“Wal ‘Asr…” “WatTeeni wazZaytoon…” “WadhDhuha… walLayli ithaa sajaa…” “Wal Fajr…” “WashShamsi wa DhuHaahaa…”
By Time… By the fig and the olive… By the morning brightness, by the night and its darkness… By the dawn… By the sun and its brightness…!
Since the beginning of existence, mankind has been fascinated by the world around us and most if not all of us have realized at one point that none of this could exist without Someone being responsible for it all – however, whether we follow up on that realization by acknowledging Allah as the only One worthy of worship is another matter altogether. Anyway, the point is that the universe we live in is a miracle in and of itself, such that it is within humankind’s nature that we observe it in awe and appreciation.
Yet I have noticed a disturbing trend within myself and others, something which causes this aspect of the fitrah to be… well, quashed, I guess you could say.
Here’s an example:
As amazing as something like a lunar eclipse is, I have to admit that I learnt something shocking about it: it wasn’t as impressive as I’d expected it to be. Why? Because I – and many others – have been accustomed to the new tricks and abilities of technology such as CGI and much more.
The day after the eclipse, I asked my friends and other kids at the Madrasah if they’d seen it and what they thought of it… and I was surprised to see many of them express a total lack of awe or excitement regarding it – the same feeling I guiltily acknowledged within myself.
Just as the culture of instant gratification has made us more selfish and less likely to recognize and appreciate our rizq, it seems that just so has modern technology created within us higher expectations of the “wow” factor. We want more flashes and bangs, yet with each new advance in technology, with every new invention and upgrade, our ability to appreciate and enjoy seems to be dulled. The latest generations are unimpressed with what is currently available, and view the world with jaded eyes, demanding something bigger, flashier, newer, faster every day – yet they’re swiftly bored by whatever is placed in their laps.
Have you observed the same feelings within yourself and others? Is this a sign of the hardening of our hearts? The need for us to let go of the complex unnecessary technological clutter of our lives? Or do we just have to find a way for technology to increase our awareness and awe of Allah’s creation, and in turn of His Might and Power?
Optimism in Times of Adversity: How The Prophet Did It
A man passed by al-Miqdaad ibn al-Aswad , one of the most distinguished Companions of the Prophet . The man said, “How lucky your two eyes that witnessed the Prophet ”. Ibn al-Aswad profoundly responded by saying,
Why should anyone wish to witness a scene that Allah did not wish him to see? He does not know what it would have been like if he had witnessed it or which party he would have been among if he went back in time.
By Allah! Allah’s Prophet saw people who were thrown right into Hell, so you should thank Allah that you were spared such a trial and were honored by firm belief in Allah and his Prophet”.
As human beings, we all struggle with adversity especially in societies which are driven by competition and materialistic pleasure. This drive creates difficult expectations, labels, and stigmas that breed unhealthy communities which spur widespread stress and pain. As Muslims, many of us struggle to define our role and place in societies where Muslims are the minority. We are horrified and worried when atrocities seem to occur so often solely because of the faith we believe in, such as in Burma or Central African Republic. Across the world, many countries with Muslims as the majority population are crippled by war such as Syria and Yemen. Our faith is abused by twisted minds to create chaos. In addition, random terrorist attacks in Mali and New Zealand have us wondering whether we will be attacked at our local masjid, or even in public settings such as offices and schools.
Our Ummah has always faced adversity and we will continue to do so as we struggle to be on the path of Islam. However, Allah has given us the Prophet Muhammad as a guide to this Ummah on how to deal with adversity and keep our optimism. His life is a means for us to be inspired and motivated to strive for excellence. Indeed, the Prophet was tested more than any other prophet that preceded him. The rapid spread of Islam and the change it brought to the world was built upon a prophet and his companions who endured an extraordinary amount of adversity, all in order to provide a means of salvation for the generations that would come after them.
