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Eye Opening Words in the Quran Describing the Life of this World

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Surah Al-Hadid (its title meaning, ‘the iron’) talks about the reality of the transient life of this world. Several descriptive words are used to reveal to us its true nature. After that, Allah warns us to remember that the life of this world is nothing but a “deceptive enjoyment”.
57_20-2

Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment“. [57:20]

In order to see the real picture being painted by our Creator as He details to us the reality of the life of this world, it would be beneficial to ponder on the root meanings of the several Arabic words He has used in the above verse. All the meanings have been taken from Edward William Lane’s online Arabic-to-English Lexicon:

لَعِبٌ
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(i) Play, sport, game, fun, joke, prank, or jest.

لَهْوٌ

(ii) Diversion, pastime, sport, or play; especially that which is frivolous or vain; that which occupies a person so as to divert him or her from that which should render him sad or solicitous/anxious/concerned.

زِينَةٌ

(iii) Decoration, finery, show, pomp, or gaeity.

تَفَاخُرٌ

(iv) Glorifying or boasting (viz. to each other), praising or commending own selves for certain properties or qualities, such as enumerating or recounting the particulars of their own ancestral nobility or eminence; or their honorable deeds. Contending for superiority by reason of honors arising from memorable deeds or qualities, or from parentage or relationship, and other things relating to themselves or their ancestors; also: boasting of qualities extrinsic to themselves such as wealth, rank or station.

تَكَاثُرٌ فِى الاٌّمْوَلِ وَالاٌّوْلْـد

(v) Contending, one with another, for superiority in number of (different types of) wealth and children.

مَتَـاعُ الْغُرُور

(vi) The word مَتَـاعُ means anything useful or advantageous viz. utensils, furniture, or food, and the word الْغُرُور means that by which one is deceived; something false and vain. In other words, the life of this world is a provision that is deceptive. It can be used to achieve the best end i.e. Allah’s pleasure and an abode in Paradise in the Hereafter, but is very deceptive in and of itself.

Allah has used a total of five terms and phrases to describe to us the reality of the life of this world in the Quran. Analysis of their meanings clearly reveals that indeed, the life of this world is such that it makes a believer lose focus of the Hereafter.

Consider this – games are fun to play. They cause us to get really involved in them, whether as participants, or as onlookers. The aspect of winning versus losing, or earning more points by achieving a target, enthuses the more keen ones among us to a state of physical and mental euphoria.

When anyone is involved in a game as a participant, whether he is playing outside, or playing a computer game indoors, he is distracted perhaps from more pending matters that require his attention. For some sports enthusiasts, tearing themselves away from a game to answer a call of nature, eat a meal, or pray an obligatory prayer also becomes difficult.

Now, with this picture in mind, we can see why Allah has called the life of this world “a game.” We get so involved in the “game” itself, in its short-term goals and enjoyments, that we tend to lose focus on the importance of the Hereafter. As an example, someone might postpone performing Hajj if important events related to his career are scheduled to take place at the same time in the calendar.

Allah has next called the life of this world “لَهْوٌ” – a “diversion.” It has the potency to make a person lose focus of the goals of the Hereafter. Imagine a person driving  a car; if he or she spots something interesting on the side of the road that will “divert” him or her from driving, he or she will definitely lose focus of the road, resulting in a possible collision.

Another interesting point about the word “لَهْوٌ” is how it has been used in Surah Al-Jum’uah to refer to a caravan that was beating its drums. When the Muslim congregation gathered in the mosque for Friday prayers heard these drums, they rushed towards the caravan:

وَإِذَا رَأَوْاْ تِجَـرَةً أَوْ لَهْواً انفَضُّواْ إِلَيْهَا وَتَرَكُوكَ قَآئِماً

“Yet [it does happen that] when people become aware of [an occasion for] worldly gain or a passing delight, they rush headlong towards it, and leave you (O Muhammad) standing [and preaching]”. [62:11]

According to a narration that Imam Ahmad recorded, Jabir [رضى الله عنه] narrated, “Once, a caravan arrived at Al-Madinah while Allah’s Messenger [صلى الله عليه و سلم] was giving a khutbah. So the people left, and only twelve men remained. Then Allah revealed the above verse”. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

It is clear that in this incident, the word “لَهْوٌ” was used to indicate the beating of the caravan’s drums. However, its effect was such that worshippers immediately got diverted or distracted from their goal of listening to the Prophet’s [صلى الله عليه و سلم] sermon whilst attending Friday prayers. With this perfect simile in mind, we can see why Allah has used this word to refer to the life of this world. It can easily distract us, with its short-term goals, from the more important objective of success in the Hereafter.

The word زِينَةٌ means beauty and decoration; anything that is naturally pleasing to look at, or beautified to attract our attention. This could include everything that falls under the umbrella of natural beauty e.g. scenic landscapes, lush vegetation, flowers, and waterfalls, to those things that are made beautiful; which the human heart enjoys.

Bring to mind festivals, celebrations, jewelry, interior decor, architecture, branded/stylish couture, glamour, fashion, luxuries, accessories and diverse cuisines. Human beings love to create, experiment and play around with every conceivable kind of raw material provided by Allah, to transform it into something beautiful for their adornment  or consumption- animal hides are transformed into plush seating; edible textures and tastes are whipped up into sweet and savoury delicacies, and threads are transformed and weaved to produce a myriad of clothes and dresses! Yes, the life of this world definitely revolves a lot around  زِينَةٌ !

The words تَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُم  imply boasting to others, and being boasted to, as the above explanation has stated, about intangible assets of prestige and value, such as honorable lineage, awards and achievements, or righteous deeds. Anything that can cause a person to become proud in and of themselves, can be boasted about. It is important to note here, that a person’s intention makes the difference – perhaps a graduation party thrown to genuinely celebrate one’s happiness at an adult offpsring’s educational milestone with loved ones, could instead become a means of تَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُم , if done with the intention of boasting of this achievement to relatives in order to up oneself in their eyes.

Similarly, several people display their honors, awards and plaques in their drawing rooms or offices, where they receive guests. This, too, if done to establish one’s credibility in one’s profession, for example, as a practicing doctor whose patients want reassurance that they are coming to a reliable person, would not be blameworthy. However, if it is done to make oneself appear better than others, than it would be تَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُم. This mutual boasting starts from childhood (“I have more dolls than you!”) and goes on, increasing in type and intensity, well into adulthood and old age (“All my children are qualified doctors who graduated summa cum laude from top-notch universities.”).

Similarly, تَكَاثُرٌ فِى الاٌّمْوَلِ وَالاٌّوْلْـد , quite simply put, means the “rat race” we are all inadvertently so familiar with, and to an extent, also involved in. This usually starts when a person enters their twenties and beyond, which is a time in their lives when they get married, start having children, and also start earning money through their careers.

Beyond one’s twenties, there is a distinct “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect in one’s life, that subtly creeps in. Whenever one hears of a neighbor, sibling, relative or friend moving into a bigger, luxurious house, acquiring foreign citizenship (this applies mostly to us Eastern dwellers of developing countries), having another child, getting promoted, or adding an SUV to their drive, we immediately start imagining how wonderful it would be if the same happened to us.

It is interesting how Allah has combined two of the words He has used in this verse of Surah Al-Hadid to describe the life of this world, in another verse in the Quran: the first verse of Surah Al-Takaathur:

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

“The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things)“. [102:1]

Since تَّكَاثُرُ means contending to increase in numbers of tangible blessings, it is clear from this verse too, that human beings are naturally “diverted” in this life by this, from their primary goal – which should be success in the Hereafter.

