Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera

[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi's lecture on having noble visions and goals.  The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]

The topic given to me is about having lofty intentions and a noble vision or goal in your life.  This is a topic that is very important for every single one of us – to have a vision, a plan and aim for something grandiose in this world and the next.  Our Islamic history is full of people who have impacted the ummah even though they didn't start off thinking they would have the type of impact they did.  I want to mention some of these stories to soften our hearts.

One of the stories that affected me the most personally was the story of one of my teachers at the University of Madinah.  As you know, I studied for ten years at the University of Madinah, and alhamdulillah Allah blessed me with studying with dozens of scholars.  A few of them really stand out.  The most exotic teacher I had was Shaykh Muhammad al-Azami.  I studied with him in my last year of my undergraduate degree.  It was the year that he retired.  He was then 70 years old, which was the mandatory age of retirement.  I was in the last batch to study with him before he retired.  That year he was the dean of the College of Ḥadīth Sciences.

What was really impressive about the shaykh was that he was born into a Hindu family, and he was raised a practicing, fervent, ardent Hindu.  By the time he was retiring from his career, he is the Dean of the Faculty of Ḥadīth of the most prestigious Islamic university.  (Of course Azhar graduates will say Azhar is the most prestigious – this is an internal rivalry we have.  I think it is the most prestigious, and if it isn't, then it is in the top three).  Without any embellishment, the College of Ḥadīth is very unique in the Islamic world because it is very rare to have an undergraduate degree in ḥadīthḤadīth is one of the most advanced sciences of Islam.  The majority of universities in the world only have ḥadīth in the Masters and PhD – it is a specialization.  Madinah is one of only universities in the world that had an actual faculty of ḥadīth studies at the bachelor's level.  He was the Dean of the faculty of ḥadīth and he was raised a practicing Hindu.

Alḥamdulillāh  I became very close to him and his private student and have ijazahs from him.  I visited him frequently in his house, and I wanted to hear his life story directly from him.  One day, I said, “Shaykh, I really want to know how did all of this happen?”  The shaykh in his modesty gave a small summarized story, and I'll add what I know from other sources as well.

The shaykh was born into a Brahman family, which is the elite of the Hindus.  He was raised a practicing and fervent Hindu.  He had been taught to despise Muslims and he never had a Muslim friend.  Brahmans weren't supposed to touch someone who was not a Brahman.  He was taught to completely separate and isolate himself except in his Brahman caste.  He was accepted in university in India and lo and behold, he was assigned a Muslim roommate.

He didn't know what to do between hatred, revulsion, and loathing.  He decided to give him da'wah and convert him to Hinduism.  He decided that he needed to study this man's religion.  He began reading the Qur'an and then read about the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  He was fascinated by the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and asked how he could find out about the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and was told to read the books of ḥadīth.  This was in the 1950s in India.  He asked, “What is ḥadīth?”  They told him ḥadīth is what the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said.  He asked for the books, and they said they are all in Arabic.  He asked where he could study Arabic, and they told him that he needed to go abroad and study in university, and in order to do that, he needed to be a Muslim in order to be accepted to study Arabic.  He decided that Islam made a lot of sense, so he accepted Islam so he could go and study Arabic and these ḥadīth.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was told there was a university that had just opened in Madinah.  He was told that he should apply there so that perhaps they would teach him Arabic and he could study ḥadīth.  He applied as a new Muslim convert and was accepted amongst the first batches.  He was the first Hindu convert to be accepted to Madinah.

He studied there and caught the “galaxy of stars” (Shaykh Bin Baaz, Shaykh al-Shinqiti and other big names).  He graduated top of the class.  He went to Shaykh Bin Baaz and said that he wanted to study more.  Shaykh Bin Baaz told him that they were a new university and only had a bachelor's program, so he would have to go somewhere else to study.  He asked where he could go, and the shaykh said that the only university at the time was al-Azhar University in Egypt.

He went to al-Azhar in the 60s after getting his bachelor's in Madinah.  He became one of the first graduates of Madinah to get a Master's and PhD from al-Azhar.  His PhD is called “In Defense of Abu Hurayrah.”  In the 60s they were trying to attack the character of ḥadīth by attacking Abu Hurayrah.  He was such a well-known personality that he was then hired in Madinah to become a professor.   When the process started that you had to be a Saudi to be a professor, the shaykh wrote a personal letter to the king to give him Saudi citizenship.  Shaykh Muhammad got Saudi citizenship.