Many Muslims know the basics of the Prophet’s life such as his birth in Makkah, the migration to Madina, some of the battles, and the conquest of Makkah. However, if one were to read the Seerah of the Prophet in-depth, one would be astonished to the sheer amount of trauma, pain, and grief the Prophet ( experienced. He was subject to intense verbal/physical abuse, public humiliation, family deaths, and more. Depending on the physical and emotional toll, we know different people are more or less sensitive to adversity. For the Prophet , the adversity of establishing the Deen was immensely troubling as he had the purest and softest of characters. In addition, the prophets who came before him were comforted in knowing that they had a successor. Some of them were their children in Ismail to Ibrahim and Yahya to Zakariyya . But the Prophet had no prophet to follow him, therefore his Message would be the last that mankind could benefit from.
The Quran says in Surah al-Ahzab:
مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيّـِينَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ
Muhammad is not the father of (any) of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And God has full knowledge of all things. (Verse 33:40)
To proclaim the Divine Message to a resistant society has shown through the history of the Prophets to yield hardship and extreme difficulty. To be the final messenger was an increased burden. One example was when the Prophet was praying in front of the Kaaba and a member of the Quraysh named Uqbah ibn Abu Mu’ayt placed the intestines, dung, and feces on the back of the Prophet while he was in sujood. The weight of the filth was so heavy that the Prophet could not get up until he received the assistance of his daughter Fatima , who was a pre-teenager at the time. How hurtful must that scene have been for the Prophet ? How did he deal with the humiliation the leaders of his city displayed in front of his child? How disheartening must have it been for his resolve to establish the worship of Allah?
This type of treatment was a regular occurrence in the pre-Hijrah era of Islam. Eventually, the treatment spurred into a boycott against the Muslims and the Hashemites who were the Prophet’s clan. According to Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings:
A document was drawn up according to which it was undertaken that no one would marry a woman of Hashim or give his daughter in marriage to a man of Hashim; and no one was to sell anything to them, or buy anything from them. This was to continue until the clan of Hashim themselves outlawed Muhammad, or until he renounced his claim to prophethood.
In those three years of boycott, many of the followers of the Prophet such as Abu Bakr lost their statuses in society. Public humiliation, poverty, malnourishment, torture, molestation, and even murder were perpetrated against the small community of Muslims around the Prophet . There are narrations which talk about the fact that they would hear the cries of babies going to sleep at night. They buried so many children and babies at that time who died due to disease, malnourishment, and starvation. They could hear the mothers crying who had buried their babies the day before. It was a time of great suffering and sacrifice.
Shortly after the ban was annulled, Allah increased the test of His beloved Messenger at a time called ‘Ām al-Ḥuzn (عام الحزن), the Year of Sadness. In 619 AD, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid , the wife of the Prophet for 25 years passed away. When the Prophet was in shock after the first revelation descended, it was Khadijah who comforted him and consoled him. She was one of the first believer, mother of the Prophet’s children, and a caretaker to the Prophet’s cousin Ali and adopted son Zayd (RA). She was his main confidante and his closest friend. Her death was considered to be the greatest personal tragedy to the Prophet (SAW). In fact, his later wife ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr said that she was never jealous of the co-wives of the Prophet except for Khadijah who had passed before she had wed the Prophet . The Prophet , who would usually stay quiet in disputes with Aisha, stated when ʿĀʾishah voiced her upsetness at the Prophet’s lingering love for Khadijah:
Make this clear Aisha, you are not better than Khadijah. She believed in me when no one did and she testified to my truth when people said I was a liar. She gave everything she had to give me support.
Shortly afterward, Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle and chief tribal protector in Makkah passed away. Abu Talib had been the caretaker of the Prophet after the Prophet’s mother and grandfather passed away. But the situation before the passing of both these allies to the Prophet was poor and it was now going to become unbearable. Abu Lahab, another one of the Prophet’s uncles and one of his bitter enemies, arose as chieftain of the Hashemites would not give the Muslims adequate protection.