Allah goes on after this, in the above verse, to elaborate the simile of this world’s life: of it being like the vegetation or herbage that grows on earth, and pleases its tiller/farmer when it reaches its lustrous, colorful peak viz. the plants or crops become strong and fully grown, bearing fruit or grain. However, after a short period of this lustre, color and vibrance, the plants eventually wither, become dry, lifeless straw, and die. The same earth that was alive with crops a while ago becomes empty and plain again; the color, leaves, fruit, grains or flowers are nowhere to be seen, as if they never existed!

That is, in reality, the same thing that happens to everyone and everything during the life of this world. The young, beautiful face becomes wrinkled and haggard; the lustrous hair becomes limp and grey; the strong bones become brittle, and strong muscles give way to weakness; the eyes lose their sight; the erect spine becomes bent. Moreover, every inanimate thing also goes into decline: the architecturally sound mansion becomes depleted and worn over the years, erosion causing its dilapidation and ruin; the clothes lose their newness, shine and glory, withering away; ‘new’ technology loses its value and becomes obsolete and unwanted; the flashy vehicle goes out of vogue and  ends up in a junk yard as rubble. The list is endless.

Now that our eyes have been opened to the truth about the life of this world; about how its adornments and distractions are alluring but deceptive in nature, because they divert our attention from the Hereafter and make us think that all this ‘glitter’ will last forever; when in fact, everything on this earth will turn to dust as Allah has promised, we should remember the importance of consistently reciting and reading the Quran as a daily routine, so that we are reminded of this important fact about this transitory life. That way, the reminders such as this verse, that tells us in the end about the two options we have before us – either painful torment, or the forgiveness of Allah and His pleasure – will help keep us focused on those deeds that will enable us to enjoy the truly enjoyable, beautiful, desirable, and eternal life, insha’Allah — the one in the Hereafter.

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Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yousuf

    May 12, 2010 at 2:36 AM

    Beautiful article!! Especially the explanation of the words helping to understand. i will make it as a reminder to keep me in check, as the glitter of this world to take us away from the real purpose. May Allah bless you! Ameen

    • Avatar

      sabir abdus-samee

      September 25, 2014 at 4:50 AM

      It makes you think that something is yours when he truth is nothing is yours

    • Avatar

      bashir

      January 9, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      JazaqumLlahu Khairan…What a good reminder!

    • Avatar

      Warith

      June 1, 2016 at 8:28 AM

      Great brother. Made me smile while reading it. May Allah bless him, you, and all of the believers. Amin

  2. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    May 12, 2010 at 3:44 AM

    Bismillah,

    It is also interesting to note that every time Allah calls us to knowledge of an issue (i’laamu), the verses that follow will have a call to action.

    In this case the next verse is:

    “Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and towards Paradise, the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is the Grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He pleases. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty. ”

    Knowledge and action are linked together without exception by Allah and His Messenger (s).

    Also interesting is the syntax of the words to describe the dunya.

    1.Play leads to 2.diversion which leads to 3.show and pomp which leads to 4.boasting and finally 5.contending and gathering more of the above four – similied in Wealth and children.

    Wealth before children is a theme in the Quran. Many would forego their children on account of seeking an increase in their wealth.

    What is interesting is that each of the five is relative to the individual in question. You can be boastful while poverty (an illness of the heart mentioned by the prophet (s).

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Yahya Ibrahim

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 12, 2010 at 4:26 AM

      outstanding… your comment was further adornment for this beautiful post.

    • Avatar

      Sally

      May 12, 2010 at 6:11 AM

      I wasn’t aware of the wealth before children theme. Thanks for highlighting this relevant point!

    • Avatar

      Yaqeen needed

      May 13, 2010 at 12:36 AM

      Barakallahu feek Sadaf This is no doubt one of the most beneficial articles have read here.

      As Amad said, the comment by Yahya gives the article much appreciated value. A case of cooperating in good synergistically

      Going the path of the companion Hudhaifa -raidallahu anh- who often always looked at the negative aspects of issues in order to avoid them, the issue of application of ilm as raised by Yahya is really disturbing.

      I mean in our times we give great deal of of emphasis omn seeking knowledge. If one is not a maghribite its packing of the bag and going to madinah or cairo for knowledge. The worry – egged on by Yahya- is that of all the knowledge we acquire, how much do we express or strive to express in deeds.

      As an example, how may of us are willing to immediately seek out a brother who is MIA from namaz fajr. We know it is from the sunnah to do so. And we know this itself when done sincerely is a true brotherhood building mechanism. Much more authentic and long lasting than emails or meeting in corridors after dars or ilminars? We read over and over again how Allah gives precedence to sacrificing in His path in the quran and how we more often than noit dilute it it out in our pursuit of our 9-5 daily lives. Of course we often have the back of academic ossified to fall unto – this is fard kifaayah,this is fard kida kida, there is ikhtilaf,etc. Allah praises and ecourages jihad and hijrah and we ..well we what we do ? Help downgrade the status , justify downgrading the status and then feel cool with having downgraded the status of issues highly preferred by Allah jalla shanu. And so the ‘J’ word we have made synonymous to terrorism and thus disliked to muslims. And so like Yahya implied , we learn the fiqh of da’wah, jihad and hijra but then make it like the xtains issues not to be practised anymore or given the due priority it was given by Allah jalla shanu and His messenger alayhi salam

      To put this self criticism snowball started by Yahya in perspective, it is reported that Umar used to ask Hudhaifa if he was one of the munafiqin. Abu Bakr and Hanzala – radiallahu anhum were all afraid of being munafiqin. If we have or seek or glorigy knowledge and do not truly practise them even where such practice demands limitless sacrifice, we should be questioning ourselves like these glorious companions. They are the ones we should truly look up to and not people of our times

    • Avatar

      Lukman Adam, Ilorin Nigeria.

      May 15, 2010 at 3:53 AM

      Beatful article, wonderful comments. I suggest recirculation as we have many thing diverting our attention from Allah in mordern world than those calling our attention to Allah. Jazaakumullahu khaeran.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      May 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM

      Jazak Allahu khair, Seikh Yahya! You have given us really deep insight into this verse. The part about wealth always coming first in mention before children in the Quran….I never thought about that! Of course it is so true; so many people reduce their number of children, delay having them, or resort to abortions, only because of their love of wealth or fear of poverty. Subhan Allah.

  3. Avatar

    umm musa

    May 12, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    Very wise and beautiful words from the Quran. Interestingly, UmmahPulse.com has used exactly the same quote from the Quran in an article about TV. I would recommend reading it as an good followup to this excellent article.
    http://www.ummahpulse.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=563:amusing-ourselves-to-death&catid=22:jumahpulses&Itemid=130

    • Avatar

      Yaqeen needed

      May 14, 2010 at 10:25 PM

      Now we know or are reminded about the evils of TV, I believe it calls for action or renewed action against this source of evil in the ummah. The sort of action Yayha calls. may Allah give us taofiq for the sacrifices needed. BTW, the TV’s value added feature as an evil endengering piece is very apt in the world cup craze the bug of which may have affected some of us

  4. Avatar

    Sally

    May 12, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    Excellent reminder. Your article made me appreciate the perfect structure of Islam even more. Allah sent us here amidst all the distractions, but not without plenty of help! The prayers, dhikr, Quran, are all built in to keep our focus on what really matters.

    It also helps to see the life of the world in context of our imminent death. Understanding that in a split second death can claim us helps weaken the distractions slightly.

  5. Avatar

    Iesa Galloway

    May 12, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Masha’Allah – GREAT article, may Allah increase you!

  6. darthvaider

    darthvaider

    May 12, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    I really enjoyed this read. Jazaki Allah khayr for posting it.