In 1973/74 they opened up the faculty of ḥadīth, and his PhD was in ḥadīth.  He started as an assistant professor in the college of ḥadīth.  Over the next twenty years, he raised his ranks and was the senior ranking professor in the college of ḥadīth and became the dean.

It was amazing to me how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) took this man who grew up bowing his head to idols and giving offerings to pagan gods.  He was around 20-22 years old when he embraced Islam.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) blessed him to the point he was the dean and only non-Saudi ethnically.  I spent the whole year studying with him and was just flabbergasted that here is a man Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose from billions of people and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guided him throughout his life to end up at one of the most prestigious positions in the entire Muslim world.

There is no such thing as retirement for a Muslim.  The year that he retired, I said, “Shaykh, what is your project now?”  He said, “For the last decade I have had something in my mind.  alhamdulillah I have time now to do that now that I am retiring.  I want to compile all of the sahih ḥadīth ever written in one big volume.”  If you know anything about ḥadīth, this is a task that is monumental and more difficult than writing an encyclopedia, and one man wants to do this.  I said, “Shaykh, all ḥadīth?”  He said, “All ḥadīth!”  I kept in touch with him.  The year that I left, he had already done four to five thousand, and he said he would double or triple this amount, as much as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives him life.  As far as I know, he is still doing this project of compiling upon the condition of imam Bukhari.  Bukhari's book was not comprehensive.  Bukhari wanted to be succinct and concise.  He never wanted to write an encyclopedia – it is too difficult.  The shaykh's goal was that now that we have all the books, let's write an encyclopedia of all sahih aḥadīth upon the conditions of Bukhari.

SubhanAllah, Allah guided this man from Hinduism to now do one of the most ambitious projects that the ummah has ever seen.  This is what you call having high goals.

SubhanAllah, hen Shaykh Muhammad started off, if someone told him as a 20-year old new convert that one day he would be the dean of the faculty of the college of ḥadīth at Madinah and hundreds of scholars would sit at his feet, he would have laughed.  This is what happens when you have persistence, determination and drive, when you don't set any barriers and when you let Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) take you as far as your himmah (determination) allows you to go.  Slowly but surely, this is exactly what happened.  He is not the only one, by the way.  This is an example I have experienced and witnessed.  In the history of Islam, there are so many.

When you look at the history of Islam, imam al-Nawawi is a classic example.  He was born to a father who owned a grocery store.  He memorized Qur'an by 9-10 years old.  It is narrated that the earliest record we have of imam al-Nawawi was when a scholar was passing through the city and he saw a strange sight that he recorded.  He recorded that he saw a young boy the other boys were pulling to play and he was pulling away saying that he needed to go to the study circle.  He asked who the boy was and it was al-Nawawi.  The man said that later on when imam al-Nawawi became famous, it clicked that this was the boy he had seen.  As a young man, he asked his father if he could study Islam, and his father said he was their only son and couldn't.  He obeyed them.  He persisted in helping his parents in the shop and continued to study.  His father saw his dedication.  Even behind the counter he would always have a book.  Seeing his drive when he was 19, his father said, “I see how dedicated you are.  Go to Damascus.”  imam al-Nawawi was born in the small village of Nawa, which didn't have scholars.  The scholars were in Damascus.  We need to understand that back then, at 19 everyone had graduated and had a career.  Back then they treated young kids as adults, as they should be treated.

Al-Nawawi began at an age when some of his teachers were a two or three years older than him.  His dedication was so much that within 5-6 years, he surpassed all of his teachers.  He died at a young age around 43-44.  Allah blessed his books in a way hardly any books have been blessed.  Some scholars say the most blessed books ever written by man are by al-Nawawi because the acceptance they have amongst the community is unparalleled.  Every Muslim household has the 40 ḥadīth of Nawawi and Riyadh'l-Saaliheen of al-Nawawi.  Over 50 authors wrote 40 ḥadīth, but it was only al-Nawawi's that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose for acceptance.  It goes back to dedication and determination.

Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina is perhaps one of the top scholars of Qur'an and recitation alive today.  He is one of the living legends.  He came to Houston last year and we had time to discuss with him.  His story tells us that when you set your goals and dedicate yourself, Allah will open up doors and you will go places you never thought you would go.

Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina is a pediatrician by training and still a full-time doctor.  He was born in a secular, upper class Egyptian family.  When he was in his late 20s, a himmah came that Allah gave him the desire to memorize the Qur'an.  For many people this is late.  In his local masjid was one of the professors of al-Azhar who teaches Qur'an qira'at and recitation.  He went to the shaykh and told him he wanted to memorize the Qur'an but didn't have a lot of time because he was a doctor.  The shaykh told him that every day he will have to memorize and perfect two lines of the Qur'an with the condition was that there was no vacation for him.  Every single day he would have to memorize two lines of the Qur'an.  He said, “Only two lines?”  His shaykh was persistent and said, “Not more than two.  You will only do two lines but you will perfect them and do them on a daily basis.”  The shaykh said that he had no choice and began.  He was persistent and punctual.  Every day after maghrib he would sit with the shaykh.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) blessed Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina with a voice that is like one of the flutes of David, as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said when he heard someone reciting.

The shaykh is a full-time pediatrician and this is how he gets his rizq. Slowly but surely doors opened up and people began inviting him.  He perfected Qur'an and memorized all ten qira'at.  He memorized the intonations.  He became a master to the extent that no one knows him as a pediatrician.  The world knows him as one of the top Qur'an scholars.  He didn't start his life as a Qur'an scholar but had persistence, dedication, and a goal.  I'm sure that if anyone had told the shaykh that one day he would be a world famous scholar, he would have laughed.  He didn't put any barriers.  He had persistence and let Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) open the doors for him.

SubhanAllah, this is what Islam tells us to do.  Our religion is not a religion that encourages mediocrity.  Allah never wants us to be average.  Allah never tells us to do the minimum and that's it.  Allah always tells us to strive for perfection and excellence and aim for the very highest.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Qur'an in more than four verses:  “race one another to Allah's maghfirah and Jannah. (Beat everyone else.  Make sure you are the winner.)”.  Allah doesn't tell us to just cross the finish line.  Allah tells us to be with the best and strive!

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “When you ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for Jannah, don't just ask for Jannah.  Ask for Jannat'l-Firdaws.  It is the best of Jannah, the highest of Jannah, the middle of Jannah, and under the Throne of Allah.”  [Muslim, narrated by Abu Hurayrah].  Don't settle for less.  Don't aim low.  I've heard so many Muslims say, “If I just get in, I'll be happy.”  I agree that if we get in we will be happy, but why are you settling for less?  Why is your aim so law?  If you aim for crawling in, then suppose you fail – where will you be?  If you aim for Firdaws and fail, then where will you be?

The percentage of Muslims who will enter Jannat'l-Firdaws is miniscule.  Allah says in Sūrat'l-Wāqi'ah:  “Very few people will get there.  Very few of My servants have reached the level of being shakūr.”  The aim and goal of every Muslim should be this even if you don't get there.  Raise the bar to the highest because if we fail, then inshā'Allāh we are still close.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Qur'an, “Be patient whenever something happens like the elite of the prophets.”  The elite of the prophets are Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, 'Isa, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  Not all of the prophets are of the same level – some are higher than others.  The highest level of prophets are those of strong determination.  Allah tells us, “When you are patient, be patient like the elite of the prophets.”  Is it possible for any of us to be as patient as them?  Allah told Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, leave Hajar and Isma'il in the desert, and circumcise himself at the age of 18.  When Allah tested Ibrahim, Ibrahim did all of them.  Can we reach that level of patience?  Of course not!  But when we aim, we aim for the very highest.  We cannot be as patient as Ibrahim, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa.  Allah is telling us to aim there and take them as the role model and bar.  Even if we fail, our failure will be a success for 99.99% of the world.  When we set the bar at Firdaws, we may not get there, but even if we don't, then what is our failure compared to those who set the bar to crawl into Jannah?