When adversity brought the Prophet to his knees, he put his trust in Allah and continued to push forward. It was in this moment of desperation that the Prophet was sent his ultimate test; the Day of Taif. The Prophet described the Day of Taif more testing than the Battle of Uhud. In his desperation, the Prophet traveled to the nearby city of Taif in order to seek the city’s protection. When the Prophet met with the three leaders of the city, they feverishly rejected him and decided to turn the public against him. The representatives of the community gathered the youth, slaves, and others and to stone the Prophet and Zayd ibn Harithah . The people of Taif purposely targeted the Prophet’s feet, severely damaging them. His blessed body was profusely bleeding and the crowd pursued both the Prophet and Zayd ibn Harithah for an excruciating three to six miles until he settled in a private orchard. It was in this moment where all hope had vanished. Now pushed to his extreme limits of endurance, he raised his hands and called out to his Lord:
اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي وقلة حيلتي وهواني على الناس
ياأرحم الراحمين أنت أرحم الراحمين
أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي
إلى من تكلني إلى عدو يتجهمني أم الى عدو ملكته امرى
إن لم يكن بك غضب علي فلا أبالي ولكن عافيتك هي أوسع لي
أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أضاءت له السموات و الأرض
وأشرقت له الظلمات وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والأخره
أن ينزل بي غضبك أو يحل علي سخطك
لك العتبى حتى ترضى ولاحول ولاقوة إلابك
To You, my Lord, I complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation I am made to receive.
Most Compassionate and Merciful! You are the Lord of the weak, and you are my Lord.
To whom do You leave me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy You have given power over me?
As long as you are not displeased with me, I do not care what I face. I would, however, be much happier with Your mercy.
I seek refuge in the light of Your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put in their right course against incurring your wrath or being the subject of your anger.
To You, I submit, until I earn Your pleasure. Everything is powerless without your support.
When we struggle with adversity, calling out to our Lord is one of the last things that comes to our mind. Even if it does, we struggle to motivate ourselves to learn how to make dua to Allah and we struggle to raise our hands. The amount of sincerity and power of this dua to Allah was so great that Jibril came down to the Prophet and reported that the Prophet’s appeal shook the heavens. Here, the Prophet seeks only the pleasure of his Lord and he will do whatever he can to fulfill his Lord’s pleasure. However, the pleasure of Allah only comes with Allah’s own support and we should be seeking it with every trial or tribulation that we face.
There are three lessons that we can take away the way the Prophet dealt with adversity. First, how can we sincerely put our trust in Allah to give us guidance when we have little to no relationship with our Lord to begin with. Therefore, the struggling believer must consistently engage in self-reflection. He or she should be asking, “Am I praying my five daily prayers?”, “Am I consistent in my prayers?”, “How much attention and effort do I give my five prayers?”, “Do I engage in the remembrance of Allah in my daily actions?”, “How often do I ask Allah for help”, “Am I trying to learn what is halal and haram?”. “Am I trying to inculcate more good deeds in my life?”, “Am I trying to leave sinning?”, “If I am still struggling in my relationship with Allah (SWT), am I reaching out to someone more learned?”, etc. These are the first things we need to be fulfilling in our struggle to be optimistic. If we still need help, we should not have fear in asking a professional such as a counselor or mentor.
Second, we need to be active in making our society a better place. The prophets were not just scholars, but they were changer-makers. They sought to make society a better place. Not only is our duty as Muslims to others who are struggling, but it alleviates a lot of burden on us when we help others. We are reminded of the hadith,
“Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.”