  7. Avatar

    Amatullah

    May 12, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    Jazaaki Allahu khayran Sadaf for this great piece. May Allah protect us from making the dunya our main concern and the limit of our knowledge.

    • Avatar

      Hafsa

      May 12, 2010 at 8:50 AM

      Aameen.

  8. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    May 12, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

    SubhanaAllah. May Allah reward you for this excellent reminder.

  9. Avatar

    Hafsa

    May 12, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Jazakallahu Khayr. :)

  10. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    May 12, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    Jazak Allaah Khayr for posting this article. Barak Allah feek.

  11. Avatar

    Abu Aaliyah

    May 12, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Asalaamu Alaikum,
    MashAllah nice article. Br. Nouman has a beautiful lecture on this same ayah. http://www.halaltube.com/nouman-ali-khan-overview-of-life-in-a-few-ayat

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      May 16, 2010 at 12:05 AM

      Thank you for the link. Jazak Allahu khair.

  12. Avatar

    Chowmein

    May 12, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    SubhanAllah, yet another testimony to the miracle of the Qur’an. Could mankind think of any better words to describe the temporary nature of this world?

    JazakAllah khair.

  13. Avatar

    ummfatima

    May 12, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Jazakillahu khairaa for an excellent reminder.May Allah give us towfeeq to work for something long lasting and doesn`t wither away.

  14. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 12, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Mash’Allah, excellent work!

    All that glitters is not gold,
    take heed of the Hereafter,
    before your soul is sold.
    You may grab and cling in a hungry craze,
    but Izra’eel will surely take yours
    at the end of your days.

  15. Avatar

    anon

    May 12, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    JazakaAllahu Khair for this very important reminder. We so often only focus on the present and not on the future (Hearafter) knowing that what we build for this world will leave us, but what we build for the Hearafter will not.

  16. Avatar

    shiney

    May 12, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    I love your post because it highlighted in detail the ayah above. this ayah is one of my favorites but I have never read a better explanation. Jazakallah khair for the very educational post=)

  17. Avatar

    mystrugglewithin

    May 12, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    Sister, jazakallah khayrun for the beautiful explanation.. may Allah swt bless you and your family with the best of this world and hereafter.

  18. Avatar

    islamicnet

    May 13, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    Jazakillahu khairaa for an excellent reminder.May Allah give us towfeeq to work for something long lasting and doesn`t wither away.

  19. Avatar

    Quran

    May 13, 2010 at 12:50 AM

    Thanks for the post. Really motivational. There are lots of words in Quran like this that are eye opening.

  20. Avatar

    abu Rumay-s.a.

    May 13, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    jazakie Allahu khairun for the well written article and reminder about the reality of this world. SubhanAllah, after having moved to an oil rich Muslim country, I see this problem ever more so evident, may Allah cleanse us of our sins…ameen…

    I’d just like to add a point for further clarification that possessing wealth in and of itself is not blameworthy and can be praiseworthy if it is gained in the proper way and spent accordingly. Also I believe that liking a nice house, or a car or to have a lot of children is natural in human beings as Allah ta`ala made those things for us..even the prophets liked such things…

    I think the main point is that irrespective if one has these things or not, it is, as Shaykh Ibrahim alluded to, each individual’s state of the impoverishment to Allah in the heart… the state of faqr does not imply that one lose all the worldy things to reach it, rather it is detaching your love for it in the heart to where it distracts you from your deen.

    An example is that the poorest person could have love for the dunya while he does not even possess it or conversely, the richest person could have all the dunya but without love of it in his heart…

    And Allah knows best…

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      May 16, 2010 at 12:13 AM

      Yes, you are right. Wealth is not a bad thing in and of itself. Even the Quran testifies to that:

      وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ

      “And violent is he in his love of wealth” [Quran, 100:8]

      In this verse, Allah calls wealth الخير – which translates to “good”. It is the love of this wealth in man that causes some problems.

      We should remember that our pious predecessors would not pass a day after receiving lots of wealth before giving it in charity. Also, Prophet Dawood [عليه السلام] was granted kingdom and wealth, the like of which no one had. But he didnot let the love of this wealth distract him from sincere worship or obedience to his Lord.

      Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Yusuf

      September 17, 2016 at 10:48 AM

      Asalam Alaikun to everyone.. Abu rumay-s.a..I really appreciate your comment..may Allah continue to bless us both in this world and hereafter

    • Avatar

      weslink

      October 5, 2016 at 11:00 AM

      An example is that the poorest person could have love for the dunya while he does not even possess it or conversely, the richest person could have all the dunya but without love of it in his heart… !

      whoever desire the life of this world with his deed we give him what is decreed for him and has no share in the hereafter 42:20

  21. Avatar

    Ameera

    May 13, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    JazaakAllah! What a way to put things into perspective, SubhaanAllah! I could think of some many things I do or which I take interest in that are “La’ib” and “Lahw”. May Allah(swt) keep us all on the right track! Ameen!

  22. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    May 14, 2010 at 6:33 AM

    JazakiAllah Khairan Ukhti! May Allah shower you with His abundant blessings both in this Dunya and Aakhira. Truly a beautiful reminder.

    And JazakAllah Khair Shaykh Yahya for the followup comment. SubhanAllah seeing the Divine method of putting together 2 concepts (I’lamu and ‘amal) was indeed thought provoking. BarakAllahu Feekum Ya Ustadh.

  23. Avatar

    sa

    May 15, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    Sadaf its interesting how you put up a picture of a wedding stage.I have yet to read your entire article but while browsing through it I was struck by the picture you posted.

    Over the past few months I have been overwhelmed by the amount of extravagance and finery seen at weddings and especially with wedding forums I have begun to wonder whether everyone is trying to outdo everyone else and when does one say something is too much!Your article puts things in perspective for me atleast.

    Maybe I really don’t need to have it all!!! I just hope Allah gives me the sabr to accept this.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      May 16, 2010 at 12:20 AM

      I put up that picture to illustrate the concept of زِينَةٌ, as mentioned in the article. The picture was taken at a wedding which I attended, but just for the record, they were extremely well-off industrialists, so perhaps they could afford the excess flowers. Allah knows best if it was extravagance or not.

      But I agree with you that flowers worth thousands of our local currency for a few-hours-long ceremony, after which they just wither and get trampled under everyone’s feet……doesn’t seem fair, with so much hunger and poverty all around, in the same country. Our weddings and their decor are getting more and more extravagant by the day.

      Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        Halal Media

        May 22, 2010 at 10:19 AM

        You have a great point there. Come to think of it, all facets of our lives are similar to the flowers. We spend so much time, resources and energy at the expense of our children and our duty to perfect their religion, not to mention ours. In the end, it amounts to naught and when we finally do realise it, into the grave we go, with just a white cloth wrapping our naked bodies and trembling at the sight of Mungkar and Nangkeer. SubnaAllah. May the writer and everybody else who enriches this post get their well deserve rewards by The AlMighty. Ameen.

  24. Avatar

    nighat shah

    May 15, 2010 at 11:31 PM

    assalam alaykum sadaf,excellent article!may allah show us the right path by following quran and sunnah,and forgive our sins AMEEN!!!

  25. Avatar

    Zafar Muhammad Khalid.

    May 16, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum and Jazakallahum Ghairan.

    Al-Qur’aan is MU’JIZAATHUL MU’JIZAATH meaning Miracles of Miracles.

    The Prophet’s uncle ‘Abdul ‘Uzza bin ‘Abdul Muttalib also known as Abu Lahab (Father of the Flames) was his greatest enemy. In surathul TABAT also known as MASAD and AL-LAHAB are many things to learn.