We hardly know anything about Rabi'ah b. Ka'b.  He is not one of the elite of the ṣaḥābah. The ṣaḥābah are of levels – the ten promised Jannah, followed by Badr, followed by the Treaty of Hudhaybiyah, followed by the Treaty of 'Aqabah.  He is a ṣaḥābi but not in any of these elite circles.  One day he said to himself that he should volunteer to be the servant of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw him so dedicated, one day the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “O Rabi'ah, ask and I will give you.”  The connotation is very clear that if he wanted a horse, camel, or something else he would get it.  Rabi'ah said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, I want one thing.  I want to be along with you in Jannah.”  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has the highest of the high levels in Jannah.  In Firdaws, there is a whole level dedicated to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) called al-wasilah and al-fadilah.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Al-wasilah is the highest level of Jannah and dedicated for one person [and in his modesty he said] I hope I am that person.”  Rabi'ah is saying he wants to be with him there.  Obviously he won't be there because it is dedicated for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  He set his goal high.  When you set your goal that high, even if you fail, you will be way higher than anyone else.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was astonished because he was expecting something of the dunya and said, “Anything else?”  He said, “That is all I want, ya Rasūlullāh.”  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If that is the case, you need to help me.”  This is a clear indication that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) doesn't hold the keys of Jannah.  Allah is the One who gives, but he can make shifā'ah.  He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Help me to help you by doing a lot of sajdahs.”  Aim for the very highest and even if you fail, your failure will be a success of millions.

The reality of the ṣaḥābah was that they would race one another for good deeds.  They would monitor each other to see.  We are in the rat race and they were in the Jannah race.  We look at people's possessions and see what kind of car they drive.  This is what we are monitoring because this is what our race is.  When the ṣaḥābah looked at each other, they noticed how much sunnah they were praying, were they doing dhikr after the ṣalāh, were they fasting.  We have clear examples of this.

In Bukhāri:  the muhājirūn were monitoring what the anṣār were doing and one day came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) complaining, but this complaint was a praise.  They said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, our brothers of the anṣār are praying as much as we are praying and fasting as much as we are fasting and doing dhikr as much as we are doing dhikr, but they have money and they are able to give to the poor what we cannot give because we don't have that money.  Will they win?”  This is a complaint lodged in the form of a praise.  They are saying the playing field is not level and the anṣār are getting more reward because they have money.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in one ḥadīth told them the hijrah has a great blessing.  In another ḥadīth, he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “smiling in the face of your brother also counts as charity, shaking your brother's hand is charity…”  He is giving them things they can do to compete with the anṣār that are not monetary.  The point is that they were monitoring each other's actions of worship.

The Battle of Tabuk was in the 9th year of the hijrah and one of the most difficult and they needed a lot of money.  In the Battle of Tabuk, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was encouraging them to give money.  Everyone was giving charity as much as they could.  Abu Bakr came with his quantity and 'Umar came with his quantity.  'Umar gave first and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “How much have you left for your family?”  He said, “I have half for Allah and left half for my family.”  Who amongst us can give 50% of his wealth fisabilillāh?  We give 2.5% with great difficulty.  Abu Bakr came and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “How much did you leave for your family?”  He said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, I left them Allah and His Messenger.”  He gave 100%.  'Umar was shocked and said, “Khalās, Abu Bakr, you won and I lost.  I will not compete with you again.”  The point is the mentality they had.  They monitored and saw what people were doing and making sure they were not left behind.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is telling us to raise the bar.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Be greedy for that which will benefit you.”  [Muslim]  Be eager to get that which will benefit you.  Have a vision and plan.  Don't settle for being average.  Aim for the highest and keep on striving.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows what is going to happen.  The Qur'an always divides the people of Jannah into more categories than the people of Hell.  In Sūrat'l-Wāqi'ahi, there are the ṣābiqūn and aṣḥab'l-yamīn entering JannahAṣḥab'l-shimāl enter Jahannam.  Allah tells us that Jannah has all these levels even though the number of people entering Jannah will be less than the people entering Jahannam.  He wants to emphasize that there are levels.

