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam), some Sahaba came and inquired what of those who had drunk and have already died before its prohibition. This ayah explains that since those Muslims had eaten only what was not forbidden according to the Allah’s commandments up till then, and that they had done this in sincerity towards Him while standing in fear of displeasing him, they do not deserve any penance; rather they deserve reward in the hereafter.

Stages of faith

However, what inspires me to write about today is the simple gradation of the Muslim faith that is provided in this ayah and against which we can measure ourselves.

In this and many other verses of the Qur’an, the Believers are called upon to believe. What does it mean? Why the apparent repetition? Why tell those who already believe to believe…?

Tafaseer confirm what the common sense points to: the belief that is being demanded of the Believers is of a different and higher kind than that more basic and lower rung of the ladder that they have already climbed. At various points in Qur’an and hadith, as here, this second stage of Faith is further distinguished from a third, higher one. The three stages in succession are:

1. Islam – 2. Iman – 3. Ihsan

Below follows a hadith that verifies the authenticity of these concepts.

The hadith

On the authority of Omar [razi Allahu unh] who said:

One day while we were sitting with the messenger of Allah there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet [salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam].

Resting his knees against his and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said:

“O Muhammed [salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam], tell me about Islam“.

The messenger of Allah said:

“Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is the messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadhan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so.”

He said: “You have spoken rightly”, and we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken rightly. He said:

“Then tell me about eman.”

He [Prophet Mohammad salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam] said:

“It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof.”

He said: “You have spoken rightly”. He said:

“Then tell me about ehsan.”

He said: “It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet, truly He sees you”.

[Reference: Hadith #2 in Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, taken from Muslim]

[Note: The narration continues to a discussion of signs of qiyamah and Hazrat Omar asking and finding out that the strange person asking questions and talking freely to Prophet Mohammad was Hazrat Jibrail (Angel Gabriel).]

Stage 1: Islam

Many of us assume (with a simple-minded ignorance) that if we have recited the kalima thus claiming our Muslim faith we have indeed attained the first stage.

Not so fast..

Look again at the first section of the reference ayah and you will find the phrase wa ‘amilu-ssalihaat (“and they perform the good deeds”) attached as an essential characteristic of the first stage. Even if you are a perfunctory reader of the Qur’an you will testify that this little phrase accompanies the phrase allazina amanu (“those who believe”) nearly all the places in Qur’an, except where they are simply being addressed (i.e., as ya ayyuh-allazina amanu).

Now look at the first section of the reference hadith wherein our Prophet Mohammad (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replies to Jibrail the meaning of Islam. Therein we find the full requisites of falling in the “Muslim” category; the most basic definition of ‘good deeds’. And why not? Of course, ‘deed’ means action and ‘testifying’ to the basic components of faith is merely an intellectual act, not a behavioral one.

So here’s an opportunity for us to compare ourself with the following four-point scale of being a true MUSLIM (forget, for the time being, about being a Mo’min and next a Mohsin; that will come later).

The Muslim Scale: the starter

first_kalimah

Before the actual four deeds that are the minimum requirements for our Muslim faith having any validity in the hereafter, of course their is the prerequisite testimony. The common mistake is to invoke the testimony as Enough! No. Think of this testimony (the kalima) as a prologue. Suppose you go to your favorite bookshop and buy a novel by your favorite author. You don’t look into the book then (being in a hurry), and bring it home. At home a big disappointment awaits you. The novel only has a prologue! Where’s the rest of the story? It’s outrageously blank! [Or more typically, keeping in mind the actual case we are following, filled with irrelevent rubbish..] So what do you do? Placidly- patiently- rather helplessly- accept your position to be content with a mere two-page prologue? Never! Surely your dignity is of higher sensitivity. YOU WANT YOUR MONEY BACK! So you return to the bookstore as soon as you can and return this INVALID case of a novel with disgust. So what are we expecting from our Lord, the Almighty? This ayah (translation here) is a clear eye-opener if any doubts still remain:

Do they, perchance, wait for the angels to appear unto them, or for thy Sustainer [Himself] to appear, or for some of thy Sustainer’s [final] portents to appear? [But] on the Day when thy Sustainer’s [final] portents do appear, believing will be of no avail to any human being who did not believe before, or who, while believing, did no good works. Say: “Wait, [then, for the Last Day, O unbelievers:] behold, we [believers] are waiting, too!” [Al-An’aam, 158]

—–

In the next post InshaAllah, I will go through the other four points of this first stage.