    After given the instructions to convey, the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam started his mission at Makkah. The Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said he was sent as a warner before the SEVERE TORMENT. At this, Abu Lahab said, “Have you gathered us for this? May you perish.” Then Allaah Almighty revealed:

    MAY THE HANDS OF ABU LAHAB BE PERISHED. HIS WEALTH WILL NOT AVAIL HIM OR THAT WHICH HE GAINED. HE WILL (ENTER TO) BURN IN A FIRE OF (BLAZING) FLAME. AND HIS WIFE (AS WELL) -THE CARRIER OF FIREWOOD. AROUND HER NECK IS A ROPE OF (TWISTED FIBRE). -Al-Qur’aan 111:1-5

    The miracle about this particular Revelation was, for ten years until Abu Lahab met his death at the Battle of Badr, he knew this revelation and knew his and his wife’s fate. If only he declared the SHAHADA within this ten years, may Allaah forgive me – the Qur’aan would have been null and void. Now then, the question arises
    what prevented him from declaring the SHAHADA? Allaah Azzawajal says in the Qur’aan that the Religions is His and He WILL SAFEGUARD IT.

    So today We will save you in body (preserved and not destroyed) that you may be to those who succeed you a sign. And indeed many among the people of Our signs are heedless.
    Al-Qur’aan Ch.10 Yoonus Vr.92

    For image of THE PRESERVED BODY OF THE PHARAOH visit: http://al-qalam.webs.com/firaun.JPG

    The lesson from Firaun is that with all the luxury which he could think of, his body shown in the above link shows that his body is in a box with no pomp or pageantry – WEALTH AND CHILDREN ARE BUT ADORNMENT OF THE WORLDLY LIFE. Al-Qur’aan 18:46.

    Zafar Khald.

  26. Avatar

    Pena Maya

    May 21, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    subhanAllah.

  27. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Eye Opening Words in the Quran

  28. Avatar

    Asim13285

    June 8, 2010 at 1:02 AM

    Jazaaki Allahu khayran Sadaf for this great piece. May Allah protect us from making the dunya our main concern and the limit of our knowledge.

  29. Avatar

    zakir

    December 26, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    Jazakallah

  30. Avatar

    Moin

    February 28, 2012 at 3:50 AM

    Mashallah Tabarakallah ! Some of the CORE themes of the Quran penned in a very dynamic approach !

    Whenever Allah SWT mentions same topic/idea in more than one place, it is always SERIOUS ….{in our terms what we call as … We mean Business } ! The message of can be seen almost exactly same or similar in … !
    And in , says “This, because ye used to take the Signs of Allah in jest, and the life
    of the world deceived you….”.
    And also the saying of Allah SWT that “…Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is
    best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving..” …. All point to the same CORE message that this worldly life, for a Believer,  should not deviate his GOAL of achieving a good record in Akhirah, to become among the Muflihoon …. ABSOLUTE Successful !With reference to your statement : “Now, with this picture in mind, we can see why Allāh has called the life of this world “a game.” We get so involved in the “game” itself, in its short-term goals and enjoyments, that we tend to lose focus on the importance of the Hereafter. ..” Just as a general comment … maybe I’m wrong, … but I have strong OBJECTION to someone attributing REASONS for any Quranic Ayah ! Allah SWT has absolute ilm (knowledge) and our ilm is limited to what He wills and wishes us to have. With this limited ilm we can surely interpret and try to infer 
    His words but should not GIVE SUCH A BOLD STATEMENT AS TO THE REASON FOR ALLAH TO REVEAL SUCH AND SUCH AYAH ?!?!? With different level of ilm and in different times , there could be a better and more closer interpretation of any verse ! Attributing a clear reason as to why Allah has revealed a particular Ayah is as if challenging the authority that on this particular issue my ilm has come to perfection ?!? And Allah probably does not like this …. so did Musa PBUH think when he was asked to see Khidr.

     May the Almighty Allah bless you and your family with the best of both the worlds ! Ameen.

     

  31. Pingback: The Perfect Happiness. « AbuWhy

  32. Avatar

    Abdurahiman

    February 17, 2015 at 2:48 AM

    It is the Grace and Mercy of Allah that He created the Hereafter with two different nature of life; the life in the Paradise and the life in the Hell. By creating these two different nature of life, Allah really wants all Human beings and Jinns to strive hard to win the Paradise and to save themselves from the abysmal of fire by obeying His orders and evading His Prohibitions. By obeying all His Orders a man really constructs the path through which he and others are keeping on travelling with beautiful decorations and by disregarding His Prohibitions man makes the road through which and others travel dirty and filthy . The concept of Islam is so beautiful .

  33. Avatar

    bilal

    August 24, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    Ma Shaa Allah …So nice explanation .. Keep me update your next post. Jazak Allah

  34. Avatar

    Husna Bint Azeem

    October 21, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    Beautiful explained, well done. MaShaAllah :)

  35. Avatar

    Waqar

    October 21, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Thanks for this great article. However, after reading the ayah, I cannot help but think that it is a generalization. Too many people in this world are suffering. Our brothers in Islam in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Palestine; our brothers in humanity in Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Mexico, South Sudan, eastern Ukraine, to name a few crisis zones, are suffering, struggling to survive. In the US, we see numerous examples of police brutality and gang violence causing families and peoples to suffer. The verse starts out by saying ““Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement…” but surely as we can see from history and from the present day, surely, for too many people, the world is not only play and amusement, but rather a struggle, a struggle to survive and provide a semblance good life for one’s self and one’s family. The recent refugee crisis with Syrians quite literally dying at see in order to make it to Europe illustrates this point quite well. To be fair, no doubt, perhaps a majority of the earth’s population is hedonistic and too many people are caught up in play and amusement and boasting and such. However, there is a not insignificant portion of the world that is suffering tremendously, for whom the world is surely not “play and amusement.” In this context, then, how can we make sense of this verse? Are we simply to ignore the real suffering of people who are struggling to survive everyday? Or is there a deeper meaning of the verse that we are missing? I certainly do not mean any offense by this comment, but rather, wanted to one give different analysis that has not yet been put forth on this board and two help myself to arrive at the truth.

    • Avatar

      Samiullah

      October 25, 2015 at 4:21 PM

      ASalam alaikum brother, it is a good point you have made, I want you learn the holy quran further in order to discover the truth. The answer to your question is with Allah swt. You do have to go with the fact that this life is a test. I have tried to answer your question.
      I too was confused after discovering the role of Satan, which made me question the creation.
      After reading this verse
      It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who bow down. (God) said: “What prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.” (God) said: “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures).” (7: 11–13)
      I realised that after Allah swt created the earth he created the mankind, jinns (unseen) and the Satan equally until Satan disobeyed Allah swt. Before Satan disobeyed, God wanted to create a world where he would allow the mankind and jinns to be tested by giving them freedom where they would be enjoying referring to
      “Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment“. [57:20]

      However, since Allah swt wanted to test mankind and the jinns he added Satan and allowed him to mislead the mankind with the help of the jinns. The answer to your question is Satan which is part of Allah swt test.

      • Avatar

        Waqar

        October 26, 2015 at 11:38 AM

        JazakAllahkhair for your response, that really helps!