Lastly, be comforted in Allah’s everlasting control over all the affairs of humanity and beyond. Allah was there before us, when we die, and for eternity. Everything is in accordance with His Will. When we set our intentions right and make sacrifices in our lives to please Him, Allah will replenish the believer with something equal or better. After this painful period in the Seerah, Allah gifted His devout Messenger with two things, the miraculous journey of the Isra wal M’iraj and the story of Prophet Yusuf . The story of Prophet Yusuf was sent down to show the Prophet that he was not the first prophet who experienced difficulty. In Surah Yusuf, the Quran reminds us that Allah is عَلِيۡمٌ and حَكِيۡمٌ, the All-Knowing and All-Wise. In the verses of the Surah, these words were mentioned before the adversities in Yusuf and Yaqub’s life, during the adversity, and after Allah had rewarded Yusuf and Yaqub for their resolve. There is light at the end of every tunnel of adversity and only Allah can give us the guidance to get there, we only have to turn to him.
We ask Allah to grant us the ability to maintain our optimism in our adversities. We ask Allah to grant us an understanding of Islam so that we may help others overcome their adversities. We ask Allah to relieve the adversity of the Ummah.
Shaykh Abdullah Waheed was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, MI. Shaykh Abdullah commenced his studies at the age of 10 in Toronto, Canada where he went to memorize the Quran. He completed the memorization of the Holy Quran by the tender age of 12 and then went on to study in the 7-year extensive Shariah program in Toronto, Canada. Shaykh Abdullah then continued his research and studies, which took him on global journeys, such as Pakistan, Kuwait, and England.
Shaykh Abdullah specialized in Tafseer of the Quran. Sheikh Abdullah spent years to study the details and beauty of our Holy book since understanding and mastering the language of Holy Quran was always the primary goal.
Shaykh Abdullah is serving as an Instructor at Miftaah institute and is also the Director of Islamic Affairs at Flint Islamic Center. Shaykh Abdullah travels across North America for khutbas, workshops, and seminars. He is known for his motivational and enthusiastic style of speaking which leaves the audience focused and learning.
Spiritually Processing What Happened In New Zealand A Few Days Later
It feels like we’re living in the times that were described by the Prophet ﷺ in a number of different narrations. The Prophet ﷺ said, “A time will come upon people when a person practicing his religion with patience will be like one holding on to a burning ember.”
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِمَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ يَأْتِي عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ الصَّابِرُ فِيهِمْ عَلَىدِينِهِ كَالْقَابِضِ عَلَى الْجَمْر
Just like holding on to a burning ember is very difficult, it causes physical pain, holding on to our religion will also be very difficult. It will lead to hardships and difficulties. It seems as if every other week we’re dealing with some type of tragedy, some type of crisis. And each one seems to be bigger and worse than the last. As Anas told those who were complaining about the trials and difficulties they were facing at the hands of Hajjāj ibn Yusuf, “There is no year, except that the one that is after it will be more evil than it, until you meet your Lord. I heard this from your Prophet ﷺ.”
“ مَا مِنْ عَامٍ إِلاَّالَّذِي بَعْدَهُ شَرٌّ مِنْهُ حَتَّى تَلْقَوْا رَبَّكُمْ ” . سَمِعْتُ هَذَا مِنْ نَبِيِّكُمْ صلى الله عليه وسلم .
Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ told us that we will face trial after trial, difficulty after difficulty. The Prophet ﷺ said that near the end of times the Ummah will be faced with trials and difficulties that it will dislike. Then he said, “There will be tremendous trials one after the other, each making the previous one dwindle into insignificance. When they would be afflicted with a trial, the believer would say: This is going to bring about my destruction. When at (the trial) is over, they would be afflicted with another trial, and the believer would say: This surely is going to be my end.”
· وَتَجِيءُ فِتْنَةٌ فَيُرَقِّقُ بَعْضُهَا بَعْضًا وَتَجِيءُالْفِتْنَةُ فَيَقُولُ الْمُؤْمِنُ هَذِهِ مُهْلِكَتِي . ثُمَّ تَنْكَشِفُوَتَجِيءُ الْفِتْنَةُ فَيَقُولُ الْمُؤْمِنُ هَذِهِ هَذِهِ .