Note: Read the Part II of this post here.

REFLECTIONS: Clouds and Smoke… Part II

In Islam on July 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Continued from Part I (in which I shared some of my random and vague anxieties about the Sawat situation).

The second phenomenon with which my mind has been continually preoccupied has not happened yet. But for all appearances, it may come about very soon. At least the makings of the phenomenon are well under way…

Dajjal, the Anit-Christ.

Signs of Qayamah and Dajjal

Nearly all the minor signs (derived from authentic  ahadith) to appear before that Last Day are now complete. All kinds of immoralities are the order of the day, being happily engaged in and promoted; while the people – muslim or not – willingly choose the corrupt and the hypocrite as their leaders. Even some of the more specific minor signs such as competing for the heights of buildings, and the female hairstyle of wearing hair-buns on the top of the heads) have been realized for years.

picture at the back of a dollarThe one minor sign which I’m particularly interested in and which so keenly reminds me of the approaching Dajjal is the prophecy that Christians will reach Khyber. [I haven’t been able to find a proper online reference to this hadith, but I have read it in an other reliable source.] This Khyber refers to the one in Saudi Arabia, of course.

The same hadith contains the general prediction that Christians will govern the whole world – the Khyber prediction seems to be one specific manifestation of it. A manifestation which is not too far from being realized. A manifestation to which the whole current scenario involving the Middle East, Iran  and, of course, Pakistan is speedily leading up.

Among the major sings preceding Dajjal, there are but two – the appearance of Mahdi and the famine of increasing extensiveness over a period of three years. The appearance of Imam Mahdi is the first major sign of qiyamah to surface. There is doubt as to the exact duration of his reign on the ummah but the more popular view seems to be seven years. It is towards the end of his reign that Dajjal will appear, followed later by Hazrat Isa to kill Dajjal and to take over the leadership of the ummah after Mahdi’s death.

Dajjal, the System

Ahmed Thomson's book on Dajjal, the SystemThere are three aspects of Dajjal. There is Dajjal the individual. There is Dajjal as a world wide social and cultural phenomenon. There is Dajjal as an unseen force. [Ahmad Thomson in Dajjal: the King Who has No Clothes]

Ahmad Thomson is a Muslim scholar who has taken pains to describe how the forerunners of Western civilization have been paving the way for the One Currency, One Government, and One Leader, a dream which is speedily coming true before our very eyes and whose pinnacle will be the appearance of Dajjal, the ultimate Leader of the system.

freemasonry symbolAhmed Thomson points out the Freemasons as the real organizing (the unseen) force underlying the System that has been firmly implanting its feet in societies and governments for the past few centuries. Many have come to believe this  (for example see here) and have attempted to show the connections between masonic history and more  current world politics. On youtube some interesting videos on the topic may be found, though the authenticity of every aspect of their presentations cannot always be gauranteed.

The focus of Thomson’s enlightening book, however, is neither the history of freemasons nor its secretive role in the world politics. Rather, Thomson attempts to analyze every manifestation of that typical Western progress and civiliation – their medical, legal, financial, educational, etc. systems – and to show how these very systems [indeed the very science on which these systems are based] lead to results quite opposite to the values taught by the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam)  and inculcated by him with a great labor of love in the Madinah society that he had founded. [Read the text of the first few pages of Ahmed Thomson’s brilliant exposition on Dajjal, the system here.]

I myself have often wondered at the workings of these systems to the limits of my knowledge and have related them to the increase in the very things these systems are claimed to eliminate – disease, unrest, crime, ignorance of the profound values of life, lasting peace of minds and hearts…

Another interesting point is how some of the crowning achievements of the Western progress make  some of the very specific characteristics of Dajjal, the individual very plausible to us, the satellite communications, the airplanes, the striving for the global village. An interesting article of old by the Islamic Party of Britian expresses this much better than I can.

So when does he come?

In plain and simple words (which all skeptics will call oversimplified) when the New World Order is finally realized, when the One Currency and One Government dream is  achieved, when the political centre of the governance of the world shifts at last to the freemasonist jews in Israel.

In short, very soon in the decades to follow.

