This Side Up:
Whenever you buy a new device, a machine or an appliance, or a computer for instance, the first instruction that comes with it is visual. Everyone regardless of their level of education is apt to follow it, and because you can easily recognize it, you would have no excuse not to do so. It's a matter of common sense. Did you guess what it is? It's the arrow marked on the side of the box pointing towards one direction (up), and it says 'This Side Up'.
This sign alerts the recipient of this product about the importance of keeping it in an upright position. If you are looking to benefit from this machine in the optimum fashion, you first have to follow this rule. If you decide to turn a blind eye to this very first rule by choosing to place the device upside down, and then if it does not operate the way it was made to, you can blame no one except yourself.
The device we're talking about here is YOU the Insan or the human, and the very basic instruction given to you is for you to keep an upright character Istiqaamah.
So stand you firm and straight as you are commanded and those who turn in repentance with you, and transgress not. Verily, He is All-Seer of what you do. [Surah Hud, 112]
All people of sound mind know that keeping an upright character is the right thing for a human being to do. It's the first command the Maker mandates for you. If you decide not to follow it, then you will mess up the operation of your own self, and live a miserable life. So keep this side up.
The Operating Manual:
Boxes should be opened from the top. If you try to outsmart the manufacturer and open the box from the bottom instead of the top, you might break what is inside. Aside from that, if you insist on opening it from the bottom, you may most likely lose a very important document that comes with the machine you just bought: The Instruction Manual!
Every device comes with an operating instruction manual. In order to enjoy your purchase for a long time, the manual provides instructions on how to install, operate, care for and troubleshoot your machine. Most people, men in particular, just throw the manual away. Why? Because they think know better. You know they like to figure things out on their own; they are so proud of themselves and their intellect that they don't need instructions. As a matter of fact, most men hate instructions. Ask their wives if they know what I'm talking about, and they'll tell you.
Therefore, as men we like to put things together blindfolded, if possible, and see if we can do it right. Or at least that's our wishful thinking. As a result, we always end up with extra pieces in our hand which we don't really know where they came from and where they go, and when we realize that, we start looking for the instruction manual, if it is still there. We start looking to figure out what went wrong, if anything was right to begin with, and try to find out how we can fix it.
You see, if you try to play smart and start the machine on your own, you might cause great damage to it. Sometimes the damage is remediable only if you admit your fault, repent and return back to the manual before it's too late, and sometimes the damage caused is too colossal to remedy – it's permanent and perpetual. Do you really think a maker would put so much investment and so much effort in the making of a product only to leave you without an instruction manual? Even a baby toy comes with a mini instruction manual you call a tag.
The manual is usually placed on the top side of the product, from above if you know what I mean. And because the manufacturer knows his product best, he sends you the instructions by which you should operate and benefit from his product in the very best way. So listen to the Maker and follow His instructions.
Allāh is your Maker; He is your Creator, 'al-Khaaliq', and He knows best what He makes. Allāh said:
Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves) All-Aware (of everything). [Surah Al-Mulk, 14]
For this reason, Allāh sent, from above, an instruction manual by which you can install, operate, care for and troubleshoot this nafs (yourself) to ensure an upright character that will function properly for the purpose it was made and created for: worshiping Allāh.
The manual is the Qur'an, and operating according to the manual guarantees satisfaction at all times and ensures an everlasting use of this product in an eternal realm: the Akhira (hereafter). On the other hand, not operating according to it will result in a great damage, more than what your soul can really bear.
So keep your duty to Allāh and fear Him as much as you can; listen and obey; and spend in charity, that is better for yourselves. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, then they are the successful ones. [Surah At-Taghaabun, 16]
And Allāh said:
But [I have for you] only notification from Allāh , and His messages.” And whoever disobeys Allāh and His Messenger – then indeed, for him is the fire of Hell; they will abide therein forever. [Surah Al-Jinn, 23]
Intelligent machines such as computers and robots usually come with a gift from the manufacturer: a free pre-installed software. This is to give you a head start and help you operate your machine immediately. However, if you need more programs and software, or if you need to upgrade, then you will have to work hard for it, ask for it, earn it, and put some time and money into it so that you can buy and install them yourself.