Sūrat'l-Raḥmān:  There are two levels of Jannah that are being described.  The first of the levels is higher than the second.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) finishes that series by saying, “That is the higher level.  Lesser than this are two other Jannahs.”  When Allah describes the people of the fire of Hell, He groups them together.  The people of Jannah are given more detail because the emphasis is to get the highest.

Allah says, “You want to have a race?  Have a race in this.  If you really want to win, you should win in this.”   Everything else is a waste of time.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) tells us to be proactive and always have a vision and motivation and a plan.  In Musnad of imam Ahmad, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If one of you has a sapling that he is putting in the ground and you hear the trumpet of the Day of Judgment, and if you are able to plant the sapling before the horn is blown, then plant it.”  This ḥadīth is profound.  There will be no Muslims who hear the trumpet being blown.  The ḥadīth is not meant for actual implementation.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The trumpet will be blown amongst the worst of mankind.”  Allah will send a beautiful scented wind and everyone who has an ounce of īmān will die a peaceful death and only those with no īmān will remain and the Qur'an will be lifted up.  Allah will be forgotten on earth.  Fāhishah will take place in public.  This is a theoretical ḥadīth – no Muslim will have a seedling at that time.  The point is that if you are able to do something of benefit and value, then go ahead and do it and don't delay and don't procrastinate even if you won't see the fruits of it.  This is a motivational ḥadīth.  Have a vision and plan and be proactive.  Always do something.

The bottom line is:  every one of us has to have some type of vision.  Let it be grandiose!  How many of us know people who have memorized the Qur'an at the age of 50 or 60?  How many of us know people who change their careers later?  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Our religion tells us to aim for the very highest.

For those who are young, alhamdulillah now is the time to have long visions and think about the future. Do you want to settle for mediocrity and be average?  Look at the ummah and the names known in the ummah.  The bulk of the ummah's names are not known.  The legacies of Bukhāri, Ibn Hajar, and others have lived on forever.

We need to think about what legacy we will be leaving and what we will be accomplishing with the life Allah has given us.

I want to conclude by mentioning five practical points on how we can have a plan and motivation:

 Five Practical Points

1. Understand the blessings of leaving a positive legacy and being productive and proactive.

This is the blessing of knowledge.   You need to know your religion and the blessings of knowing and practicing your religion.

People want to be doctors to live a comfortable life.  The person has it in his mind that he wants to live a good life and he has the knowledge of what he wants to do with the knowledge and it drives him.

Have knowledge of the blessings of Islamic knowledge.  What is the benefit of being a practicing Muslim?  This will automatically motivate us.  The reason we are motivated by secular studies is seeing the cars and fancy houses.  We are constantly bombarded with materialism and fed a constant stream of motivation.  There are television shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  The people on magazine covers are the role models society is giving you.  Society is forcing you to look up to people with no akhlāq and no manners and nothing of good in this world and the next.

Take as your role models Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Nawawi, Ibn Hazm.  Ibn Hazm started studying Islam at the age of 30.  Allah took him to heights.

Change your paradigm and start studying Islamic knowledge.

2. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us, “Always look at those above you for the deen and those below you for the dunya.” [Bukhari]

Look at those above you when it comes to religion.  This will put you in your place.  Honestly ask yourself:  most of us have it the exact opposite.  When someone does something wrong (not waking up for fajr, etc.), then Shaytan tells you “at least you aren't drinking.”  This is childish.  Look at those better than you and try to be like them.

When it comes to this world, look at those who don't have three meals to eat and those who don't have pure water to drink.  Look at those less than you when it comes to the dunya.

Change your whole paradigm and you will automatically be motivated.

3.  The proper companions. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “A man follows the religion of his friends.”  If your friends only talk about Bollywood and Hollywood and sports, then how far will you go in life?  Examine who your friends are and who you like socializing with.  If people are pulling you back, then go find another group of friends.

A classical example of this is Ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  Ibn Abbas is known as the erudite scholar of the ummah.  When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) died, he was barely a teenager.  He was not a big name in the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  Ibn Abbas said, “When I was a young man when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) died, I said to my playmate, 'Come, let us go seek knowledge from the great ṣaḥābah  while they are still alive.'  My friend scoffed at me and said, 'Who do you think you are?  A 13-year old kid?  Do you think anyone will come to you for knowledge when we have great scholars?'  I left him.”