I remember in school when I was told about the signs of Qayamah I always used to think ‘oh that must be far far away, centuries hence, no need to worry my mind over it’. Today, I’m fearfully waiting for the first major signs of Qayamah to appear. The stage is nearly all set. We only wait for the hour to be sounded…

Seriously, there are 91 years yet to go in this century. It has only taken us the headlong rush of the past 8 years since 9/11 to bring us face to face with the reality of the approaching Qayamah. And if not myself, then my children will in all probability live in the era of Dajjal.

How to cope?

Our Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) has prepared us well in this respect. He has painstakenly revealed to us details of Dajjal’s background, his physical appearance, the seemingly magical but really scientific feats in his repertoire with which he will lure people into following him, and the details of his era on this earth: his emergence, deceptions, encounters and finally his end.

Like any prescription of the doctor forgotten upon the shelf, our prohpet’s pains will be wasted if we don’t make use of the knowledge he has given us.

So what are we doing with the prescription? Dajjal the individual is nearly upon us, but how many of the muslims are really thinking about it? Do we care to access the treasure trove of authentic ahadith on this topic and familiarize ourselves with it? Do we speak to our children (by which I mean any members of the young generation that we are in touch with) about it, for they indeed might be the ones who face Dajjal in the prime of their adult lives?

My fellows, it is NOT JUST about identifying him and his actions. It is REALLY about the depth and the firmness of our belief in God.

Already the western way of making science and society has allured many of our current generation away from a real belief on the One and Only and on His Word. You have to read any of the myriad modern blogs by ‘enlightened’ bloggers to learn that. A majority of the Muslim population seem  hypocrites and a significant number are, or stand the risk of, turning atheists at heart. It is these very kinds that Dajjal’s cunning will be keenly successful with.

DO NOT you CARE?

The only real solution must be to acquaint ourselves and our children with the most authentic sources of our religion; to return repeatedly to the Quran with a thinking, pondering heart; and to approach all we are being given in the name of  science, culture, society, progress, and modernity with a thinking, independent and skeptic mind whose deepest emotional connection must be with Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam).

Al-Qur'an

May Allah make us succeed in our hefty goals.

NOTE:

  • In times of active conflict with kuffars, our Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) used to recite Qunut-e-Nazila instead of the usual Qunut prayer recited in the third rak’at of witr, the last prayer of the day after Isha. These are indeed high times to engage in the practice and to recite both the versions of the nazila qunut that we find in authentic ahadith as general prayers. These qunuts may be found commonly in collections of wazaif and of masnoon prayer pieces.
  • The hadith in which our Prophet mentions recitation of Sura Kahaf as an antidote to the evils of Dajjal is really about the first 10 verses of the sura. The hadith is to the effect that whosoever recites the first 10 verses of Sura Kahaf on successive Jummas (Fridays) will be saved for the duration from the evils of Dajjal. It is high time we make it into a practice and teach both these noble traditions (the qunut and the lines of sura kahaf) to our young.

WORDS OF GOLD: The Intentions behind Actions – II

In Islam, Words of Gold: The Quran on March 13, 2009 at 6:04 am

In the first part of this post, I laid out what it means to have (or not to have) pure intentions behind good acts. These good acts are ones which our God, Allah, commands us to perform or encourages us to do. The diametric opposite of such acts are the prohibited ones. [Read here a list of the major acts or sins prohibited or condemned  in Islam.]

Unfortunately, we wrongly apply the ‘intentions behind actions‘ hadith in this case too, often distorting facts of our religion to suit our purposes. A common misapplication is when our mistakes end in wrongdoings. For e.g. forgetting to fulfill a crucial promise meaning serious harm to the other party or inconvenience at the least. Often, we attempt to save our face in such a situation by saying that our intentions had been good, ‘it was just a mistake’. The assertion serves as a quick cover for guilt feelings. Instead, the guilt should  have led to a healthy acknowledgment of our responsibility for the bad result.

Another serious misapplication  is attempting to justify the outright bad or prohibited acts by claiming good intentions, using an ‘ends-justify-the-means’ sort of logic. Sometimes we are weak and knowingly engage in a sin: Some external pressure is too great and we are just not courageous. Some internal urge is pushing and we succumb. Will we repent, ask for forgiveness from Allah, get stronger, stay away from the sin in the future? These are crucial issues. But the issues become far-fetched if we start believing  in some rationalization for the sin that apparently ‘redeems‘ its badness. This is self-deception and distorting one’s own religion for one’s sake.