When you were born, you came with a gift from the Maker: a pre-installed software that carries the basics of your operating system called the fiṭrah, which is the natural, innate disposition and the inclination to believe in the Maker and believe in Him alone.
So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fiṭrah of Allāh upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allāh . That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know. [Surah Ar-Room, 30]
Abu Hurayrah reported the Messenger of Allāh said: Every child is born but on this fiṭrah - natural innate… [Bukhāri and Muslim]
The fiṭrah is a software that ensures that all rights of worship are protected and preserved to only the One Maker; it's a sweet Divine patent. It's the license agreement between the Maker and the creation, a license that was established right at the beginning of the creation of the first version of this product: Adam [as].
When your Lord drew forth from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): 'Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?' They said: 'Yes! We do testify!' (This), lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: 'Of this we were never mindful.' [Surah Al-A'raaf, 172]
The fiṭrah is something similar to an automated demo that runs constantly and continuously in the cache memory of the computer to ensure that the device follows the maker's protocol of operating. It also helps in repairs if needed. If for any reason the device gets messed up while using some rough application or if it was completely misused, the fiṭrah will give you the core instructions on how to reverse things and how to re-install the operating system correctly. It's your backup software; therefore, keep it safe and out of the heat of fitna. Lock it in your heart and protect it from any scratches that might damage it. If you let it get scratched with shirk, nifaaq, philosophy or any other heart disease, you will definitely regret it when you look for it and need it badly.
It's important to keep your fiṭrah up to date by installing 'ilm and īmān frequently and regularly. This shall provide you with vital upgrades to your operating system from one version to a higher one and from one operating system to an upgraded one (i.e from Islam to īmān to ihsan). However, if you never upgrade, your pre-installed software will still keep you running on the basics, and you will be like the common folks who posses very pure nature and unaltered fiṭrah. To upgrade, you need to ask for guidance, work hard for it, seek proper knowledge of it and then install it in your heart. The heart will then take it from there.
Plug It in First:
Now, before you start using your new machine, a basic installation of few things is needed. The installation instruction can be found in this āyah:
And Allāh has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful. [Surah An-Nahl, 78]
Simply put, make sure to correctly plug in your hearing (sam') and your sight (basar) so that you can collect the sound and correct data your software requires. Then you have the processor – the heart or al-fu'aad - which utilizes the data collected to help with the decision making. It controls all the operations your device makes. If the installation is not done correctly, then most likely the product will begin to malfunction.
The 1-2-3 Easy Install Guide:
With almost every instruction manual comes a quick 1-2-3 step easy instruction guide, a quick reference to summarize the installation and the operating procedure. It's the 1-2-3 easy install guide towards understanding the manual. It also serves as a handy reference for whenever you need a quick look at the manual and its message. The Divine manual, the Qur'an, also comes with this most important summary of the entire Book called Surat Al-Fatiha, the opening.
And We have bestowed upon you the seven oft-repeated (verses) and the Grand Qur'an. [Surah Al-Hijr, 87]
Omar, Ali, Ibn Masoud and Ibn Abbas, among other sahaba , interpret this āyah as referring Surat Al-Fatiha.
Similar to this easy install guide you find with any device you buy, Al-Fatiha brings to you the most important instructions before you start working on yourself. Surat Al-Fatiha has the whole summary of the message of the Qur'an.
On the top of the first page of the instruction manual, the first thing you usually read is: WARNING. This warns against that which might hurt you or damage the product in your hand. It also instructs you to take the proper protection before you start working on your device. This is what we call isti'aadha.
So when you recite the Qur'an, [first] seek refuge in Allāh from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy]. [Surah An-Nahl, 98]
The warning page emphasizes the importance of reading and following these rules outlined by the manufacturer.
So when the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy. [Surah Al-A'raaf, 204]
Reading the manual is not enough until you understand it.
[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muḥammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded. [Surah Saad, 29]
It's important to only use the manual provided by the Maker. Reading the manual ensures consistency and operating the device will become so easy and will make your life easy; otherwise, trying other manuals might create confusion in the operating system.