  36. Avatar

    honey lili

    October 24, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    jazakallah for this super article, and informative comments :–)

  37. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    June 21, 2016 at 9:46 AM

    Omg the best article I have ever read may allah bless you brother

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#Current Affairs

Racism And The Plagues of Egypt – Coronavirus And Racism: America’s Two Pandemics

Dr Amina Darwish, Guest Contributor

Published

Introduction

The fight against anti-Blackness has once again hit the global stage, and American Muslims have a central role to play in the movement of racial justice. The spiritual history of America is a history of Black Muslim voices. Mansa Abubakari, a West African King, landed in South America almost 200 years before Columbus began the massacre of the indigenous population.[1] The biggest migration of Muslims to America was the slave ships where scholars fought to teach Islam to their enslaved communities. Modern Islamophobic attacks such as the Muslim Ban of 2016 are not just Islamophobic, but also deeply racist because it denies the humanity of the previous generations of Muslims. Black Muslims have carried the mantle of preserving Islam in America and have fought for racial justice for last four centuries. The immigrant Muslims who arrived during the last 50 years were a direct result of the civil rights movement that allowed immigration from Muslim majority countries. The fight for racial justice is a Muslim fight. We owe it to the generations of Muslims before us to continue their work.

The 400 years of struggle for racial justice in America can be compared to the Children of Israel’s fight for emancipation from Pharaoh’s Egypt 3000 years ago during which the country was hit by a number of plagues. Sheikh Mendes and Imam Dawud Walid have recently referenced the story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), whose demand to Pharaoh to, “Let my people go[2]” is well known in many religious circles fighting for racial equality in America. [3] The Quran discusses of the plagues of Egypt in the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surah Al-A’raf. “So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” [7;133] The plagues of Egypt are similar to the current coronavirus pandemic in that they made systemic oppression clear for all to see. The goal here is to explain the relationship between the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

First, the name of the surah will be discussed. Then, the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will be put into context with the story of the other prophets mentioned in the surah. The events leading up to the Plagues of Egypt are explained and compared to the current American pandemics. Finally, there are recommendations for how to make our community spaces antiracist. A few Black scholars have been quoted throughout as to elevate their voices, and to provide some much-needed groundwork for readers who might be unfamiliar with these great American Muslim scholars. For further reading, Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler compiled a far more exhaustive list of Black Muslim narratives in the BlackIslamSyllabus.

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To put this verse into perspective we must first reflect on Surah A’raf as a whole, and I encourage everyone to read and contemplate the surah in depth. The A’raf, mentioned in ayah 46, are an elevated place on the Day of Judgement where people of no consequence get stuck. They watch as others are sorted towards Heaven or Hell. The people of the A’raf are not evil, but they also would not leave their comfort zones to actually commit to righteousness. Their comments to the people of Paradise and the people of the Fire are mentioned in the Surah, but do not earn a response because they are then, as they are now, people of no consequence.

The surah begins by telling Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to not feel distressed by forcing people out of their comfort zones, and warns of previous peoples who were destroyed as they slept in their heedlessness. And how many cities have We destroyed, and Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon. [7;4] We cannot go back to the previous norm when Black people were suffering alone, while non-Black people could comfortably enjoy their lives whilst ignoring—and even benefiting from a system built on—the suffering of their Black brothers and sisters. A critical mass of people must refuse the continued oppression and the suffering of others for the current system to change. American Muslims should do more than give lip service to their Black brothers and sisters.

Anti-Blackness in Human History

The first prophet mentioned in the surah is our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), whose name indicates his dark black skin. And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”, so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. [7;11] [Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from mud.” [7;12] Satan hated our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) for the form Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him, which included dark black skin. Anti-Blackness is as old as humanity itself. Dr. Bilal Ware has spoken extensively about the satanic nature of racism. Claims of superiority based on a birthright are rampant throughout human history. Egyptians claimed superiority over the Children of Israel based on where they were from centuries before. Jahili[1] Meccan society claimed superiority based on lineage. The American system claims superiority based on proximity to whiteness. These are characteristics determined at birth and are beyond any human being’s control. Such claims of superiority are counter to the Islamic ethos that sets the value of individuals based on their relationship with God alone. And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” [7:172] Many other prophets and their specific fights against the oppressive power structures are referenced in the surah, which illustrates the continuity of the struggle between the children of Adam and Satan.

A series of prophets (peace be upon them] are briefly discussed with striking similarities in the messages they delivered to their people. All the prophets teach their people about the Oneness of God and called them to rectify the vices that were specific to their society. The mala’a, or the elites, in each of their societies were mentioned as those who fought the prophets. They did so to maintain their chokehold on power, not because of a theological difference. The elites in Meccan society did not fight Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) until he began publicly preaching. They did not care that he prayed differently from them. They feared that his message would make them equal to people they belittled and disparaged. Similarly, it was the elites in Pharaoh’s court who demanded he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. This was a direct result of the magicians publicly declaring their belief and turning public opinion against Pharaoh’s magic, one of the pillars of his power. Similarly in America, the institutional structures of racism need to be dismantled.

Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

The story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) begins with the demand mentioned in the introduction, “so send with me the Children of Israel.” [7;105]. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) shows Pharaoh and his elites the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has sent him with. So Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest. [7;107] And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. [7;108] They refuse his message and demand a public contest with magicians in hopes of spinning the narrative in their favor. They fail miserably when the magicians recognize the truth and publicly declare their belief in the Lord of Prophet Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) despite Pharaoh’s threats of torture. Pharaoh said, “You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know.” [7:123]

This now leads us to the discussion of the plagues, and how they came about. After that public humiliation, the elites around Pharaoh demanded that he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. [Pharaoh] said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them.” [7;127] Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book specifically addressing how the White supremacist system feared a successful Black presidency and responded with an increased level of racism. As a spiritual response to this heightened oppression, Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) preached patience during the struggle because he knew Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would deliver them.  The people of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) complained about the increased pain they were now experiencing as they had been suffering for years before a messenger was sent to them. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) asked them to develop their spiritual strength and prepare themselves for a time when they would be empowered and would need spiritual discipline. Shaykha Ieasha Prime has recently called on the ummah to be increasing its spiritual strength as they organize against anti-Blackness.

The Economic Downturn

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tested the people of Pharaoh with an economic downturn. “And We certainly seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and a deficiency in fruits that perhaps they would be reminded.” [7;130] These circumstances are very similar to the economic recession of 2008, and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Whenever something good would happen, the people of Pharaoh would claim credit for it, and whenever something bad happened, they would blame Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his people. But when good came to them, they said, “This is ours [by right].” And if a bad [condition] struck them, they saw an evil omen in Moses and those with him. Unquestionably, their fortune is with Allah, but most of them do not know. [7;131] And they said, “No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.” [7;132] This rhetoric is very similar to the wave of nationalism that took over the world in the last few years. It is used by nationalist political leaders, who blame marginalized groups for the economic recession. However, the oppression of those marginalized communities was a preexisting condition that was exacerbated and exploited by nationalist leaders.

The Plagues

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent them the plagues, “the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood” [7;133]. These were such overwhelming tests for Pharaoh. He was a man that claimed to be a god, but the True God was now sending him something that destroyed the riches he had built and could not be blamed on someone else. It revealed all of his lies. The plagues sent to Pharaoh were specific to the land of the Nile that depended on the production of agriculture and built imposing monuments. It is difficult to look grand when your fields are flooded or consumed by locusts, your water turns to blood, and you and your monuments are covered in lice and frogs. Similarly, the coronavirus pandemic exposed the faults in our health care system, the shortcoming of our food supply, the fragility of the economy, and the deep racism that is embedded into the entire system. The people who were deemed essential to work were treated as sacrificial and were forced to choose between paying for food and rent or risking exposure. They were offered empty platitudes that did not include the protective equipment they needed, increased financial compensation, or health care if they were to fall ill.