The naysayers are too many.  Wallāhi, brothers and sisters, the easier job in the world is an armchair critic.  Look at what people do in basketball matches:  they sit back and say, “I could have done that better than you!”

When people are pulling you back, cut them off and move on.  Ibn Abbas would sit outside the doors of the great ṣaḥābah until they came out.  Because he showed honor to knowledge and the people of knowledge, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him honor amongst the people.  He sat outside the door of Zayd b. Thābit, and when he came out he said, “O cousin of the Prophet, what are you doing?  Come inside!”  The older generation died and Ibn Abbas became one of the most legendary of scholars of the ṣaḥābah.  Had he listened to his friend, where would we be?

4. Always think of your legacy and your ultimate death. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us, “Think frequently of that which destroys all pleasures (death).”  It is sunnah and not morbid curiosity.  It is a motivation.  Think about death means “SubḥānAllāh, one day I won't be here so I better make sure I do something.”  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is telling us to frequently think about death.

Think about:  What will I be doing?  What have I accomplished so far?  Only Allah knows how much time is left.  What have I done in this time?  Think about the legacy you will leave behind.  For some it will be a public legacy and for others it will be private (children, a small endowment, building a masjid).   It doesn't have to be grandiose in the eyes of the public.  It should be grandiose in the eyes of Allah.  The more you think about the ākhirah, automatically your ambitions and goals will be higher.

A famous scholar of the past said, “I am amazed at mankind (or a group of people).  Every day they live, they want to decorate their houses even more even though every day they live they have one day less to live in those houses.  Every day they live, they have no concern how their house in Jannah looks and every day they live they are coming closer to that house.”

One of my shaykh's said there is no such thing as a vacation because time is limited.  Someone at that level cannot understand just doing nothing because time is limited. This is a level to get to.  It is ḥalāl to go on a vacation – don't misunderstand what I'm saying.

5. Du'ā' and sincerity to Allah.

Always ask Allah to bless you in this world and the next, to bless you in your progeny and children.  The prophets made du'ā':  “Make me mubārak (blessed).”  Mubārak means that you will be beneficial wherever you go.  Wherever you go, good will be felt.  You want to be mubārak wherever you go.  We should have this in mind.  Make du'ā' for Jannah and Jannat'l-Firdaws and a legacy in this world and the next.

If you want to see who you are, then think about what du'ā's you are making to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  Your du'ā's will betray you to yourself.  Allah tells us in the Qur'an, “There are many who only ask for this dunya.”  If the only time you ask Allah is to pass an exam or to cure a sick relative and fix a problem in this world and you never ask for hidāyah and you never ask for being guided to the straight path, then it betrays your lack of vision.  Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) outside of ṣalāh would ask Allah to guide him to the straight path.  Make du'ā' for Jannah.  These are du'ā's that reflect our mentality.

Conclusion

I want to end with a reminder one of our Shuyukh gave.  Ḥadīth in Sunan Abu Dawud:  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “After every 100 years, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will send a mujaddid who will revive this religion.”  Many people misunderstand.  Yujaddid means to polish and clean and make it shiny as it used to be.  Yujaddid doesn't meant to change.  It means to go back to the original.  He is going to revive the ummah.

Some people say we shouldn't understand this to be only one person but a group of people.  Other people say in the whole world it is one person.  The difference is trivial in that it is one person in a community or nation versus one person in an ummah.  It is very few people, and if not one person, then five or ten people.  Allah will preserve this religion by sending forth a mujaddid.

The shaykh paused and looked at us and said, “What is the one question everyone thinks about when they read this ḥadīth?”  They said, “Who is the mujaddid of our times?”  The shaykh said, “That is your problem!  That is your mistake!  Why did you automatically assume that somebody else would be the mujaddid and why didn't you ask Allah to make you the mujaddid?  You have already sold yourself short and lowered the bar.”  I'll never forget this – nobody amongst us was thinking along those lines.  Maybe you won't be the mujaddid but suppose you make du'ā' to Allah and strove to be the person, if you fail, you may have changed the course of Islamic history by reviving an entire nation.  You might not be the mujaddid, but you may be one level beneath him.  That failure is the best success for your entire legacy. 