This week, the Muslim ummah was faced with another devastating trial. Two separate mosques were attacked by a right-wing extremist in New Zealand during Friday prayer. According to the latest report approximately 49 god-conscious, mosque-going Muslims were massacred in cold bold. This is an absolute act of senseless violence. They were killed in the masjid simply because they believed in the kalima la ilaha illa Allah… There’s absolutely no mistake that this was a cowardly act of terrorism. May Allah ﷻgrant all the deceased the highest ranks in Jannah and may He give patience and strength to their families.
This is a result of years of unchecked and unfiltered hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia, prejudice, and racism that has been propagated through the mainstream media. All of us know that the mainstream media, whether its CNN, BCC, or Fox News, portrays Islam and Muslims in the most negative light possible. There’s a whole well-funded industry of Islamophobia and propaganda dedicated to tarnishing the image of Islam and Muslims in the average person’s mind. They’ve created an environment where the word Islam has negative associations. To an extent that when someone hears the word Islam, they automatically think of violence, terror, bombings and the enemy.
Although the perpetrator himself carried out the massacre in cold blood, I can’t help but place blame on all those who demonize Islam and Muslims. Part of the blame rests with those politicians who use fear-mongering, hate and prejudice to paint Muslims as the “other” just to win votes. They say outlandish things like Muslims are colonizing and invading our countries. That they want to take over and impose Sharia Law. They introduce anti-Sharia bills to create more fear. Part of the blame goes to these obnoxious, loud-mouthed, bigoted pundits, like Bill Maher and his likes, who constantly spew inflammatory rhetoric from their influential platforms. Part of the blame goes to people like Lauren Southern, Tommy Robinson, Richard Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Frank Gaffney who are openly prejudiced towards Islam and try to create a sense of hate and fear in their viewer’s hearts. They openly speak of something they call “the Muslim problem”. Part of the blame goes to all these other bigots who use their influence to preach against Islam. There are so much bigotry and fear-mongering that at times it seems overwhelming. There’s so much bias, hate, and prejudice that sometimes we feel stuck. And it’s this rhetoric, this hate, this prejudice and bigotry that has created an environment that would allow for something like this to happen. Senseless acts of violence like this don’t happen in a vacuum. There are circumstances that are created that allow them to take place.
This tragic incident really hit home for a lot of us. Part of the reason is that Muslims living as minorities can actually relate to it. It feels real. It is real. The individuals killed in the masjid could’ve been any one of us. It could’ve been any one of our family members and that’s a scary thought. Whenever we see Muslims in pain, struggling, dealing with death and loss we’re supposed to feel that pain as well. As the Prophet ﷺ said, “The believers are like a single body. If the eye hurts the entire body feels the pain. If the head hurts the entire body feels that pain.” All of us are feeling that pain. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of pain the parents and the families are feeling right now.
How do we channel this pain?
How do we deal with it? What are we supposed to do? One thing that we can definitely take solace in is the fact that the Prophet ﷺ, the last and final messenger, our role model also felt that pain. He experiences similar trials and hardships. There was a very powerful anti-Islam, anti-Muslim sentiment among the people of Makkah. The Prophet ﷺ himself was attacked both verbally and physically. He dealt with the pain of rejection, prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. He had to deal with the pain of seeing some of his closest companions tortured, beaten, persecuted, and even killed. Yasir, his wife Sumayyah and their son ‘Ammar faced painful persecution at the hands of Quraish. Yasir died as a result of his persecution and his wife was killed by Abu Jahl just because they were Muslim. They were made to feel this pain, to go through these trials, difficulties and struggle to make them stronger. To develop their faith, personality, and character. This pain didn’t cause them to give in to fear; it didn’t make them scared. Rather, it made them stronger.