Coronavirus attacks the body’s ability to breathe, and it has been widely reported to have affected communities of color far harder than any other group. Black Americans are far more likely to have asthma due to highways going through their neighborhoods, and therefore more likely to die from Covid-19. This is a direct link to a racist system of redlining and highway construction that took away their ability to breathe. Black Americans are imprisoned at disproportionally high rates where social distancing is impossible. There are many false assumptions about the imprisoned population. The truth is that more than 90% of all cases never go to trial, and an accused person’s ability to defend themselves is almost impossible with exorbitant amounts of money. Many Muslims now claim affiliation to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him. Covid-19 could be killing the next Malcolm X in prison this very moment. All that without even discussing the economic impact of coronavirus on communities of color that if left unchecked will widen the racial wealth gap. The scarcity of food and resources that were created by the plagues undoubtedly affected the Children of Israel and not just their oppressors; however, the end result of plagues was justice for the oppressed.

From Eric Garner to George Floyd, Black Americans have been fighting to breathe in America. The Arabic word nafs which is usually translated to a soul/self has the same root word as nafas, which means a breath. So, a more accurate translation of nafs is actually a breathing soul. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a nafs (breathing soul) unless for a nafs or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he/she had slain humankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he/she had saved humankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. [Surah Al-Ma’idah; 32] American Muslims have tended towards the medical profession as a means of fulfilling the above verse in saving people. We should be focusing the same level of energy at saving populations by fighting both the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

Naming the Oppression

The coronavirus epidemic and the recent public murders of Black Americans created a tipping point that did not exist before. Former NBA player and prolific author, Kareem Abdul Jabbar said, “it feels like hunting season is open on blacks.” The murder of George Floyd was so egregious that groups dedicated to preventing police accountability called for Derek Chauvin to be held accountable. America was force to collectively acknowledge the murder of a Black man at the hands of a police officer. Corporations who peddled in racism were issuing apologies when they saw the tide of public opinion turn. The murder of George Floyd made America look the ugliness of racism in the eye. Of course, police brutality and racism did not begin with George Floyd nor did it end with him. Many more people lost their lives at the hands of the police during the protests. For every name we know, there are countless others we do not know. Police brutality is a leading cause of death for Black men in America. Even if we do not know their names, every victim leaves behind a family to mourn their loss while knowing that the murderer not only walks free, but wears a uniform that allows him to continue to kill without consequence. May the brave young woman who took the video receive Divine reward and healing for her bravery. May the burning in the heart of every mother who lost a child be granted Divine patience and healing.

In Surah A’raf, the people of Pharaoh also acknowledged their oppression of the Children of Israel, and they vowed to stop oppressing them. And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel.” [7;134] We know that the people of Pharaoh reneged after the plagues were lifted. But when We removed the punishment from them until a term which they were to reach, then at once they broke their word. [7;135] So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our signs and were heedless of them. [7;136] Pharaoh in his arrogance witnessed all of the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) including the staff, his hand, and the plagues. He then witnessed the Red Sea split, and still he followed Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) into the sea until he was drowned. His hatred blinded him, and his racism killed him.

America is now at the same moment of realization. Of course, Black Muslims have never been unaware of racism. It is a privilege for non-Black Muslims to learn about systemic racism rather than experience it firsthand. The ability to see right from wrong is not guaranteed for us. Arrogance can blind us as it has blinded Pharaoh and his army. I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them. [7;146] The ability to see the racism is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). May we be protected from spiritual blindness. No Muslim in America should be able to claim a lack of awareness of systemic racism any longer. No should they continue to favor their comfort zones over our love for our Black brothers and sisters and assume they will be forgiven. And they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’ [7;169]

Fighting the Oppression

Pharaoh claimed to be god, and White supremacy is the false god of our time. It is built into our psyches, our financial systems, and our power structures. Statues were erected to idolize those who upheld it. White supremacy is a system where lighter skin makes people smarter, more trustworthy, and more beautiful. We know this is a lie on its face, and yet it breads anti-blackness that is deeply engrained into everyday life. Fighting anti-blackness is a spiritual struggle, and we should make sincere intentions to fight it in all its forms. We must stand with the people of righteousness who fought for the abolition, civil rights, and an end to colonialist exploitation.

White supremacy in America is in a housing system that segregates people and exposes them to pollutants in their air and their water. It is in an education system that funds or defunds schools based on that segregated housing, and uses the police as an extreme punishment for a child’s infractions. It is in a judicial system that criminalizes poverty and imprisons those who cannot afford bail. It is in a prison system that forces people to work without financial compensation and is protected by the Thirteenth Amendment. Plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic were halted because communities of color were more likely to be affected in yet another disturbing attack. White supremacy is so deeply engrained that it leads some to harm themselves by bleaching their skin and burning their hair in hopes of appearing more like their oppressors. It is everywhere including our spiritual spaces.

Muslims often quote ayah 48:13 and the last sermon of Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with pride that the tradition stands firmly against racial injustice. While Islam itself does, Muslims often unfortunately do not. One of my community members recently shared a story about entering a masjid in hijab, and being asked if she was Muslim. What was even more egregious is that after a discussion, the family that asked concluded that because of her black skin, she was in fact NOT Muslim despite praying in a masjid. Many of the non-Black Muslims were shocked to hear this, but the truth is that I have never met a Black Muslim who did NOT have a racism in the masjid story. Ask the Black Muslims in your circle about their experiences, and the flood gates will open. You will also see the hurt and betrayal in their eyes for having to endure racism inside their places of worship. Apologize to them for not listening sooner and thank them for being willing to teach you and trust you to want to be better despite their trauma.

Call to Action

It is not enough for anyone to not be racist; we must be anti-racist. Acknowledge the anti-blackness you have internalized within yourself and have those difficult conversations with your family members. Ustadha Zaynab Ansari speaks about the pathological ideologies of how black bodies are viewed in America.  Join and support organizations like the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Muslim Alliance of North America. Embrace a Black Muslim ethos of viewing Islam as a theology of liberation. Support Black scholars and the Black masajid. Invite them to speak not just about anti-Blackness, but on their areas of expertise in Islam, history, community development, etc. Demand that the immigrant masajid be antiracist. Black Muslims should be on the Board of Directors and on the Zakah committee to ensure the equity of those spaces. Hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert to have a difficult conversation about race in your organization. If the Black Muslims do not share their experiences of racism in the masjid, it is not because they did but happen, but because they do not trust the community to care to change it. Build that trust and build coalitions of communal healing to end the segregation of masajid into Black and immigrant masajid in the first place. The way out of the pandemic is to take care of those who are most vulnerable. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “You are given rizq sustenance based on the most vulnerable among you.” Communities who have turned the tide have done exactly that. Learning to be anti-racist is one of many steps we can take to lift the difficulty our communities are facing. We need at least be as non-discriminatory as the virus that only sees a human body.

Anyone who is not Black has benefited from the theft and subjugation of generations of Black Americans. We should not meet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) having sided with an oppressor. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, “Oppression is layers of darkness on the Day of Judgement.” We can choose to follow the prophetic path, or we can choose to let our racism destroy us. And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it]. [7;34] There will be an accounting for our society as a whole, and there will be an individual accounting. Those who follow Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will enter eternal gardens and those who follow Pharaoh will enter an eternal fire. And the people of no consequence, those who choose to do nothing, will sit on the A’raf.

[1] This story is mentioned in West African oral histories

[2] “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5-1: NIV)

[3] The plagues of Egypt are discussed differently in the different Abrahamic faiths. “The Christian and Jewish traditions discuss the angel of death taking the life of the first-born son from every family in Egypt except those who left a marking on their doors so the angel of death could pass over them.”

[4] Jahili is a Quranic descriptor for Pre-Islamic Arab society. It is derived from a root word meaning ignorance.