Then do they not reflect upon the Qur'an? If it had been from [any] other than Allāh , they would have found within it much contradiction. [Surah An-Nisaa', 82]
Praise to the Maker:
Now that you are ready to use the manual, you should start reading it with a guarantee from the Maker . Therefore, when you read you should begin by reading in His Name and by His Name:
In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful (bismillahir rahmanir raheem).
Just like in any other manual, the next thing you read is the praise for the manufacturer, getting to know his name, the unique qualities of the maker, the international brand and the superiority of the name and the maker over all other names and brands around the world. You will also read about copyrights, the right to preserve the ownership of this brand and the right of the maker to prosecute the violators in court.
To Allāh belongs the best example in the manner that suits His Majesty. Next in the Divine manual is the praise of the Maker and His Uniqueness and His ultimate Ownership of all things and the subtle warning for the violators for their court date on Judgment Day.
“Praise be to Allāh, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;”
“Most Gracious, Most Merciful;”
“The Owner of the Day of Judgment.”
Next, in the manual, the Maker encourages the communication between Him and us, the recipients of the product, or in other words the customers. He asks us to acknowledge Him and ultimately follow His instructions. Making sure that we receive proper guidance and technical support, the Maker orders us to register this product with Him and Him alone and then send our full submission, like in Islam, to Him.
“Turn to your Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped. [Surah Az-Zumar 54]
Our Maker is Unique and wants to keep His relation with every one of us unique; therefore, He asks us all to send our submission to Him alone directly with no need for a third party or medium. This is the exclusive Tawheed brand, no shirk accepted.
To ensure the receiving of all blessings and the latest updates from His subtle qadar and Divine Will, the Maker asks that we seek guidance from Him and Him alone at all times 24/7. Always search for updates because there are no automatic updates here, and you have to look for these updates manually. So raise your hands, make du‘ā’ and get connected.
“You do we worship, and Your aid we seek.”
“Show us the straight way,”
“The way of those on whom You hast bestowed Your Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.”
This communication with the Maker was mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah in Sahih Muslim. The Prophet said:
Allāh, the Blessed and Exalted, has said: “'I have divided the prayer between Myself and My slave, into two halves, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.' [From Surah Fatiha] When the slave says, 'Praise be to Allāh, Lord of the Worlds,' Allāh says, 'My slave has praised Me.' When the slave says, 'The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,' Allāh says, 'My slave has extolled me.' When the slave says, 'Master of the Day of Judgment,' Allāh says, 'My slave has glorified me.' When the slave says, 'It is You alone we worship and it is You alone we ask for help,' Allāh says, 'This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.' When the slave says, 'Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favored, not the path of those who receive Your anger, nor of those who go astray,' Allāh says, 'All these are for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for'” [Muslim].
No Doubt in It:
In almost every book you read, the author normally begins with an acknowledgment page. In this crucial page, thanks to all those who helped in making this human effort possible is expressed warmly. If some people really helped you in writing a book, whether by collecting information, typing, proofreading, publishing or in any other way, you just cannot deny them the right to be mentioned in it even if it their efforts was just brief and short. You are definitely indebted to all those who helped you.
In the Divine manual, the Qur'an, it's different. You won't find this acknowledgment page because it is the Word of Allāh and it is His Book. Allāh praises no one at all but Himself, and He indeed deserves all the praise.
“Praise be to Allāh, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
The Owner of the Day of Judgment.”
Next, in any book or manual, the author points out in the forward or introduction the fact that the material of the book was put together according to the best of his ability to research the subject and to the best of his knowledge. Moreover, the author states that he or she is open to any feedback or criticism.
In the Divine manual, the Qur'an, it's different. Allāh begins the second surah (in the order of the Mus-haf), Surat Al-Baqara, by saying:
This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who are righteous.
Allāh makes it clear and decisive that this Book is unique and that there is no doubt in it. So save your breath on giving Him feedback on His unique word and save yourself the criticism because it's eloquently and miraculously succinct.
If that were not enough, then the door is opened for challenge.