In multiple places throughout the Quran Allah ﷻ teaches the Prophet ﷺ how to deal with this pain. How to derive strength from these trials and hardships. When the people of Quraish rejected him when they called him a liar, a magician, a sorcerer and a madman Allah ﷻ told him, “So be patient, [O Muhammad]. Indeed, the promise of Allah is Truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.” Allah ﷻ told him to seek strength through patience and prayer.
To focus on his relationship with Allah ﷻ. Allah ﷻ told him something similar in Surah Taha, “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night[exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied.”
These are the same words of advice that Allah ﷻ gives to us as believers, “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” The true strength of believers has never been through financial or physical means. Their true power has always come through their spiritual strength. These incidents are meant to push us closer to Allah ﷻ, to unite us, to strengthen our faith, and make us more dedicated to our religion.
These are wake up calls. Allah ﷻ is literally shaking us and telling us to come back to him. It’s time to come back. That’s the only true way of changing our situation.
Are You Consumed, Contained, or Compassionate? Learn From Futuh al-Ghayb
When encountering the glitter and magnetic force of the material world, whether while strolling in the malls or shopping online, or unintentionally while in spaces conducive to social comparison, even religious people display a wide variety of reactions. Our scholars of tazkiyah (spiritual purification) have long called us to capitalize on these reactions, by using them as gauges for identifying for ourselves the station we likely occupy in the sight of God.
Below is a beautifully nuanced reflection on this from Futūḥ al-Ghayb (#72) by Shaykh ‘AbdulQadir al-Jilāni (d. 561H, may Allah bestow mercy on him), which I pray has been translated effectively enough to serve you some introspective benefit.
“People of religiosity and devotion who enter the markets on route to fulfilling what Allah (the Most High) has instructed – whether it be Friday or congregational prayers – or simply tending to their living needs, are of various types:
Ø Among them is the person whom, upon entering the market and seeing its attractions and temptations, becomes captivated by them and his heart clings to them. Consequently, this becomes the reason for his doom, the abandonment of his religiosity and devotion, and his regression into heeding his fancies and vain desires. Of course, this is unless Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) rescues him by His mercy, and grants him the protection and perseverance necessary to resist and survive them.
Ø Among them is the person whom, upon seeing all that, is nearly destroyed but quickly returns to his senses and religious commitment, and forces himself to be patient and endure the bitterness of refusing to indulge. This person is like the mujāhid (combatant); Allah (the Most High) grants him victory against himself, his lower-tendencies, and his vain desires – and writes for him a massive reward in the hereafter.
Just as some reports mention that the Prophet ﷺ said, “It is written for a believer, in exchange for resisting his lust when he could not perform it, or when he is capable of it, seventy good deeds,” or something to that effect.
- The person who reaches for it — indulges in it — and enjoys it as part of Allah’s bounty which He lawfully enjoys – such as abundant possessions and wealth – and he thanks Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) for this favor.
- The person who neither sees it nor realizes its presence. He is blind to everything but Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) and does not see other than Him. He is deaf to everyone else and cannot listen to others. He is too busy to recognize or desire other than His beloved. He is totally isolated from what the rest of the world sees; when he enters the market and you ask him what saw in there, he will say I did not see anything. He saw everything, just with the eyesight of his head not the insight of his heart, and just inadvertently not cravingly, and just outwardly not with as something with intrinsic value. In other words, he externally perceives what exists in the market, while with his heart he perceives his Lord (the Mighty and Majestic) – a moment at His glory and a moment at His beauty.
- The person whom, upon entering the market, his heart fills with Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) out of mercy for them (those entranced by materialism). His sympathy for them distracts him from admiring what they have and what sits in front of them. From the moment he enters until the moment he exits, he is busied with du‘ā’ (supplication) and istighfār (seeking forgiveness) and shafā‘ah (intercession) for its people and remains filled with concern and sympathy for them. This here is the true scholar, guide, ambassador (of the Prophet), and genius. May Allah be pleased with those who managed to reach the[se] highest stations.