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Mental Health & COVID-19: Light, Guidance, & Much Love | Part 1

Sharada Nizami, Guest Contributor

Published

Insha’Allah, you and your loved ones are safe & healthy. May Allah swt protect us all from COVID-19, Ya Hafidh, and open the way for our spiritual growth, Ya Fattah Ya Rabb. No doubt, we are living in very challenges times, and many in our community are suffering. As such, my intention for this two-part series is to provide some beneficial perspectives and practical strategies that will make your emotional journey safer & easier, insha’Allah.

And a journey it surely is. We are on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. And we have only two choices about HOW we approach this challenge: unskillfully or skillfully. If we wear flip-flops, and fail to pack water and snacks, we will have a very difficult time reaching the summit. And if we do, we will be in very bad shape. If we wear good socks, sturdy hiking boots, and our backpack is well-stocked, not only are we likely to reach the summit, but reach it in great shape. This is what I want for our beloved community, insha’Allah.

As Muslims, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate summit is the hereafter. Truly, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our goal and pleasing Him is our aim. Truly, everything we do or fail to do here has an impact there. For many people, this haqq is much more difficult to remember and actualize when their day-to-day challenges are daunting. This is why historically and traditionally, in times of crisis, Muslims have always sought the nasiha of wise elders. Imam Muhasibi, the father of Islamic Psychology, developed this crucial, beautiful science in response to the human needs of his students. Sadly, the loss of these teachings as a widespread living tradition has contributed in large part to the widespread mental-health problems that have been plaguing our community for a very long time, which have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.

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Here’s a good metaphor. The science of nutrition teaches us about our body, the properties of different foods, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum physical health. Likewise, the science of mental health teaches us about our heart and mind, the impact of specific activities, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital psychological nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum mental health. Lack of knowledge about Islamic Psychology and the absence of the vital psychological nutrients have taken a huge toll on our community. The stories I hear would probably shock you. They would certainly break your heart. Especially the stories of our young people, who are my top priority. Insha’Allah, the wake-up call of COVID-19 propels us to reclaim en masse this lost part of our spiritual heritage, so we can reclaim our vitality and nobility as the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

To continue with the metaphor. Working one-on-one with an experienced nutritionist is very different than reading a book about nutrition. With the former, your nutritional program is specifically tailored to your particular problems, challenges, habits, and temperament. The same is true when it comes to mental health. So I must manage your expectations honestly and honorably by saying that it is not possible for me to do in two articles for the general public what I do one-on-one in my private practice as a psychotherapist, life-coach, and spiritual mentor. Truly, there is a palpable, powerful, fitrah-based alchemy that can only happen when two human hearts link-up in real time. That said, in the same way that reading and learning about nutrition is very beneficial, so too reading and learning about mental health, especially now.

Working Skillfully with Difficult Emotions

No doubt, COVID-19 has unleashed a wide range of very difficult emotions. People are struggling with tremendous anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, despair, and in some cases, a full-blown crisis of faith. So let me explain a little bit about emotions and how to work with them skillfully  

One of the foundational principles of cognitive-behavioral psychology is called ‘reframing.’

It is the process of deliberately thinking differently about our situation. Reframing it. The fact is, the lens through which we view our circumstances makes all the difference in the world insofar as how we feel. Thoughts are like the front wheels of the car and feelings are like the back wheels. We must be in the driver seat, steering intentionally. Whichever way the front wheels turn, the back wheels follow. So paying attention to our thoughts moment by moment, and making sure they are aligned with the Qur’an and Sunnah, is crucial. The mind is a like a muscle that MUST be trained through specific exercises, and our tradition is rich in the techniques for doing so. Truly, we must hit the spiritual gym regularly. The heavy lifting of muhasiba (self-reckoning) and muraqaba (mindfulness/meditation) are not optional. If these are not already a consistent part of your spiritual practice, NOW is the time to take them up. You will be so happy you did!

Here’s a good metaphor. If you are a longtime couch potato, even a flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing. If you are in good shape, you’re able to jog around the block easily. If you’re in great shape, you’re able to leap over the hurdles like a gazelle. For many, COVID-19 has been like asking a couch potato to run a marathon. So we need to get in the best spiritual shape possible as quickly as possible. To that end:

The Centering Exercise 

Every time you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, helpless, impatient, frustrated, confused, or depressed, here’s what to do.  

  • Turn off your devices and put them in another room.
  • Close your door and put a “Please do not disturb.” sign on the doorknob. Lay down.
  • Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your heart. Remember the Hadith Qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain me but the heart of my faithful believer is where I reside.” Truly, Allah is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)
  • Take some slow-deep breaths. On the out-breath, silently recite “La illaha.” On the in-breath, silently recite “il Allah.” After a few minutes, notice the shift in your state. Notice the deep connection between ‘self’ and ‘breath’, not just experientially, but also etymologically. They both derive from the same Arabic root, transliterated nfs.   
  • When you are centered, mentally review what you had been thinking about that gave rise to the difficult emotions.  Then do a ‘search and replace,’ deliberately and intentionally replacing your dark thoughts with the Light of The Qur’an or Hadith. Here is one example: Search: “I’ll never get through this.” Replace: “Allah never burdens a person with more than he is well able to bear.” (2:286)

As individuals, we each have our own particular dark thoughts. NOW is the BEST time to fix them. I lovingly encourage you to get a blank journal, so that each time you do The Centering Exercise, you can make note of what you observed, what you learned about yourself. Write down each dark thought and then write down each Rx of Light from The Qur’an or Sunnah. Having a personal journal gives you a concrete means of reinforcing your new thought patterns. 

We know from our neuroscience that the human brain possesses ‘neuroplasticity’, which is the capacity to be shaped, molded, changed. As such, the more often you do The Centering Exercise, the more your thinking patterns will change. This is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us, mash’Allah! It’s really quite amazing to realize that the Qur’an we’ve been given provides Light upon Light from The Lord of The Worlds. And the Sunnah is that Light fully actualized to perfection, mash’Allah. The fact is, no matter how dark a room may be, if we light just one candle, it illuminates the space. Mash’Allah!

Parents, once you get the hang of The Centering Exercise, please please teach it to your children! Insha’Allah, make it the new normal in your household, transforming discord and upset into harmony and peace.

Say “Ameen!”

Divine Reminders

Insofar as reframing COVID-19 in the broader sense, I offer you this lens, this Divine Reminder, with much love. May it shift your state from embittered to empowered. My beloved sisters and brothers, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Rabb, our Teacher, and COVID-19 is the Test we’ve all been given. Every single human being on the planet. We all woke up one day, walked into the classroom of Life, and got handed a pop quiz. The purpose of which is to show us the places where we weren’t prepared. This is great! Because the trumpet is absolutely going to sound, and we surely want to be ready. As long as we’re breathing, we have time to prepare. This is great!

Say “Ameen!” 

Beloved ones, we have the incredible privilege of being students of The One Who Knows Everything, including The Future and The Unseen.  It is very bad adab to question the teaching methods of our Teacher or to complain that we don’t like the Test.

This was the fatal mistake of Bani Israel that we are reminded 17x/day not to emulate. On the contrary, what we want to be asking ourselves is: “What must I do to pass this Test with flying colors, to ace this Exam?” Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between.” (38:27)  This pandemic is not some random event. It has a divine purpose. There is deep meaning in it. 

There is also enormous rahmah in it. Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “…My mercy embraces everything.” (7:156) The Divine Physician has dispensed this bitter medicine to heal us. To heal the whole world from its longstanding imbalances and injustices. Surely, it is no accident, the timing of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the murder of George Floyd and the global response it has galvanized.  Surely, every human being wants to and deserves to breathe.

COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the whole world. Ours to do as students is to be fully present in each moment, to practice mindfulness (muraqaba), so we can be deeply receptive to the Lessons we are meant to learn (muhasiba). Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) Beloved ones, NOW is the time for global tawbah (repentance). As the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), this is our Divine Assignment, individually, collectively, institutionally. 

