Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaah,
Alhamdulillaah, after a grueling week of non-stop work, I had the blessed opportunity to attend a one day event with New York Da'wah event entitled The Grave and Beyond. There were only four lectures, back to back, but subḥānAllāh, the program went above and beyond my expectations. The event featured everyone's favorite Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and Shaykh Kamal alMekki, and a few new du'aat (callers), namely, Br. Muḥammad ElShinawy and Br. Abu Yousuf. SubḥānAllāh I believe there were about 400 brothers and sisters in attendance… the room was literally PACKED, and no one thought there would be a need for AC given the still somewhat chilly weather outside! (One speaker commented that the temperature in the room fit well with the theme… the Hereafter.) The event was actually structured quite nicely, with the talks in the following order: The Grave (Muḥammad ElShinawy), The Day of Judgment (Sh. Yasir), Paradise and Hellfire (Sh. Kamal), and Preparing Yourself for the Hereafter (Abu Yousuf).
Well, the brothers from Massachusetts met up at 6:30 am, we ate a nice breakfast, and hit the road at about 8. We were 14 strong (AlMaghrib Expansion committee, TAKE NOTE! :) ) and even had two non-Muslims come along with us (will expand on this soon bi idhnillah!). Arriving in NYC at around noon (and the event not starting till 3 pm), our first stop was none other than Al-Mat'am al-Yemeni As-Sa'eed on Brooklyn's infamous Atlantic Ave. (a.k.a. Islamic wonderland). If you haven't tried the H.aneeth (extremely slowly cooked lamb) at this place, you have truly been missing one of this dunya's halal treats.
Anyways, on to the important business. We unfortunately greatly underestimated NYC traffic, and the trek from Brooklyn to Manhattan took more than an hour (although the GPS said 10 minutes), and subḥānAllāh, we arrived at about 4:30, just in time for the second talk, by our very own Shaykh Yasir, who gave a powerful talk on the events of Yawm ul-Qiyaamah (the Day of Resurrection). Two things really hit me hard from this talk: Firstly, the complete and utter abandonment of friends and family that will occur on the Day of Judgment. Everyone will only have concern for his own state on this day, to the point that a nursing mother will completely abandon her infant and even the Prophets, the best of men, will be crying “nafsee, nafsee,” save the Seal of the Prophets, sall Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, who will intercede for his ummah (which also demonstrates his superiority over the other anbiyaa'). The second thing that hit me was the reaction of the one who will be given his book in his right hand and the despair of the one who will be given his book in his left:
Then, as for him who is given his record in his right hand, he will say: Take, read my book!
Surely I knew that I should have to meet my reckoning.
Then he will be in blissful state
But as for him who is given his record in his left hand, he will say: Oh, would that I had not been given my book
And knew not what my reckoning!
Oh, would that it had been death!
As mentioned, the third lecture, by Sh. Kamal, was on Hellfire and Paradise. When you HEAR the description of the torment of those to be punished by the fire BY Allāh, you realize that you have NEVER heard of a more fearful punishment… it shakes you to your bones to hear this description, and you VOW that you NEVER want to even glimpse at such a horrible place. I cannot remember the exact details of the portion of the speech on Hellfire, but I do remember feeling extremely shaken and horrified. The one detail of the talk I remember vividly is that the people of the hellfire will be crying for so long out of agony, that eventually they will cry tears of blood, so much so that the ground will be flooding with blood.
MAY Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla PROTECT US FROM EVEN HAVING TO GLIMPSE AT THE HELLFIRE. Āmīn.
The most amazing portion of the 3rd lecture was learning about the meeting of Allāh with His slaves, where He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla, will allow them to see His Face (without tamtheel or tashbeeh). I could describe what I heard, but I direct you to a beautiful recitation of a scholarly piece by imām ibn ul-Qayyim where he describes this very event (thanks to Br. Amad for the link).
The fourth and final lecture by Br. Abu Yousuf was absolutely amazing. After being nearly scared out of our skins from the punishment of the Hereafter as well as overwhelmed with hope for reward from our Rabb, the final lecture instructed us on how to prepare for such a serious series of trials and events. Main points:
(1) īmān in the Aakhirah is NOT simply acknowledging that it and its events exist and will come to pass. Even Shaytan knows this. īmān entails preparing one's self to pass these great tests.
(2) The time to repent is NOT when you get older. It is NOT in a year, NOR a month, NOR tomorrow, NOR EVEN in a second! THE TIME TO REPENT IS NOW! NOW! Do not hesitate for even an INSTANT! For delaying tawbah only leads to hardening of one's heart. If you delay, you never know if you will be able to repent in the future.
