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Quran and Sunnah

Ramadan Reflections – Juz 12

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Ramadan Reflections – Juz 12

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Juz 12 – Surat Hud

In today’s reflection, we will discuss a beautiful ayah from surat Hud that will be the foundation for us to learn the ways by which a Muslim can expiate his sins insha’Allah:

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ طَرَفَىِ ٱلنَّہَارِ وَزُلَفً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلَّيۡلِ‌ۚ

إِنَّ ٱلۡحَسَنَـٰتِ يُذۡهِبۡنَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ‌ۚ ذَٲلِكَ ذِكۡرَىٰ لِلذَّٲكِرِينَ

And perform prayer at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds. That is a reminder for those who accept advice. [11:114]

Regarding the first part of the ayah, Ibn Kathir points out in his tafsir: “It should be noted that this verse was revealed before the five daily prayers were made obligatory during the night of Isra’ (the Prophet’s night journey to Jerusalem). At that time there were only two obligatory prayers: a prayer before sunrise and a prayer before sunset. During the late night another prayer (Tahajjud) was also made obligatory upon the Prophet and his nation. Later, this obligation was abrogated for his nation and remained obligatory only upon him.”

And although later the five daily prayers were made an obligation upon this Ummah, these two times of the day remain a very important and often neglected part of the day. In other ayaat, Allah states:

فَٱصۡبِرۡ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحۡ بِحَمۡدِ رَبِّكَ قَبۡلَ طُلُوعِ ٱلشَّمۡسِ وَقَبۡلَ ٱلۡغُرُوبِ

Bear, then, with patience, all that they say, and celebrate the praises of thy Lord, before the rising of the sun and before its setting. [50:39]

It is an established sunnah to make remembrance of Allah in these two times which, in the words of the scholars, are after the Fajr prayer till the rising of the sun and again after the ‘Asr prayer until the setting of the sun. There are a large number of supplications and remembrances (athkaar) that the Prophet (saas) taught his Companions to make in these times, and it was his Sunnah also to remain in the masjid during these virtuous times to make these remembrances. Two easy examples of these remembrances that no Muslim should neither neglect or be unaware of are:

It was narrated that ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan (ra) said: The Messenger of Allah (saas) said: “There is no person who says in the morning and evening of each day, ‘Bismillaah al-lathee laa yadurru ma’a ismihi shay’un fi’l-ardi wa la fi’l-sama’ wa huwa al-samee’ ul-‘aleem (In the name of Allah by Whose name nothing is harmed on earth nor in heaven, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing)’ three times, except that nothing will harm him.” (Sahih – Tirmithi, Ibn Majah)

It was reported that Thawban (ra) said that Allah’s Messenger (saas) said, “Whoever says three times every evening and morning, ‘Radheetu billaahi Rabban, wa bil-‘Islaami deenan, wa bi-Muhammadin (saas) Nabiyyan (I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with Muhammad (saas) as my Prophet),’ Allah would certainly please him on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmithi, Ahmad)

As regards the second aspect of the ayah, “Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds”, this provides us with a chance to reflect upon the multiple ways in which Allah removes our sins. This is important for each Muslim to be aware of so that he will seek the various ways in which Allah has blessed this ummah to remove their sins and even more important for us in the West who are often dogged by Christian evangelicals who ignorantly believe that in Islam there is no forgiveness. In their misunderstanding based upon corrupted texts, their acceptance of the death of their Lord on the cross is the means by which their sins are forgiven, whereas in Islam there are ten separate and merciful ways in which Allah forgives the sins! Walhamdulillah. Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, discussed these various means in his collection of religious verdicts (Fatawaa) where he said: The punishment for a sin committed by a believer is removed in one of ten ways:

1. He repents to Allah (tawbah), so Allah accepts his repentance, for the one who repents from sin is like the one who has no sin.

2. He seeks forgiveness from Allah (istighfar), so Allah forgives him.

3. He does good deeds that erase his sin for good deeds erase bad ones.

4. Allah tests him with trials in this world which expiate his sin.

5. His believing brethren pray for him or seek forgiveness for his sins during his life or death.

6. Or they [ask Allah] to bestow on him as gift from the reward for their deeds, with which Allah benefits him (limited in nature).

7. Allah tests him in al-Barzakh (the intermediate life in the grave, between the death and the Day of Judgment) which expiates his sin.

8. His Prophet Muhammad (saas) intercedes for him.

9. Allah tests him in the various stages of the Day of Judgment which expiates his sins.

10. Or the Most Merciful of those who have mercy has mercy on him and removes him from Hell.

Whoever, then, is missed by these ten cannot blame anyone but himself.

So to benefit the most from this lesson, let us review one hadith pertinent to each of the first six means as they are the ones that affect us or our loved ones in the life of this world:

1. Tawbah – The Prophet (saas) said: “Allah spreads out His Hand at night to accept the repentance of those who did wrong during the day, and He spreads out His Hand during the day to accept the repentance of those who did wrong during the night. (This will continue) until the sun rises from the west.” (Muslim)

2. Istighfaar – Abu Hurayrah(ra) reports from the Prophet(saas): “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would pardon them.” [Muslim]

A brief note on Tawbah and Istighfaar

Ibnul Qayyim (ra) states in his famous book Madaarij us-Saalikeen that Istighfaar and tawbah are among the pairs of words which the scholars say convey one another’s meanings when used alone, but which have their own separate meanings when they are used together. When the two words are used together, istighfaar means seeking protection from the evil of your deeds.