Do you see my point here?  You shortchanged yourself.  Why didn't you automatically say, “O Allah, make me that mujaddid”?  Someone is going to be the mujaddid, so why can't you aim for that?  Why can't we aim for the highest and strive for it as much as we can?   When you set your goals extra high, a failure in that goal could be a success in this world and the next.

Our religion tells us to aim for the best and aim for excellence and set your vision at the highest possible and leave the rest to Allah.  For those who don't make it, be in the race.  If you sit on the sidelines, you are not going to be in the race.  If you are in the race, at least you will pass the finish line and be with the people in the race.  If you are on the sidelines, then you have lost it.

Get in with the crowd and go and do what you can.  Who knows!  Look at all of these people mentioned – Shaykh al-Azami and Shaykh Nuaina – Allah opened doors for people and Allah blessed them for the whole ummah.

Brothers and sisters, I conclude by saying don't trivialize your role.  Don't aim for mediocrity.  Don't want to be like the rest.  The rest are nothing.  Look at how many billions have come and gone.  Don't become another statistic.  Think about what you can do for Allah and for this dunya as well.  Aim high and have a legacy and be motivated and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will open up the doors.  Put your trust in Allah.

We ask that Allah blesses us in all that we do, that He overlooks our shortcomings and allows us to reach the heights of every single endeavor, that He forgives us our sins and mistakes.  We ask Allah to raise us as Muslims and cause us to live as Muslims and die as Muslims and to be resurrected amongst the ranks of the nabiyyīn, ṣiddiqīn, shuhadā' and ṣāliḥīn.

22 Responses

  1. H Ansari

    Jazakallahu khair Shaykh Yasir for this lesson. I have a question about your teacher Shaykh al-Azami – is this the same person as the author of the book on the history of the Qur’anic text and its compilation? And the refutation of Schacht’s critiques on hadith?

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      • SQ

        Salaam Br. Mehdi

        It seems be at odd with the Shaykh’s official bio:

        Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami, one of the world’s premier scholars of Hadith, was born in Mau, India in the early 1930s and received his education successively at Dar al-Ulum Deoband, India (1952), al-Azhar University, Cairo (M.A., 1955), and University of Cambridge (Ph.D., 1966). He is Professor Emeritus at King Sa’ud University (Riyadh) where he also chaired the department of Islamic Studies; he holds a Saudi citizenship. Al-Azami served as curator of the National Public Library, Qatar; Associate Professor at Umm al-Qura University (Makkah); Visiting Scholar at University of Michigan (Ann Arbor); Visiting Fellow at St. Cross College (University of Oxford); King Faisal Visiting Professor for Islamic Studies at Princeton; and Visiting Scholar at University of Colorado (Boulder). He is also an Honorary Professor at University of Wales (Lampeter). His publications include Studies in Early Hadith Literature, Hadith Methodology and Literature, On Schacht’s Origins of Muahmmadan Jurisprudence, Dirasat fi al-Hadith an-Nabawi, Kuttab an-Nabi, Manhaj an-Naqd ‘ind al-Muhaddithin, and al-Muhaddithun min al-Yamamah. Among his credited works are al-Ilal of Ibn al-Madini, Kitab at-Tamyiz of Imam Muslim, Maghazi Rasulullah of Urwah ibn Zubayr, Muwatta Imam Malik, Sahih ibn Khuzaimah, and Sunan ibn Majah. Many of al-Azami’s works have been translated internationally, and his forthcoming works include The Qur’anic Challenge: A Promise Fulfilled, and The Isnad System: Its Origins and Authenticity. In 1980 he was the recipient of the prestigious King Faisal International Award for Islamic Studies.

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      • The Mad Monk

        “Official” according to who? I think I’d trust our Br. Yasir who met him face to face before I take from Wikipedia. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wikipedia article was edited by someone with strong Deobandi leanings.