(3) You could die at any instant! And you would never want to die without having repented to Allāh. Our main aim should be “al-Husn al-Khatima” (a good ending), where our last words on our tongue and on our heart are “La ilaha illa Allāh.” And we aim to stay as far as possible from “asSoo' al-Khatima” (an evil ending), where, although we know we should, we are absoltely unable to utter the words “La ilaha illa Allāh” on our deathbeds, since one's heart was not focused upon Allāh. If someone thinks that mere knowledge of La ilaha illa Allāh will allow him to make these his last words, he is gravely mistaken. Knowledge is necessary, but it requires living your life by these words and turning back in repentance to your Rabb, before it is too late.
SubḥānAllāh, you could hear the emotion in the room during the last speech. Allāh knows just how many hearts were moved and changed by this event. And, regarding Br. Abu Yousuf, inshā'Allāh, I pray we see more of him in the coming da‘wah conferences and events. He is TRULY a powerful and moving daa'iyah. May Allāh make him a means for the spread of da'wah in this country. Āmīn.
Now, everyone must be thinking… “What was the da‘wah lesson mentioned in the title?” Well, remember, I said that two non-Muslims came along with us from Mass. Of course, we probably understand that if a non-Muslim is willing to travel 4 hours just to go to some Islamic function, that he must already have an interest… but I still learned some extremely valuable lessons that I think we should all reflect upon bi idhnillah.
Really, once I found out that non-Muslims were coming along, I thought, “I wonder how they will react to literally fire-brand sermons about the Hereafter (especially since we know, and it wasn't a secret at the event, that the disbelievers will burn in the fire for eternity…).” Well, they decided to come, and I wasn't about to stop them. “Let's see what happens, inshā'Allāh,” I thought to myself.
After the event, I approached one of the non-Muslims who came with us, and asked him what he thought. His response (I'm paraphrasing), “Man, didn't you see me in the stairway between the talks?! I was pacing back and forth, freaking out… I didn't know how to handle everything I heard. I started calling my friends… I just needed someone to talk to after getting as horrified as I did. … That was some VERY powerful stuff I learned today… I don't know if I'll ever be the same…” On the car ride back, we discussed Islam and the event more, and he expressed how he wanted nothing more for himself than to die with the “husn al-khaatima” that we learned about. I explained to him the basic aqeedah of Islam, and asked him if he accepted “la ilaha illa Allāh,” and subḥānAllāh, he said that he fully accepted that, and that he knows that Jesus is only a prophet. I then asked him if he believes that the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) is Allāh's messenger. He said that he knew the Prophet (SAWS) was a good man, but didn't know if he was a prophet. We discussed this issue, and basically, he left with the conclusion that he must research about the Prophet Muḥammad (SAWS) and that once he believes that he is indeed a prophet, that he must accept him and accept Islam without delay. SubḥānAllāh, I don't know if I have ever given da'wah so easily and directly to a person before this. All of this, because his heart softened so much after hearing about the hereafter and realizing the gravity of the situation he is in.
The other non-Muslim as well was deeply affected by the event. He basically said that he needs a few days to try to swallow and digest everything he learned.
The da‘wah lesson I took from all this: do NOT be scared to warn non-Muslims about the aakhirah. It won't scare them away from Islam, unless they are arrogant to begin with… if they are sincere, inshā'Allāh, this warning will only soften their hearts to the truth of Islam. Of course, we still give da'wah with the best of speech and manners, but this does not entail shying away from facts that non-Muslims need to know. Rather, if we don't tell them, we may be asked why we hid the reality from them.
SubḥānAllāh, now that I think of it, nearly every da'wah event for non-Muslims I can think of (with a few exceptions) is watered-down/sugar-coated for easy digestion by the non-Muslims. I have a bold idea :) . Bismillah: From now on, all da'wah events for non-Muslims should be given with the speaker speaking as though he is addressing ignorant Muslims (this should effectively remove the sugar-coating, inshā'Allāh). Of course, we can still have the topics focusing on what non-Muslims need to hear, i.e. aqeedah (including descriptions of the Hereafter), but the speaker will just pretend he is addressing Muslims that know nothing about their religion. My advice is: try it out, and see what happens bi idhnillah. Neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah watered down any of these descriptions in the Makki Soorahs, which were the primary “da'wah surahs”, so why should we do so in our da'wah? After all the best way to give da'wah is upon the methodology of the Prophets. Bi idhnillah, following this methodology, the da'wah will prove to be far more effective.
May Allāh reward all of the Shuyūkh and all the brothers and sisters that organized this event. May Allāh make this event a means of guidance for all those who attended, Muslim and non-Muslim. May Allāh protect us from even an instant of the torment of the Hellfire, may He grant us Jannah, and may He allow us to see His Face. Āmīn!