Istighfaar is derived from the root gha-fa-ra (”to forgive”), and thus it means is “to seek forgiveness”. It is also related to the word mighfar. Ibn ul-Qayyim states in Madaarij us-Saalikeen that the literal meaning of a mighfar is “what saves the head from discomfort or harm”. That is why a helmet can be a type of mighfar, but not a turban, because in addition to merely covering the head, a helmet protects it from harm. Effectively, seeking forgiveness does not involve asking for sins to be covered but for freedom from their evil consequences.

In the assembly of al-Hasan al-Basri, one of the great scholars of the Successors (Tabi’een), a person complained of drought, so he said to him “Beg forgiveness of Allah.” Another person complained of poverty. A third one said that he was not being blessed with children. A fourth one said that his harvest had failed, and he continued to remind everyone to beg forgiveness of Allah. The people asked: “How is it that you have suggested to all the people one and the same cure for the different complaints? He in response recited the following verses of Surah Nuh to them:

And [Nuh(saas)] said, “Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.” [71:10-12]

And tawbah means returning to Allah. Scholars interpret tawbah to mean all of the following: (i) immediate renunciation of the sin, (ii) firm intention and determination to not return to the sin ever again, (iii) regret or remorse over having committed the sin, and, if the sin was against the rights of another human being, then one must also, (iv) compensate for it.

3. Good deeds that erase the evil ones – The Commander of the faithful, `Ali bin Abi Talib (ra), said, “Whenever I used to hear a narration from the Messenger of Allah (saas), Allah would cause me to benefit by it however He willed. If anyone informed me of any statement that he said, I would make him swear (by Allah) that the Prophet said it. If he swore by Allah, then I would believe him. Abu Bakr once told me — and Abu Bakr was truthful — that he heard the Messenger of Allah (saas) say, “There is not any Muslim who commits a sin, then he makes ablution (wudu’) and prays two units of prayer, except that he will be forgiven (that sin). (Ahmad, Tirmithi)

Since this is the focus of today’s reflection I will spend a little extra time on this one as well. The deeds that fall under this catagory are many and not limited but there are ahadith which mention specific deeds that Allah loves and are associated with forgiveness. Without mentioning each hadith now, some of these deeds include: the fast of Ramadan if the person fasts with imaan and seeks with it reward from Allah; the fasts of Ashura and ‘Arafah; performance of the five daily prayers well; attendance of the Jumu’ah and not speaking or being distracted; praying the night of Qadr; performance of the accepted Hajj as well as often repeating the Hajj and ‘Umrah; giving of charity; certain remembrances like that of saying Subhaan Allah wa bihamdihi one hundred times.

4. Trials – Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (ra) reported that the Prophet (saas) said: “Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression – even the prick of a thorn, Allah expiates his sins because of it (as long as he is patient with it).” (Bukhari, Muslim)

He (saas) also said, “Expect good, because Allah makes a believer’s sickness an expiation (for his sins) and a period of repose. As for a disbeliever falling sick, he is like a camel whose owner ties it and then lets it loose – it does not understand why it was tied, nor why it was freed.” (Sahih – Bukhari – al-Adab ul-Mufrad) This hadith shows the importance of being patient with the trial and expecting goodness from Allah by it.

5. Du’a for the deceased – The Prophet (saas) said: “A man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How did I get here?’ He will be told, ‘By your son’s du’a’s (supplications) for forgiveness for you.” (Sahih – Ibn Maajah)

Ibn ‘Abbaas (ra) reports that the Prophet (saas) said: “There is no Muslim man who dies and forty men who do not associate anything with Allah pray the funeral prayer for him, but Allah will accept their intercession for him.” (Muslim)

6. Doing certain acts on behalf of the deceased – ‘Aishah (ra) reported that a man said to the Prophet (saas): “My mother has passed away, and if she could have spoken, she would have given something in charity. Will she receive a reward if I give something on her behalf?” He said, “Yes.” (Bukhari)

‘Abdullaah ibn Buraydah reported that his father (ra) said: “While I was sitting with the Messenger of Allaah (saas), a woman came to him and said: ‘I gave my mother a slave-woman in charity, and now my mother has died.’ He said: ‘You have got your reward, and your right of inheritance has brought your gift back to you.’ She said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, she still had one month to fast – can I fast it on her behalf?’ He said, ‘Fast it on her behalf.’ She said, ‘She never went to Hajj – can I perform Hajj on her behalf?’ He said, ‘Perform Hajj on her behalf.’” (Muslim)

An important point regarding the last hadith is that many scholars have pointed out that actions are rewarded only according to their intentions as was mentioned by the Prophet (saas), thus in order for the deceased to be rewarded for these deeds they should have intended them. Thus, they should be in the frequent habit of giving charity such that the charity would benefit them after their death, or they should have intended to perform the Hajj so that someone else performing it on their behalf would be valid, and Allah knows best.

Let us benefit from these reminders by repenting sincerely to Allah, seeking more forgiveness from Allah, increasing our good deeds in general and remembering to have patience and expect the reward and forgiveness from Allah whenever we are faced with trials. For those whose parents have departed from them don’t let anymore time pass without sincerely asking Allah to forgive them … and Allah knows best.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Dr. Ali Shehata is the author of Demystifying Islam: Your Guide to the Most Misunderstood Religion of the 21st Century. Dr. Ali is an Emergency and Family Medicine physician currently living in an area of central Florida. He was born in Maryland to parents who had immigrated to the US from Egypt. He has studied Islam mainly through traditional methods among various scholars, du'at and students of knowledge here in the US.

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