Many people today cannot keep all their money-dealings totally free from interest. Does it mean interest is no longer a major sin, one upon which Allah has announced war in the Holy Quran? No! We have been unable to purge our society of interest, but this doesn’t change the facts of the case.

I have seen many people arguing intensely to the effect that no, hijab is not Islam. Okay, you don’t feel like doing hijab, have no understanding for the significance of hijab in a true muslim society. But who gave you the right to redefine our religion?

The same applies to those who have invented new rituals (bid’aat) in the name of religion propped up with elaborate arrays of explanations and justifications to prove them right. The Prophet’s warning on promoting fabricated ‘acts’ in the name of religion is very clear. No amount of flaunting the act as sacred, an act of piety, or an expression of love to the Prophet or some other religious figure can make the innovation authentic. It remains squarely beyond and outside the domain of Islam. Your proclaimed niyyat will not earn you any profit in the hereafter.

The same goes for being unnecessarily careless or innovative with the clearly described procedures of worship and social dealings such as marriage and divorce. “Good intentions do not repair a bad act” [Khalid Baig, First Things First, p. 169]. If we do not perform our Hajj the way it’s instructed to be, well, it’s no Hajj. If we do not pay zakat as per the detailed guidelines, the zakat is not paid.

The moral of this little discussion is:

Let us not use our alleged intentions as excuses or shields to commit the bad that we are weak enough to engage in!

Stay with me to read about the third part of this post. Jazakallah!

WORDS OF GOLD: The Intentions behind Actions – I

In Islam, Words of Gold: The Quran on March 9, 2009 at 7:49 am

One of the most oft-quoted hadith (Prophet Mohammad’s saying) is the following meaning that rewards of deeds depend upon the intentions.

innamal aamal-u bin-niyyaat

It is also one of the most misapplied hadith, relied upon  in the wrong places, and totally side-lined in the right ones. In order to understand the rights and wrongs in applying this hadith, we must first understand that there are three types of actions in Islamic terms.

The first type of actions is those which Allah has asked us to perform. These encompass not only the musts but also the oughts of Islam: the basic forms of worship, serving the rights of others, and contributing relief to the needy are major examples. A second type of activities are those mundane ones which are the necessary part of daily living: eating, drinking, , raising a family, earning for sustenance and so on. The final type of actions is the prohibited ones.

Now the hadith about intentions stands in a different relation with each of these. Let us begin with the first type.

All of the actions in the first category are GOOD DEEDS. Religiously, socially, morally, some-how or the other, they are good acts. Now when our Prophet (salla-Allahu alaihi wa sallam) reminds us to analyze our real INTENTIONS behind a GOOD DEED, he teaches us an important psychological distinction: There’s a difference between a genuine and a fake act, between a real kindness and an apparent one.

Allah only accepts genuine acts of goodness, not posed or contaminated ones. And why should He? If you were given a gift where you knew the giver was merely fulfilling a formality, showing off, intending to obtain some gain in return, or partronizing you in some way, would you like such a gift? I bet not!

Note, it’s very EASY to mix our intentions behind these good deeds. They are so attractive because they attract others’ attention and earn us a quick good name. A string of speedy rewards follows those who successfully engage in one good act after another. There is the name, the fame, the good talk behind the back, the praise and appreciation on the face, the attention. Temptations to ‘indulge’ in piety merely for the sake of enjoying this good name are numerous. Those who have even slightly tasted  the admiration following the public performance of a moralistic act know it can be addictive. Soon it can be a lust of its own, all the time so subtle we may succeed in deceiving ourselves we are being good for sake of pure goodness.

At first glance we may not recognize the symptoms of this subtle behind-the-facade contamination. But wait…. Do you remember the time when you were rather irritated with the gift you received on your last birthday? You thought it should have been at least at par with the one you had given to the giver on her birthday! Remember the fight you ended up having with that friend whom you realized failed to live up to your expectations after eliciting favors from you first? Remember the lady who chastised her maid on her shortcoming after all the material help the lady had given her so far? The greater the favor before the more the irritation later!

It is difficult to detect the trail of impure intention while we are attempting the goodness. But the scent can be easily picked up in the aftermath.

There’s another key issue linked to this aspect of Intentions that deserves clarifying. What about the non-Muslims who commit good acts? What about them, particularly when they are presumably free of the kind of impurities I have mentioned above? Will Allah accept their deeds? The answer depends on which perspective you are taking, this world or the one to follow.