My vision and personal commitment is that we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of this, insha’Allah. I can say this with great confidence because first and foremost, I know that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not out of business! The presence of The Presence, the power of the Names & Attributes, are as robust as ever. 

We are being summoned to recognize our hubris and turn our hearts in humility toward The One Who Is In Charge, The One Who Calls The Shots, to The One Whose Decree we surrender. Humbly. Readily. Insha’Allah, NOW is the time to actualize the last part of Hadith Jibreel about qadr. The fact is, what’s happening around us is what’s happening, and this is always in the hands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). HOW we respond to what’s happening is entirely up to us.

What I want for our community is the best possible response, the most skillful and beautiful response, the response that will be of maximum benefit here & hereafter, insha’Allah.

I can also say this with great confidence because time and again, working with Muslim refugees who have been through horrific trauma, I have seen with my own eyes how absolutely amazing human beings are. How resilient. How courageous. How creative. How capable of transforming sorrow into joy, lemons into lemonade, compost into roses. This is what I want for you, my beloved sisters and brothers.

No doubt, on any long and arduous journey, in addition to having the right equipment and supplies, having an experienced trail-guide makes all the difference. There is dangerous terrain you want to avoid, and beautiful vistas you don’t want to miss. In my experience over decades, I have observed that human beings thrive when we are given the right tools and the loving encouragement to master them.  So let me give you now some very practical guidelines to help you navigate skillfully, so you can extract from these precious days of your life what is meaningful & transformational. 

Practical Strategies

When it comes to protecting our physical health from the pandemic, there are certain steps we MUST take. Likewise with our mental health. As such, here are some practical strategies, culled from thousands of pages of research and decades of experience. My focus is on parents, whose job has never been more difficult. And with the new school year right around the corner, this guidance is extremely timely. 

Boundaries: Set clear boundaries regarding where and when devices can be used. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and parents alike. Parents, as your elder who loves you, I am reminding you that YOU are the CEO of your home. YOU are the policy maker. YOU are in charge. NOT your kids or their devices. So take charge!

  • No devices for kids 0-3. These guidelines are from the American Pediatric Association. 
  • No devices at the dinner table* or in the bedrooms.
  • No devices until after Fajr. Better yet, after breakfast.
  • All devices put away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Plugged in in the kitchen to recharge.
  • Limit on-line entertainment and socializing to 1 hour/day MAX.
  • Schedule tech fasts ½ day weekly, and 1-2 full days monthly, on a weekend.
  • An occasional family-time movie is fine on the weekend. Choose something meaningful, uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-opening. Pop some popcorn. Make tea. Engage in a special time afterward to really talk together about your experience. *Getting in the habit of real-time-face-to-face conversations is crucial. If you start when your kids are young, it will lay a strong foundation for their teenage years, when they desperately need wise, trustworthy, caring adults who really know how to listen from the heart.

Nature: Spending time in nature is the very best thing you can do for yourself and with your family. There are reams of data about the stress-reducing effects of being outdoors, especially in the woods. There are also reams of data about the benefits of exercise, not only for physical health, but for mental health. Given all the extra sitting everyone is doing during COVID-19, regular exercise is not optional. 

Furthermore, if your kids are schooling from home and you are working from home, everyone will surely need some breathing room, some physical and emotional space from one another, some time every day in solitude, unplugged from their devices. Spending alone-time in nature is the perfect solution. 

For family-time activities, unplug from your devices and enjoy these delightful experiences. They will engender tremendous awe (khushu’) and deepen your heart-connection with your Rabb, The One Who Created you and all the beauty around you. Subhan’Allah.

  • Take a 15-30 minute family-walk every night after dinner before homework.
  • Go hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kite-flying, or camping on the weekend.   
  • Set up bird feeders in your yard. Learn their names and identify their songs.
  • Go out nightly to look at the stars. Learn the names of the constellations.
  • Watch as many sunrises & sunsets, moonrises & moonsets as you can. 

As Muslims, our worship is guided by the natural cycles Allah put in place. The sun is our clock. It tells us when to pray. The moon is our calendar. It tells us when the new month begins. Sighting the moon is an act of worship, mash’Allah.

Divine Reminders

Our beautiful Qur’an teaches:“We will show them Our Signs (ayat) in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes clear to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Fussilat 41:53)

In this ayah, we are taught the two beautiful gateways into the sacred: the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of the self. Both of these gateways open into the direct experience of Allah’s presence. 

As Muslims, we have been invited to spend time in this dunya in the company of The One Who is Love (al-Wadud). The One Who is Strength (al-Aziz). The One Who is Peace (as-Salaam). And on & on. What could be more beneficial during this time of crisis? Alas, calling upon our Rabb by His most Beautiful Names, with urgency & sincerity, is one of the Lessons we must learn from COVID-19.  My prayer for our community is that people do not squander the opportunity to connect in a deep, meaningful, intimate way heart-to-heart with Allah because they can’t put their phone down or turn their computer off. Insha’Allah, I will address the subject of digital addiction in the second article, as it plays a huge role when it comes to mental health issues.

Closing Du’a

Ya Habibi Ya Allah. Please grant us oceans of fortitude and mountains of strength Ya Sabur Ya Aziz. May we be dutiful beautiful students who strive with all our might in jihad al akbar to pass this test with flying colors, to ace this exam. May we, the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), love one another like he loves us, and strengthen one another every step of the way. May we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of COVID-19, reclaiming the standard of Insan Kamil as the Index by which we measure our lives. Ya Dhal Jalali wal Ikram.

Say “Ameen!” 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 20: Come to Success

Marwa Aly, Guest Contributor

Published

Now that we have learnt about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Mercy encompasses all things, let’s now talk about coming to success.

Whenever we hear the adhan (call to prayer), there is a part where the mu’adhin (person calling the athan) calls out: “حي على الصلاة” hay ‘ala as-salaah (come to prayer). Then he says: “حي على الفلاح”- hay ‘ala al-falaah.” 

Question: Does anyone know what hay ‘ala al-falaah means?

It means ‘come to prayer, come to success.’ Is that how we usually think of success?

Question: What is your definition of success?

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Yes, sometimes we think that having a good job, a nice house, and a loving family are the measurements of our success. There may be some truth to that  for this world, but how does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) measure our success?

Do you know that there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Believers” (Al- Mu’minun), and that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that the believers will be successful? He says:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ 

“Indeed, the believers have attained success” [23; 1]

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Arabic word for success: فلاح (falaah). Do you know that a derivative of that word فَلَّاح (fallaah) means a farmer? 

Question: What are some of the things that a farmer needs to do everyday?

Farmers need to fertilize their soil, plant seeds, pull out weeds, protect their plants from predators, and water their crops. Do you think that’s a lot of work? Do you think it’s easy to be a farmer? I want you to imagine a time when farmers couldn’t turn on a hose to water their plants. They completely relied on rain to irrigate their crops. So, they could do all of this hard work, but if there was a drought, their crops wouldn’t be able to survive. To be a farmer requires a deep sense of تَوَكُّل, tawakkul (reliance on Allah)

So, part of success is hard work, and a big part is also knowing that nothing happens without the will of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why when the muadhin tells us to come to salaah (prayer) and to come to success, we respond by saying: 

لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّٰهِ‎

“There is no power nor strength except by Allah.”

We can only come to prayer and we can only achieve success if Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wills it. The only thing in our control is the amount of effort we exert in the process. 

So, let’s be farmers; let us try our best to plant good seeds, water them, nourish them, and pray that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), places baraka (blessings) in all of our efforts! 

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