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      • Hassan

        Why would they do that? He may have gone their for short time before going to Madinah. Why Madinah university is missing from wikipedia is surprising

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      • Mw_m

        Wow bro, calm down. I do think this is another person though, Sh. Yasir mentions him in his series on usul al-hadith and then mentions his Sh. Azami and says “not the same one”

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      • Hassan

        The similarities are striking then, same name, converts, went to same universities except one went to Madinah and one to Deoband

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      • ashrafh

        This guy madmonk is so blinded by his anti-deobandi negativity that he fails to realize that most of the greatest hadith scholars of this past century such as Allamahs Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Yusuf Banuri, Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani, etc. have been from Deoband. And Shaykh Mustafa al-A’zami is clearly Deobandi as well, and even we Arabs recognize his greatness as well as the other muhaddithin I mentioned above. Just read what Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah wrote about them.

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    • Aqil Mohammad Mustafa Al-Azami

      Salam Alaikum,
      No, they are two different persons. The one who wrote “History of the Qur’anic Text”, “On Schacht’s Origins of Mohammadan Jurisprudence”, “Studies in Early Hadith Literature” … etc is Mohammad Mustafa Al-Azami, who happen to be my father. You can see his biography in “History of the Qur’anic Text”. The other person which Br Yasir mentioned, Sheikh M. Al-Azami was a former student of my father when he was teaching in Mekkah in College of Sharia, later Umm Al-Qura Univ. (during late 60s and early 70s). If there are any questions pls feel free to contact me at aazmi@yahoo.com

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      • Taha

        Salam Alaykum. When is your father’s book on the Qur’anic challenge coming out bro?

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    • Aqil Al-Azami

      A follow up note to my last posting. The full name of Sheikh M. Al-Azami (who is in Medinah) is: Mohammad Dia-ur-Rahman Al-Azami.

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  2. fezz

    Did Sheikh Albani not collect a similar mega-Sahih collection?

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  3. Rayan

    Salaam,
    I really like this article, it’s filled with a lot of great examples that anyone can benefit from. As a woman though, I would have really loved to hear some examples of both past and modern day women who have taken the lead in the race to the reward in the akhira. I would love to hear more about women in standard topics, not just the topics that are titled “women’s issues.” Overall, it was a very moving article MashaAllah.

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  4. Rayan

    Salaam, I really like this article, it’s filled with a lot of great examples that anyone can benefit from. As a woman though, I would have really loved to hear some examples of both past and modern day women who have taken the lead in the race to the reward in the akhira. I would love to hear more about women in standard topics, not just the topics that are titled “women’s issues.” Overall, it was a very moving article MashaAllah.

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    • jadea

      loved this article as well, and I have to agree with you. As a mother and wife, reading this I was thinking to myself how can a mother and wife complete these goals. I would’ve like to see some realistic examples for women.

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  5. Rubaiyat Yameen

    Assalaamualaykum,

    @facebook-594171812:disqus: Jazakumullah khair for the Arabic Interview. I have been trying to find information about the Shaykh for some time now.

    They are quite clearly two different people. Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Mustafa al-A’zami (hafizahullah) was born to Muslim parents. His father was an Alim himself. Here’s an English interview of the Shaykh: http://www.lastprophet.info/the-intellectual-journey-of-a-hadith-scholar-mustafa-al-a-zami

    You don’t have to trust Wikipedia. Here is a picture of the bio page of his own book, The History of the Quranic Text (second edition):

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/g8qiw6afde56a14/2012-07-11%2002.37.37.jpg

    Shaykh Yasir Qadhi is clearly speaking of a different Shaykh.

    May Allah jalle jalaluhu preserve all our scholars and give them and us greater closeness and love for Him and His blessed Prophet sallallahu alaihe wa sallam. Ameen.

    Request for duas.

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  6. birkah.wordpress.com

    JKhair for the lecture. Mash’Allah very motivational.

    Another way of organizing the tips:
    1. A sincere WANT (here the blessings of positive legacy… importance of intention…)
    2. Duaa.
    3. Action (make the effort, be in the right company…)
    4. Tawakul
    5. Misc (always think of your legacy, look to those above you)…

    JKhair.

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  7. Umm Sulaim

    A marvellous article.

    JazakumuLlah khayra to Sameerah for transcribing the lecture
    and to Yasir.

    I recall a discussion in which I stated that every Muslim
    should strive for the qualities of leadership instead of waiting on someone
    else. My words did not go well. The effect is that much of the Ummah is without
    a meaningful direction.

    Umm Sulaim

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