Or do they say, 'He forged it'? Say: 'Bring then a surah (chapter) like it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can besides Allāh, if it you speak the truth!'” [Surah Yunus, 38]
Even if all the creation on earth tries to fabricate something similar to it, they will fail miserably. Allāh said:
Say: 'If the whole of mankind and jinn were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. [Surah Al-Israa', 88]
The manual is perfect. So “read in the name of your Lord who created”.
Even if you were the smartest person on earth, you might still need some help with technical support. Every manual has a 1-800 number to call in order to seek help from an expert who can clarify things for you and help you understand the product and the manual provided with it.
In the Divine manual, the 1-800 number is in this āyah:
Before you (O Muḥammad), also, the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: If you realize this not, ask of those who possess the knowledge (of this message). [Surah Al-Anbiyaa, 7]
So if you can't reach the CEO and you have no access to the Messenger of Allāh , then ask the experts: the ulema and the scholars who have the knowledge.
Sometimes when you call customer support you get confused and you don't feel satisfied with the answer, so you ask for one superior in knowledge, the rasikhoon fil 'ilm, the supervisor. Even amongst the ulema and scholars there are those who know better and know more than others.
It is He who has sent down to you, (O Muḥammad), the Book; in it are verses (that are) precise and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation (from truth), they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation (suitable to them). And no one knows its (true) interpretation except Allāh. But those (rasikhoona fil 'ilm) firm in knowledge say, 'We believe in it. All (of it) is from our Lord.' And no one will be reminded except those of understanding. [Surah Al-Imran, 7]
So always look for the most knowledgeable people to help you understand the manual correctly and operate the nafs in the best way you can.
Now that you know how to run the product and your computer is running smoothly māshā'Allāh, don't forget to schedule your operating system for maintenance. You can use an inexpensive software called Muraaqaba (Watchfulness).
Keep good care of your system and you will live a hassle-free life; let your guard down for a moment and viruses will attack you from all over the place. After all, you always leave your operating system exposed to the World Wide Web of this dunya. So it's good to have an anti-virus software installed on your computer called 'Strong īmān'. It will ensure that your heartware stays bright, clean and solid. By the way, you cannot buy this software from McAfee or Norton but have to build it up yourself, and it is custom made only by you.
Because you are living in this dunya, you have to multitask between work and home, professional and casual life, and other things of similar importance to you. This causes heartdisc fatigue. The solution to this is to use a Muhasaba software, which is amazing. It helps you become more accountable and more responsible for the work you do. It allows you to review your work and all the files on your heartdisc. It will definitely ask you to do some cleanup and then request that you defragment the entire heartdisc.
In order to do that, you will have to sacrifice and get rid of some of the unnecessary files you have already stored on it. You know the kind of files I'm talking about: all the time wasting downloads you have done while you were supposed to be doing your serious work in this life. You will have to get your priorities in order. You will also need to give your heart drive a break and let it get defragmented. This will take some time, so relax and chill, rejuvenate and give yourself a recreational session until the cleanup session is over.
It gets really frustrating when you try to run an application on your computer and then it keeps messing things up for you. You try again and again, but you still don't know how to fix the problem. You try and cry and in the end you decide to call customer service. You call customer service and technical support and there they are to provide you with a magical solution: simply check the reset button.
alḥamdulillāh, every human being is born equipped with a reset button as part of the heartware called Tawbah or the repentance button. When things get really messy and hard and you don't think you can handle it anymore, seek the help of an expert. The expert usually gives you directions on how to fix your problem, but it has always been in your own hand to decide between pressing the reset button or just living with all the bugs roaming around in your operating system and causing you to become completely dysfunctional.
Sometimes the decision is hard, but you know deep in your heart that the only thing left for you to do is to rescue your heartware. So you go ahead and press the button, repent to Allāh and let the backup software, your fiṭrah, re-install everything again. You will definitely lose some files, maybe valuable ones to you, but the cost of doing that is much better than losing everything all together. The Tawbah button refreshes your system, cleans your heartware and gives you more space on your heartdisc. You will be able to use your nafs again, but this time it will be just like new.