As far as this world is concerned, the return for a good deed is a good consequence. And in that there’s no distinction among people. Sure, Allah tests everybody with unexpected setbacks and disappointments, but sooner or later the good is returned to us in some form. The point of distinction is the afterworld: No matter how pure and good the good deed, its usefulness in the afterworld rests SOLELY upon the pivotal aspect of intention: Did we do it for the sake of the ONE TRUE GOD?

Consider it like this: You are the principal  in a certain college and unbeknown to you, an unregistered person not only attends all the classes as a student but plays the role very well. He is a highly capable person with genuine talent and uses it well in assignments and presentations and projects. He reaps all the immediate and positive consequences for his efforts: he is learning at the highest rate and acquiring a geniune reputation among the faculty and the class-fellows. Both things which will be definitely be of use to him later.  At the end of the program, however, he comes up to you with a rather frivolous expectation: that you should award him the degree as a result for his untiring and spectacular performance! Absurd, isn’t it?

So Allah will return the goodnesses of the non-believers in this world. But why should He do so in the afterworld when He has made it clear from the outset for whom the Heaven is reserved? In fact this aspect too applies to all of us, Muslims or not. The terms for gaining admission into that pleasant eternal life are clearly set out in the Quran. Our Muslim name doesn’t make a difference. Fair!

As a clarification and authentication of this last point, I refer to you to that famous Hadith-e-Qudsi detailing that the first three to be entered to hell-fire on the Judgment Day will be a martyr, a Quranic scholar and a philanthropist, all three of whom had engaged in their respective noble activities for sake of wordly rewards. Read the full hadith here.

IN the second part of this post, we shall turn to the third category of actions, the prohibited ones. I wish to discuss about this one before the second class of activities (the mundane, daily life ones) because of the widespread mis-use of the concept of intention in its case.

Thanks for being with me so far.

Extremism and Counter-extremism…. Whatever happened to moderation? Part I

In extremism and counter-extremism, Islam on February 25, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Extremism is a word which truly dominates the world’s political scene today. While  extremism  increasingly  refers to terrorists who use the name of Islam, the reactions to extremism are also extreme if you examine closely. Among governments and societies, the attitudes, the policies and the actions of a majority of those who fight terrorism are no less extreme  as the so called terrorists. Reminds me of the swing of a pendulum which can be either to the left OR to the right, but it will be a SWING any way, as extreme as you push it, only the direction will be different. To be extreme is to far from the centre or the middle, to exceed the bounds of moderation.  So if we sincerely wish to oppose extremism, what shall we rely on? Of course, moderation.

There! I have laid out my thesis. Now let’s develop it more logically…

How come terrorism is  simply that and NOT “Islamic”

We need no reminders that all forms of terrorism are extremist, but we DO need a set of well-rounded arguments that such acts are NOT Islamic even if the perpetuators associate the pure name of Islam.

Here are some:

  1. Terrorists inflict harm and violence upon innocent civilians and non-combatants. On the other hand, Quran states in Ayah 126, Surah Nahal: “If you punish, let your punishment be proportionate to the punishment you received. But if you are patient, it is better for the patient.”  Thus where the central theme of terrorism is intolerance, the counsel of Quran is patience.
  2. Terrorists are indiscriminate in their killing, playing with and ridiculing the sanctity of human life. On the other hand Quran equates illegal killing of ANY individual with killing off the whole humanity; while saving a life is tantamount to saving the human race (Ayah 32, Sura Maida). Also: “The recompense for he who kills a believer deliberately is Gehenna (Hell), he is eternal there. Allah will be angry with him and will curse him and prepare for him a great punishment.” (Ayah 93, Sura An-Nisa). The Islamic law of Qisas is not just for when a Muslim is killed, it holds as much for unjust killing of non-Muslims in a Muslim state.
  3. Terrorists have repeatedly employed suicide-bombers often luring them with promises of “instantaneous admission into Heaven”. The reality is that  suicide is clearly despised according to  several Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Alehi Wassallam) with the promise of variously defined punishments in Hell [E.g.: No.s 445, 446, Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23]. In one, a hadith-e-qudsi, Allah says “My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him” [No. 445]. In another, the Prophet warned that “if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection.” [Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, No. 73].

Read Part II here.

Read Part III here.

Possibly related in this blog:

On the Sharia deal in Pakistan